The divorce debate in Malta rumbles on, and citizens will be able to vote in a referendum at the end of May, though we still don’t know exactly how the referendum question will be worded, and there’s now a debate about that. The Maltese sure love to argue…
The catholic church’s latest fusillade aimed at scaring citizens into voting against divorce has been to distribute a fairly threatening leaflet to all households. Funnily enough mine still hasn’t appeared in the letterbox, so I’ll have to rely on this article in the Times of Malta to add my own comments to the debate.
The leaflet sets out 12 (count them) reasons why catholics should vote against the introduction of divorce. As regular readers know I am fanatical about freedom of speech, so I can’t and won’t complain about its publication and distribution. But by the same token, I will now deal with them one by one from a secular point of view.
The 12 questionable statements and my responses
These are taken directly from the Times article – I’m not making them up, honestly. My comments are in bold.
1. If battered wives are granted the right to remarry, so too will their abusive husbands.
So the wives should suffer further because of their husbands’ behaviour? How is that in any way fair?
2. Although people have a right to marry, there is no such right to divorce, according to a 1986 judgment of the European Court of Human Rights.
Completely irrelevant. There is no directive forbidding divorce either. That means Malta must decide on its own. This is trying to muddy the waters by playing on people’s ignorance and confusion of EU and ECHR legal structures.
3. Catholics who vote against divorce are not imposing their values. They have a right to vote according to what they think is best for society.
Of course they do, but they should be able to do so without feeling under pressure to vote a particular way.
4. The Church allows priests to leave the priesthood and get married because celibacy is a Church law, not a law of God like the indissolubility of marriage.
Again, totally irrelevant. How is the celibacy of the priesthood related in any way whatsoever to the debate in hand?
5. Divorce weakens the marriage bond, leading to fewer people getting married.
The clear implication is that fewer people getting married would be a bad thing, but no evidence is presented to support this assertion.
6. If you do not vote it means you do not care about the family or your children.
Wow. Nasty, offensive scare tactics and a disgraceful abuse of power. The church sinks to a new low in its ability to make callous, ill-informed judgements on people’s lives.
7. In all countries with divorce, cohabitation increased, marriage decreased and more people fell below the poverty line.
So, out of 203 countries in the world (depending on how you count them), we know that only two do not permit divorce (Malta and The Philippines).
How can the church assert, with a straight face, that the other 201 countries would have less poverty than they do now if they did not allow divorce, when you consider the millions of diverse factors at play in a country’s economic and social development?
Are we saying that Ethiopia would somehow be a rich nation purely by forbidding divorce? If so, surely it would have seen the light and done so by now?
8. There is nothing wrong with Malta being an exception in the world. Malta has the most churchgoers. Unlike the US, it does not have the death penalty. Should those things change too?
Sure, there’s nothing wrong about being an exception in certain cases – but only when it does not harm people’s rights. Saudi Arabia is the only country in the world (as far as I know) that forbids women from driving. That’s one hell of an exception. But is it right?
9. Divorce increases marital breakdown by 20 per cent. For society’s benefit, sometimes individuals must suffer. For example, people might have to give up their land to make space for an airport. All efforts must be made to reduce their suffering, but the land must be taken for common good.
Firstly, I would love to see some solid proof to support that rather fishy statistic.
Secondly, the prohibition of divorce makes some people suffer. The introduction of divorce, however, causes no suffering whatsoever. Those who do not believe in divorce do not have to divorce. Everybody wins! Simples!
10. People who remarry civilly after a divorce cannot receive Holy Communion or go to confession.
Oh no! How will they survive? The suicide rate will surely triple overnight!
11. The Church is against abortion, condoms, sex before marriage and divorce because these are all negative actions. However, it is in favour of positive actions.
Abortion is a positive action when the pregnant woman’s life would be in danger by continuing the pregnancy, or when (for example) the pregnancy is the result of rape and the child would not be loved.
Condoms are a positive and proven way to reduce the spread of disease, and to reduce the number of children born into poverty in this overpopulated world.
Sex before marriage is not even a useful phrase, because sex and marriage are not co-dependent or related issues. Sex is sex, marriage is marriage.
And divorce is a positive action because it allows people whose marriage may have become irretrievably toxic through no fault of their own, to get a second chance at happiness, if that is what they want.
12. The number of children born out of wedlock increases in countries with divorce because cohabitation increases.
Firstly, prove to me that cohabitation increases in countries with divorce. I would argue that it probably decreases, because people can get married for a second time if they want to, rather than being forced to have children out of wedlock if they want to have them with a second partner.
And secondly, I really can’t see why it matters whether children are born to couples who are married or not. The important thing is a loving environment, not a piece of paper.
Do you disagree with anything I’ve said? Put your money where your mouth is and make a comment.