Mississippi bishops issue joint statement on bill no. 2643

JACKSON – On Feb. 28, Bishops Joseph R. Kopacz and Louis F. Kihneman, III of the Dioceses of Jackson and Biloxi wrote a letter to Speaker of the House, Phillip Gunn, expressing their concern over Senate Bill 2643, specifically its proposal for a 13th cause that in effect would open the door to a process of unilateral divorce.

The Bishops wrote that “For the past 50 years the State of Mississippi rightly has codified the compelling grounds that protect the rights of the injured party in a marriage to petition for divorce. Desertion, chronic drug and/or alcohol abuse, spousal domestic abuse, intellectual disability and mental illness do erode and can devastate the bond of marriage. The rights and wellbeing of the injured spouse and family members must be upheld in such cases.”

With regard to mental illness the Bishops expressed this 12th cause for divorce thoroughly addresses the safeguards that must be in place in order to determine beyond a reasonable doubt that the mental illness undermines one’s capacity for marriage. These precautions are prudent and just and well-grounded in jurisprudence that surrounds marriage with the presumption of permanence.

“As written, [the 13th cause] is lacking in any of the intrinsic safeguards that are so evident in the 12th cause on mental illness,” wrote the Bishops. “… the 13th cause appears to be going down a slippery slope that could erode the institution of marriage and thus undermine the common good of society.”

On March 1, SB2643 died in committee in the House after passing through the Senate. However, the proposed amendment adding the thirteenth cause for divorce, was added to House Bill 770, an act to create the Mississippi Equal Pay Act, by the Senate on March 1, keeping the amendment alive.