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Voting for divorce is a sin - pro-vicar

A convinced Catholic who voted in favour of divorce would be going against Christ’s teachings and this was a sin, the Curia’s Pro-Vicar said during an interview on church radio RTK.

In a phone-in programme dedicated to divorce on Friday, Mgr Anton Gouder, however, noted that committing a sin did not mean people would be excommunicated from the Church.

“If a person repents and goes to confession, all sins can be forgiven. If someone steals from his workplace and during confession promises to stop doing so and redeem the stolen goods, I will absolve his sins and he will be able to receive communion,” the Archbishop’s right-hand man said when asked by a caller whether someone voting in favour of divorce could be excommunicated.

He also played down a concern raised by programme host Tonio Bonello that the Church could end up in a political-religious battle reminiscent of the 1960s when it interdicted Labour Party officials.

“This is not a problem of one party. It is unjust that everyone can say what they want and the Church is denied a right to deliver moral judgment on the actions of its members,” Mgr Gouder said.

Referring to a survey on divorce commissioned by The Sunday Times, Mgr Gouder said he was concerned with the results even though a relative majority of 45 per cent were against divorce. “The result disappoints me because 40 per cent agree with a serious measure like divorce, which caused damage to marriage and families in every country where it was introduced,” he said.

He said he also could not understand how 15 per cent were undecided about something as important as divorce that could have an impact on their families.

Mgr Gouder did not enter into the merits of whether the issue should be decided through a referendum or in Parliament but insisted that people had to be wellinformed on the consequences of their decision.

“The referendum is a political democratic instrument that gives an indication of what people think about an issue. It is not, however, an instrument that shows what is true or good.

It is not an instrument that reflects what the common good is,” he said, adding the more important issue was that the government, the Church, the media and non-governmental organisations provided true information on marriage, family, divorce and its effects in other countries.

Mgr Gouder disputed the notion that divorce was not an imposition on those who did not agree with it. “A spouse who does not want divorce would still be lumped with it if her partner decides to divorce,” he said.

However, his biggest concern was that divorce eroded the permanence of marriage and so it was not acceptable either if both partners agreed to file for divorce.

“Can we have a negative right? Is it correct to allow people to go back on their word? A couple would have given its word to live together until death parts them. If the first word does not count why should the second time be any different,” he asked, pointing out that statistics in the US and Canada showed that the likeliness of a second marriage failing was higher than the first.

Mgr Gouder said the permanence of marriage was not only a moral teaching of the Church but also a tenet of civil society because even civil marriage spoke of a permanent bond to death.

He commented on the argument made by Fr Peter Serracino Inglott that if research showed divorce was beneficial for the common good, a Catholic politician had the duty to vote in favour. “It has to be proven that divorce serves the common good but from research I have seen abroad I haven’t found a country where divorce served the common good,” Mgr Gouder said, dismissing the argument.

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