Claims that anti-divorce unsupported by Church 'are laughable', Moviment Iva

Pro divorce movement Iva says Zwieg Bla Divorzju movement should admit to Church affiliation and call for an end to 'deplorable scaremongering'.

Moviment Iva chairperson Deborah Schembri has called on the anti-divorce camp to be clear on its connection with the Catholic Curia in the interest of transparency and ensure the public is not misled.

“Andre Camilleri can refute the connection all he wants, but it won’t detract from the fact that its there,” Schembri said about the Zwieg Bla Divorzju chairperson.

Schembri said there was nothing wrong with the Church's involvement in the divorce debate and its backing of Zwieg Bla Divorzju

At a press conference, Schembri also spoke of pressure being applied on them due to their work within the movement, revealing she had been banned from exercising her profession as lawyer in the Ecclesiastical Tribunals.

Nationalist MP Jeffrey Pullicino Orlando revealed that he reported one instance of “physical threats” to the Police Commissioner for investigation. “What made me report this threat was its physical nature, and my wish to protect my family,” he said.

Schembri also hit out at the way the Church “is using scare-mongering tactics on its followers in order to put pressure on them to vote against divorce.”

She said this pressure was being felt during church homilies, household blessings, confession, during visits in old people’s homes, and “various media including pastoral letters articles."

Regarding visits to old people’s homes, Schembri revealed how carers for the elderly were being told to leave their patients' rooms so that members of the Church could speak with them about divorce. She also dismissed accusations of 'bullying' by the anti-divorce as "stunning", in the light of the pressures being put on the pro-divorce camp. 

Schembri slammed the “manipulative tactics” as “deplorable”. She also held the anti-divorce camps and the Church responsible for "deliberately blurring the distinction between the moral issue of whether divorce is right or wrong", or – which she said is the real issue – the introduction of civil divorce legislation.

She questioned why the Church has adopted this staunch opposition against the introduction of divorce legislation, when this would not affect church marriage in any way, only civil marriage.

She also pointed to the Catechism of the Catholic Church (2383) which reads: “If civil divorce remains the only possible way of ensuring certain legal rights, the care of the children, or the protection of inheritance, it can be tolerated and does not constitute a moral offence.”

She also referred to letters penned by Pope Benedict XVI, which said that despite “the binding claim of ecclesiastic authority, there still stands one’s own conscience, which must be obeyed before all else, if necessary even against the requirement of ecclesiastic authority.”

However, the Curia’s pastoral note by the Bishops has stated that “when the Christian recognises that his judgement does not tally with the teachings of Christ, as communicated by the Church, he will not be free from guilt if he does not realising his judgement with that teaching – because when a Christian consciously and freely breaks the moral law, he will be breaking his relation with God.”

When spouses try to obtain divorce abroad from other Catholic Courts, they are always directed to obtain a divorce first, Schembri added. “This proves that the nowhere else in the world does the Church consider divorce to be a ‘sin’ or inherently evil, otherwise it wouldn’t be directing people to obtain one,” Schembri said.

The United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, and the US all have this approach, she said.

Schembri also pointed out how “it is ironic” that the pro-divorce camp refrained from campaigning during the Easter Holy Week while the Church itself turned the Our Lady of Sorrows traditional processions into “anti-divorce propaganda.”

She also pointed to statements made by prominent media proponent and anti-divorce camp ‘consultant’ Fr Joe Borg who admonished the Church for crossing the line between campaigning and crusading. “Unfortunately, such a line was crossed unnecessarily and insensitively during the Duluri procession,” he said.

Schembri however noted that not all parishes chose to read the entirety of the script that was provided to them to read by the central Curia, and welcomed this ‘resistance’.

Former Nationalist minister Michael Falzon also called on Prime Minister Lawrence Gonzi “to assure the public that Malta is not a confessional state” he referred to a column penned by Finance Minister Tonio Fenech, where he described divorce debate as an issue of “faith.”

“For a member of cabinet to ignore the distinction between a civil issue and a religious issue, one must stop to wonder what sort of country we are living in,” Falzon said.

“It is the duty of the Prime Minister to assure us we are living in a secular state or a confessional state. If the latter, we have far bigger things to worry about than the introduction of divorce,” Falzon said.

Ara vera ipokriti u oqbra imbajjda bhal ma qallhom Kristu stess, m'hawnx bhalhom f'din i-dinja. Biex tghid li m'hemm l-ebda konnessjoni mal-knisja trid tkun vera giddieb u xejn izjed minn giddieb.