Pro-life Malta’s third Great Siege begins: will they stand strong?
Quick, what are the last countries in the western world to totally outlaw abortion?
Ireland? Nope. They brought it in under “strictly limited circumstances” last year, and the campaigners are hard at work to get rid of those “limits” as soon as possible.
Poland? No again. Poland’s history with abortion is tied to its history with Soviet Communism that had a habit of using it in its subject nations to control population growth – a genocidal tool of oppression, in short. Today, and since 1993, abortion in Poland is legal “when pregnancy constitutes a threat to life or to the health of the pregnant woman,” in cases where the unborn child is “irreversibly damaged” or seriously ill, and where there is a “justified suspicion” of the pregnancy being the result of rape. And the usual activists, mainly funded and supported by the European Union and the European Court of Human Rights, are working tirelessly to eliminate these restrictions.
When I started in pro-life work, about 1999 or so, it was known that Poland, Ireland and Malta were the last three European nations that were the “hold-outs”. Last week, 15 years later, I sat down to dinner with the leadership of the Maltese pro-life movement and told them they are the last; only Malta remains.
Abortion is totally outlawed in Malta. The Maltese Criminal Code states: “Whosoever, by any food, drink, medicine, or by violence, or by any other means whatsoever, shall cause the miscarriage of any woman with child, whether the woman be consenting or not, shall, on conviction, be liable to imprisonment for a term from 18 months to three years;” and “The same punishment shall be awarded against any woman who shall procure her own miscarriage, or who shall have consented to the use of the means by which the miscarriage is procured.”
There are no exceptions.
Why has pro-life Malta stood strong?
One interesting part of my work has been to try to figure out, given demographics, religious statistics and history, why a given country either stands up to or capitulates to the abortionist and “gender” ideologies. What common factor united the hold-out nations, and why did they fall? And what is different about Malta that it has not…yet?
Of course, the most obvious unifying factor of these three countries is Catholicism. All three have at one time or another been called the “most Catholic” countries in the western world. And by this, we do not mean only that large numbers of people call themselves Catholic on census forms, but the number of people who, simply, know, believe and try to live by what the Catholic Church teaches.
The phenomenon of nominal or “cultural” Catholicism, coupled with massive changes in the Church herself since the 1960s, has created the strange spectacle of places like Latin America, France and Spain rapidly becoming the least Catholic places in the world, while maintaining nearly the same number of “official” Catholics as always.
This little group of Maltese are the last ones, and now that Ireland has gone down, the armies of the Great Global Social Re-engineering Project will be bearing down on them with all the money and political powers of the secularist world.
It is difficult to quantify by statistics and surveys the places of divergence between believing and nominal Catholicism. One of the most useful Internet tools is the CIA World Factbook, a public service of the Central Intelligence Agency. Even the CIA, effectively the US State Department, has noticed the difference. For Argentina the Factbook notes, “nominally Roman Catholic 92% (less than 20% practicing).” It also notes Argentina’s rate of contraceptive use is 78%. For France it notes 83-88% are Roman Catholic, and 76.4% use contraceptives. Colombia: “Roman Catholic 90%” and 79.1% contraceptive use.
But Malta, until recently, has remained steadfast, and its population generally maintains the Faith, internally as well as on census forms. Is it the size? I don’t know. Maybe it’s harder in such a small place to slide quietly into “nominal” Catholicism.
I’ve written about Malta for many years, but until recently didn’t really have an idea of what I meant when I called it “tiny.” Imagine a country, a whole country with a parliament and laws, a university, highways and a military and whatnot, where if you drove in one direction for more than 17 miles, you’d shoot right off the edge and into the sea. Literally. As a Canadian, used to driving 13 hours to visit relatives in the same province, this was hard to grasp.
Our friends took us to dinner in the ancient, and heavily fortified, city of Mdina, where we leaned on the ten-foot-thick stone walls and looked all the way to the other side of the country at the lights of Valletta, about 11 km away. Malta’s one airport looks like it takes up about a tenth of the country’s entire landmass. Scale is different there.
And yet, small as it is, Malta is a unique, “distinct” society as we say in Canada, with an astonishing 400,000+ inhabitants. Its language and much of its venerable culture is directly descended from the ancient Phoenicians, and its devotion to the Catholic religion, not merely the Catholic Church, is equally venerable. Their conversion was recorded in the New Testament, for it was on Malta that the Romans called Melita, that St. Paul was shipwrecked on his way to Rome to be martyred, where he preached and converted the Roman governor.
Malta: The 'keyhole' of the door of Christendom
Why is little Malta important? I’ve come to think of Malta as the “keyhole” in the door of Christendom, as it once was of Europe. Malta’s position in the Mediterranean has made it one of the most important strategic bottlenecks. Its military significance has been acknowledged by every empire, from the Phoenicians, Greeks and Romans, to the Bonapartist French and the British who ruled it from 1800 to 1964. Who controls Malta controls the Mediterranean. And now, Europe’s keyhole has become a symbol, both to the Maltese themselves, and those who would see them again ruled by a foreign ideological power.
