Bishops warn against divorce ‘crusades’
The bishops yesterday urged the faithful to contribute to the divorce debate but warned against the dangers of embarking on “crusades”.
“We ask everybody who contributes to this debate not to distort the love for each person ingrained in the Christian message by embarking on some kind of crusade, even in the case of clear signs of provocation,” the bishops said in a pastoral note.
In a two-and-a-half-page letter, the bishops gave the Maltese Church’s most detailed opinion and advice on divorce to date.
It has been seven weeks since Nationalist backbencher Jeffrey Pullicino Orlando presented a Private Member’s Bill in favour of the introduction of divorce, which is not available to couples in Malta.
However, in a carefully-worded statement, the bishops steered away from controversy in the wake of recent comments made by Pro-Vicar Anton Gouder who linked divorce with sin.
Archbishop Paul Cremona and Gozo Bishop Mario Grech said: “We urge committed Church members, both on a personal level, according to one’s state in life and responsibility in society, and in ecclesiastical groups, to contribute positively to this debate.”
However, they warned followers against staging a “crusade” by whatever means, since it im-plied seeking a victory over people with different beliefs and opinions.
The bishops said the Church had always spoken about the beauty and importance of marriage, and had based its teachings on the words of Christ.
The Christian heritage received through the Catholic Church has helped most families throughout the centuries to be reared in stable marriages, even in times of poverty and emigration.
Even today, in their desire to form a family, most spouses still looked towards entering into a stable marriage, though unfortunately, the bishops pointed out, there was an increasing number of marriage breakdowns.
Each marriage breakdown brought much suffering to the spouses, immediate relatives, and especially to children. This was a challenge which the Church and Maltese society at large had to confront, the bishops said.
The Church had helped couples in preparing for marriage, and sustained them throughout. It had also offered its help when marriages broke down and provided shelter for children and victims of violence in the home. It was convinced that this suffering would only decrease by investing in more stable marriages.
The Church said it promoted marriage and defended it because ultimately this would result in fewer breakdowns.
“How can one now expect that it will not be speaking out for preventive measures by promoting and defending the stability of marriage? This is the reason why it always produces statistics and studies which prove that society suffers both in human terms and financially from the introduction of divorce.”
The bishops said the Church was committed to conveying these values: for its members who sought its direction, and for many others who would like to hear alternative views so as to be able to make a better, enlightened choice.
In a pluralistic society, the bishops said, there should never be just one opinion voiced and it was a disservice to democracy to try to silence other points of view.
As there were those who promoted divorce in a pluralistic society, the Church’s mission was to promote the stability of marriage, insisting on the moment of consent as the focal point of commitment.
“Every Christian is accountable before the Lord for his every action. We as bishops have spoken on many occasions about the accountability of every person even in this matter. It should be a great privilege for every committed member of the Church to say before the Lord that he has done his part in promoting and defending these values that Jesus insisted so much upon in His teachings.”
The bishops concluded their pastoral note by quoting Pope Benedict XVI during his visit to Malta last April when he said the island should continue to stand up for the indissolubility of marriage.
“May his words encourage us to carry out this mission for our Maltese society.”