GOZO, Malta (ChurchMilitant.com) - A heterodox Maltese prelate is hailing "new rights" extended to same-sex couples under his watch.
In an interview with Television Malta Tuesday, Bp. Mario Grech of Gozo welcomed gay unions "with satisfaction," arguing partners "have the right not to be judged."
The bishop's pro-gay sentiments are part of a larger pattern. New Ways Ministry — a group that has been condemned repeatedly by the Vatican and the U.S. bishops for its dissent from Church teaching on homosexuality — praises Grech and fellow Maltese prelate Abp. Charles Scicluna, saying they "have fairly good records on LGBT issues."
The pro-gay group noted that Bp. Grech was more inclusive of gays at the 2014 Vatican Synod and in a 2015 interview, affirming gay couples, "This year the synod said that families who have homosexual members need to be supported, their decisions respected and not hindered in any way."
Asked if same-sex couples will be allowed to accompany their children to Holy Communion, Grech answered, "Yes."
The bishop's pro-gay statements dovetail with his broader views on human sexuality, as reflected by his interpretation of Pope Francis' controversial apostolic exhortation Amoris Laetitia.
In January 2017, Grech joined Scicluna in issuing new guidelines for implementing Amoris Laetitia.
The bishops announced they would strip any priest of his faculties for refusing Holy Communion to divorced and civilly remarried Catholics — the first directive of its kind in the history of the Church.
Published January 8, the guidelines read, "If ... a separated or divorced person who is living in a new relationship manages ... to acknowledge and believe that he or she is at peace with God, he or she cannot be precluded from participating in the sacraments of reconciliation and the Eucharist."
The blowback apparently caught Grech off-guard. On January 20, the diocese of Gozo posted a notice on its Facebook page, reading, "What is being stated by certain sections of the (international) media with reference to Bp. Mario Grech, namely that he 'threatens priests will be suspended a divinis for refusing Communion to divorced/remarried' is absolutely false."
But shortly after, a Maltese priest (who asked to remain anonymous for fear of retaliation) confirmed to Church Militant that contrary to Grech's claims, he did, in fact, threaten a priest over Holy Communion for the divorced and civilly remarried. The bishop was seen threatening a priest, wary over the bishops' Amoris Laetitia guidelines, that he would be disciplined if he refused to read the guidelines to his parishioners.
New Ways Ministry has made the case that the bishops' guidelines logically extend to gay couples.
Once described as Europe's most Catholic country, under Grech and Scicluna Malta has abandoned Church teaching with lightning speed, legalizing divorce, same-sex "marriage" and adoption rights and banning reparative therapy for same-sex attracted people in search of healing.
In a 2015 interview with the Times of Malta, Grech declared the Church must be "an experience of God" instead of "a moral agency." When asked about the morality of same-sex relationships, he suggested not every moral debate is black and white and that Catholics must learn to see the gray.
Tuesday's statement reaffirms the bishop's dissent from Church teaching.