Sunday, 31 July 2011

Times: Beyond divorce legislation
Sunday, July 31, 2011, by Fr Joe Borg

The Curia in Floriana. Photo: Matthew Mirabelli

Less than two months after the absolute majority of Maltese voting in the referendum said aye to divorce, Parliament passed the law through all its stages. This haste is commendable, as the country needs to move on from the discussion about divorce to the reality of divorce.

No one proposed divorce as an ideal. It was proposed as a remedy for people whose marriage had broken down. It is the duty of government, civil society and the Church to face this reality by taking all the necessary measures so that the number of those having to recourse to divorce will be the least possible. This means the country should strive to have the least number of broken marriages.

It is very natural that in the first few years there will be a considerable (possibly a great) number of people seeking divorce. The backlog of people in broken relationships is quite substantial.

If concrete and concerted actions are not taken in earnest then more families will be broken and divorces will keep on increasing. This is one type of increase no one hopes for.

So instead of wasting time discussing ways of undermining the institution of marriage through the liberal agenda that is now pushing for the legalisation of gay marriages (a contradiction in terms if there ever was one) we should take concrete steps to strengthen the real institution of marriage. (Gay couples can have their rights safeguarded without calling their relationship a marriage.) We do not need platitudes but concrete actions.

Another potential alienation could be the move to amend the Church- State agreement on marriage. I had criticised a particular aspect on more than one occasion and am not against revisiting it. But let us be conscious of the fact that such discussions with the Vatican will take time.

It is better to spend energy on the most important and urgent task ahead: taking concrete policies to strengthen families.

The ministry responsible for the family has a key role to play and should be the government’s core ministry. Its budget should reflect government’s commitment to help problem families and marriages in difficulty.

Prevention is better than cure. Why not offer marriage preparation courses for those who opt for a civil marriage?

Will more family friendly measures be taken to guarantee a better family/work balance?

Many marriages break down due to socio-economic pressures. Such breakdown could be lessened.

The Church has been doing a lot for a very long time to help Maltese families. Will it now respond to the new scenario with the needed alacrity and effectiveness?

Two months after the referendum the Church has not even managed to set up a commission to conduct a post-mortem of the result and many are still in denial mode.

We were abysmally absent in the Parliamentary debate on divorce. In a clear abdication of duty, no Church group contributed anything to make the draft better than it was.

There’s a serious perception prob­lem about the workings of the Ecclesiastical tribunals. Deborah Schembri’s suspension seems inane now.

The Church’s budget should now give priority to the family on the diocesan and parish levels. The Church should invest, for example, in the Cana Movement’s activities as much as in the valid work done in the Ecclesiastical tribunals.

Can the family clinic model adopted in Gozo be evaluated to see if it can also be adopted in Malta?

The pro-family agenda is long.

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

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