Thinking out of the seat of their pants

Published: November 10, 2009 at 12:33pm
Yes, Malta did have a prime minister who is not Roman Catholic

Yes, Malta did have a prime minister who is not Roman Catholic

The results of a Eurobarometer survey on discrimination in Europe have been published by the European Commission.

Only 22 per cent of Maltese respondents said they would accept a prime minister whose religion is different to theirs. The majority of respondents, 69 per cent, said they would be uncomfortable with a prime minister who is not Roman Catholic.

Reading this, I clutched at my face in despair. When people vote, do they actually know what and who they are voting for? Or do they just think out of the seat of their pants, if they think at all?

Malta did have a prime minister who is not Roman Catholic – for a mere 22 months, yes, but he was voted into power overwhelmingly, and the overwhelming vote that threw him out had nothing to do with his religion, or the lack of it.

Alfred Sant is as Roman Catholic as I am, which is to say, not at all. The difference between us is that I am easy-going about it and willing to participate in Catholic ceremonies (as an outsider) if it keeps others happy and out of respect for those others. But for decades Sant wouldn’t even do that, though in his old age he might have mellowed his approach and may no longer make such a god-awful fuss about it.

But this is not about Sant. It’s about Maltese electors, who say in surveys that they don’t want a prime minister who is not Roman Catholic, when almost 50 per cent of them voted for precisely that in the general elections of 1998, 2003 and 2008, and the absolute majority did so in 1996.

It beggars belief.

27 Comments Comment

  1. R2D2 says:

    You have to look at the semantics though. Alfred Sant did not have a “religion different to” the people questioned. He didn’t have any religion at all. Accepting a lapsed Catholic who keeps his agnosticism to himself (as most do) is not the same thing as accepting a card-carrying, Koran-bashing Muslim. The phrases “different religion” conjures up a whole raft of racial, ethnic and cultural prejudices.

  2. David Buttigieg says:

    What about Mintoff who was openly atheist? Also we had a woman president who was an atheist, too.

    [Daphne – Yes, and a butch dyke too. So much for not wanting lesbians in high office – another point which emerged from the same survey.]

  3. Antoine Vella says:

    I’m not sure if Mintoff himself could be considered Roman Catholic.

  4. Harry Purdie says:

    No, Daphne. It doesn’t beggar belief. At least half the people don’t ‘think’ (the ‘below average’ half).

  5. Herbs says:

    Completely out of context, but I cannot seem to understand the new budget.

    Does it mean that the government has done exactly what the bums in my village do all the time when they’re out of money … i.e. borrow money from the village lenders, spend it all, look good for five minutes and then pay the consequences for years to come?

    Because all this predicted increase in deficit and drop in economic output to fund silliness such as the new houses of parliament sound exactly the same.

    [Daphne – The fiscal management of a state cannot be compared to the fiscal management of a company (the profit motive), of a non-profit NGO (covering costs while achieving objectives) or of a household (balancing the accounts while saving for a rainy day).]

    • everhopeful says:

      The nation’s finances are like a giant ponzi scheme. New borrowing goes to pay the old borrowing until we reach the stage where no new borrowing is coming in to replace the old. Then we are bankrupt. The thing is that no-one knows when the new borrowing will stop.

  6. Lou Bondi says:

    The matter becomes more interesting if some attention is paid to what defines a Roman Catholic PM. Would Dom Mintoff qualify? Karmenu Mifsud Bonnici and his anti-Church school crucade? I wonder.

    Beyond this, it is clear that people are more attached to religious symbols than to religious beliefs. Many in Malta separate the two completely without blinking. For instance, the most abhorrently racist statements in the blogs are made in the name of Catholicism.

    I came across a statistic that might throw some light on the matter. A poll in the Corriere della Sera showed that 68 % of those Italians who said they never attended Mass said they still wanted the crucifixes to stay in schools.

    • Twanny says:

      “Anti-church school crusade”?

      What a bizarre notion.

      Almost as bizarre as the Black Mass that never was.

    • Mark Ellul says:

      I think the ultimate question should be – is God a Catholic? Once we resolve this, everything else follows.

    • D. Muscat says:

      @ Lou Bondi
      Interesting comments … but the adherence to religious symbols even if it is ephemeral does indicate faith. I’ll never forget a story narrated by a moral theologian about a Freemason on his deathbed. He had surrounded it with friends so that no despicable priest should reach him. In his last gasps of his earthly life he asked his closest associates to bring him a crucifix. Baffled at this request they still brought to him the religious object thinking that he would spit on it. Instead this dying man kissed it fondly, cried and finally died. The moral of this story is that even one single act to true veneration may be redeeming.

      [Daphne – And you believe that twaddle. My schooling – the religious aspect of it, that is – was replete with such stories and even as a child I knew they were total BS. Kumbinazzjoni the people in question were always Freemasons – the devils of Malta. I guess it is too much to expect your average Maltese to know that British Freemasons are some of the most conventional people on earth – which is often why they are Freemasons in the first place – and that going to church is all part of it, at least for the older ones.]

