Sunday, 8 May 2011

An Insult to our Intelligence

The Malta Independent on Sunday

Anyone who follows my column knows where I stand on the issue of divorce. I consider divorce to be a civil right for the minority that needs it. The absence of divorce has not prevented the weakening of family ties, so it is my considered view that its introduction will not harm the common good and that the weakening of family ties has to be addressed by wider measures rather than a vulgar abolishment that keeps us in the sole company of The Philippines and the Vatican among populations on this planet. Equally forcefully, I am against such a matter being decided by a popular referendum. Civil rights, especially the rights of minorities, cannot be subjected to the whims of the majority. Elected representatives have the duty and obligation to give minorities their civil rights, rather than irresponsibly shrugging off their duties onto the general electorate. Should divorce be decided by the unfaithful husband who cheats on his wife and is against its introduction lest his wife packs up and leaves; or lest his mistress insists on him marrying her` Should divorce be decided by the estranged wife who will vote against out of spite to deny her former husband an opportunity to remarry, even though they have not been living together for more years than can be counted on her fingers and toes and there are no minor children involved` Strange as it may sound, by using various agencies to mount a negative campaign against the introduction of divorce, the Church is actually allying itself with such egoistic animal instincts that are against the introduction of divorce for anything but holy and spiritual reasons. The Church should be against divorce but not against its introduction. The Church has a duty to guide its faithful to live their religion and to abstain from divorce as a matter of personal choice and lifestyle, without imposing it on others who are not members of the Church or who make a personal choice not to live their religion. Any responsible person, even if wholeheartedly against divorce as a matter of personal choice, would in my opinion be harming society by denying it to the minority that really needs it. The pretence that, without divorce, we will have strong families, stable marriages and happy children is an insult to the intelligence of a growing minority who were born in perfectly normal families except for wedlock, a minority gradually reaching the voting age threshold that politicians care about so much for reasons well beyond the divorce issue per se. It is an insult to those who have suffered so much in an unsuccessful marriage, a hurt that no one who has not lived through such a bad experience can ever imagine. It is an insult to any objective observer, seeing that an absence of divorce has been ineffective for preventing marriage disintegration, resulting in an exponential growth of new unconventional family units without any legal framework. If it were true that no divorce equals happy families, as the billboards imply, than the divorce issue would not have arisen. Who buys curative medicine when there is no sickness` The truth is that divorce can bring some legal order to the jungle of unorthodox family units among us. And how should one define a family unit` Is it a disintegrated marriage where the parties have not lived together for decades and where the children born in marriage have made their way in life with the help and support of both separated parents and formed their own household` Or is it an unmarried family who have been living together for a generation and where minor children born out of wedlock are living as a normal family in the protection and love of their unmarried parents` Would the unmarried parents be serving God or society if they leave behind their minors born out of wedlock to obey the Church in protecting the original marriage whatever it takes` The solution to lasting family units is not the absence of divorce, it is strong marriage preparation, a growing economy permitting work-sharing and the enjoyment of quality family time opportunities, a fair social network permitting financial support to young family units, and a wide programme for the upgrading of moral values, which must include as a priority a thorough redefinition of our tax structure to cultivate a moral for tax compliance culture which would permit lower taxes for all and social security transfers to those who are truly deserving. I receive readers’ feedback on many of my columns, but I have been touched like never before by an e-mail I received on my last piece of two weeks ago from a missionary in a poor Latin American country: “I have been absent from Malta for some forty years so I cannot really understand what is happening there currently. I lived in Malta in the 60s and 70s, and experienced the political confusion of the time when voting your convictions led to mortal sin. It would seem that things have not changed much, minds are still offering simplistic choices between heaven or hell, sin or no sin, black or white, policies based on strict rules rather than conviction. In this poor country divorce has existed for some two centuries and I assure you that we celebrated the Holy Week in thousands and nobody threatened anyone with hell or sin. In their poverty these people teach me how I should live my faith and whilst they don’t know who Voltaire is they have been teaching me much more than I have been teaching them these last 40 years. “The divorce referendum in Malta is a waste of time and money. It would have been much better if this money was sent to my mission where we really need it to help these poor people.” I was left speechless! The spirit of St Francis of Assisi lives on, but not here. Here we have the spirit of St Peter with his keys of heaven directing all those in favour of the introduction of divorce straight to hell for denying that Kristu Iva, Divorzju Le.

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