Scottish Plan to Facilitate Divorce Assailed

Cardinal O’Brien Urges More Counseling Services

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GLASGOW, Scotland, MARCH 21, 2004 ( Scottish legislation designed to speed up divorce proceedings «risks severely undermining the permanence and stability of marriage,» warns Cardinal Keith O’Brien.

«I am deeply concerned by the suggestion that the Scottish Executive are considering a reduction in the time period for non-contested divorce cases from two years to one year,» the president of the Scottish bishops’ conference said in a press statement today.

«Such a move risks severely undermining the permanence and stability of marriage and as pilot trials in England and Wales have demonstrated is only likely to encourage divorce and marriage breakdown,» the cardinal said.

«What Scottish couples whose marriages are in difficulty need is quick and convenient access to professional support and counseling,» he added.

«It is a national disgrace that in a country where there are almost 1,000 divorces per month there are only two national agencies offering support and reconciliation services,» said Cardinal O’Brien, the archbishop of Saint Andrews and Edinburgh.

He pointed to an Irish program that aids troubled couples.

«A study conducted by Accord marriage counseling in Ireland between 2000 and 2002 found that counseling helped almost half of the couples involved to improve their relationship quality,» the cardinal said. «Counseling was shown to work equally well for both men and women and for all social classes.»

«Clearly,» he added, «Scotland has much to learn from evidence such as this and I would ask the Scottish Executive to consider an immediate and dramatic increase in the funding made available to counseling agencies whose goal is to restore and repair damaged marriages. In the long term, the work they do is of enormous benefit not only to the couples involved and their families, but also to all of society.»

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