Church, Government and Divorce in Malta
The word "Divorce" in Malta was something that should not be suggested by any political party because it was a subject that was thought to make them lose votes. In Roman Catholic Malta, where the Church was quite dominating, it was unheard of. However couples were still separating because their marriages were failing. Other couples were forming but there was nothing legal about them and it was a "sin" to live with someone else who is not your legal husband or wife.The Church gave an Annullment to couples where there was something in the marriage that one of the partners did not know about. Thus the church would decree the ambiguous "the marriage is absolved and never took place" which is strange if there are already children in the marriage. Many priests do not allow these people to go for Holy Communion.When Malta joined the European Union in 2004, it was the only country that did not have a Divorce Law. Something just had to change.The only other country is the Philippines but they are not in the European Union.
Out of the blue, Nationalist MP backbencher Jeffrey Pullicino Orlando, went against his own party's beliefs and provided a Private Member's bill in Parliament so that divorce would be introduced on the islands of Malta. This caused chaos all around with movements in favour of divorce and those against divorce, campaigning on every media source especially TV stations. Billboards sprouted all over the island by both sides and the population discussed the issue in their homes or when meeting other people. Archbishop Paul Cremona said that the church was "only doing its duty to fulfill its role to spread the word of Christ and its message about the family". The Church contributed €180,000 to help the anti-divorce campaigners. Since the Prime Minister Dr Lawrence Gonzi was against divorce himself, he decided to put it to the vote of the people and a referendum was held on Saturday 28th May 2011. The result of the referendum was announced the next day on Sunday 29th May 2011. The Pro-divorce movement had comfortably won the Referendum. The result of the Referendum meant that the electorate had voted for a Malta Divorce Law to be introduced and the married couple had to be separated from one another for at least 4 years before divorce could take place. It also meant that adequate financial support had to be given to children under 18 and to the parent who is entitled to it.
The Church has not changed its opinion on the subject so although it is legal to divorce one's husband and wife, it is still a sin in the eyes of the Church to live with someone else even after divorce. In July 2011, a free vote was taken amongst the Members of Parliament and the majority voted in favour of a Divorce Law being introduced and against all odds the Maltese people decided what they really wanted and divorce was introduced on the Maltese Islands.In the month that followed the introduction of the Divorce Law, 92 applications were filed for divorce.