Breaking a promise must surely be a sin. I’m not sure if it’s mortal or venial and now I can't even ask the higher authorities of the church about such a delicate issue as local church dignitaries don’t seem to be in agreement. One high authority said something was a sin only to be contradicted by another. The latter actually went a step further and said that the former should never say when anything is sinful. Confused? Join me and a whole load of others in this confusing, convoluted saga called the divorce issue. Bring the tissues out to dry the tears caused by mirth, tragedy or simple exasperation. As the weather cools down the divorce issue strongly hots up. Jeffrey Pullicno Orlando cannily opened a can of wriggling worms in our midst.
As I have now broken the pledge I made to myself I might end up being condemned by the Pro Vigarju-Generali for breaking such a promise. I hope not because, after all, he only said it’s a sin if we vote in favour of divorce. Broken promises or writing in favour of divorce have not been sanctioned as sinful yet. As the same good monsignor succinctly put it, we can always sin and then confess and all will be ok with me and my conscience and the heavens above will sigh their celestial sigh of relief and I will be pardoned and be all good and ready for entry into heaven.
Now what can silly me add on to this debate? I’m far from an expert on divorce. The only real experts on divorce are the ones who have experienced it a few times. This sounds facetious but maybe there is a bit of truth in it. I have not heard too much about divorce from the ones who have either been divorced themselves or who are in need of divorce after their first marriage failed.
If only divorcees, or those seeking divorce, are allowed to have their say in the divorce issue one can then extend the argument, if one can extend such things, and state that the last people who can talk about marriage are priests, of the Catholic ilk, who have been barred from entering into sacred matrimony for a good few centuries. I don’t think priests know much about matrimony as they have never experienced it. This sounds like a good argument but it does lose a bit of its strength if one thinks of male gynaecologists or football coaches who have been flops at being footballers yet still turn into managerial wizards. As I have amply shown by now I am definitely no expert and my personal credentials are rather poor. I haven’t read or studied too many tomes on the subject and I have been happily married for over 30 years.
I’m not an expert but whatever it is I am in favour of divorce. If saying something like this is sinful I’m afraid I am now going to be in a state of non-grace till I go to confession. Then I will, I imagine, have to promise that I will never do it again: and we all know how good I am at keeping promises. All I want is for Malta to legislate in favour of divorce as soon as parliamentarily possible. Yes, referenda and divorce should be divorced even before conception. They just don’t go together. If we want to safeguard the sanctity, not of marriage, but of the minority, I just hope that divorce will be introduced. And, if you give the ultra-Catholic majority the power to stop the minority to take what is legitimately theirs then I am afraid they will vote against divorce. The great majority of Maltese people are Catholic so will stick to Catholic traditions and will most probably want those traditions to be upheld by everyone. Parliament, on the other hand, will hopefully rise above all this and pass legislation in favour of divorce and be ready to let the minority, small as it may be, to be able to go ahead and terminate their wedding vows.
Let’s reverse the scenario and imagine, that in the land of Grog, the majority of the inhabitants are non-Christian and according to their age-old religion no first-born child can get married. Now imagine the priests and leaders of Grog decide to pass a law prohibiting all the first-born of whatever religion from getting married. Won’t the Christian minority in Grog revolt at such revolting rules and laws? Won’t we, all Christians of the western world, join in condemning the people of Grog as being uncivilised brutes?
If the majority of Maltese are predominantly Catholic the church and the rest of the authorities should not be too worried. Just by introducing divorce we Maltese should be mega-sure that divorce will hardly be utilised. If we are the God-fearing men and women who are constantly worried about sinning that we are made out to be, most of us will surely not get divorced. If it’s a mortal sin to vote for divorce what category of sin will await all good God-fearing Catholics who eventually make use of the despicable and diabolical law of divorce? As Malta is one of the last vanguards of the old, traditional, conservative, Catholic Church we can rest assured that the divorce lawyers are not going to have much of a field day once Jeffrey’s law comes into force.
Let’s talk about sin a bit more. I will not enter into the intricacies of whether Mons Gouder should decide what is sinful or not. All my life I have thought that is what most priests and the church did quite vehemently: they constantly used to tell us what is sinful, shameful and what needs to be avoided for us to remain in a state of grace. Let’s leave that aside to let the two distinguished clerics have their own little sparring game.
I do believe that Mons Gouder was hardly breaking any electoral or political rule by telling the faithful what is right or wrong and what he wanted these same faithful to do if a vote is ever called. I feel it is quite acceptable for him to say it’s a sin to vote for divorce. The fact that he said that no one will be excommunicated was just up to him. He could, for all I know, even have said that he would arrange for the definite damnation of anyone voting in favour of divorce. He might have sounded ridiculous but since when are we going to decide what rules and regulations can be used by the church itself?
Will we next issue an injunction against the church because its priests wear what resemble women’s clothes?
Before Jeffrey Pullicino Orlando issued his mid-summer bombshell and got us all debating divorce hardly anyone mentioned it. Divorce was mentioned regularly by a vociferous lawyer who was also a “leader” of a so-called party which polled less than a few dozen votes in general elections and divorce was mentioned a few times by a think-tank headed by Mr Martin Scicluna. I’m not sure if the eminent lawyer is still going on about divorce but the last article penned by Scicluna and also echoed by Dr Joe Brincat is hardly the best pro-divorce pronouncement. Mr Scicluna’s and Dr Brincat’s main thesis is that Mons Anton Gouder’s views on divorce and sin are tantamount to illegal practices in a forthcoming election or referendum.
If the priests, nuns, churchmen and the pope want to defend their ideas and ideals and say that something is sinful then good luck to them. If the church feels that something is immoral, reprehensible and divinely wrong then I cannot understand how they can be barred from saying so. I might not agree with their ways of saying it and I might find their ideas grotesquely archaic but I will defend their right to say it in any strange way they desire. It’s interesting to see that the liberal brigade is, to a certain extent, being more illiberal, intolerant and sanctimonious than the church and the rest of the anti-divorce faction.
This article first appeared in the Malta Independent on Sunday on September 5 2010