FaithWorld

from The Human Impact:

Divorce may be legal in Morocco, but it’s still controversial

By Maria Caspani

A veiled woman hails a cab late at night on a deserted road in Casablanca, Morocco. As the taxi takes off, the driver asks her what on earth she is doing out alone at such a late hour.

“I was working,” the woman responds as the disconcerted driver asks her whether her husband approves. “I’m divorced,” she says.

For a woman in Morocco, there are few situations that are worse than that of Khadija, the protagonist of “Camera/Woman”, a documentary about a divorced woman working as a camera operator who faces strong discrimination in her community and, ultimately, becomes estranged from her family.

Nine years after the reform of a family law allowed women to seek divorce, separation from their husbands remains a stigma for most Moroccan women, the documentary’s director, Karima Zoubir, told TrustLaw at the film’s screening at the Human Rights Watch Film Festival in London.

“Some men, when they know that a woman is divorced, they think she’s loose,” Zoubir said.

Referendum in Catholic Malta backs introduction of divorce

(Valletta skyline, 27 October 2005/Brian Gotts)

Staunchly Catholic Malta approved the introduction of divorce, backing the move by a small majority in a referendum. “The referendum outcome is not the one I wished for, but the will of the majority will be respected and parliament will enact legislation for the introduction of divorce,” Prime Minister Lawrence Gonzi said in a video statement on Sunday. The vote was seen as a test of the influence of the Roman Catholic Church in a country where 72 percent of people say they go to Mass on Sundays and nearly all marriages are held at the altar. The Mediterranean island of 400,000 people is the only country in Europe not to allow divorce. Early results from Saturday’s referendum showed a majority backing divorce of between 52 percent and 54 percent. The Divorce Movement declared victory and the anti-divorce movement conceded. Opposition leader Joseph Muscat had said changing the law was a vote for modernity and a chance for those with broken marriages to start afresh. Gonzi had said divorce offered “no solutions” and called for better preparation before weddings so that the “value of an indissoluble marriage is bequeathed to the young.” Divorce legislation was proposed in July last year by Jeffrey Pullicino Orlando, a member of Gonzi’s own parliamentary group. It provides for people to become eligible for divorce after four years of separation.

– by Christopher Scicluna in Valletta

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In the U.S., marriage is for better and for worse, but with a prenup

marriageAmericans are taking a cautious approach to marriage and are seeking more prenuptial agreements before walking down the aisle. And it is not just the wealthy and famous who are looking to safeguard their assets when a marriage crumbles.

More women and middle-class couples are opting for prenups, which can also include adultery clauses, protection of retirement benefits and even custody of the dog, according to the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers (AAML), which represents more than 1600 lawyers. (Photo:  A couple at a group wedding ceremony at the Shanghai World Expo, May 11, 2010/Aly Song)

A couple participates in a group wedding ceremony hosted by the French Pavilion at the Shanghai World Expo May 11, 2010.

Egypt prepares new marriage and divorce law for non-Muslims

coptEgypt will draft a new law to govern marriage and divorce for non-Muslims, a state newspaper reported, a move analysts see as an attempt to contain anger after a court overruled the Coptic Orthodox Church last month.

Egypt’s Coptic church has long called for changes to the country’s personal status laws, which say Islamic rules on marriage and divorce prevail except in cases where both husband and wife are non-Muslims and from the same religious denomination. Under the current law, for instance, a Catholic husband with a Coptic wife could be subject to Islamic law.

“The Egyptian Minister of Justice Mamdouh Marie has decided to form a committee to prepare a personal draft law for Christians and non-Muslims,” the state-run al-Akhbar newspaper reported, adding it would take 30 days.

Egypt court says Copts can remarry, church objects

coptic

Saint Mark's Coptic Orthodox Church in Cairo, December 11, 2005/Tara Todras-Whitehill

An Egyptian court has ruled that divorced Copts have the right to remarry, contradicting the church’s position and undermining its efforts to maintain its authority over the Christian community in Muslim-majority Egypt.

Saturday’s administrative court decision was prompted by a rare intervention by Pope Shenouda, leader of Egypt’s Coptic Orthodox Church, who launched an appeal by the church against another court ruling made in March 2008 that had approved the request by the two divorced men to remarry.

French “virginity lie” couple lose appeal, remain married

A court has declared France’s “virginity lie” couple to be legally married, despite their appeal to annul their nuptial vows because the wife turned out not to be the virgin she had claimed to be. The case caused an uproar a few months ago because they were initially granted an annulment on the grounds that she had lied about an “essential quality” necessary for the marriage contract. The case was argued as if the issue were simply about a business contract where one party had lied about the goods being delivered, and the first court accepted it on those grounds.

But the background — that the two were Muslims of North African origin and the man considered her virginity a condition for marrying the woman — sparked off a loud debate about whether the court was allowing Muslim traditions or sharia provisions to creep into French jurisprudence. “A real fatwa for women’s liberation … (like) a ruling handed down in Kandahar” was a memorable comment from Fadela Amara, the state secretary for urban affairs who comes from an Algerian Muslim family.

