by ALAN McELWAIN
Divorce Bill opponents may seek referendum
DIVORCELESS Italy is nearer than ever before in her history to having divorce legalised. The Chamber of Deputies (Lower House) Legal Commission has approved, by 18 votes to five. a Bill which could mean that divorce, in a limited form. will be operating by the middle of next year.
Only the Christian Democrat (Catholic) Party members of the commission opposed the Bill. Ranged against them were the Socialists and Republicans, partners of the Christian Democrats in Italy's Centreleft coalition government, the Liberals, neo-Fascists and Proliterian Unity Socialists.
The Bill must now be passed by the Chamber of Deputies and the Senate. As the opposing Christian Democrats have only 266 out of 630 votes in the Deputies and 135 out of 315 in the Senate, it should fly through both houses.
However, it is already being suggested that if Parliament does pass the Bill, the Christian Democrats, backing up the Vatican's rigid ban on divorce, may demand a referendum on the question.
Legislation laying down norms for a referendum is being formulated and the divorce issue could mark the first time it is used in Italy. if this happens. some political observers predict that the referendum could prove a more difficult hurdle for the Divorce Bill than Parliament itself.
Under the Bill, first introduced in October, 1965, by a Socialist deputy Loris Fortuna, divorce will be obtainable after a five-year legal separation. At present, legal separation is the closest marriage partners can get to divorce in Italy, where it is estimated there are about 280.000 legally separated couples. Four times as many are believed to have separated without bothering about legal formalities.
The Bill also provides for divorce where one marriage partner has been condemned to life imprisonment, or to 12 or more years for certain premeditated crimes; or convicted of incest. sexual crimes or instigation to prostitution, or for attempted murder of the other partner or members of the family.
Other grounds allowed are total mental infirmity, when one partner is in a psychiatric hospital for at least five years and judged incapable of returning to normal family life, and when the marriage has not been consummated.
Divorce will also be granted when a partner is a foreign citizen who has either obtained a divorce abroad or who has contracted a new marriage abroad.
The Italian League for the Institution of Divorce, which has been tremendously active since it was set up in 1966, is pleased with the progress of the Bill, but, in the light of past delays and disappointments, still wary.
It says that if there is any new attempt to shelve the Bill, or to hamper it in any way, and it does not come before Parliament within the next six weeks or so, the league will organise demonstrations.
Pope's Australian visit 'a dream'
Five leading Australian lay organisations have formally invited Pope Paul to visit Australia. He has been asked to go there in 1970, during celebrations of the 200th anniversary of Captain Cook's landing at Botany Bay.
He has replied that he would like to, but "it is in the hands of divine providence." At present, a visit to Australia must be just "a dream," he said.
The invitation was presented to Pope Paul during an au
dience by Mr. Justice McClemens, of Sydney. It came from the St. Vincent de Paul Society, Holy Name Society, Catholic Women's League, Knights of the Southern Cross and the University Catholic Federation of Australia.
The organisations had made a joint request to Cardinal Sir Norman Gilroy, Archbishop of Sydney, to invite the Pope to Australia. The Cardinal replied that as it was a request from the laity, it would be more fitting if it were presented directly by them.
Last year, Archbishop Knox of Melbourne announced that he had invited Pope Paul to visit Australia next year and had received a "not unfavourable" reply.
One rumour has been that the Pope may go to Japan in 1970, and could then extend his trip to take in Australia while he is on that side of the world. The Vatican so far has said nothing about a trip to Japan or Australia.
Banned films at Gregorian
Twice a week torrid love scenes on film are shown to hundreds of nuns, priests and seminarians in a venerable
Jesuit institution directly under Vatican control, the Associated Press reports.
The scenes come in films by Federico Fellini. Michelangelo Antonioni, Spain's Banuel and other directors. They are part of a new course entitled "Faith and Unbelief in the Modern Cinema" being taught at the Gregorian University.
For the 400-year-old Gregorian. training ground for much of the Catholic Church's hierarchy, the course is considered revolutionary. It indicates the school's new approach to the secular world since Fr. Horve Carrier, a Canadian sociologist, took over as rector in 1966.
"Some of the films have been banned by the Vatican for showing in movie theatres run by Catholics", said the Rev. Nazarene Taddei, the course director. But ours is considered a special case. We
present the films only to those enrolled in the course and I give a one-hour lecture on each film."
Fr. Taddei case is special, too. Eleven years ago he clashed with the then Archbishop of Milan, the Most Rev. Giovanni Battista Montini, now Pope Paul VI. Archbishop Montini ordered that no more he said of Fellini'.s La Dolce Vita in the Catholic Press of his diocese. Then Taddei wrote a favourable review of the film. The upshot was that he went into self-exile in Switzerland.
"It just shows you how much times change," says Fr. John Navone, 38, a thin, energetic American theologian. "Now he has been reinstated to such an extent that he is teaching at the biggest Pontifical U niversity."
Sacristans want better deal
Good sacristans — sorry, liturgical collaborators — are increasingly hard to come by in Italy. Those who are on the job are becoming union-minded and demanding, like so many other Italian workers, a better deal.
In Milan, 250 of them point out that the day when a sacristan was no -more than a sort of glorified roustabout is over. Today, the sacristan has professional rating.
He has to know his liturgy,
look after ecclesiastical vestments and altar drapings, prepare vessels and the Host for Mass, often read the Epistle, recite the rosary for congregations, ring the church bells, be next-best-thing to a secretary to the rector and guide tourists — working a 12hour day for 65.000 lire, or little more than £40 a month.
The sacristans suggest that by calling themselves liturgical collaborators they will enhance their professional standing, and that in any case it will look good on their visiting cards.