Priest to be charged with hate speech for saying being gay is ‘worse than being possessed’

·3-min read

A rabble-rousing local priest known for his anti-LGBT+ outbursts is to be charged in court for hate speech in Malta.

Earlier this month, Father David Muscat went on a homophobic tirade following the murder of 29-year-old Polish student Paulina Dembska.

In a seething Facebook post, Muscat addressed Dembska’s alleged killer, saying him being gay or bisexual would be comparable to “schizophrenia and malice”.

Abner Aquilina reportedly told detectives he had been “taken over by the Devil” when he carried out the slaying – but being queer, Muscat said, is “even worse than being possessed”.

His comments on Dembska’s murder, a case that has touched off a national outcry against gender violence, drew widespread criticism from activists, government ministers and religious figures.

Police confirmed that charges of hate speech have been filed over the remarks, the Times of Malta reported.

Muscat will appear in court 28 January before Magistrate Ian Farrugia, facing thousands in fines and up to 18 months in prison.

He will be charged under article 82A of the criminal code, part of the country’s anti-discrimination laws around “abusive or insulting words or behaviour”.

Alongside his rant about Aquilina, the authorities said another social media comment in which Muscat said Aquilina looked like he just came back from “gay pride” because he was wearing a rainbow top will also be scrutinised.

Maltese archbishop issues formal warning against David Muscat

On Thursday, the Archdiocese of Malta confirmed that Archbishop Charles Scicluna has issued a private warning, known as a penal precept, against Muscat.

In a statement on the Archdiocese’s website, Muscat has been ordered to “cease making inflammatory and hurtful comments in public forums or face prohibition from exercising his ministry in public.

“The Archbishop instructed Fr David Muscat to delete a Facebook post, in which the priest claimed that being gay was worse than being possessed, and not to use insulting or hurtful language against any group or individual.

“The Archbishop also reminded Fr David Muscat that in accordance with Catholic teaching members of the clergy are required to show respect, compassion and sensitivity to people from all walks of life.”

Malta’s Archbishop Charles Scicluna. (JANEK SKARZYNSKI/AFP via Getty Images)
Malta’s Archbishop Charles Scicluna. (JANEK SKARZYNSKI/AFP via Getty Images)

It’s the latest salvos against Muscat, who entered the firing line after commenting on Aquilina, 20, who according to police sourses is poised to be charged with Dembska’s killing.

Dembska was found dead 2 January in a public park where she once fed stray cats, with an autopsy finding she was raped and strangled.

Muscat wrote in his incendiary status: “If [Aquillina] is gay or bisexual, then this must be added to his list of disorders which include schizophrenia and malice.

“He has a recipe of disorders all at once. Poor guy.

“Abner needs help,” he added, “it’s even worse than being possessed. Being gay is worse.”

Scicluna quickly distanced the Roman Catholic Church away from Muscat in a televised homily.

While he did not mention Muscat by name, he “apologised on behalf of the Church to all those who were hurt by” a priest’s recent “harsh” homophobic words.

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