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Pope tells Catholic lawyers they should refuse divorce cases

At the annual opening of the legal year in Rome, Pope John Paul, generated immediate headlines around the world by his advice to Catholic lawyers that they should refuse to handle divorce cases. From what we can see most of main secular press agencies have picked up on the story and it is receiving significant coverage around the globe. Following is how Bloomberg reported the story and this gives a good idea of the secular coverage. Other links are given below as well as the EWTN/Vatican Information Service original story...


Vatican City, Jan. 28 (Bloomberg) -- Pope John Paul II told Catholic lawyers they should refuse to work on divorce cases, saying the breakup of marriage violates both church teachings and the principles of justice.

"Lawyers must always decline to use their professional skills to an end that is contrary to justice, as is divorce," the Pope said in a speech to the Roman Rota, the church tribunal that hears marriage annulment cases.

Acknowledging that judges in many countries can't become conscientious objectors and must deliver a ruling, the pope asked them to try and mediate a peaceful settlement to disputes rather than dissolve marriages.

The Roman Catholic Church considers marriage a lifelong commitment. Under its teachings, Catholics who divorce and remarry without a church annulment are still married to their former spouses and cannot take communion in church services.

Divorce rates have risen sharply in recent years, particularly in Western countries. In 1997, one U.S. couple divorced for every two that married, according to figures from the National Center for Health Statistics.

"We cannot surrender to the divorce mentality," the pope said. "When a couple encounters difficulties in their marriage, priests and other members of the faith must be united to help them positively resolve the crisis."


VATICAN CITY, JAN 28, 2002 (VIS) - Following annual tradition, on the occasion of the inauguration of the judicial year, the Pope this morning received the dean, prelate auditors, officials, and lawyers of the Tribunal of the Roman Rota.

In his speech, John Paul II spoke of the indissolubility of marriage as an asset for the spouses, for the children, for the Church, and for all of mankind.

"It is important to present in a positive way the indissoluble union," the Holy Father said, "in order to rediscover the good and the beauty of it. Above all, the vision of the indissolubility of marriage as a limit to the liberty of spouses and as a burden sometimes unbearable, must be overcome. ... To this, it can be added the idea, widespread enough, that indissoluble marriage belongs only to believers, therefore they cannot 'impose' it on the civil society as a whole".

The Holy Father stressed that the indissolubility of marriage "has an objective dimension. It is not merely a subjective fact. Consequently, the good of indissolubility is the good of marriage itself; and the incomprehension of the indissoluble nature constitute the incomprehension of the essence of marriage".

"One must not surrender to the divorcing mentality: our trust in the natural and supernatural gifts of God to man prevents us. Pastoral activity must sustain and promote indissolubility of marriage".

John Paul II has emphasized that "Every right judgement of the validity or nullity of marriage is a contribution to the culture of indissolubility not only within the Church but in the world. ... Against the truth of a conjugal bond it is not correct to invoke the liberty of the spouses who, by freely assuming it, committed themselves to respect the objective needs of the marriage reality, which cannot be altered by human freedom".

"It would almost seem," the Pope went on, "that divorce is so much rooted in certain circles of society, that it is not worthwhile to go on opposing by advocating a mentality of indissolubility in social customs and civil legislation. Indeed it is worthwhile!".

The Holy Father has then affirmed that: "The essential testimony on the value of the indissolubility is given through the matrimonial life of the spouses, in the fidelity to their bond through the joys and the tests of life. The value of indissolubility cannot be thought to be the object of a simple private choice: it concerns one of the cornerstones of the whole of society".

"To the strong opposition to all legal and administrative measures introducing divorce or that make equal to marriage defacto unions, even homosexual union, it must be coupled a principle, throughout juridical measures favoring the improvement of the social recognition of true matrimony in the sphere of the legal system which unfortunately admits divorce".

On the other hand, the civil lawyers "must avoid being personally involved in what could imply a cooperation to divorce. For judges this can be difficult, because the legal systems do not recognize an objection of the conscience that can exempt them from imposing judgment. Despite serious and well-grounded reasons judges can act according to the traditional principles of the actual cooperation to the bad. But they too must find effective means to favour the marriage union, above all by an operation of reconciliation wisely lead".

"The lawyers, as independent professionals", the Holy Father has concluded, "must always decline to use their profession to an end contrary to justice, such as divorce; they should only collaborate to an action in this sense, when such action is, in the intention of the client, and does not aim to the breaking of marriage, but to other legitimate purposes".


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