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Head of pro-divorce movement takes aim at Church campaign

The head of the Divorce Movement Deborah Schembri has backed comments by former Judge Philip Sciberras who said the Church’s campaign against divorce was motivated by financial considerations.

Judge Sciberras said the Church’s struggle against the introduction of divorce was motivated by its prospective loss of “hegemony” on annulments and therefore a financial loss.

Dr Schembri, speaking during a question and answer discussion in Buġibba yesterday, said the judge had “hit the nail on the head”.

She questioned the Maltese Church’s position against the introduction of divorce legislation notwithstanding the fact that the universal Catholic Church’s catechism provided for circumstances where it was legitimate for someone to file for divorce.

Abroad, the Church asked people to file for divorce before considering their annulment cases, she said.

No entity which held a moral influence on people should scare citizens into voting against what their informed conscience tells them, she insisted.

The Church had always been at the forefront bestowing people with human dignity, but this dignity should be preserved in all camps.

“Let’s not be ridiculous and oppress people by scaring them and asking them to decide on divorce in front of a crucifix,” Dr Schembri said, referring to pamphlets which invite Catholics considering a yes vote to take their decision after contemplating the matter before a cross.

She also referred to comments last week by the Finance Minister Tonio Fenech, who, in an article argued that “God has a say” in the debate.

“I haven’t heard any MP asking people who are not Catholic not to vote for them during an electoral campaign because they would legislate for Catholic people only,” Dr Schembri said, stressing that MPs should represent all citizens irrespective of their religious beliefs.

Dr Schembri was also asked about last week’s news that the Church had banned her from practising before the Ecclesiastical Tribunal because of her role in the divorce movement.

“I would have been naïve to think that the Church would not try its utmost to stop me from talking,” she said, before she defended her position, arguing that the decision was illogical.

The Judicial vicar Arthur Said Pullicino had said Dr Schembri had “automatically excluded herself” from practising in the tribunal because her views on the indissolubility of marriage “are not in conformity with the laws of God and the Church”.

But Dr Schembri yesterday criticised the fact that she was not even given the opportunity to defend herself.

“The promotion of laws that grant people the right to divorce is not the same thing as telling someone to divorce,” she said. “I have been at the forefront, encouraging people to make up and reconcile.

“I don’t make money out of breaking up marriages. People come to me because their marriage is already broken, and I help them safeguard their rights.

“It’s ridiculous that someone thinks we’ll make money out of divorce because, with the introduction of divorce, we’ll just be replacing annulment cases with divorce ones.”

Dr Schembri also hit out at what she described as “insensitive” billboards set up by the anti-divorce campaigners, especially the ones carrying the slogan: “Flimkien għal uliedna” (Together for our children).

“Whose children are they talking about? Their own children?” Dr Schembri asked.

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