What I write today is not my bread and butter but at 4am in the morning I could not find anything more worthwhile to delve into. Lately, the Church and its leadership have been brought under the magnifying glass. The Church’s highest authorities were dragged into the gladiators’ arena by none other than first-line members of the Church. Various commentators took the cue and followed. Some used kind words and diplomacy; others were more direct, sharp and scathing.
Whether the ongoing public debate is helping the Church in any way, I am not so certain. The Church has been going through difficult times since time immemorial. It is an open secret that some in the hierarchy of the Church have, from time to time, failed to toe the line, sent confusing messages and created more uneasiness in the Church. Today is not any different; without the need to look into the crystal ball, I dare say that the future brings more of the same.
From my armchair critic position I can understand that in the Church, as in all other organisations, it is normal to find divergent views on different issues. The men and women, who took their vows, are after all individuals like the rest of us, except for the fact that they carry different responsibilities. They do not enjoy infallibility. Unfortunately for the Church and the community, a handful of convicted men and women of the cloth pushed more people away from the Church.
In the debate about the Church, some parallelism was brought in. The current Church leadership was compared with George Borg Olivier’s lack of leadership qualities after he lost the 1971 general election to the Malta Labour Party, which was ably led by Dom Mintoff. After the 1971 electoral defeat, the Nationalist Party had little or no direction and could not match the MLP. The PN suffered another electoral defeat in 1976. That was the beginning of the end to the Socialist era and the beginning of major reforms within the PN. The 1981 electoral result showed that the MLP was more power hungry than anything else.
The PN quickly realised that time has come to rally and shield the national interest. The PN was wise to read the signs of the times. People, and in particular workers’ interests, became more accentuated on the PN agenda, the Party gained momentum. Back then, there were no means of mass communications, except for Xandir Malta, which was blatantly politically biased in favour of the MLP. Despite the hurdles, the PN was able to convey its message. Those were the years of mass meetings and large gatherings of people. Notwithstanding the power of incumbency used by the MLP, which included the employment of thousands of workers in the public sector in the preceding months to the general election, the PN won the 1987 general election.
Since then, the PN was in charge, except for a very short break. By and large, the PN managed with a high rate of success. However, over the years, the PN distanced itself from the people and gradually became irrelevant.
Looking at the PN from a distance, many claim that the Party as yet has not found its feet. Conclusions are drawn and fingers are pointed. Lately, I met an unwavering party supporter who for many months was kept waiting for an appointment with a Nationalist MP. With this kind of attitude, who needs the PN back on the steering wheel? The PN needs to re-connect with people. Forget all the sweet talk as action speaks louder than words.
Straight talk within the Party should be rekindled from grass roots level upwards. An electable political party must be capable of understanding the writing on the wall, analyse it, and relay back proposals to society, wherein most would feel that it is a reflection of their needs and wants.
A political party is in many ways different from Church hierarchy. While in the Church the filling of posts is, except for the most Senior, a head-hunting exercise. In a political party people are elected to fill vacant posts, whatever the vacancy. It is here where a significant difference emerges. Within Church structures, pastoral leaders are head hunted with Divine intervention but, in the name of the Merciful God, sometimes and very publicly clerics point fingers at each. In political parties though incumbents are elected, gossip of all sorts still runs wild. In both instances, none of those who currently lead are being fairly treated.
What remains rather obvious is that, both the Church’s head hunted leaders and the democratically elected party leaders remain subject to fair and unfair judgements and comments by their acolytes and others. May acolytes in political parties and the Church know the implications of their public comments, actions and doings. God forbid they are jockeying for a senior post in Church and the PN.