Monday, August 31, 2009

Pro-Vicar criticises Mgr Vella on divorce

Pro-Vicar General Anton Gouder has openly criticised Mgr Charles Vella, saying he made a number of "contradictory" statements about divorce in an interview with The Sunday Times earlier this month.

Writing in The Sunday Times today Mgr Gouder hits back at comments by the Cana Movement founder which many believe were directed at the senior Curia official.

Mgr Gouder says: "Does it not occur to him that once divorce legislation is introduced (which means therefore that marriage does not remain a lifelong commitment), couples would take their marriage preparation more lightly? This is worrying because of the negative effect it would have on the family and on society."

In the interview, Milan-based Mgr Vella had said he was not scared of divorce, provided marriages were built on rock. While warning against "crusades", he insisted the Church should focus on preparing couples better for marriages.

And writing in The Sunday Times today, Mgr Vella says that some have misinterpreted his comments because he does not support the "havoc and problems" created by divorce. "I would not like to see divorce introduced, but as a priest and as a human being I cannot be blind to the existence of the problem. I wish that, like me, others would stop seeing things in black or white, but also see the different shades of grey."

But Mgr Gouder says that contrary to Mgr Vella's claims, his comparisons with Milan clearly showed a disintegration of marriage. Statistics show the rate of divorce in Italy is far from levelling out - from 1995 to 2005 legal separations in Italy increased by 57.3 per cent and divorces increased by 74 per cent, he says.

Mgr Gouder says it is incorrect to say that children of cohabiting couples have no identity, since the law has always catered for the status of children born outside marriage.

He also refutes Mgr Vella's statement that very often the first marriage of cohabiting couples is a mistake and that many yearn for a happy second marriage.

He says social sciences prove that second marriages are less stable than the first.

Despite the criticism he has received from his colleagues within the Church, Mgr Vella makes it clear he has no regrets over the interview.

On the contrary, he says he was moved by the letters and comments posted on the forum as well as the contacts it created on a pastoral level. He says he was impressed by the constructive dialogue provoked by the interview, which in the vast majority of cases were in his favour.

Mgr Vella says this is part of his pastoral and social mission of nearly 60 years 'with' families in many countries, especially as the voice of those whose marriage is in crisis.

Mgr Vella reiterates that the State should base any divorce legislation on European Christian traditional values, and says he hopes Malta will never have a so-called 'easy divorce' like many countries. "I do not enter into the technical aspect of the legislation, but I have confidence in the social and ethical conscience of our legislators.

"I repeat that divorce legislation does not scare me, if it comes in a democratic, scientific (even with statistics) and genuine manner. I do not believe these ethical values are the monopoly of a few, who seem to believe they are the lords of truth."

Mgr Gouder is not the only member of the clergy to criticise the Milan-based priest.

Writing in Catholic Action's newspaper Lehen is-Sewwa last week, Fr Paul Camilleri compared a number of Mgr Vella's former writings with his recent comments, before concluding:

"I thank Fr Charles for all he has written and done for the family in the past. When I was still a youngster (1956) I remember him defending Bishop Pietro Fiordelli of Prato, who suffered so much because of his opposition to divorce in his country, while becoming very popular in Malta for his defence of marriage. Ironically, he died on December 23, 2004 - two weeks before Fr Charles marked his 50 years as a priest. Let's pray for both of them."

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