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‘We legislate for society, not for the individual’

Photo: Matthew Mirabelli

Photo: Matthew Mirabelli

Andre Pace, a 22-year-old undergraduate, tells Kristina Chetcuti he would never seek to remarry if he had to experience marriage breakdown.

Andre Pace has not really ever been in close contact with people who have been through a marital break-up – his parents have been together for 23 years; he is not really close to some of his relatives who are separated, and only a few of his acquaintances have separated parents.

Notwithstanding, he is unbending in his conviction that introducing a divorce law in Malta is not the right thing.

“The choice is really between two models: a permanent marriage and a temporary one. Divorce will change the model of marriage as it is, because you would be able to terminate it,” he says.

Mr Pace, who lives with his parents in Birkirkara, believes that divorce legislation causes instability because it weakens the family, which would eventually weaken society.

“Eventually society will get what it promotes – we will be instilling the mentality that it’s fine to end a marriage. Divorce will introduce a mentality of convenience,” he says.

He is armed with statistics to prove it: In the US, 55 to 60 per cent of marriages break down not because of infidelity or domestic violence but because of petty issues.

Mr Pace, who is doing a Masters degree in sustainable development, is concerned that with the introduction of divorce fewer people would marry and cohabitation will increase because they would ask why they should enter into something that is not permanent.

When asked if he would like to get married one day, he replies promptly in the affirmative. Would he still get married if there is a divorce law in the country?

“Yes,” he says.

But would he not feel he were going in for something temporary?

“No, my attitude will be that it’s permanent,” he says, explaining that at the end of the day you need to have faith in your partner.

Moreover, he says, should a divorce law go through it would not really affect his generation.

“Remember, we grew up in a society where marriage is permanent – but it will alter the frame of mind of the next generation.”

In any case, he says, if ever his marriage broke up, he would “stay single” for the rest of his life. Does he not feel that, at 22, he might be too young to commit himself to such a declaration?

“It’s my personal conviction – based on my religious views.”

Mr Pace says it is vital – for the common good of society – that divorce is not introduced, mainly because it will increase the rate of broken marriages rather than solving marital problems.

Has he not seen marriages break up around him?

“Yes, but we are legislating for society, not for the individual,” he says.

He agrees that it is individuals that make up society but goes on to cite one main difference between the ‘for’ and ‘against’ camps: The ‘Yes’ campaign is concentrating on the individual whereas the ‘No’ camp is looking at all the other relationships which would be impacted by divorce.

He refers to the drama film Pay It Forward, starring Kevin Spacey and Helen Hunt, which is about a boy who attempts to make the world a better place.

“Everything in the end is solved except for the fact that the parents of the child stay divorced. So, because of divorce, the family issues are not solved and there is no happy ending there.”

He admits that not everybody’s marriage is a bed of roses, but with divorce there will be more problems, which in the long run would damage society. “It’s the statistics really – they give us a strong indication of what will happen.”

As a Catholic and Maltese citizen, he says, he has a vision of a strong society. He is a practising Catholic, although shyly declares that he is “not perfect, of course”, is a member of the Ċentru Alcide de Gasperi at the University of Malta, part of Studenti Demokristjani Maltin and is also actively involved in the liturgy service at his parish.

He insists a Catholic has a right to voice his opinion like everyone else, though says his arguments against divorce are secular in nature rather than religious.

Mr Pace then cites the seventh commandment ‘Thou shalt not steal “Rationally, you can reach the same conclusion that stealing is not good, and it’s the same with divorce, you can reach the same ‘anti’ stand through logic, not only religiously.”

Mr Pace does not consider divorce a civil right, arguing that the EU would otherwise not have accepted Malta as a member state.

He quotes the 1976 International Covention on Civil and Political Rights which talks about the right to marriage but not the right to divorce. “Remarriage is not a civil right,” he states, saying that it goes against his core values.

What if his parents had to break up and opted to divorce?

He cannot imagine it happening. His entire family is, in fact, against the introduction of divorce, including his 18-year-old sister, one of the 2,800 caught in the electoral register hitch of not being able to vote despite being of age: “And she is really upset about it because she really wanted to vote against.”

However, he says, if his parents had to break up and opt for divorce he would not impose his beliefs on them: “I wouldn’t stop them, of course,” he says, reasoning that everybody is free to act on his or her conscience.

“I’ve taken a stand against divorce, but it doesn’t mean that I want to impose my beliefs on others,” he says.

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