Our presidential Nanna - Sandro Spiteri
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Our presidential Nanna - Sandro Spiteri

During last week’s interview on TimesTalk, President Marie Louise Coleiro Preca made two jarring comments.  One was that the President considered that the success of her work should be judged by the people. That is painfully incorrect; the President was not elected by popular vote. She is not bound to fulfil any promises. 

The President’s only compass is the Constitution, of which she is the highest guarantor. President Coleiro Preca will not be judged by the people on the ‘success’ of her term. She will be judged by history on her faithfulness to her constitutional role.

President Coleiro Preca’s other interesting comment was that she had a tougher time in her role then her male predecessors precisely because of her gender. No one commented on their suits, she complained.

But the President knows well that the real cause for complaint was not her dress sense, but her sense of justice with respect to the single biggest threat facing the Republic: the dismantling of the rule of law. Her replies on Pilatus Bank at the Oxford Union debate were controversial not because of her gender, but because she refused to recognise the potential threat this bank posed.

Her remarks on Daphne’s “tragic death” left a bad taste because in this, as with all other aspects related to the threat to rule of law, she preferred to parrot the government’s line rather than occupy higher, and perhaps lonelier, ground.

There is no doubt that President Coleiro Preca has made an important contribution to the national debate on a number of issues through the President’s Foundation, such as on multi-culturalism. Her pro-life stance is also appreciated. But this does not remove the stink of her bailout by the government in the Paqpaqli court case before it threatened to go down the road of perjury and obstruction of justice. Here again, the President showed what she really thought of judicial due process.

Oh, many people loved her, because she is truly caring and will go out of her way to help. But even in this, L-Istrina became a juggernaut that vacuumed funds and starved other charities. To be fair, in this she trod on the steps of her predecessor. But under her tenure it took on new proportions that distorted the fine balance between charity and social justice. 

So what we got was more of a Presidential Nanna, who loves you to bits and is ready to cut corners to help and to close an eye at your transgressions. Many people loved that in her, precisely because they too were much more comfortable with her brand of national familism rather than adherence to due process and the rule of law.

…loves you to bits and is ready to cut corners to help and to close an eye at your transgressions

President Coleiro Preca would doubtlessly gain the popular vote of confidence, but that could well damn her in the eyes of history.

Fall of the Cardinals

In the last three weeks the Catholic Church has been shaken by a cataclysm at its highest levels.

Ex-Cardinal McCarrick of New York was defrocked due to sexual abuse of children and seminarians. Soon after Cardinal Pell of Australia, the third most powerful clergyman in the Vatican, was found guilty of paedophilia, although he has appealed. Cardinal Barbarin of France has just been convicted of covering up such abuse.

In between, an explosive new book, ‘In the Closet of the Vatican’, has alleged that the late Cardinal Lopez Trujillo regularly engaged rent-boys. Unlike other innuendos in the book, this allegation cannot be brushed off lightly.

Some are seeing this tsunami as the Church finally choking in its own filth. I see it as the stinking pus that is bubbling out after the boil has finally been lanced. It should not come as a surprise that all this was happening around the extraordinary meeting called by Pope Francis to address child sexual abuse and its cover-up. There will be more such sickening revelations of historical infamies and even current crimes, such as the abuse of nuns.

It is good that the Catholic Church is finally starting to use the language of accountability and transparency. The more the Church embraces the humanity of its institutions and takes concrete action, the more it will be able to reach again for the divine.

Anatjeg and Lewnam

Dnegel rose to fame this week, but there are other examples of children’s names conjured up in reverse by doting, if slightly clueless, parents.

Manwel becomes Lewnam, Gejtana becomes Anatjeg. And I mean this literally. In a Facebook entry I saw, father Manwel and mother Gejtana are smiling proudly with little Lewnam and Anatjeg. Then again, Ordnas has a certain Greek heroish sound to it.

Many who see this onomastic development groan. Some sneer. There is more than a little snobbery behind these reactions. But there is also something sad and a bit worrying. Do the parents who name their child in reverse of your own consider their child to be simply their obverse, a mere negative of their own selves?

Call me corny, but if there is one thing I have learnt as a father of two young men and an adolescent, it’s that our parenting success is defined by their becoming their own, unique, persons. Parents pour their time and love (and oh, such much money) into their kids. And when they eventually start to diminish and let go, they see themselves reinvented in undreamt-of ways in these new men and women.

Parents get to do so much more than choose a fancy name; they brush with immortality.  

This is a Times of Malta print opinion piece

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