      @ all others
      In my opinion there were no real anti-Catholic prime ministers in Malta, not even Alfred Sant. But they were more anti-clerical. Most pious women of Catholic Action or Charismatic Renewal or tal-Muzew are so obtuse and empty-headed that they would not see the distinction. In a way it is NOT their fault. The cause of this is the arrogance of my fellow priests who are so dumb as to mix up issues and competences. This is what I tried to explain in this interview shown on Xarabank on the 6th of November. If Daphne will permit me, I would even say the story of how I ended up doing just an interview because someone pulled the strings in the curia. Watch and enjoy

    • it is not about faith..but about keeping our traditions.

  7. Tim Ripard says:

    50% of the population would vote for Satan himself if he were leader of the Labour Party (or whatever it’s called). Then, when he turns the country into hell and turns the heat up they’ll calll him ‘Is-Salvatur ta’ Malta’.

  8. John Lane says:

    The Eurobarometer survey had another interesting result for Malta: 6% of the respondents said they had a Roma among their friends or acquaintances. (Compared with 17% of their European brethren.)

    I wonder how many Roma are roaming Malta or perhaps squatting in boat houses. Or might it be that the respondents confused Romas with Romans?

  9. Kevin Zammit says:

    No chance of you becoming prime minister then as according to Jason Micallef ” m’ intix strejt”.

  10. Anthony Farrugia says:

    Re Freemasons: The Freemasons in the UK (and in Italy with Licio Gelli’s P2 lodge – just have a look at the list of members which could easily constitute a state within a state) are more of an old-boy network working on a “you scratch my back and I will scratch yours” basis. Just ask any non-Freemason in the London Metropolitan Police about his chances of getting a promotion above a certain level – the same as having a heatwave in London during the January sales. And then Dan Brown is raking in the shekels with his latest twaddle!

  11. Pat says:

    Is it only me or isn’t the distrust of female politicians a greater concern than the distrust of non-Catholic or non-Maltese politicians?

    13% of Maltese do not want a woman at the helm. Now, as you pointed out in your other article, there has already been a female president, but 13% who would not vote for a person – this in 2009 – because she is a woman is an atrocious number.

  12. Lino Cert says:

    @ Daphne
    I disagree with you in the sense that the Maltese do not seem to mind what colour, race, religion or sex their prime minster or president has as long as he/she does the job and follows the party line. You seem to be underestimating the Maltese voter. I wouldn’t be surprised to see a black lesbian woman as PM within my lifetime. We are quite progressive in that sense, this is not a popularity contest.

    [Daphne – A black lesbian woman as opposed to what, Lino – a black lesbian man? Now that would be surprising.]

  13. Joseph Micallef says:

    These survey results actually show how surveys capture mind-frames beyond actual behaviour. In our case, it demonstrates that many people make choices superficially.

    I am not surprised that the findings contradict the fact that Alfred Sant was chosen as Labour leader back in 1992 despite not being a Roman Catholic. After all, party delegates also overlooked his poor management C.V. and what it should have told them he would do to the MLP.

    The fact that he became prime minister is a consequence of that choice and isn’t related to merit or otherwise. It was when he was fired as prime minister that people came to terms with their superficial analysis.

  14. Giordano Bruno says:

    If the survey question was about someone with “a religion different than theirs”, then I’m sure most respondents took it to mean someone who was Muslim, not atheist. People don’t care if a PM is atheist as long as he’s not Muslim. It’s Islam that scares not atheism. Atheists are not seen as a threat; Muslims are. Atheists are not seen as wanting to impose their ways; Muslims are.

  15. Ronnie says:

    But isn’t that the same sort of reasoning which drives a Liberal to be involved with the PN which is probably the most socially conservative democratically elected party.

  16. Willu says:

    Actually to be admitted as a Freemason you have to believe in god. In Malta I often see them referred to as atheists. This is totally incorrect, believe it or not.

    • Pat says:

      I’m not so sure whether you are correct about that. Freemasons can belong to a variety of religions if I’m not mistaken.

      At least we have some very clear instructions how to spot them:

      A vital view for anyone with concerns over Freemasons influence on society.

    • Andrea says:

      As a German stonemason I believe in ‘The Ultimate Cosmic Oneness’. Hahaha, as if! I left the hocus-pocus to the boys.

      “Membership and religion
      Freemasonry explicitly and openly states that it is neither a religion nor a substitute for one. “There is no separate Masonic God”, nor a separate proper name for a deity in any branch of Freemasonry.[28][60]

      Regular Freemasonry requires that its candidates believe in a Supreme Being, but the interpretation of the term is subject to the conscience of the candidate. This means that men from a wide range of faiths, including (but not limited to) Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Buddhism, Sikhism, Hinduism, etc. can and have become Masons.

      Since the early 19th century, in the irregular Continental European tradition (meaning irregular to those Grand Lodges in amity with the United Grand Lodge of England), a very broad interpretation has been given to a (non-dogmatic) Supreme Being; in the tradition of Baruch Spinoza and Johann Wolfgang von Goethe – or views of The Ultimate Cosmic Oneness – along with Western atheistic idealism and agnosticism.

      Freemasonry in Scandinavia, known as the Swedish Rite, on the other hand, accepts only Christians. In addition, some appendant bodies (or portions thereof) have religious requirements. These have no bearing, however, on what occurs at the lodge level.”

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