I’m glad to say that I read and hear about a generation of youthful and middle-aged Filipinos who are well on their way to becoming visionary, tech-savvy, and socio-politically progressive citizens of the 21st century. What is endearing about these Filipinos is that they loathe the long-standing, retrograde attitudes and practices that many from the older generations before them have put up with or offered trite rationalizations for.
On behalf of these dynamic, enlightened, and precocious Filipinos, I would like to assert that Philippine society stands to gain from the surfeit of reservations they have on the Philippine Roman Catholic Church’s archaic socio-political positions. I also want to express my unstinting support of the proposed legislation to make divorce legal in the Philippines, something that has been a long time in coming. What the Philippines has had for decades is a farcical adaptation of the “annulment” concept which is really a purgatorial template for failed marital relations. What I mean to say is that “annulment” is supposed to lie somewhere between an actual divorce and the living institution of marriage.
Listening to the Philippine Catholic Church defend its disapproval of divorce is like listening to the Republicans blame Barack Obama for the declining American economy. The Church likes to point out that by prohibiting legalized divorce families will remain intact. Short on facts and even less on understanding, the Church’s stance does not make the grade in fulfilling the expectations of a society that is struggling to make itself relevant in a globalized, information-saturated world.
In our exacting, supra-technological ethos, the Church’s reiteration of grandiose criticisms leveled at the divorce legislation is something to behold. While thousands in the Philippines are addressing their everyday temporal survival, the Catholic Church instead harps on the contradiction between artificial birth control programs and God’s presumed will on human reproduction, and on the supposedly perilous impact of legalized divorce on the sacrosanct conception of the family unit.
In short, rather than robustly promote anti-poverty campaigns or essential population control strategies or tap into its massive reservoir of financial assets and reserves to help the disadvantaged, the Roman Catholic Church of the Philippines hides behind a wall of religious intransigence and churns out opinions and positions on society that have no place in the new millennium. Coming from the low end of the nation’s sociological and demographical priorities, the Church and its elitist, bishopric leadership will not be satisfied until both the reproductive health and divorce bills are torn asunder, to use religious language. For the Church hierarchy, the perpetuation of their religious ideology has always come first before the welfare of the people.
Today, you can walk down many streets in the Philippines and find a majority of people who favor legalized divorce. It is against this popular grain that the Philippine Catholic Church stands. What its leaders forget is that sometimes marriages don’t work out for a variety of reasons. It’s sad, but that just the way of the world between some husbands and wives. The Church cannot change that by forcing couples to stay together as a spiritually-certified formality, rather than as a loving union.
Not all husbands are saints and not all wives are angels. That obvious statement validates the need for at least a separation for the good of the two parties in a dysfunctional marriage. If the separation is on a trial basis, that is one thing. But if it becomes permanent, then it is all but divorce in name. Isn’t it inconsistent to be opposed to “divorce” but at the same time to allow it when it’s a “separation”?
Everyone knows that married couples separate all the time in the Philippines. Many of them end up living apart for good and find other life-partners. It is outlandish to prompt people to believe that this is, when it comes down to it, somehow not the same thing as divorcing. But this absurdity is what the Catholic Church pitches to its faithful.
Besides, if the idea of the unity of family is under distress in the Philippines, I would blame it more on here-and-now concerns than on a breakdown of spiritual values which would be more of the symptom than the cause. The Church therefore, should stop its ranting and raving and join the rest of the Roman Catholic global community—with the exception of the Vatican of course—in finally legalizing divorce.