Outspoken Dominican friar Fr Mark Montebello has had a three-year media blackout lifted after 11 weeks after he publicly apologised for criticising the Maltese Church’s strategy against the new IVF legislation.
“I had absolutely no intention of criticising the institutions, the authorities or the doctrine of the Catholic Church, and I apologise if it came off that way,” Montebello wrote in It-Torċa. “If anyone was hurt as a result of this misunderstanding, then I ask them to forgive me.”
The Dominican Province had imposed a media blackout on Montebello on threat of defrockment after he criticised the Church’s strategy against the new IVF legislation – which introduced gamete donation and made embryo freezing more widespread.
“Each and every time, repeatedly, the campaign strategy of the Church ended up giving the impression that it stood against minority rights,” Montebello had written. “This time around, we are already witnessing the soaring of hysterics, the simplistic arguments, the scare tactics, the crusading, the apocalyptic scenarios and the banal catchphrases. With all of this hullabaloo, the Church is again appearing to be retrograde, irrational, intolerant, intransigent and insensitive.”
The media blackout caused a stir, with the Prime Minister’s spokesperson accusing the Church of censoring one of its most progressive thinkers and of selectively applying the principle of freedom of expression.
However, Montebello and his Pronvicial Frans Micallef held clear-the-air talks at the Dominican convent in Rabat earlier this week, with Prof. Joseph Agius as a witness.
“The Provincial told me the imposition of silence against me will be lifted if I issue an apology, and I accepted this condition,” the friar wrote. “I believe that the Catholic Church has more potential than any other institution to conduct good work, socially and politically as well as pastorally, in the Maltese Islands. However, it can only do this if it acts, and is perceived as acting, solely according to the teachings of Christ.”
He expressed his thanks to people who supported him throughout his blackout, in particular Archbishop Charles Scicluna, Archbishop-Elect Joe Galea Curmi, his local Superior Frans Micallef and his Superior in Rome Bruno Cardoré.