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Israeli appeal court upholds Christian marriage in unusual divorce case

Catholic World News - June 25, 2013

An Israeli appeals court has overturned a lower court ruling in a case that involves the Catholic stance on divorce.

A Maronite Catholic man sought divorce from his wife. Because of the Catholic prohibition against divorce, some Maronites renounce their faith, paving the way for a civil divorce, since a religious tribunal would no longer have jurisdiction. But in this case the wife refused to accept another faith, stalling the divorce process. The husband applied to a family court, seeking damages against his wife for her failure to convert.

The family court ruled in favor of the husband, saying that the marriage had broken down and the wife’s refusal to convert deprived the husband of a “natural, obvious, and understandable” right to end the marriage. The court ordered the women to pay damages, continuing until she agrees to convert.

But the Haifa District Court overturned that decision, saying that the civil courts had no authority to interfere with religious tribunals. The appeals court ruled that the family court could not “compel someone to act against their religious precepts.” The appeals court asked the Maronite Catholic hierarchy to address the situation.

The appeals court also noted that a ruling against the woman in this case could upset the delicate balance between religious tribunals and secular law, and raise new concerns about the rights of Christian institutions in Israel.

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