Divorce on the rise in Catholic Europe


Divorce is on the rise in Europe’s three mostly Catholic countries, namely Italy, Portugal and Spain, reports the Los Angeles Times.

Portugal has registered the highest increase in divorce rates in the last decade, according to a new study by the Hertfelder's Institute for Family Policies, a nongovernmental organization based in Madrid.

In Portugal, divorces rose 89 percent from 1995 to 2004, and 62 percent in Italy and 59 percent in Spain for that same period. Germany and Britain have the highest rates of divorce.

The study’s director, Eduardo Hertfelder, says marriage in Europe is in crisis. Southern Europe has lagged behind the north in legislation and programs that assist the family. Women get little support in the workplace, for example, placing stress on marriages.

Some experts say the divorce rate increase is not surprising in these countries given the decline in the practice of Catholicism

The gap has widened between the numbers of Catholics in Southern Europe who declare their faith and those who practice it. A recent survey of Italians, for example, showed nearly 88 percent identify themselves as Catholic but only about 33 percent said they attend weekly mass.

Furthermore, the situation for women has changed in society, said Rossella Palomba of the Institute for Population Research and Social Policies in Rome.

Women have more freedom, demand more from spouses than their grandmothers did, are putting jobs ahead of marital bliss, and realize they can end unhappy unions with less stigma, said Palomba.

The Vatican's Pontifical Council for the Family at a congress in Rome earlier this month argued that lack of education left too many Catholics unable to appreciate the meaning of "true, sacramental" marriage. Confusion over alternative lifestyles and same-sex unions has weakened the institution of marriage, the church officials said.