Tackling the divorce issue
When Lou Bondi presents Bondiplus tomorrow evening, a programme whichis going to tackle the current divorce debate, I hope he will ask theanti-divorce lobby a few simple questions. Does separation destroymarriages? Is separation responsible for marriage breakdowns? If it is,what are the political and legal classes planning to do about it? Whyis the anti-divorce lobby not pushing to ban separations too, toenshrine marriage in the Constitution as something which cannot bebroken?
Thetruth is we have a rate of marriage breakdown which is certainly higherthan it was 10 years ago. However, marriages have always broken down.There is nothing new about this. We can argue till the cows come homeabout what the rate of breakdown really is, which Ranier Fsadni triedto do in an article in The Times last week, but it is there and it isnot insignificant. Certainly, however, the picture is not at all bleakand many more people remain married than separate (and this is true allover secular Europe), which is entirely a good thing that should becommended.
What is certain however is that this decision â€“whether or not to introduce divorce â€“ cannot be left in the hands ofthose who never marry, never experience marital joy, and neithermarital strife, for that matter. The Church, in other words, is notvery well-placed to lead any discussion on this issue, yet it is alwayspeopleâ€™s faith which is being invoked as a reason not to consider it.
TheChurch is always talking about family life, yet none of itsspokespersons experience it, except as children. They, when they becomenuns and priests, make a decision not to have families. Itâ€™s a verytough call and undoubtedly a big reason why there is such a fall invocations, but it looks like this hardline approach will continue.
Manypeople think or plan to separate and then do not. Presumably the factthat we allow separation contributes to marriage breakdown, becausewithout it nobody would separate. Once they separate, the marriage isbroken. I think we can all agree on that. So allowing separations leadsto or causes marriage breakdown as much as the introduction of divorcewould.
What divorce does is allow people to marry again. Itreally is that simple. Separation breaks the marriage. Marriage can becreated again through divorce. In Malta this is not allowed unless yourdivorce is obtained overseas and then recognised here. It is a bafflingand hypocritical situation, which is forcing people to live togetherwithout marrying. It is encouraging even more fly-by-nightrelationships. If your marriage does not work the first time, you arerelegated to second-class citizen status where you can never marryagain, which it is certainly your civil right to do.
Now, if theChurch does not want to allow divorce, that is its right. But why isthe government mirroring the Church? Why donâ€™t MPs have a free vote onthis issue as Georg Sapiano, possible future MP, suggested?
Bothpolitical parties are justifiably petrified it will cost them votes.When Alfred Sant tried to discuss it, the usual torrent of panic andabuse from our extreme right wingers descended on him. But funnilyenough, it, along with other liberal issues, will probably lose thenationalists more votes next time around.
The NationalistParty has managed to keep these votes for 20 years. It has had, up tonow at least, the vote of the strictly-by-the-letter religious, and themore liberal for many years, but can it hold on to both in the currentclimate?
Divorce should be allowed. Not quickly or easilyperhaps, just as separations are not quick or easy here. But once acourt allows a couple to separate, it is inconceivable and inhuman tonever allow either of the partners to marry again.
Oh yes, Iforgot, unless you choose to do the ugly thing and annul the marriage,which is telling your kids the marriage never existed. And I am notcriticising those who go for an annulment. They have no choice here,but the implications for kids are much, much uglier than they are withthe introduction of divorce. We should hang our heads in shame at thistravesty of human rights and dignity masquerading as protection offamily life.
for a listing of alternate locations.