“The Church is a business like any other,” says 23-year-old Conor Murray, who has travelled from his home in Galway to join the protesters in London. “It felt that its commercial concerns were threatened by us being here. The cathedral earns £16,000 a day in tourism revenue. There are Tescos that don’t make £16,000 a day… This is a protest about the gross inequality of wealth in our society and the Church has shown its true colours.”
Conor’s words reflect a general feeling in the Occupy London camp outside St Paul’s cathedral that this is a Church that has lost its way. The protest was never aimed at Christianity; it was intended to challenge the corporate greed of big business but, say the protesters, the cathedral’s reaction has highlighted just how pervasive the problem is in our society. Even the country’s national religion – an institution that is supposed to caution against worshipping Mammon, the false god of material wealth – expressed dismay when it had to close its gift shop and restaurant last week.
On Sunday, Malta Labour party MP Adrian Vassallo announced that he will be standing down over plans to allow couples to divorce.
Let me explain. It may surprise some of you to learn that in Malta, a member of the Commonwealth and an EU state, divorce is still illegal. And this isn’t one of those outdated laws that they somehow never got around to changing, like cab drivers not being able to pick up people infected with plague. Malta was a British colony until 1964, and though divorce has been allowed for an elite few in British law for centuries, and for all citizens since 1857, banning divorce is something the Maltese people chose to do during the 1960s, by omitting it from their new constitution entirely. In the deeply Catholic nations of the Mediterranean this was relatively common at the time. Divorce was still illegal in countries like Italy, Portugal and Spain, and even in the Republic of Ireland. But these places all legalised divorce in the period between 1971 and 1994. Somehow Malta has found itself one of only two countries left in the world where divorce is still illegal, along with the Philippines.