Wednesday, 11 May 2011

Times: Divorce debate: tolerance means…

Wednesday, May 11, 2011 , by Leo Brincat

Tolerance means that both sides should show greater respect and understanding of each other’s views during the pro- and anti-divorce debate without tipping into fundamentalist arguments of the “fire and brimstone” ilk.

Tolerance should also mean that:

• Bullying tactics should be swept aside and curtailed with a high degree of self-restraint.

• A way should have been found to overcome the resultant disenfranchisement of almost 3,000 voters – equivalent to twice the difference in votes during the last general elections.

• No matter how morally right the Ecclesiastical Tribunal authorities might believe that they have been, the respected ecclesiastical judges must realise that the Ecclesiastical Tribunal is no ordinary “internal disciplinary board” but a court which has civil effects (supreme over the Family Court) due to the infamous law which the Fenech Adami-led Administration had passed in the 1990s. How can a truly European country ever accept that in a court which has civil effects, a lawyer was dismissed simply for airing views which are different to those of the presiding judge? Not to mention those innocent third parties who wanted her to appear as legal counsel in front of the ecclesiastical courts.

• The PN should have emulated the Labour Party in keeping politics and political parties officially out of the whole debate, and objected strongly to the No To Divorce campaign having had the cheek to hijack (with or without their consent) a motto that brought to mind two slogans used by the Nationalist Party for the referendum to join the EU and the last general election by cloning them to perfection.

• Those who should have known better should have put their foot down strongly against the moral pressures being brought to bear on inmates in old people’s homes and other government-run institutions as to how they should vote during the forthcoming referendum.

• While entitled to their public views on the subject, Cabinet members should stick to fighting the deficit and other socio-economic woes rather than embarking on over-the-top, Opus Dei-like crusades by dragging Our Lady’s feelings of sorrow into the whole debate.

• Misinformation campaigns, half truths and downright lies should stop as of now in order not to further mislead a sometimes still uninformed electorate.

• Children should not be dragged into the debate by any party even more so when no one seems to bother mentioning those children who have experienced the traumas of lengthy separations or else those born out of marriages that were eventually annulled.

• One should stop using the fallacious argument that divorce is not a civil right and will not be one until Malta approves its introduction. If we cannot even distinguish between an undisputed right and a right legislated upon, we are an undisputedly confessional state!

• Those campaigners who have shown gross insensitivity towards the plight and rights of those parents and children, who have already proved to be victims of physical or psychological violence during marriage, must be censored by the movements they militate in.

• If certain people genuinely feel that strongly about or against divorce they should show the same concern about cohabitation and annulments which in the latter case total some three a week, with about 50 cases per annum appearing in front of the ecclesiastical authorities.

• It is simply not on for anti-divorce campaign members to first claim that cohabitation is bound to increase as a result of divorce only for other exponents to claim that with divorce, cohabitation partners will suffer since female partners will be more inclined to remarry than male partners might be inclined to!

• The same applies to those who are trying to convince one and all that divorce will not only increase the incidence of cohabitation but also that of separation while reducing that of marriage, without showing any concern for the fact that a third of babies are now born out of wedlock, including many to cohabiting couples who could not marry because there was no divorce, and children would thus stand to benefit. On the other hand it is common knowledge that this number would increase if divorce were not introduced.

• If we really believe in compassion we must practise it rather than merely talk about it.

• Political parties like the PN must make up their minds as to whether they intend to keep on respecting and nurturing the middle ground or else whether they prefer for expediency’s sake to allow themselves to turn into a bastion of confessional conservatism that brings to mind the local equivalent of the Republican Tea Party rather than the inclusive moderate party that we once knew; the same party that until recently was even pitching for the liberal vote among gays and transsexuals.

• No matter how strongly the anti-divorce campaigners might feel about the whole issue, they should refrain from offending our intelligence by resorting to the shameful and insensitive argument that with divorce, abortion and euthanasia will follow as a result of a “newly ingrained” culture.

The author is the opposition spokesman on the environment, sustainable development and climate change.

[Click on the hyperlink above to view the comments on the Times' website.]

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