"Pope Is Asking Us for Examination of Conscience," Lawyers Say

Interview with Emanuela Colombo of Milan´s Ecclesiastical Tribunal

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MILAN, Italy, JAN. 29, 2002 (ZENIT.orgAvvenire).- Emanuela Colombo, an attorney in Milan´s Rota who in the civil field also works in family law, has no doubts: “The Pope is asking us for an examination of conscience.”

He was reacting to John Paul II´s address to the Roman Rota on Monday, in which the Pope appealed to Catholic lawyers not to cooperate in judicial cases that will end directly in divorce.

“It is a necessary appeal,” Colombo said. “We Catholic lawyers must also serve the culture of the indissolubility of marriage. It is a call to attention, which challenges our professional seriousness and, at the same time, our Christian integrity.”

Q: The Pope explicitly requests that you avoid any personal involvement that might appear as “cooperation in divorce.” Is it possible in practice to respect this request?

Colombo: Yes, although it is a request that is decidedly compromising. On the other hand, we should never suggest divorce as a solution to marital problems. The Pope asks us for an examination of conscience; I think the truth is needed because, although one is not always conscious of it, the temptation to adapt to the prevailing culture of relativism really exists.

John Paul II directly challenges our responsibility as baptized people. I think he expects us to sensitize the public on the meaning of the indissolubility of marriage, which is too often ignored.

Q: However, does to avoid “cooperation in divorce” mean to refuse to help someone in court who wishes to divorce?

Colombo: It might seem to be an extreme position, but my father, a civilian and also a lawyer of the Rota, refused to support divorce cases for a long time after the 1974 referendum. He did so along with many other lawyers of the Rota.

Then the directives from ecclesiastical experts changed. However, the principle, of course, cannot be abrogated — not even today. To promote divorce would mean to deny the truth of marriage.

Q: In Monday´s address, the Pope alludes to the possibility that lawyers might cooperate in judicial causes aimed at establishing the “legitimate rights” of a person whose marriage has already broken down, making it clear that this must neither lead to, or promote, the rupture of marriage. What could such effects be?

Colombo: I am thinking of the aspects linked to the relations of succession, which when children are involved, at times can even be acts of justice. Of course these are problems that must be addressed case by case, evaluating all aspects carefully.

Q: Does rejecting the “divorce” culture also mean trying in every way to attain reconciliation between the spouses?

Colombo: Yes, we must always strive for this objective. Often, when we are faced by two people asking for divorce, reconciliation is virtually impossible. You must wait for three years [in Italy] to get a divorce; in the meantime, in the majority of cases, new ties are created.

Q: Do you think that the Pope´s appeal is also motivated by the growing number of divorces and separations?

Colombo: Yes, the figures are worrying. On the other hand, it must be asked why, in the face of thousands of separations and divorces, the percentage of invalid marriages is altogether ridiculous. We should reflect on this fact.

Perhaps the greater part of marriages that break early on are, in fact, invalid because, as Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger has also reminded us recently, there was insufficient awareness of the significance of marriage.

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