Thursday, 31 March 2011

The church's 12 points against divorce

The church is sending out a leaflet to all Maltese households outlining in point form why they should vote against the introduction of divorce in the May referendum. Here they are in point form, together with my counter-arguments.
1. If battered wives are granted the right to remarry, so too will their abusive husbands.
How thoughtful. Let the victim suffer. It's her fault for marrying him, isn't it? Now why don't we apply that to other situations? We could handcuff muggers or rapists with their victims, to ensure that they don't strike again.
Except that it wouldn't work in this case would it? If the abusive husband can beat his wife, what's to stop him from doing the same to another woman that he moves in with, just because they're not married? Incidentally, isn't it a teensy bit sexist to assume that only men are abusive?
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.
The ECHR doesn't recognise your right to ride a bicycle either. Some things are considered fairly obvious, and marriage and its termination tend to go hand in hand.
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.
They would be doing both. Certainly they have the right to vote as they please, but voting to deprive someone of a right to divorce is still imposing their values. Sometimes, having a right and doing the right thing are not the same. If someone were to suggest a referendum to deny the right of black people to live, would you say that it's ok to vote for that because they're merely exercising their right to vote?
By comparison, voting in favour is not imposing a value because each couple can then decide whether or not to resort to divorce once it's there. Catholics who agree with the church's prohibition of divorce can still vote to give that right to others and refrain from resorting to it themselves.
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.
How very convenient. In any case we're talking about civil divorce here. The church will retain its right to not recognise divorces, or to refuse to marry divorcees in church weddings.
5. Divorce weakens the marriage bond, leading to fewer people getting married.
No, divorce does not weaken the marriage bond. If the only thing that's keeping a couple "married" is the unavailability of divorce legislation, that's not a marriage in any real sense and is not worth protecting. The referendum question is for divorce after four years of separation, and any couple who could not resolve their problems after four (or more) years are very unlikely to ever succeed.
Besides, what about those young people who are looking at their options and are receiving the message that if they get married and they made a mistake, they're screwed for life, whereas if they merely cohabit they can rectify mistakes. Isn't that an incentive not to get married?
6. If you do not vote it means you do not care about the family or your children.
Perhaps, but people who care could and should vote in favour of divorce. Or do you think that children born to the new couple are lesser mortals just because their parents were once married to someone else?
7. In all countries with divorce, cohabitation increased, marriage decreased and more people fell below the poverty line.
And in all countries WITHOUT divorce, cohabitation increased, marriage decreased and more people fell below the poverty line. Statistics show that this is a trend which is happening everywhere, irrespective of divorce.
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?
Being almost the only such country, it's reasonable to wonder whether it's likely that we're the only ones who are right and everybody else is wrong. Another point to keep in mind is that no country that introduced divorce removed it. By comparison, many countries have removed the death penalty (as have many US states). Countries can and do change their laws, but divorce is one thing they all kept.
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.
There is no study that suggests that divorce increases marital breakdown. Truth be said, it's impossible to produce such a study since you'd have to compare a country with divorce with the same country, at the same time, without it.
The argument that individuals must suffer for society's benefit is a dangerous one. It's been used to justify all sorts of things, including slavery (black people suffer so that the white majority benefit) and the holocaust (aka "solving the Jewish problem"). No, individual rights must not be revoked for the convenience of others.
10. People who remarry civilly after a divorce cannot receive Holy Communion or go to confession.
That is, of course, an entirely internal matter for the church to decide. However, I wonder whether the church applies the same measures to people who use a condom or any other contraceptive. After all that too is prohibited by the church. What about people who separate from their spouse and move in with someone else, or who have sex before marriage? Besides, denying communion and confession... doesn't that sound a lot like "excommunication"? Reminiscent of the "interdett"?
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.
No, the church is against these because once it declared itself against them, its supremacy in its followers' minds would be compromised if it changed its mind. It took 350 years for the church to formally admit that Galileo was right, and it did so because by this time its position became totally untenable. I have no doubt that it will eventually admit its error this time too, but in the meantime there are real people here who are suffering, real lives held in stasis just to protect the church's ego.
There is nothing negative about condoms, divorce or sex before marriage. Abortion remains a divisive issue.
12. The number of children born out of wedlock increases in countries with divorce because cohabitation increases.
The rate of cohabitation decreases slightly with the introduction of divorce, although the absolute number increases. There are many couples who are cohabiting right now not by choice but because the law leaves them no other option. Once they are given that right, they will start the proceedings to get their divorce and get married. Add to these the couple who are uncomfortable with the idea of marriage because of the unforgiving nature of the laws, who will feel better about it. For a while there will be a drop in cohabitation and an increase in marriages, before the rates stabilise again at a slightly reduced rate.

Isn't it obscene if it's in the Bible?

The Attorney General has appealed the court's acquittal of Mark Camilleri and Alex Vella Gera.

If the AG finds "Li Tkisser Sewwi" shocking, what does he think of the Bible? Verses like Ezekiel 23:20: "There she lusted after her lovers, whose genitals were like those of donkeys and whose emission was like that of horses.". What about Genesis 19:30-38 where Lot gets both of his daughters pregnant while drunk? What about the many concubines, and slaves who are given by wives to their husbands to impregnate? What about Deuteronomy 21:11-14, where the "chosen people" are instructed to capture whichever women they fancy from other tribes, have sex with them and then, if they don't like them, discard them? How about Deut 22:23-24, where if a girl is raped after being promised to someone else and doesn't scream loud enough to be heard, she should be killed? On the other hand if she wasn't promised to someone, all that the rapist must do (if caught) is pay 50 shekels and marry her (22:28). I'm sure she'd be thrilled to marry her rapist. How about Judges 19:25 where a man gives his concubine to a mob who rape her all night until she's dead?

Not even Li Tkisser Sewwi's unpleasant character goes that far, and yet... it's in the Bible so it's ok. They complain that Ir-Realtà might have fallen into the hands of younger students but then they ENCOURAGE young children to read the Bible. Hello? Is there anybody out there? Am I alone in thinking there's something wrong with this picture?