Malta to vote on allowing divorce

Malta has been described as an ‘Island stuck in the Middle Ages’ but today, Malta is going to vote on an issue that has singled the country out as the only one in Europe which forbids it; divorce.

This deeply Roman Catholic country has

been criticised for a very long time by its skeptic secularists. However, many are doubting whether the referendum will pass. If the Catholic church has its way, Malta will vote no, leaving it the only country in Europe and one of only two countries in the world to ban a couple’s right to dissolve their marriage.

Around about half of the island turn up regularly to Mass, and archbishop of Malta, Paolo Cremona has made the Church’s position quite clear,

Marriage was created by God, Jesus ruled out divorce and we are therefore telling the faithful to vote no

Jeffrey Pullicino Orlando, the MP who has co-authored the draft divorce law is speaking for the other half of the island,

Little old ladies are being refused communion if they admit to wanting divorce. We are on a different planet out here, the victims of spiritual terrorism he said. “People’s jobs have been threatened and they are reluctant to speak out.

For weeks Malta has been plastered with posters showing a picture of a child alongside the slogan: “I trust you with my future – Vote No.”

In summarising the situation in the country, Orlando said

I have been called an anarchist for starting this referendum, even though the draft law is about the world’s most restrictive divorce legislation, with four years of separation required before divorce.The hypocrisy of the no voters is incredible; many are separated men cohabiting with a new partner who like not being remarried so they can dump the woman at the drop of a hat.

It is estimated that 30% of Maltese children are the product of affairs caused by marriage breakdown and failure. So what is my opinion on this?

Unfortunately, I don’t see why divorce should be banned in the country. The archbishop misleadingly teaches half a ‘doctrine’ on the whole divorce issue. The Bible actually teaches that divorce is acceptable in a case of adultery. But this is strictly the only cause.

So what about the divorces that happen because the couple keep arguing or have fallen out of love? Well, these situations are a product of the worldly society that we live in. At one time, divorce was hardly ever heard of. People married, and kept their wedding vows. They stuck by one another in the thick and thin; and without an affair.

Sadly, our world is full of the ‘me’ culture now, and being fed the ‘It’s OK as long as I’M happy’ line just doesn’t make the crack. This problem has found itself eroding and rotting away the sanctity of marriage, and even love itself. Far too often do people trade the love of their friends, families and partner/spouse for the love of themselves, because it makes THEM happy.

I don’t want to sound too negative though; many marriages are working, and many are flourishing.

What I’m saying is that this issue isn’t to do with divorce in itself, it’s about the values and guidelines by which we choose our spouse. It’s SUCH an important decision, and far too many have made the mistake of going through the motions without thinking about the long term consequences. We just need to stop and consider. We need to get our priorities in order.

On reflection of this article, I would say that it is silly for a country to ban divorce, because of the actual Biblical teaching, and because it is chaining people to a marriage and relationship which is creating a far bigger problem in Malta.

However, the Church should be setting up and providing services for people to get over divorce, to understand why marriage is important, and to provide ways for couples interested in marriage to learn about what it is, and why it should and has been made for life.

Divorce always have negative after effects, and the posters of the children promoting the ‘no’ vote does carry a grain of truth. By divorcing all over the place and for whatever reason, I just cant help but think of what we’re doing and saying to the next generation…

 

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Dean Roberts

Dean is a Minister in the Anglican Church. Currently he is Curate in the parishes of Bedwas, Machen, Michaelston-y-Fedw and Rudry in South Wales. He was born and bred in Wales, is married to Megan, and has two dogs called Taliesin and Melyn, and two cats named Sinsir and Hâf. He graduated from Cardiff University with a BA Hons. in Theology & Religious Studies, and has studied for an MA in Theology, Ministry & Mission at Trinity College Bristol. He also holds a Cert.RSCM from the Royal School of Church Music. He loves playing music, walking, reading, blogging and horse riding as well as going to the cinema and theatre. Read More @ http://deanroberts.net/about

  • Eva

    “People married, and kept their wedding vows. They stuck by one another in the thick and thin; and without an affair.”

    You know, I really wonder if this was ever true. We have no way of knowing, and honestly, I think people always had affairs. I am of the opinion that they were probably LESS common especially in times and places where the “me” culture didn’t prevail and so having an affair, an the fear of getting found out, were a lot worse. Still I think it always happened.

