January 14, 2016
By Ned Holstein, MD, MS, Founder, Chair of the Board and Acting Executive Director
Stunning Development May Reflect Views of PopeThe Council of Italian Bishops (Conferenza Episcopale Italiana, or CEI) has endorsed shared parenting after divorce or separation, based on a full-page spread that appeared in its official newspaper, Avvenire (“Future”) on the Sunday before Christmas. It was written by the Chief Editor of Avvenire, Luciano Moia. The article urges family courts to not only state support for shared parenting, but to also ensure the arrangement actually occurs in practice. Also, the article was supportive of legislative efforts that encourage shared parenting.
Avvenire, published in Milan rather than Rome, is considered by many to be the voice and the arm of the Pope in Italy. Many Church observers believe that Avvenire would not publish anything known to contradict the Pope’s views on a sensitive subject.
The Pope’s own statements over the past year reinforce the idea that he endorses shared parenting. In November, 2014, Pope Francis said that children have the right to be raised by a mother and a father, according to the Catholic News Service. According to Catholic Radio, in January, 2015, Pope Francis “called on fathers to be present in the lives of their children,” and said that “fathers are necessary as examples and guides of our children…” In June, 2015, Catholicherald.co.uk/news paraphrased the Pope as follows: “Even if couples are unable to live together, the Pope said, they must find a way to work together harmoniously. And if they get to the point where ‘separation seems inevitable,’ he said, ‘know that the Church holds you in its heart and that your educating role does not end: you are and will always be dad and mum.’
In a sidebar to the main article, Avvenire pointed approvingly to the December, 2015 conference of the International Conference on Shared Parenting (ICSP) in Bonn, Germany, which National Parents Organization helped organize, and which I attended. It also reported approvingly on the shared parenting advocacy of Italian pediatrician Dr. Vittorio Vezzetti, who has been instrumental in working with the Church, and on the resolution passed in October by the Council of Europe calling for shared parenting legislation in the EU member states. I have gotten to know Dr. Vezzetti at the ICSP meetings, and he is the one who alerted NPO to the Church statements reported here.
While there is now overwhelming research support for shared parenting as the best solution for children after separation or divorce of parents, this is the first time a major religious body has taken a stance on shared parenting, to the best of our knowledge. Given the historical reluctance of the Church to involve itself in matters of divorce, this is a striking development.
It would be powerful for members to bring these articles to the attention of their local Catholic Church, and to other denominations and faiths.
Despite the agonizing experiences of many of you in the family courts, the big picture is that shared parenting is on a roll throughout the developed world.
Together with you in the love of our children,
Ned Holstein, MD, MS
Founder and Acting Executive Director