Saturday, April 30, 2011

Church defends exclusion of pro-divorce lawyers from its tribunal

The Maltese Catholic Church has defended its Ecclesiastical Tribunal’s right to exclude pro-divorce lawyers from representing clients, as happened to the head of the pro-divorce lobby, Deborah Schembri.
At a press conference, Dr Schembri said that the tribunal informed her that she could no longer represent clients after being accused of spreading false information on the indissolubility of marriage.

She remarked that the decision would affect her income, and was waiting to determine whether the decision was permanent or temporary.

In a statement issued this evening, the Curia said that, “without referring to any particular case,” the exclusion of advocates was justifiable in a number of cases, quoting Canon Law to back its case.

“Furthermore from the Album should be removed... those who agree with or are active in associations or movements which promote ways of thinking or acting that are contrary to the faith and the Catholic teachings about morals, or defend proposals and advice about civil order which go against the precepts of natural and Christian law,” the statement read, quoting from the 1988 Apostolic Letter Justi Judicis. It also quoted the Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura and Pope John Paul II to back its case.

“The Ecclesiastical Authorities need to take such decisions because the advocate’s role is not only to defend the interests of his/her client but also to defend the validity of marriage as a life-long commitment. Embracing divorce hinders this aspect of the advocate’s mission in the tribunal,” the statement read.

It said that advocates were informed about these norms during their years of formation, and while they remained free to make their own choices – even to favour divorce – this had its consequences.

“The procedure comes into action when a client proposes an advocate to assist him in the Tribunal. It is at that moment that the Tribunal informs the client of the decision about the advocate,” the Curia said.