‘Catholics have no right to impose morality or beliefs on others’, says former priest

Christian Democracy does not allow the blanket imposition of Catholic doctrine, says ex-Palermo parish priest Giovanni Avena.

Giovanni Avena is director of the Catholic newspaper ‘Adista’ and was also parish priest in Palermo for a number of years. He also holds a doctorate in Theology. He was invited to leave the Catholic Church because of his pro-divorce activism, and he accepted.

Speaking at a Kattolici: Iva Ghax Dritt event on Monday morning, Avena said he decided to come to Malta to involve himself in the ongoing debate and relive what Italy experienced 36 years ago when the population was asked whether it wanted to abrogate existing divorce legislation.

He said that up until a portion of Catholics decided to vote against the abrogation, it was “neck to neck” and the pro-divorce Catholic vote “turned things around.”

He argued that the question dealing with divorce should be dealt with on a social context, not an ecclesiastic one. He argued that Catholics who married in church accepted the responsibility to live with the indissolubility of marriage from an ecclesiastic aspect, leaving the civil aspect of marriage aside.

“When a priest, during a wedding ceremony, proclaims the marriage from a civil aspect, he specifically declares himself a functionary of the state and not a priest. In this sense, the two aspects of marriage are divided.”

Adding that Catholics specifically agree to live by the indissolubility of marriage, Avena argued that because of this division, the Catholic Church has no right to impose its own beliefs on also those who opt to marry by civil marriage.

He said that this creates a conflict between how the State protects the special interests of the Church on one hand, while the Church inhibits the State from protecting the freedom of certain individuals on the other.

“Catholics who voted in favour of allowing this choice all said they felt at peace with themselves and their conscience,” Avena said.

Asked by the media if the introduction of divorce in Italy had social repercussions, Avena said that the repercussions were that the Italian Church was able to undergo a ‘renovation’ of sorts thanks to the conflict.

“Previously, the Church did not embrace the concept of Christian Democracy and stood against divorce. This meant that it drove out all those within it who were in favour of allowing the choice,” he said.

He also remarked that the Maltese Church is proving itself less tolerant and more inflexible in its approach to the divorce debate. “The (divorce) conflict in Italy was between the Church and Christian Democracy, while in Malta it is between the Church and the State.”

Avena also said that the effect of divorce on democracy was “positive.” He said that formerly separated spouses were able to leave traumatic and highly depressive imposed cohabitation conditions behind them and “re-discover happiness.”

“Even Catholics explored this freedom,” he said.

Avena also pointed out how the Church and Catholics faithful to it enjoyed the privilege of annulment, which he described as “ecclesiastic divorce.” He said that while the Church granted its faithful this brand of divorce, it was denying that same freedom to everyone else.

Avena was also asked whether the introduction of divorce led to a divorcist mentality in Italy. “There was already a separatist mentality where spouses were even cohabiting  or remarrying clandestinely in hiding away from the Church,” he said.

He recognised that there is an inherent conflict for Catholics who obtain a divorce to be able to live by the Catholic doctrine. He however added that it does not have to be this way. “Some Italian Bishops are appealing to the Church to readmit those Catholics that obtain a divorce and are cohabiting with someone else,” he said.

He added that nowhere in the Gospels is divorce ‘forbidden’. He said that Christ always preached of openness, tolerance and respect, and “that it is wrong for any Church or religion to impose its conscience on others.”

He also made the point that without love, marriage is no longer a sacrament and a testament to the love between two people and the love of god.

Also speaking during the event, Kattolici: Iva Ghax Dritt spokesperson Carmel Hili welcomed the Archbishop’s pastoral letter, saying he “expected it to be harsher in content.”

He said that the Bishop’s counsel that Catholics must consider their vote as a free one “confirms earlier Church official communiqués that a ‘yes’ vote would not incur any sin whatsoever.”

Hili called on Catholics to “call upon Government to stop imposing one single type of morality upon all of its citizens.”

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I must comment about the loss of respect gonzipn is offering right now to the maltese people,absurd,really,I mean amalgamating with the church at times like these is insulting the intelligence of the individual who is going to vote in a referendum about civil rights., Gonzi is repeating history and showing that the nationalist party is,and has always bonded strongly with the maltese church. I mean,isn t that a greater insult to pn voters who are voting yes next saturday? It s like saying,hey guys we don t care what you think,the church is my leader and no one else. On the other hand, the church should have protested with the government about the water and electricity bills that are creating problems to the maltese society, the cost of living, the unlimited amount of drug abuse and other main problems causing irrevocable pain to maltese families? It s like being in a stray jacket! and what about the corruption taking place in Malta? It feels like living in Burma! And why didn t the maltese church protest with its government about the disgusting payrise of 500euros to the pn cabinet , leaving the citizens with 1euro16 cents??! WAKE UP PLEASE
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The catholic church is interested in the well being of humankind?really? so why not a word was spoken about the corruption of this government , the high cost of living,the astronomical bills for water and electricity, the jobs for the boys, the injustice towards labour workers, the vote no or burn in hell. Come on do you think we are that gullible? Vote yes give the church a message that we can see through their sheep clothing.
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The catholic church is interested in the well being of humankind?really? so why not a word was spoken about the corruption of this government , the high cost of living,the astronomical bills for water and electricity, the jobs for the boys, the injustice towards labour workers, the vote no or burn in hell. Come on do you think we are that gullible? Vote yes give the church a message that we can see through their sheep clothing.
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aetism is far better and more reliable than any religion , since religions have always been the cause of feuds and wars.
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What we should keep in mind is that the Catholic Church is interested in the wellbeing of humankind and not only of Catholics. @ L-Ahrax - trid tkun vera 'MAZZUN' biex temmen dik is-site li ssuggerejtilna. Grow up son!
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I agree totally and read this for an explanation: http://mazzun.wordpress.com/2011/04/12/60/