Press Assailed for Manipulating Pope´s Words on Divorce

Interview with President of the Union of Italian Catholic Jurists

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VATICAN CITY, JAN. 30, 2002 ( The press twisted John Paul II´s words when he spoke about divorce to the Roman Rota on Monday, according to Church officials and laymen in Italy.

Bishop Giuseppe Betori, secretary-general of the Italian episcopal conference, said that the Pope “appealed to the conscience” of lawyers and judges and did not advocate “conscientious objection,” which is not juridically codified in this matter. In fact, the Holy Father did not use this term.

John Paul II said literally: “In exercising a liberal profession, lawyers can always decline to use their profession for an end that is contrary to justice, such as divorce.”

“They can only collaborate in an action of this kind when, in keeping with the client´s intentions, it is not directed to the rupture of marriage, but to other legitimate effects, which can only be attained by a specific juridical ruling through the judicial avenue,” the Pope said.

Vatican Radio interviewed Francesco D´Agostino, president of the Union of Italian Catholic Jurists, to have a better understanding of the Pope´s words.

Q: Did John Paul II exceed the area of his ministry when he addressed the question of divorce, as some periodicals stated?

D´Agostino: What the Pope said — that is, that divorce is a devastating phenomenon — is not an affirmation of a religious-spiritual nature; it is an exact photograph of today´s social reality.

Intellectual honesty exacts recognition of the fact that the juridical and social order cannot be passive and indifferent to the manipulation of family crises. There is nothing in what the Pope said that goes against the juridical-positive reality of the different countries. The fact that the law allows for divorce does not mean that it must be superficially accepted or favored.

Q: The Pope asked Catholic lawyers and all those who work in the juridical field not to give in to the “divorce” mentality. A difficult demand, don´t you think? Exaggerated?

D´Agostino: There is no human or professional ambit that does not reflect on problems of this type. The demands of ethics are also hard and difficult. It is never easy to translate them immediately into daily life.

However, precisely for this reason the good is fascinating and represents a polar star in the life of every man. Therefore, it is necessary to recognize that an arduous, responsible and exhausting commitment is necessary which in certain contexts — fortunately extreme ones — borders on the heroic. It is an invitation to all jurists to be conscious of the height of their profession.

A lawyer is not a simple bureaucrat who puts a seal on a document prepared by others, for which he has no responsibility. The lawyer, together with the client, contributes to build, to remodel the social dynamic, and it is not right to think that the social dynamic can be abandoned to the mercy of superficiality, which, unfortunately, surrounds us today, and which manifests itself in our case in forms of conjugal and family life crises that are truly disconcerting.

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