[WATCH] Church tribunals to no longer be superior to civil courts on marriage annulment

Prime Minister forges ahead with 'clear separation of Church and State', in meeting held with Archbishop Paul Cremona.

Prime Minister Joseph Muscat with Archbishop Paul Cremona and auxiliary bishop Charles Scicluna. (Photo: Ray Attard/MediaToday)
Prime Minister Joseph Muscat with Archbishop Paul Cremona and auxiliary bishop Charles Scicluna. (Photo: Ray Attard/MediaToday)

The Maltese government is to inform the Holy See that it intends amending its national laws which under the 1992 Church-State agreement subsumed the Maltese courts to the authority of the Ecclesiastical tribunals.

Under the agreement hammered out under prime minister Eddie Fenech Adami and deputy prime minister Guido de Marco in 1992, Malta's courts were forced to suspend any marital separation hearings if any of the parties involved filed for annulment proceedings with the Church tribunals. Only the 

"An important point for our government is our intention to inform the Holy See that we intend to formally make the civil court supreme when it comes to marriage laws, and this is in line with our mandate. We will work actively for this to be reciprocal for both sides."

On his part, Archbishop Paul Cremona said the Maltese curia was disposed to discuss the issue.

Muscat also said he had raised the matter of same-sex unions with the archbishop, saying he had explained his government has a clear mandate to legislate in favour of civil partnerships for gay couples.

Cremona said that the Church's role as an alternative voice was beneficial to society, saying that people should "not be surprised" when the Catholic Church speaks out. "We are only carrying out our duty when we do," Cremona said.

In the past, the Maltese bishops have spoken out against IVF and divorce in pastoral letters that openly probed legislative policies by MPs.

Muscat had already given a clear indication that the Maltese courts will no longer be subordinate to the Ecclesiastical Tribunal's decisions, under reforms his Labour government will be pushing. In a comment he gave after the inaugural pontifical mass for Pope Francis in the Vatican State, Muscat said his government was "adamant on a clear separation of church and state."

Without referring to the 1992 Church-State agreement - which gave the Curia's ecclesiastical tribunal supremacy on annulments for Catholic marriages, over proceedings instituted in the civil courts, Muscat said that "we must ensure that our marriage law is supreme to that of any other law, and not subordinate."

Muscat however also added that he wanted to see the Roman Catholic religion maintaining its status as Malta's official religion. "I will be advocating it myself in the national convention on the Maltese Constitution, because the religion has contributed towards our historical and cultural heritage."

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Rachel Roberts
U hekk ghandhu jkun , AMEN!
Christina Barbara
Wow. Before reading the whole article I thought that this church-state agreement dates back to some Borg Olivier administration of the sixties!!! But no it only dates back to 1992 and the Fenech-Adami/De Marco tandem!! Should be a warning sign for all those pushing a certain Fenech Adami or a certain DeMarco for leader!
Marcus Iwanik
This is a very bold move by PM Joseph Muscat. It is the right thing to do. But a lot of credit must go to JPO and Ms Schembri for going against the grain and fought to bring DIVORCE to Malta against all odds. No more having to be subjected to the scrutiny of a Church Tribunal which consisted of three priests and thousands of Maltese Pounds in the process. No more having to go overseas to obtain a divorce and no more long waits and who you know in order to obtain that very expensive church annulment. In My opinion Marriage is between a women and not between a man and a man or a woman and another woman. If in doubt reach under your pants and you will get your answer why. Saying that, I am in favour of Civil Unions because everybody has the right to live with whomever they want and no Church or State can stop that, except maybe, in Third World Countries. Same with Cohabitation. So live and let live.
Kevin Fenech
Bones, if you heard well Pope Francis's words, it would seem that the Church has become a Caesar itself. Money, power, control.
What belongs to god give to God and that which belogs to Caesar give unto to Caesar.
Well done, well done and BLOODY WELL DONE! This church-state agreement was shocking in its time and is still shocking today. How does it affect the man in the street? If I remember correctly, when I applied for the annullment at the Curia they made me suspend the same application I had with the Maltese courts as otherwise one cannot start the process, which, as everybody knows, takes YEARS. The sooner church and state are separated in what is a secular and modern country the better we will all be for it.
roderick degiorgio
PROSET. That's the way to go.I have been waiting all my life to see this.
This move by a finally competent Prime Minister is long overdue. The church, with respect, needs to concentrate on preaching the word of God and not butting into political decisions which don't concern them. This is certainly one of the main reasons why I left the PN fold and why I am unlikely to ever enter it again, especially after Gonzi's despicable actions during the divorce fiasco. Unforgivable.
vianella bartolo
About time!
Yanika Chetcuti
Towards a better future.
alfred aquilina
This move will save the church thousands of euros per year. As regards to gay partnership, I am not against giving them full rights but not call themselves "married". Marriage is between a man and a woman. Call it what you like but not marriage. You cannot call a "table" a "chair", no matter how similar they are.
Francis Pace
X temmen int ghandek kull dritt li temmen li trid bhal kulhadd. Pero JM tinsiex li hafna minna li tajnik il-vot ahna insara ukoll u jekk il-knisja maltija hi privillegjata ghandha biex ghax dejjem ghamlet gid aktar minn kull gvern. L-unika wiehed li seta jikkompeti fl-opinjoni tieghi fil-gid lil poplu kien Mintoff. Il- Malti jghid li aktar ma toghla akbar tkun it-tisbita.
A few years back the church had become militant to the extent that even a dead body was under the control of the church authorities and this is scaring people from this militant church. This is not the teaching of Jesus, his words are: 'Be like children for theirs is the kingdom of heaven'. Fancy dressing only show how artificial we have made God's church. Let us follow the new pope because I believe his is the true way to salvation. Anything else is only humbug and goes to the grave to be forgotten with the individual. It is said in the scripture if a woman goes with another man let her go further writing is futile.

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