Hundreds of bishops and cardinals look on at St. Peter's Basilica, as Pope Francis formally appoints 19 new cardinals on Saturday (Feb. 22). RNS photo by David Gibson

Hundreds of bishops and cardinals look on at St. Peter’s Basilica, as Pope Francis formally appoints 19 new cardinals on Feb. 22, 2014. RNS photo by David Gibson

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ROME (RNS) Italy’s Catholic bishops have condemned a proposed law that is set to speed up divorce and do away with a three-year separation waiting period.

Legislation to allow consensual divorce after six months and 12 months in contested cases was passed overwhelmingly in the lower house of Parliament Thursday (May 29). It now heads to the Senate, where it is expected to be approved.

“I do not believe you can call this an achievement, much less define it as historic,” said Monsignor Nunzio Galantino, the secretary-general of the Italian Bishops’ Conference. “Speedy divorce will not help anyone.”

The Catholic bishops’ daily, Avvenire, also criticized the move in a scathing editorial that accused politicians of sending “a bad political message.”

“You have to wonder what foundation you can give the family when a marriage can be dissolved after a few months,” wrote Carlo Cardia.

He warned the law was a further “delegitimization of marriage” and would create a “psychological and cultural void” among the young who will feel that marriage no longer requires a sense of commitment.

Members of Italy’s ruling coalition were jubilant when lawmakers from across the political spectrum endorsed the bill by a margin of 381 to 30, with 14 abstentions.

“The approval of divorce in the lower house represents a decisive step,” said Ivan Salfarotto, government undersecretary for reforms.

“We have taken 11 years to reach an agreement which has come 40 years after the referendum on divorce,” said MP Alessia Morani, a member of the center-left Democratic Party, led by current Prime Minister Matteo Renzi.

“Now the fast-track divorce is virtually a reality. It is only missing the seal of the Senate,” said Gian Ettore Gassani, president of the Association of Italian Matrimony Lawyers.

Gassani called for further legal reforms for unmarried and gay couples. Italy does not allow same-sex marriage.

“Italy remains the only one among major European countries to maintain an absolutely conservative family law, which is often in contempt of fundamental human rights,” he said.

Divorce was legalized in Italy in 1970 but the country has what is considered one of the slowest procedures in Europe.


Categories: Culture, Ethics

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Josephine McKenna

Josephine McKenna

Josephine McKenna has more than 30 years' experience in print, broadcast and interactive media. Based in Rome since 2007, she covered the resignation of Pope Benedict XVI and election of Pope Francis and canonizations of their predecessors. Now she covers all things Vatican for RNS.


  1. The Great God Pan

    Trigger Warning for Louis and John: This post is by me.

    The bishops have voluntarily embarked on careers that forbid them from marrying, therefore I wonder what moral authority they have to tell people trapped in loveless or violent marriages that they must remain trapped for at least three years because the Church, in its infinite wisdom, has dictated that loveless and violent marriages are the foundation of society.

    • Of course, their moral authority comes from Christ, who said that what God has joined together, let no man put asunder. So it does not matter what kind of life they chose for themselves. The life they chose for themselves was interpreting the bible, and that is what they are doing.
      A doctor does not have to experience the disease to cure it

      • Which means bishops make it up as they go along, provided it supports their personal interests. Like the church has done for 1500 years.

        Marriage is a civil function. Churches have no rightful say as to anything outside their own walls on the subject. If they don’t want to recognize a divorce, so be it. Nobody outside of the church walls has to care. Least of all civil laws.

  2. Keeping marriages together for strictly legal/religious reasons is a recipe for domestic violence, psychological damage to children and usually a bit of murder (expect to see divorces “by Baretta” in Italy if such laws pass)

  3. Bishops everywhere, church people everywhere, should stick to their church business, mind their own business–like properly tending to pedophile clergy–and keep their noses out of civic affairs of others, like marriage, contraception, and divorce.

    Bishops and other clergy can’t take care of their own business affairs of celibacy and chastity. Like Bishop “Bling” of Germany, John Meyers of Newark, NJ, and Gregory Wilton of Atlanta, GA, they blow millions of the dollars the people in the pews drop in the baskets without any accountability. They continue non-stop to try to force their religious beliefs into the civil affairs of everyone else.

    Above all, religious belief is a private matter, a vital part of liberty. That is the reason that basic right of liberty, most important after the right to life, was protected by the framers of our Constitution so quickly after the basic document with the recognition of the need to maintain a separation between church and state, between religion and politics.

    Catholic clergy choose celibacy. At least, they are forced to do so in order to be ordained. That is their business. But they should mind their own business when it comes to the civil affairs of others and stop trying to make civil law conform to the canons of their church that are so grossly violated by their own clergy.

    • What nonsense. The first amendment was passed to protect the free exercise of religion. At the time of the founding, 9 of 13 states had established state religions, and the prohibition on establishment of religion simply meant that the federal government could not establish a religion that overroad the state’s official religion

      • Stop relying on David Barton bullcrap. You are slinging Dominionalist revisionist junk designed for a theocratic anti-democratic agenda.

        The 3 states without established churches were the ones who proposed that none of them should (RI, PA, NY) . There is a long line of opposition to entangling of church and state dating back to the early days of colonization. Read about Roger Williams and William Penn and get back to me.

        The separation of church and state was exactly what the Establishment clause was for. Those state established churches were rendered null and void after the constitution. A government beholden to a given faith will not protect any others. Every government endorsed faith discriminated. The founders knew that. You do not.

        Free exercise of religion required the separation of church and state under the Establishment clause to keep the government. You can’t have one without the other. Of course people like yourself are not interested in either. They want their own religious belief to be protected at the expense of everyone else.

  1. […] Italy's Catholic bishops try to put brakes on speedy divorce law ROME (RNS) Italy's Catholic bishops have condemned a proposed law that is set to speed up divorce and do away with a three-year separation waiting period. Legislation to allow consensual divorce after six months and 12 months in contested cases was … Read more on Religion News Service […]

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