After initially supporting the couple, Justice Minister Rachida Dati — who is herself from a North African Muslim background and had a marriage annulled years ago — came under political pressure to oppose it and finally asked the public prosecutor to lodge an appeal against the annulment. This appeal against the annulment is what was upheld in the court in Douai in northern France on Monday. So the couple, who split up on their wedding night when the husband walked out on her and told the story to guests still partying at the reception downstairs, remains married despite their efforts to be unmarried. They will now have to go through the normal divorce procedure to undo what was effectively a marriage of only a few hours.

Gays and divorced need not apply as ambassador to Vatican

Pope Benedict and President Nicolas Sarkozy in Paris, 12 Sept 2008/Jacky NaegelenFor a country keen to improve relations with the Vatican, France has made some surprising faux pas this year. Things have been going well on the surface. President Nicolas Sarkozy has sung the praises of religion in public life several times this year. Pope Benedict was warmly welcomed during his visit to Paris last month. But behind the scenes, Paris has apparently flubbed what should be a routine procedure — naming a new ambassador to the Holy See.

The Foreign Ministry refuses to comment on ambassadorial nominations until they are accepted by the country involved. But with the post open for an unusually long period of 10 months, newspapers in Paris and Rome have begun writing about the delay. Even the Paris Catholic daily La Croix got into the story today. It seems Paris has been rebuffed twice for proposing a gay candidate and a divorced one. The Argentinians could have told Paris to play safe with a solid family man.

The problem began when the former ambassador,  Bernard Kessedjian, died on 19 December 2007, one day before Sarkozy delivered a speech in Rome defending France’s Catholic heritage.  Sarko’s first choice to replace him was Max Gallo, a popular historian and novelist who stresses the Christian roots themes dear to Pope Benedict. Not a diplomat, but a leading intellectual and an interesting choice. Gallo said thanks but he preferred to stay in Paris.

Argentina opts for family man to help patch up ties with Vatican

Pope Benedict meets ambasadors to the Holy See, 9 January 2006/poolArgentina is making a second bid to improve relations with the Vatican after its first attempt caused a diplomatic blunder because Buenos Aires proposed a divorced Catholic with a live-in partner as its new ambassador to the Holy See. The new nominee is reported to be a safer bet. Former government minister Juan Pablo Cafiero is married and the father of four children. In a radio interview over the weekend, he defended the centre-left government as  “the first government in decades that has focused on the distribution of wealth and a preference for the poor … linked to a concept of social justice that is based on humanistic, Christian thinking.”

Local media reported earlier this year that Argentina might leave the post vacant after the Vatican gave a thumbs down to former Justice Minister Alberto Iribarne. The Vatican never actually rejected his nomination. It just never confirmed it, which was a clear message that he didn’t have a prayer. As befits a future ambassador, Cafiero made no reference to that diplomatic faux pas.

The Roman Catholic Church does not approve of divorce and Catholics who do end their marriages are required to seek an annulment from the Church before they can remarry with the Church’s blessing.

Pope lays down the law to French Catholic bishops

Pope Benedict in Lourdes, 15 Sept 2008/Regis DuvignauPope Benedict’s speech to France’s bishops at Lourdes was a classic example of an “iron first in a velvet glove” address. Delivered calmly and in elegant French, it basically laid down the law to a group that has been among the most critical in the Church of his turn towards traditional Catholicism. It was billed as a meeting but was in fact a monologue. He read it out without hardly ever looking at the 170 cardinals and bishops before him and left right after finishing the text.

“Benedict XVI gave the bishops a veritable road map to help them trace the paths of the future for the church in France,” wrote Jean-Marie Guénois, religion correspondent of Le Figaro. “He wanted this meeting. It’s the only one he imposed on the organisers. Which shows the importance, in his eyes, of what he wanted to tell them.”

The most striking part was his call to the bishops to make more place for traditionalists. The French bishops lobbied the Vatican last year before Benedict liberalised the use of the Tridentine Latin Mass, arguing that giving the traditionalists too much leeway would undermine the authority of the bishops. The “tradis” are especially strong in France, both in the form of those loyal to Rome and those who have broken with it. The culture war between them and the majority church is deeply rooted and mutual suspicion is strong. Bishops worry that traditionalists want to form a “church within a church” if given the slightest chance. Among mainstream Catholics, that can translate into a high sensitivity to anything seen as rolling back the reforms of the Second Vatican Council.

The Pope and Carla – a photographer’s dream

Pope Benedict at a recent general audience at the VaticanDuring a Vatican briefing this week on Pope Benedict’s trip to France, a television producer got up and asked the question that surely was foremost in the minds of many photographers and television crews struggling to hold back yawns as subjects such as France’s secular history were discussed:

Will Carla Bruni be at the airport to welcome the pope?

Vatican spokesman Rev. Federico Lombardi smiled. He said Carla Bruni’s husband — who happens to be Nicolas Sarkozy, the president of France – had made it known that he might be at the airport. But he said he did not know if Bruni would be there. Heads of state usually wait for popes at their palaces but sometimes, to show their added respect for the pontiff, they also go to the airport.

In Paris, government officials confirmed Sarkozy would break protocol and greet Benedict at Orly airport, something he is not required to do because this is an official visit rather than a more formal state visit. They said they expected Carla to be there … but didn’t want to be quoted on that.