Aggressive politics, timid Church
It is said that a week is a long time in politics. The ever-evolving saga of soap-opera proportions affecting our political scenario, particularly within the Nationalist Party, is an example. Its latest chapter is the self-declared liberation of Jeffrey Pullicino Orlando; though some say the same for the PN.
What is happening is not only greatly embarrassing the PN but is bringing the whole political class into disrepute. I will not comment further as others, probably more able than me, will surely flog the subject.
I find the ethical considerations of the publication, by the Labour media, of an illicit tape recording of Richard Cachia Caruana, as a more interesting subject to comment on.
The use of surreptitious recordings is a very controversial topic in media ethics. Some dismiss it out of hand. Others are not so categorical and justify it only in limited circumstances such as when it is the sole possible means to uncover crime or some serious impropriety.
The case in question is quite different . The victim of a crime, not its perpetrator, was recorded in stealth and broadcast. Cachia Caruana was almost killed in an assassination attempt. The horror of such an act is beyond comprehension except to those who have experienced it. The physical and psychological scars of the assassination attempt probably haunt the victim every day.
The recording shows the victim, Cachia Caruana, in a one-to-one conversation with a close acquaintance sharing his feelings, frustrations, anger and fears. Someone – perhaps the other person or someone eavesdropping – illicitly recorded the conversation, and kept it under wraps for years. The Labour Party media deemed it fit to broadcast it when the victim of the unsuccessful assassination attempt was once more under a vicious attack.
The Labour Party chose a moment when Cachia Caruana is once more in a vulnerable position. The Labour media not only decided to selectively broadcast sections but also to spin them in such a way as to make the victim seem to be saying things he never implied. The Labour Party media claimed national interest in their defence. Hardly.
Will the use of this kind of tactic stop here? Will the other side react? Is this a harbinger of things to come?
It is rumoured there are tape and video recordings of public people in embarrassing private moments. Will this electoral campaign present us with other crossings of the red line that should demarcate the boundary between the public and private spheres of people in politics? I sincerely hope not.
In the recent shenanigans we once more witnessed the tandem between the Labour Party media, the GWU and Malta Today. This tandem was alive and kicking during the divorce referendum. Will it be consolidated during the electoral campaign?
All the above subjects are of certain importance. Politics is important. The media feast on political and other controversies. But in the throes of what could be an aggressively (if not savagely) fought-out electoral campaign it is good to remember that men and women do not live by politics alone. In fact, politics is on the margins in most people’s existence.
Politicians and the media can alienate more people from politics if they keep on behaving as if there is nothing but politics, and politics of the acrimonious type to boot.
Now that some egos have been gratified, could other politicians please make us feel – at least during summer – that seven days are too short in politics?
• Archbishop of Dublin Diarmuid Martin is not a man to mince his words. His strong stance for the eradication of child abuse by priests and religious in Ireland earned him the admiration of many and the opprobrium of those in the Church who still believe silence solves or patches (almost) all.
Martin is not for a silent Church, nor is he for a triumphalist Church. He is, in his own words, for a Church that “should be active and present in society, drawing attention to suffering and repression of any kind and being alongside those who suffer”.
In a recent homily Martin criticised the Church in Ireland for becoming “too timid in bringing its liberating voice to the ‘demons’ of Irish society”. He first gives a “historical” reason for the Church’s silence or non-involvement in the undertakings of Irish society. As one might expect, he referred to the child abuse scandals which rocked the Church in Ireland. It is understandable that a Church so disgraced would tend to cocoon itself in silence.
But Martin adds an “ideological/theological” motive as a much more important possible explanation for this timidity. He referred to a lack of real faith, which tempts believers “to succumb to the widespread opinion that Christianity is really something private and personal for our own devotion and inspiration, not something that has its relevance in the public square”.
Christianity is not and can never be an individualistic or private religion. Light and salt, two metaphors Christ used to describe the Church, transform the whole environment not just personal lives.
This is a much more important reason as it has the consequential function of intimidating many Christians by the concomitant accusation that they want to impose their views on others. Imposition was perhaps a common strategy yesteryear, but it is neither theologically justifiable nor tactically possible today.
Martin’s words apply to Malta. The historical situation that pushes the Church to adopt timid positions is the politico-religious conflict of the 1960s.
Some, on the other hand, are cowed by the accusation of imposition or the belief that religion is mainly a private affair. Unfortunately, several of those opting for a Church which is active in the public sphere clamour for a militant Church.
The way forward for Catholics is to engage in dialogue, find ways of presenting and witnessing to the Christian vision, and try to engage with and be respected by those alongside whom we work.