Thursday, October 14, 2010

Maltese Church Says Vote Your Conscience on Divorce

To most Americans, a debate over allowing civil divorce seems antediluvian. But, for the country of Malta, with a culture deeply rooted in Catholicism, this debate is happening right now. Maltese politicians are fighting to  either preserve marriage as indissoluble or redefine it to allow for civil divorce. Seven highly respected priests decided to help Catholics make this decision by putting forth a position paper that permits them to vote for divorce.

In a significantly Catholic country, one would suspect that the Church would be the Maltese people's strongest proponent against divorce legislation. However, according to an article in the Times of Malta, officials in the Church are actually supporting this position paper that suggests that voting for divorce should be a matter of personal conscience.
“(One) may still, in spite of having all the necessary knowledge and having done everything to find the whole truth, in conscience not see why to vote against legislation favouring divorce. This one too has the right and duty to follow what one’s conscience tells one,” the paper says.
So, I suppose the Magisterium of the Church is no longer necessary? We should all just follow our own consciences and decide what the common good is for society. Isn't that what happened in the 16th century in the time of Luther and Henry VIII. Common sense and the common good were exchanged for trust in one's own conscience. That resulted in a disaster better known today as the Protestant Reformation, or Revolt, depending on whom you ask.

The article continues:
And if Catholics are faced with a choice between two harmful situations for the common good, it is “legitimate” for them to choose “the lesser evil”, it adds, without specifying which the lesser evil would be.
What a shocking misuse of the principle of double effect and a blatant disregard for the Church's teaching on the Sacrament of Marriage. (Cf. CCC 1617; 2382) What could be harmful about marriage that the Church cannot reconcile through Canon Law that civil divorce should become an acceptable alternative? Separation is not against Church teaching, just divorce and remarriage. It's Scriptural! (Cf. Matt. 19:9; Mark 10:11-12; Luke 16:18) Jesus says that if anyone was to divorce and remarry they commit adultery. So, are we suggesting that divorce should be allowed only under the provision that the person never remarry? The position paper, according to the article, is rather ambiguous.

The mind and heart of the Church defend the indissoluble nature of marriage. There is no other position to take, in a paper or otherwise. If the marriage was entered into under false pretenses or with impediments, Canon Law provides a system to assess whether the parties ever had a licit marriage. The Maltese people deserve better than an equivocal statement from their clergy on this issue.

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