John Paul II: Lawyers should refuse to act in divorce cases

From a speech by the Pope to the Dean, Prelate auditors, officials, and lawyers of the Tribunal of the Roman Rota
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The Independent Online

The Indissolubility of marriage is 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 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.

The idea that indissoluble marriage belongs only to believers, and that, therefore, they cannot "impose" it on civil society as a whole, must be overcome. It doesn't make any sense to talk about "imposition" on human law, because it should reflect and protect natural and divine law.

The indissolubility of marriage has an objective dimension. It is not merely a subjective fact. Divorce has devastating consequences that spread in society like the plague. Consequently, the good of indissolubility is the good of marriage itself; and the incomprehension of its indissoluble nature constitutes incomprehension of the essence of marriage.

We cannot surrender to the divorce mentality; our trust in the natural and supernatural gifts of God to man prevents us. Pastoral activity must sustain and promote the indissolubility of marriage. 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.

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 that divorce is so much rooted in certain circles of society that it is not worthwhile to go on opposing it by advocating a mentality of indissolubility in social customs and civil legislation. Indeed, it is worthwhile. The essential testimony on the value of the indissolubility of marriage is given through the matrimonial life of the spouses, in their fidelity to their bond throughout the joys and the tests of life.

Along with strong opposition to all legal and administrative measures introducing divorce, or that make equal to marriage de facto unions – even homosexual union – must be coupled a principlefavouring the social recognition of true matrimony in the sphere of the legal system, a system that unfortunately does admit divorce.

Lawyers, as independent professionals, must always decline to use their profession to an end contrary to justice, such as divorce. Those working in civil law cases should avoid being personally involved in what could imply co-operation with divorce. They should look for effective measures that favour marriage, above all mediation and conciliation.

For judges this can be difficult, because the legal systems do not recognise an objection of the conscience that can exempt them from imposing judgment. But despite serious and well-grounded reasons, judges can act according to traditional principles regarding material co-operation with evil. But they, too, must find effective means to favour the marriage union, above all by reconciliation wisely led.