    I’m an avid reader of ancient texts and I have yet to come across a society where adultery doesn’t creep us as an issue. Of course this refers to cultures other than Christian cultures, but since I see this throughout different times and places, I don’t think one group of people ever managed to completely be without it.

    • You’re right Eva, it has always happened. But the ideal was promoted and many bought into that ideal. Unfortunately, it isn’t anymore, and as a result, people don’t buy into it.

  • Eva

    Sorry, I meant to add that in less “me” centric cultures affairs are obviously less likely because you’re less selfish and not chasing down your every whim. Didn’t mean to make it sound like the only thing keeping people in check was the fear of getting caught.

  • Sara Zingariello

    Hey there,

    I just want to give the Maltese point of view. I totally agree that the campaigns during this referendum have NOT come up to scratch. Somehow, such an intellectual decision has been watered down and politicized, leaving out so much important information. However, having heard the Church’s position from a Canon lawyer, I feel that divorce shouldn’t be introduced in Malta for many reasons, some of which are the following:

    The Bible tells us the following,

    “Why then,” they asked, “did Moses command that a man give his wife a certificate of divorce and send her away?”
    Jesus replied, “Moses permitted you to divorce your wives because your hearts were hard. But it was not this way from the beginning. I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another woman commits adultery.”
    – Matthew 19:7-9

    The institution of marriage is precious and forever in God’s eyes. In the case of seemingly failed marriages, the Maltese Church has a brilliant Tribunal with a team of Canon Lawyers who investigate the reasons for the problem in the marriage. Problems such as a spouse’s lack of knowledge of a known medical problem, etc. often constitute reasons for the dissolution of a marriage. In this case the Church issues an annulment. In God’s eyes, the marriage never was as there wasn’t complete honesty between the two spouses. Such a couple can be married again.

    But what about those who don’t receive an annulment? Those who did have a solid marriage but are facing problems. The Church would normally provide services such as counselling to help the couple work through their issues. This sometimes helps and other time it doesn’t. The couple can apply for a legal separation and live their lives again. However, they are not able to get married again. Their marriage was valid.

    As a Roman Catholic country (Catholicism is actually in our Constitution – I’m not saying that it’s right but it’s there), we following the law of the Roman Catholic Church. The Catechism of the Catholic Church states: “The separation of spouses while maintaining the marriage bond can be legitimate in certain cases provided for by canon law” (CCC 2383)

    In Malta, we have very good laws of separation that protect the couple’s legal rights so there can be no abuse in the case of separation. The same paragraph goes on to say that “if civil divorce remains the only possible way of ensuring certain legal rights, the care of the children, or the protection of inheritance, it can be tolerated and does not constitute a moral offense.” (CCC 2383). What this tells us is that in a country where there are NO separation laws but only divorce, this could be tolerated to ensure the rights and dignity of the person. Since in Malta we DO have brilliant laws of separation, it is likely that introducing divorce would do more harm than good from a sociological perspective (breakdown of families, etc.).

    In MY opinion, introducing divorce in Malta when we already have solid laws of separation, would do more harm than good. People stop fighting to make their marriages work and start to think ‘marriage is until we have problems’, rather than ‘marriage is forever’. It’s the beginning of the break down of families and (for Christians), the beginning of the break down of the holy institution of Marriage. In the case of those who really can’t make their marriages work, we have laws to protect their rights.

    Hope I was coherent!

    Blessings,

    Sara

    • Sara Zingariello

      Also, if I may add, I have never heard of anyone’s job being threatened because of this issue. Nor are people being refused Holy Communion because they’re THINKING about this divorce issue. Just wanted to make that clear.

      Blessings.

      • Interesting stuff Sara. Though I’m interested by what you said, “In the case of seemingly failed marriages, the Maltese Church has a brilliant Tribunal with a team of Canon Lawyers who investigate the reasons for the problem in the marriage. Problems such as a spouse’s lack of knowledge of a known medical problem, etc. often constitute reasons for the dissolution of a marriage. In this case the Church issues an annulment. In God’s eyes, the marriage never was as there wasn’t complete honesty between the two spouses. Such a couple can be married again.” Why was the marriage invalid in God’s eyes, just because of a medical problem, for example?