Cana founder predicted State’s need to come to terms with divorce

Mgr Charles Vella’s enlightened comments on divorce have come back to haunt him.

Years ago, when divorce was a but a twinkle in the eye of a handful of liberals (or so many thought…) people like Milan-based Vella, 83, relished in saying brave things such as this:

“I keep reading that marriages in Malta will disintegrate if there is divorce, but it didn’t happen in Italy. In the first couple of years, the divorce rate (in Italy) rose because there were people waiting for years to get it. But now the figures have levelled out. It’s not increasing.”

That, he told to The Times in an interview in 2009. As the founder of the Cana movement (he was a mere 20 at the time), the Church’s affiliate in marriage preparation for Catholics, he certainly shook the conservative gatekeeper of the Maltese archdiocese.

“Does it not occur to him that once divorce legislation is introduced (which means therefore that marriage does not remain a lifelong commitment), couples would take their marriage preparation more lightly?” Pro-Vicar General Anton Gouder asked, claiming that the Italian divorce rate had increased by 74% (reported by The Times in 2009).

What Gouder omitted at the time was the declining marriage rate in Italy, down to 4.3 for every 100,000 people in 2004 from 5.6 in 1990. And that may be something infinitely more worrying than marital discord – especially as Prime Minister Lawrence Gonzi is getting ready to embark on a drive to regularise cohabitation rights for unmarried partners. Whether these new rights will be available to separated spouses living with a new partner is a moot point.

Now Vella’s unedited comments are being ‘used’ – relayed – by the pro-divorce movement Iva in a TV spot that asks voters ‘if they’ll be voting yes’ (see the video on’s divorce newsblog).

“Very often their first marriage was a mistake; they want a more stable and happy second marriage. If we prepare couples well for marriage then we shouldn’t be afraid. The introduction of divorce doesn’t scare me…

“I feel these members need healing and my theory is that while divorce from the Catholic viewpoint is considered a menace for the stability of marriage it does not mean it’s going to wreck marriages. If we build our marriage on rock and not on sand, the Christian family will become stronger.”

Alerted to the TV spot, ostensibly by Zwieg bla Divorzju (his lawyer happens to be Dr Robert Tufigno, one of the anti-divorce campaigners) the Broadcasting Authority have controversially censored the video.

But Vella’s comments have also exposed an ideological fissure between conservatives and… not-so-conservatives.

Vella of course disagrees with divorce. In an interview with MaltaToday in 2005, he said it “divides families and hurts children” and he disagreed with remarriage, but that he understood those who find a partner with whom they spend the rest of their life after marriage break-up.

Why? Perhaps it was because one of his good friends is Italian singer Albano Carrisi, who divorced his singing partner Romina Power in 1999 after 30 years on the stage with him. Talk about second chances: Vella was an intimate friend of Bettino Craxi, who absconded Italian justice when he fled to Hammamet in Tunisia during the mani pulite investigations. He criticised Italian President Ciampi as “heartless” for refusing to authorise Craxi’s return to Italy to get cured by Professor Rigatti in San Raffaele – where he worked – in Milan. Craxi ended up dying in exile in Tunisia.

Vella himself is not a fan of referenda on divorce. In 1974, the Christian-democrats failed to win a referendum intended to abrogate the 1970 law that had been voted in parliament (under a DC-led government) by a disparate coalition of communists, socialists and other liberals.

But he has also acknowledged the need for clear Church-State separation, and the role of an ethical State: “The ethics of the State should be based on European Christian traditional values – in Malta we have this but the State has to come to grips with the problem of divorce. It has a duty to do it, but before doing it, the State has to give more help to families because divorce legislation doesn’t solve the needs of the people. The people on the ground are crying for help from the State – for example, young married couples are facing difficulties, as is the unmarried mother, the working mother... we need to change the current marriage law.”

He may have been prophetic in presaging the worst aspects of the divorce referendum debate.

“Malta keeps persisting in seeing things in black or white, often forgetting the shades of grey,” he had told The Times. “Let’s not be prophets of doom. Let’s stop scaring people. People tell me to fight on. Some of the Church exponents – not the bishops – are going overboard. They should either stay silent or be updated.”

THOSE WHO DO NOT WANT DIVORCE TO BE INTRODUCED IN MALTA SHOULD GO AND VOTE "NO" ON THE 28th MAY 2011. Those who abstain may be giving a blank cheque to the Pro Divorcists.
Dear Silent Citizen The truth is painful to confront sometimes. There are many like you who are AFRAID ... afraid that the secure social world around them is crumbling. It's not crumbling at all - it's just changing. . I tell you what is crumbling. Old values based on discrimination are crumbling. Discriminating against other people who do not fit into a precise Roman Catholic outfit is something you, and people who think like you, are being forced to face right now. . But the reality of life is that it is brimming with diversity. And in spite of what you may have been told, although the Roman Church is huge, only 15% of the global population are Catholics. And here comes the crunch: None of them are Catholic by choice. Their very souls are stolen very soon after they arrive here and then conditioned to think and behave in certain ways within a fixed ecclesiastical-social structure. That’s why the Roman Church has all those followers (NOT!!). It boasts of being the biggest church ... that’s right it is, but only because it snatches us before we are even born. (For example by controlling marriages etc.) This is not to say there aren’t any good people born into the church, there are all sorts.
Everything show that the NO movement have no valid arguments and are only deceieving.
By keeping your head in the sand does'nt solve the problems for broken marriages. There are people who need and want devorce. If devorce is introduced,nobody is going to force you to devorce if you don't want to,so why deny this right to those who need it?
Where's the deception?
Everything show that the YES movement have no valid arguments and are only deceieving.
Malta has accepted EU membership and the consequent one-size-fits-all regulations. The Church must now suffer the consequences for not having stood up to be counted when it knew very clearly of the imminent introduction, not only of divorce but also of several other social legislation going against its beliefs. Like it or not, sooner rather than later, even the state (PN for the time being) must start towing the line of mainstream EU fixed menus and reconsider its close ties with the Monsigneur society as titles continue to become more irrelvant and socially unacceptable, in the light of piling corruption and scandals perpetrated by the previously unquestioned religeous and political classes - both of whose under-arms stink to higher levels of us plebian mortals. Unfortunately, unlike referenda tied up with EU membeship, there will not be another opportunity for voting for or against divorce before perhaps a decade, unless the PL would risk putting its head on the block at the next election and decide to gate-crash the controversial legislation. In ten years time the church would have slid considerably further down the power / influence grid, particularly as more scandals come to light. Even now it has no right to impose its decadent will on minorities.