Martin Scicluna | Sunday, 23 August 2009
Bookmark and Share

An enlightened mind finally shines through

On Sunday 16 August, The Sunday Times carried an outstanding interview with Monsignor Charles Vella, the Founder of the Cana Movement. What shone through so clearly from the interview was a glowing example of a good priest with an enlightened and intelligent mind showing, through his profound experience of many years working on the frontline of marriage preparation and counselling in Malta, a realism, wisdom, humanity and generosity of spirit so lacking in many others. The interview should be required reading by our legislators in Parliament and all those who have the good of society and marriage at heart.
A selection of quotations from the interview provides the gist. Monsignor Vella said, inter alia, “My theory is that while divorce is considered a menace to the stability of marriage, it does not mean that it’s going to wreck marriages”. “It is high time for the roles of the Church and the State to be clarified. There should not be any twinning between the two – and there still is… The State has to come to grips with the problem of divorce. It has a duty to do it, but before doing it, the State has to give more help to families because divorce legislation doesn’t solve the needs of people. The people on the ground are crying for help from the State… We need to change the current marriage law”… “Parliament is there to decide.” “I keep reading that marriages in Malta will disintegrate if there is divorce, but it didn’t happen in Italy” (or Ireland, he might have added).
“As a priest and as a human being, I cannot close my eyes to the ‘three wise monkeys’ who want to see no evil, hear no evil and speak no evil. Malta keeps persisting in seeing things in black and white, often forgetting the shades of grey.” “I oppose co-habitation, but ask whether it is justified that children have no identity because their parents cannot marry… It’s better for their parents to marry than co-habit”. “The Church should avoid quoting certain statistics in a bid to water down the alarming number of marriage breakdowns. These are not figures. They are people. There are families behind this. I feel for the couple whose first marriage was a big mistake, but is now living a very good life. Very often their first marriage was a mistake; they want a more stable and happy second marriage. If we prepare couples well for marriage then we shouldn’t be afraid. The introduction of divorce doesn’t scare me.” “Let’s not be prophets of doom. Let’s stop scaring people. Some of the Church exponents are going overboard. They should either stay silent or be up-dated.”
What Monsignor Vella said reflects virtually the same conclusions and the same spirit and thrust of arguments set out in The Today Public Policy Institute report, “For Worse, For Better: Re-marriage After Legal Separation” of which I am the Lead Author.
Contrast all this with the tendentious contribution made to the debate by the ProgettImpenn report, supposedly in response to “For Worse, For Better: Re-marriage After Legal Separation.” Or the absurd little piece in the same newspaper, on the same date as Monsignor Vella’s enlightened interview, by my very good, very old friend, John Micallef, who passes under the nom de plume of Roamer.
Poor Roamer, who confined his entire response to the think-tank’s report in quoting other people’s views about divorce – ranging from Justice Coleridge of the Family Division in England and Wales, to an on-line survey of 10 year-old children – without actually advancing a single original thought or engaging once with the issues set out in the report. On this matter, sadly, he and I will have to agree to disagree.
Poor Roamer, such a good mind. But, on this subject, utterly closed. His closed mind now exposed and upstaged by the enlightenment and realism demonstrated by Monsignor Charles Vella, bringing to bear decades of experience of the state of marriage in Malta.
Instead of parroting the criticisms in the ProgettImpenn report – which had been roundly demolished in my response to it as being fundamentally flawed, complacent about the statistics and hypocritical – he should take a leaf out of Monsignor Vella’s book when he said: “Some of the Church’s exponents are going overboard. They should either stay silent or be updated”.
It was enormously heartening to read Monsignor Vella’s wise and considered remarks in his interview last Sunday. Perhaps one of its most striking features was his plea that the ‘twinning’ between Church and State on this and other issues should cease and the State should come to grips with the problem of divorce. In a pluralist, liberal democracy, the hope now must be that our legislators in Parliament will demonstrate similar moral courage to his to introduce the necessary legislation and that the Church will be prepared to engage positively in helping to shape the best legislation for the introduction of re-marriage after legal separation in Malta.
Respected though the Maltese Church is, a purely doctrinal view is not enough on this vital secular social issue.

Martin Scicluna is the director-general of the Today Public Policy Institute


Any comments?
If you wish your comments to be published in our Letters pages please click button below.
Please write a contact number and a postal address where you may be contacted.



Download MaltaToday Sunday issue front page in pdf file format

All the interviews from Reporter on MaltaToday's YouTube channel.


Conduct unbecoming


Ira comes of age


Saviour Balzan
The reshuffle conversation

Raphael Vassallo:
Bile and prejudice

Evarist Bartolo
Had enough of power cuts? Blame this government

Claudine Cassar
Don’t let the hysteria on swine flu cramp your style

David Friggieri
Letter from Cuba: Propaganda

Martin Scicluna
An enlightened mind finally shines through

Harry Vassallo
Renzo Piano’s revenge



Copyright © MediaToday Co. Ltd, Vjal ir-Rihan, San Gwann SGN 9016, Malta, Europe
Managing editor Saviour Balzan | Tel. ++356 21382741 | Fax: ++356 21385075 | Email