Friday, 22 March 2013

Malta Today: [WATCH] Church tribunals to no longer be superior to civil courts on marriage annulment

Prime Minister forges ahead with 'clear separation of Church and State', in meeting held with Archbishop Paul Cremona.
Friday 22 March 2013 - 12:15 by Miriam Dalli

Prime Minister Joseph Muscat with Archbishop Paul Cremona and auxiliary bishop Charles Scicluna. (Photo: Ray Attard/MediaToday)

The Maltese government is to inform the Holy See that it intends amending its national laws which under the 1992 Church-State agreement subsumed the Maltese courts to the authority of the Ecclesiastical tribunals.

Under the agreement hammered out under prime minister Eddie Fenech Adami and deputy prime minister Guido de Marco in 1992, Malta's courts were forced to suspend any marital separation hearings if any of the parties involved filed for annulment proceedings with the Church tribunals. Only the

"An important point for our government is our intention to inform the Holy See that we intend to formally make the civil court supreme when it comes to marriage laws, and this is in line with our mandate. We will work actively for this to be reciprocal for both sides."

On his part, Archbishop Paul Cremona said the Maltese curia was disposed to discuss the issue.

Muscat also said he had raised the matter of same-sex unions with the archbishop, saying he had explained his government has a clear mandate to legislate in favour of civil partnerships for gay couples.

Cremona said that the Church's role as an alternative voice was beneficial to society, saying that people should "not be surprised" when the Catholic Church speaks out. "We are only carrying out our duty when we do," Cremona said.

In the past, the Maltese bishops have spoken out against IVF and divorce in pastoral letters that openly probed legislative policies by MPs.

Muscat had already given a clear indication that the Maltese courts will no longer be subordinate to the Ecclesiastical Tribunal's decisions, under reforms his Labour government will be pushing. In a comment he gave after the inaugural pontifical mass for Pope Francis in the Vatican State, Muscat said his government was "adamant on a clear separation of church and state."

Without referring to the 1992 Church-State agreement - which gave the Curia's ecclesiastical tribunal supremacy on annulments for Catholic marriages, over proceedings instituted in the civil courts, Muscat said that "we must ensure that our marriage law is supreme to that of any other law, and not subordinate."

Muscat however also added that he wanted to see the Roman Catholic religion maintaining its status as Malta's official religion. "I will be advocating it myself in the national convention on the Maltese Constitution, because the religion has contributed towards our historical and cultural heritage."

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