Archbishop Paul Cremona and Bishops Mario Grech and Anton Depasquale
released a short statement in which they made a number of reflections
evaluating "the discussion taking place in the country regarding
marriage and the family". The statement is too short to do justice to
the number of points raised in it. It could be better understood if read
together with the long letter Archbishop Cremona had sent to Malta Today
published on June 1. The letter can serve as a sort of commentary on the
issues raised and summarily treated in the statement.
It is positive to note that the tone of both the statement and the
letter is neither polemical nor condemnatory. The bishops make their
position clearly and assertively without giving even a hint of launching
some latter day crusade on the issue. But they clearly express their wish
that there should really be an open discussion on the subject that would
not exclude the Christian community. This yearning of the bishops is shown
in two out of the four points made in the statement. In contrast to those
who say that the Church and the Christian community should stay out of the
debate, the bishops quite rightly assert that "the Christian
community may and should give its contribution in this discussion".
It seems the bishops feel that due to this leave-the-Church-out-of-it
attitude, some may be holding back from expressing their opinions. They
voice the wish for a different attitude: "We hope that many will be
those whose choice to give a contribution openly in favour of marriage and
the family will overcome the choice to remain silent because of the fear
In the letter, Archbishop Cremona had strongly advised having an open
discussion which would be carried on in full respect of all opinions and
without assuming that the only result should be a yes to divorce. The
discussion about the legalisation or otherwise of divorce should be
characterised by an open and free attitude. All sides must avoid religious
or secular fundamentalism, while mutual respect should always be paramount.
The bishops say that "the experience of other countries" bears
witness to the negative effects of divorce. It is not enough, however, to
make this statement without amplifying it and demonstrating it. Quite
naturally others may point to different experiences and studies as well as
give different interpretations to statistics and research on the subject
and arrive at a different conclusion.
This is another reason why dialogue is the way forward to gain a better
appreciation of the myriad consequences of divorce legislation, whether
positive or negative. The first point of the Bishops' statement is by no
means controversial. "The Church... believes that marriage and the
family are of fundamental benefit for the individual and society."
There is widespread support in Malta for such view. The Times had made the
same reflection: "There is no doubt that healthy marriages and strong
families are a must for society."
We propose that the debate about divorce be enlarged to a debate about
how all families and marriages, especially problematic ones, should and
could be helped. We made this appeal in a previous editorial. We are
certain that both the pro- and anti-divorce factions will agree with
efforts aimed at strengthening family ties, even if they disagree on the
wisdom of introducing divorce.