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Malta shows what can happen when the Vatican effectively controls the country: it is the only member of the European Union that does not allow abortion under any circumstances. However, at least a referendum in 2011 finally legalised divorce. As Maltese editor said, “This victory places Malta back into Europe.” This forced the Vatican to amend those parts of the marriage concordat which gave Church courts priority over civil ones.

Where Church and state are intertwined

In Malta Roman Catholicism is the state religion with the constitutional right to morally instruct the nation. Therefore the Church felt justifed in lobbying in the 2011 referendum on legalising divorce. However, despite a manoeuvre which disenfranchised the youngest voters, the “yes” vote squeaked through and parliament passed a bill permitting divorce. This brought Maltese law into conflict with the Vatican agreement. forcing the renegotiation of the Marriage Concordat.

Maltese concordats

Nine concordats are listed for Malta from the two decades since 1985. Four of these agreements are marked "non occorre la ratifica", meaning they were not ratified by Parliament, but simply “sealed and approved” by the Maltese Foreign Minister on behalf of the government of Malta.

Revised marriage concordat: text (1993, 2014)

Now only the Philippines doesn't allow divorce. Malta's hard-fought referendum in 2011 led to a new law legalising divorce and this forced the Vatican to renegotiate the 1993 marriage concordat. However, it saved a concordat which came into effect without ratification (due to a clause concealed in Latin) and merely removed the priority given to Catholic Church tribunals over Malta's civil courts in annulment cases.

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