Chile Urged Not to Open the Door to Divorce

Cardinal Publishes Pastoral Letter on Marital Stability

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SANTIAGO, Chile, JUNE 25, 2002 ( Family life in Chile is under pressure but that doesn´t justify allowing divorce into the country, warns a cardinal.

Cardinal Francisco Javier Errázuriz, archbishop of Santiago and president of the Chilean bishops´ conference, has published a pastoral letter entitled “What God Has Joined Together,” which addresses divorce, a key issue of legislative debate in the country.

The pastoral letter, dated June 21, proposes indissoluble marriage as a good for Chile.

Noting that “the family is the good we Chileans most appreciate,” the cardinal lamented that the institution is also weakening. He cited the increase in single-parent families, paternal and maternal absence due to work, and domestic violence.

The cardinal warned of the rise of de facto unions, where there is greater risk of separation or abandonment or failed future marriages. Given this reality, he asked if divorce “will be a way of reconstructing hope?”

Chile is now in the process of updating legislation on the family and the 1894 law on civil marriage.

The law must embrace the various situations families are experiencing, Cardinal Errázuriz said. “But this does not mean that … the indissolubility of marriage must be denied,” with the introduction of divorce, the pastoral letter states.

Cardinal Errázuriz´s text emphasizes that indissolubility is not an extrinsic law to marriage, but is inscribed in the very nature of the union. In this connection, he writes, “faith and the Church´s tradition have added nothing to marriage when affirming that it is for life.”

In the context of Christian marriage, the pastoral letter makes reference to separation.

“Sometimes […] life together becomes impossible,” it states. “At times there is such harm that separation can become a duty, although it must be regarded as an extreme remedy.”

In cases where the separation seems final, Cardinal Errázuriz said that the cause for the failure might be in “the fact of having entered marriage invalidly. It is then advisable to consult an expert. There are ecclesiastical and civil lawyers who are familiar with this delicate matter and can give advice, even for free.”

The archbishop of Santiago calls for the support of lawmakers, through “prayer, providing them with background information and reflections, but without putting them under pressure, or accepting having pressure exerted on them. […] They must decide freely, in keeping with their conscience, after the exacting effort made to form it.”

Noting that the Chilean Constitution considers “the family is the basic nucleus of society,” the cardinal made a final appeal: “The state must not weaken the family, but strengthen it.”

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