The Maltese Fiasco – The Movie?


I haven’t yet heard who will star in this new film noir boxoffice buster.

Meanwhile, my friend Fr. Murray has a comment at The Catholic Thing.

Meltdown in Malta [They should start using The Maltese Fiasco, btw]


The bishops of Malta have regrettably embraced the get-out-of-jail-free mentality. They recently chose to instruct their faithful as follows:

If, as a result of the process of discernment, undertaken with “humility, discretion and love for the Church and her teaching, in a sincere search for God’s will and a desire to make a more perfect response to it (AL 300), a separated or divorced person who is living in a new relationship manages, with an informed and enlightened conscience, to acknowledge and believe that he or she are at peace with God, he or she cannot be precluded from participating in the sacraments of Reconciliation and the Eucharist (see AL, notes 336 and 351).

Thus Maltese Catholics who are living in an adulterous second marriage are now being told by their bishops that they can engage in gravely sinful behavior that is publicly known and not be denied Holy Communion when they “acknowledge and believe” that they are “at peace with God.

What did Our Lord ever say that gave the bishops the impression that being at peace with God includes committing acts that are explicitly and strictly forbidden by God? Did Our Lord tell the woman caught in adultery “Go and sin no more, unless you have convinced yourself that you are exempt from obeying the Sixth Commandment, and that adulterous behavior in your case is pleasing, not displeasing, to God and should therefore be embraced as good for you by the rest of the Church community, including any spouse aggrieved by this behavior.” No. He simply said: “Go and sin no more.” (Jn 8:11)

How should Maltese priests who hear confessions respond from this point on to divorced and remarried Catholics who seek absolution without a firm purpose of amendment? Are they to cooperate in what is plainly an act of non-repentance of adulterous behavior, as in the case of a man who tells the priest in confession that he plans to continue committing acts that he was taught were mortally sinful but now, thanks to this new document, he believes he is at peace with God?

Are priests now to accept without question the “at peace with God” claim of divorced and remarried Catholics who come forward for Holy Communion in their parishes? Is there no harm and scandal given when publicly known behavior reprobated by God is treated as a matter of indifference by the Church – so long as the person engaging is such behavior has decided, against the plain words of Our Lord, that he is just fine with God. Or thanks to his bishops, he is now sure that God has no problem with his behavior, which he has judged to be good for himself in his concrete circumstances? Clearly, this is scandalous and destructive of faith and morals.


About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. Thomas S says:

    Has His Holiness formed a commission to investigate the Maltese bishops as he did to investigate the Knights of Malta?

    Surely if he feels compelled to investigate the just ouster of a man promoting sexual immorality, then bishops who promote sexual immorality are worthy of a looksy, no?

    He could even use the same commission now that the Knights have slapped down his overreaching hand. Shame to waste a committee on nothing.

  2. Joseph-Mary says:

    I was totally “at peace” during the years I was in mortal sin and the 19 years in between confessions! Conscience did not bother me a bit!

    So marriage is no longer indissoluble I guess—just throw out all that old fashioned tired theology–oh, it was from Christ? Well, that was for then and now is now and we are much more merciful and God is full of surprises you know. And if that theology is no longer holding, hmmm…what else is no longer holding? What else can be jettisoned?

    If I remember from my training, however, for a prelate to tell someone they can continue in sin, makes them also guilty of the sin in a sense, right? Then there is that old saying that the floor of hell is paved with______________

  3. Kathleen10 says:

    Three earthquakes felt in Rome today, one of them felt when the man elected to the Chair of Peter was giving his weekly address. I believe that one was 5.2.

  4. Kerry says:

    Father, this movie will need a score, maybe a cross of spaghetti western and the Godfather.
    How busy are you?

  5. Chris Garton-Zavesky says:

    In the situation of the Maltese clergy, are they obliged to be obedient to their bishops? Will their obedience to their bishops save or cost them their souls?

  6. Ivan says:

    Dear Joseph-Mary,
    you said: “If I remember from my training, however, for a prelate to tell someone they can continue in sin, makes them also guilty of the sin in a sense, right?”
    I see that much more simpler:
    When prelates willingly keeps telling to their flock they can continue in sin, then are those prelates ipso facto excommunicated. “Rigid” word? Yeah, I know…
    But no one dares to say how st. Paul was rigid then when he said:
    – ” But even if we, or an angel from heaven, should preach to you a gospel contrary to that which we preached to you, let him be accursed. As we have said before, so now I say again, If any one is preaching to you a gospel contrary to that which you received, let him be accursed. ” ( Galatians 1,8-9)

  7. MrsMacD says:

    Dear Chris Garton-Zavesky,
    We are obliged to obey legitimate authority in all things except sin. That means that if the bishop tells the priest to sin, the priest has to disobey.

  8. joey_in_NC says:

    “…with an informed and enlightened conscience, to acknowledge and believe that he or she are at peace with God, he or she cannot be precluded from participating in the sacraments…”

    This primary of conscience mentality makes the instruction self-defeating since it paves a clear path for disobedience that is justified by the same mentality. If a priest wishes to preclude a divorced/remarried person from receiving the sacraments in defiance of the instruction given by the Maltese bishops, then the priest can justifiably disobey the bishops provided the priest has “an informed and enlightened conscience” and that he thinks he’s “at peace with God”.

  9. LarryW2LJ says:

    I’m beginning to understand what Cornwallis felt at Yorktown.

  10. Matt Robare says:

    It seems to me that Maltese priests are going to have to defy their own bishops in order to stay true to the teachings of Christ. Talk about turning the world upside down. Then again, if a country’s episcopal conference is going to trade the Catechism of the Church for Sheryl Crow lyrics, I’m not sure I can bring myself to pity them.

    Meanwhile Bishop Steven Lopes of the Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of Saint Peter has come out with a great pastoral letter on AL, which ought to serve as a model.

  11. OldProfK says:

    Luke 17:2 seems to be applicable here.

    Sad times are upon us to be sure, and more to come, but the Heavenly Father doesn’t give us anything we can’t handle.

  12. Venerator Sti Lot says:

    If Marnisi is available in a fiasco, would it be wise to have one at your elbow before reading more on this subject?

    If someone offers you a very early-looking papyrus of the Gospel of St. Luke, 21:39vv. of Maltese provenance, bearing a distinct resemblance to Fr. Murray’s words here, it would probably not be a good idea to buy it, except as a novelty item.

  13. excalibur says:

    More earthquakes in Italy, and the commemoration of a heretic, Martin Luther. Yes, He is trying to get someone’s attention, and now it is 2017.

    Our Lady of Fatima, pray for us.


  14. Semper Gumby says:

    Thanks Fr. Murray.

    Fr. Z: Great film noir poster. Coincidentally, I just had lunch here at work with ace private eye Tracer Bullet. I told him that something was afoot in Malta. Tracer Bullet set down his cup of joe and said: “You tell Fr. Z that with an expense account and three packs of Lucky Strikes I can solve anything.”

    Nodding, I replied, “You might want to clean that soiled trench coat first.”

    Tracer snorted, “Don’t worry about the trench coat Semper. I got more blemishes on my character.” And with that Tracer got up to leave.

    “Tracer,” I said.

    He looked back, touched the brim of his fedora, and said, “I know. Go to confession.”

    [Ah… Calvin and Hobbes!]

    Fr. Z's Gold Star Award

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