Throughout its long history, Malta’s has been a story of invasion and conquest. It has been ruled in turn by the Phoenicians, the Greeks, the Romans, the Arabs, the Normans, Swabians, Aragonese, Castilians, French and English. But in all these centuries, possibly the pivotal historic moment for the Maltese people, the one day that has most defined them, was the morning of May 18th, 1565 when the Grand Master of the Knights of St John of Jerusalem, Jean Parisot de la Valette, looked out to see a fleet of 180 Turkish warships, loaded with 48,000 of the Ottoman Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent’s best soldiers.
Against this overwhelming force, about 8000 Knights and Maltese volunteers stood and fought, and, after huge losses, turned back the Turkish tide. The Great Siege of Malta is known to historians as one of the crucial turning points in the 16th century struggle between Islam and Christendom, and is one of the grandest, most ferocious and most celebrated military victories of western history. So heroic was their defence, that even the great cynic Voltaire said, “Nothing is better known than the siege of Malta.”
And the country’s determination to remain themselves in the face of oppression has stayed strong through the centuries. In what historians are now calling the Second Great Siege of Malta, the little country held off the might of the Nazi war machine, at first with a few anti-aircraft guns and … you won’t believe this… three antiquated WWI biplanes named “Faith,” “Hope” and “Charity.” While the war still raged, in 1942 King George VI awarded the entire “island fortress of Malta” the George Cross to reward “a heroism and devotion that will long be famous in history.” So proud a moment was it that the symbol of the George Cross was later woven into the new Maltese flag in 1964, where it remains today.
The last stronghold
One of the best indicators that this tiny nation remains significant on the global scene can be judged by the ideologues themselves, for whom Catholic Malta has long been a nation of special interest. And their long march through Malta’s political and academic institutions is starting to bear fruit. Many Europeans must have been shocked to discover that Malta had no legal provision for divorce when it was finally legalised in 2011. Three years later, the civil unions bill passed with little opposition. Now the new leftist government has already promised the gender campaigners more to come.
There is a good reason the EU-funded homosexualist lobby ILGA Europe held a major conference in Valletta last year. The same reason International Planned Parenthood Federation (IPPF) issued a document in 2007 condemning Malta, along with hold-out states Ireland and Poland, for refusing to toe the “reproductive rights” line. It is easy to see who the principle captains are in the new war against Christendom, or its remnant, being waged in Malta by what Pope Benedict called “radical secularism”.
What of Malta’s future? I mentioned above that at dinner last week with the Maltese pro-lifers I warned them that these secularists, the “gender ideology” and abortion campaigners, are coming for them, the next wave of invaders. This little group of Maltese are the last ones, and now that Ireland has gone down, the armies of the Great Global Social Re-engineering Project will be bearing down on them with all the money and political powers of the secularist world.
But they also knew, better than I, that their own defences have been weakened. The CIA World Factbook tells us the story in numbers. The Maltese, they say, are 90% Catholic and other statistics I’ve found say that it’s more like 95-98%. My Maltese friends tell me, shaking their heads sadly, that “only” about 50% of the population goes regularly to Mass these days. It might seem hard to sympathise when the estimates for France are in the single digits and for Italy are around 18%, but they told me that ten or fifteen years ago it was more like 80%.
One of the easiest and quickest, as well as most damning, ways of discovering which countries are “most Catholic” in belief, is to look up their birth statistics. And here is where we see the disease spreading in this tiny, intensely Catholic nation. The Factbook tells us that the Maltese Total Fertility rate is 1.54 children born per woman. Demographers tell us that in order to maintain a stable population, crucial for economic and social stability, a country requires 2.1 children per woman. Malta is sliding.
A UN document from 2011 noted that the Maltese government regards the current situation on the fertility level to be “satisfactory”, and that there is “no intervention” on the issue, though the government provides “indirect support.” Although there were no available statistics on contraceptive use, the UN’s Population Division of the Department for Economic and Affairs said, “Family planning has been gaining increased acceptance in Malta over the years. Under the Press Law of 1974, the ban on the advertisement of contraceptives was lifted. In the following year, the prohibition of the importation of contraceptives was repealed. The Government provides indirect support for family planning activities.”
Malta has joined the great European movement to confederation, the European Union, in 2004, adopting the Euro in 2008. But have the Maltese capitulated to the ideologues? I think the war is still on there. As one who has successfully fought off a potentially fatal disease, I know that a diagnosis is not the same as a death sentence.
After years of living in Italy, where cynicism about the state and the Church are almost a defining national trait, my visit to Malta was a revelation. Here was a country that was almost ferociously proud of its glorious past, its natural beauty, its architecture, its expert seamanship, its language, customs, culture and most of all its religion. My friend and I both noted, after less than 72 hours, the one way the happy, generous and kindly Maltese do not participate in the “European project”: they reject despair and fashionable self-loathing. Europe is a society that is dominated now by anxiety and nihilism, but these poisonous traits evaporated in the islands, like morning fog.
Europeans, having rejected Christianity, are deeply afraid of the monstrous forces that grew out of the 20th century ideologies and that they can’t control. But Malta has the secret; they have retained their ancient Faith, and the hope that goes with it.
Next Tuesday: “The Knights of Malta, medicine, research and the Faith: why health care needs Christianity”