Nationalist Party leadership candidate Frank Portelli lied about his marriage

Published: August 8, 2017 at 9:52pm

In a post yesterday, I wrote that Frank Portelli, one of the two outsider candidates in the Nationalist Party’s leadership election, had first been divorced in the UK – his first wife, mother of his two older children in their early 40s, is British – before seeking and obtaining a declaration of nullity from the Roman Catholic Church so as to marry his girlfriend in church.

I added that I couldn’t understand how his first marriage was declared null, because it was a proper marriage that had produced two children.

I also mentioned that he met his girlfriend, now his wife, when she worked as a newscaster for the Nationalist Party’s television station. He didn’t – he met her when she was nurse at his private clinic, and it was through him that she got her newscaster job.

Since that post was published yesterday, I have discovered that I was correct in doubting it, because it turns out that the Roman Catholic Church did not declare Dr Portelli’s first marriage null at all. On the contrary, it declared the marriage valid and refused his application despite his dogged persistence.

Unable to marry in church for the second time as he wished, Dr Portelli then travelled to the UK with his girlfriend – his current wife – and married her in a registry office or town hall there. He had by then already been divorced under British law. He could have married his girlfriend at the Public Registry in Malta, because even though Malta had no divorce legislation, it acknowledged divorces obtained in other jurisdictions and therefore permitted divorced people to marry under Maltese law. But he didn’t, and the reason was secrecy, rather than privacy.

Despite the fact that he was living in Malta at the time, Dr Portelli did not even apply to the Curia in Malta to have his church marriage declared null. He applied to a diocese in Britain, claiming that it was because his wife was resident there. But he, and not his wife, was the applicant for the declaration of nullity, and he was resident in Malta.

You will notice from that article I have linked there, published in the Times of Malta six years ago, that Frank Portelli is careful to give the impression that his first marriage was declared null by the Catholic Church, and that he only got divorced because the Catholic Church in the UK made that a precondition for his declaration-of-nullity application. In other words, ‘I didn’t want to get divorced, but the church made me do it so that I could get my marriage declared null’. He gives the impression in that article that his application to have his marriage declared null was successful, and that his divorce was a by-product of it.

That is exactly what he did with me, and with others. I had always known him to be a divorced man and had assumed (as it turns out, correctly) that he had only been able to marry his girlfriend because of that. So when the subject of divorce came up in a political context, years ago, I asked him point-blank why he never says that he is divorced and remarried, why he never argues back by saying, what’s wrong with divorce? Look at me, I’m divorced and that’s how I was able to marry my second wife.

His reply was that the only reason he is divorced is because it was a prerequisite, in the UK, for having his marriage declared null by the Catholic Church. He did not tell me that the application failed. On the contrary, he deliberately and deceptively gave the impression that it was successful. I even asked him why on earth he had wanted to have his marriage declared null and void, when it had produced two children. How on earth would they feel about something like that, I thought to myself. Divorce means that a marriage existed but ended. A declaration of nullity means that the marriage never existed, that it was fictitious or false. That’s fine when you’re childless, but really offensive to your children when you’re not. I didn’t say this latter bit out loud.

He didn’t respond that his marriage wasn’t declared null. He said that his girlfriend’s mother was religious and it was important to her. My private thoughts at that point were, boy, imagine hurting your wife and children so terribly badly to assuage the religious concerns of your girlfriend’s mother. But I didn’t particularly care at the time. It wasn’t any of my business, he wasn’t a public figure, and I thought to myself that like other Maltese people of his generation, he is uncomfortable saying he divorced his wife because he thinks it is something to be ashamed of. When he entered the divorce debate, he didn’t say “Look at me, I’m divorced and remarried.” He said: “Look at me, the Catholic Church in the UK made me divorce before it would annul my marriage.” So much for the posturing.

Now, like all the other hyper-narcissistic men in Maltese public life, who cause untold harm to those closest to them but then seek to blame others for it because they refuse to accept any responsibility themselves, Dr Portelli has taken to Facebook – which is, of course, where all wannabe politicians in their 70s should discuss matters of gravity – to accuse me of harming his family.

He joins other narcissists in creating the myth which they themselves believe: that it is not their behaviour and their choices which harm their family, but the description of that behaviour, by journalists acting in the public interest. And it most definitely is the public interest, given that these individuals seek public office, and in Dr Portelli’s case, the topmost position in the land as prime minister.

Besides which, when he speaks of others ‘harming his family’, which family does he mean – the first one or the second one?

You harmed your family, Frank. You harmed your family when you started an affair with a nurse young enough to be your daughter, when you had two children so young that they were in primary school, and you were still married to their mother. You harmed your family when you divorced their mother and then petitioned the Catholic Church to say that you were never married to her in the first place – all so that you could marry the nurse.

And don’t you dare complain that all of this is being reported and discussed. Of course it is being reported and discussed: you are trying to become the Prime Minister.

The doctor who divorced his wife and mother of his two daughters under 10, to marry his nurse, but then gave the false impression that his marriage had been declared null and void by the Catholic Church.