An earlier guest post criticised Gozo Bishop Mario Grech for being oddly tepid after the assassination of Daphne Caruana Galizia. A curia insider wrote the below guest blog post in reaction. It seems there’s more internal politics that needs to be understood if a proper analysis of Bishop Grech’s odd behaviour is to be arrived at. I think you’ll find this fascinating:
The man is for turning
The anonymous post ‘A tale of two bishops’ must have caught some people of goodwill unawares. Some might have dubbed it as an ‘attakk faħxi fuq l-Isqof Grech’. However, those whose powers of observation are intact or not clouded by irrational devotion to the good bishop, can see that this is a fair assessment, even a charitable one.
What the post lacked, not through the fault of the author, is context. So this offering will fill in the blanks.
Many among his clergy and people, have secretly agreed with the contents of this blog post because the good bishop’s feeble reaction, or lack of it, to Daphne’s assassination, is the culmination of a series of actions by Bishop Grech that were designed to further one cause, and one alone – himself.
Bishop Grech is a courtier par excellence. He will pander to whatever authority is in power – be it Rome or Castille, so that he will set in motion the plans he imagines for himself. It is an open secret that he covets the Maltese episcopal throne – he has been heard to say to whoever is inclined to listen that eleven years as the bishop of Gozo is enough. He is seeking pastures new with a little help from his friends in high places.
In March 2013, the Good Bishop’s carpet was yanked from under his feet – twice. One with the election of Pope Francis, and a few days later, with the election of the Labour government. Bishop Grech had to take stock and throw out any ideas and positions that might hinder his rise to the top he perceives for himself. I will not go into the merits of his doctrinal volte-face regarding central teachings of the Church – the public record is for all to see of how he has made a complete U-turn on one issue in particular. It is not a coincidence that this change of heart took place as soon as the new man in Rome was installed on the throne of Peter. Until then, his views matched the views held by Rome. Except where Daphne’s assassination is concerned. This is the only time when he has strayed from the hymn sheet. The good bishop should be warned that there are whispers in the loggias in Rome among the people he courts for a leg up, about his deafening silence and lack of meaningful action.
But let us cut him some slack, shall we?
The main reason behind the Great Silence about Daphne is because Bishop Grech is not a hypocrite.
Bishop Grech is not a champion of free speech. He crushes dissent with ruthless efficiency and gleeful abandon. One celebrated episode that is in the public consciousness is the spat he had with Charles Scicluna soon after the latter was appointed Archbishop of Malta, advising him to put a gate on his mouth (‘biex jagħmel xatba ma’ ħalqu’) because Mgr Scicluna gave some light-hearted off-the-cuff remarks about the difference between Maltese and Gozitans. Tsk! Tsk! Not very democratic but then one must forgive the Good Bishop for his outburst for Scicluna’s appointment put a spanner in his well-oiled plans.
Much has been made of the story, real or otherwise, that the bishop threatened some hapless priest with suspension for refusing to read a text prepared by the bishop in his parish church. Bishop Grech denied the story. I know that it did happen. No confirmation or denial was needed for his threat fits neatly with the pattern of how he treats his ‘subjects’ who dare to use their brains against the sovereign. For it has been known that he has threatened with suspension priests who he perceives to have slighted him with lèse-majesté. I have personally seen such a document where he has threatened another poor priest with suspension for a trivial matter that would make Stalin blush.
So if the good bishop himself crushes dissent, how can he denounce this brutal attack on free speech? When he remained silent, I thought that the Pope’s rare message of condolence sent to Archbishop Scicluna would wake him from his stupor. But no. Can anyone imagine the conflict raging in the bishop when he was faced to choose between two masters? – Rome or Castille? He chose to remain silent and ride it out.
When the somnolent bishop was at last prodded by The Malta Independent to say something about Daphne’s assassination, what did he say? Did he issue an impassioned statement denouncing this attack on our democracy? Did he at least offer Mass for Daphne’s soul? Did he write a heartfelt post on Facebook as he is wont to do when some luminary in his diocese goes to meet his Maker?
None of this.
He just feebly mouthed the official government line of “unity” and the rest of the meaningless palaver. As is his custom now, Bishop Grech did not want to ruffle the government’s feathers, for reasons only he is partial to, so he repeated the Government’s mantra and left the flagpole on top of his curia bare on the national day of mourning.
I said to myself. That must be an oversight. And I rooted for him to do the right thing and attend Daphne’s funeral. It does not hold water that Malta is not his diocese, for he crosses the channel to preside over celebrations and meetings at a drop of a hat. He even can seek refuge in one of the retreat houses in Malta should Gozo Channel suspend its operations due to bad weather for the good bishop has a room assigned to him in one of the premier retreat houses when such a need arises.
So yes, the man is for turning. But not on a hot griddle like poor Saint Lawrence who was martyred for the power of his convictions. To misquote the late Cardinal Francis George, Bishop Grech will not die in a public square either for upholding the faith or for fighting for democracy since his convictions are as busy as a weathervane on a windy day.
So Bishop Grech, do God’s work and be a shepherd after His own heart. And lead your people with knowledge and understanding.