The Beauty of Marriage: Is Divorce Necessary?
Let’s call the subjects of this blog article “Marian” and “Nathan”. This is based on a true story….
Marian married Nathan in a Church wedding in her early 20s and bore 5 children. Just like other families, theirs was not perfect. There were moments in their family life that Nathan portrayed himself as a happy-go- lucky guy, often with friends after office hours failing to go home on time. His eagerness to spend “happy” time with friends was perfectly understandable because of his early marriage. This kind of lifestyle of Nathan made his wife upset particularly when he comes home late, thus, the arguments were inevitable. Nathan’s lifestyle continued as the years went by, and so with the couple’s fights and conflicts. There were incidents, twice or thrice in fact, which almost made Marian decide to leave Nathan. However, even if the family was faced with these issues, it did not stop their family bonding prayer – at times Nathan was in the midst of them, but there were also times without Nathan as he was out gallivanting with friends. Despite this however, Nathan continued to be a doting and responsible father to his children. He supported the basic needs (including education) of the family, while Marian took charge of policing home economics (e.g., budgeting, etc.), so to speak, and setting up the education foundation of their children, including about God and the importance of prayer. Decades passed, both Marian and Nathan reached their maturity levels as they have grown in life, their family was able to overcome these challenges and the love between them, the familial bond and close ties among the family members were rekindled and remained whole and deep, for life.
Just imagine if Marian gave in to the whims of the “devil” who was probably been “kibitzing” on her, whispering to her ears, “ill-advising” her to get rid of and leave Nathan. Just imagine if Marian focused only on Nathan’s negative qualities (drinking spree and playing around), and setting aside his positive traits. Just imagine if Marian lacked the virtues of humility, patience, perseverance, and faith in God, fed up with the kind of life she was in. Oh, everything could have turned out badly, and perhaps their family could have lived in chaos –or could have ended up broken. But because of Marian’s courage and perseverance to face “head on” all the problems, lifting everything up to God through prayers, it turned out very well for both of them and for their children who have been successful with their own respective family lives in the end.
The point is, we don’t actually need “Divorce” in our lives. It is not at all the sole remedy or the cure to a family in pain, particularly in marital relationships. While the Vatican State and the Philippines are the only two remaining countries that do not allow Divorce (considering that it is contrary to law and morals), it should be noted however that these countries have existing laws, rules and regulations in place which spell out the ways and means on how to resolve issues concerning marital affairs. In the Philippines for instance, there are alternative legal means in which couples can explore and avail of, such as the so-called “Annulment” and “Legal Separation”. Likewise, non-profit organizations such as the Catholic Church and other Christian organizations are ready to help and protect the rights of the parents, particularly the aggrieved parties. The Church pastoral responsibility is to guide and advise couples on how to go through with their problems, exploring alternative courses of action, e.g. an amicable settlement of the parties concerned, or counseling on possible solutions in the event of irreconcilable differences. As such, there is no need to enact another law specifically legalizing Divorce in the Philippines.
The legislators who are bent on and have approved (at the Committee level), the passage of the proposed divorce bill are only wasting their time and the Government’s resources. It will be recalled that on February 4, 2020, the Committee on Population and Family Relations of the Philippine House of Representatives approved the proposed House Bill 0100 on the legalization of divorce in the Philippines. The said Committee’s approval was based on the premise that divorce is considered a women’s rights issue, as shown in the bill’s explanatory note which states that: “Not being able to get out of an eventual loveless, unhappy, even abusive marriage is a human rights concern for women.” Likewise, Section 3(4) of the said bill provides that the proposed divorce law is “pro-woman legislation” because it would allow Philippine wives to be liberated from abusive relationships and “regain dignity and self-esteem.” This is baloney! How can this be a human rights concern, much more a women’s rights issue? Why are women being placed as the front liners in this cause? Why are women being used/labeled in the proposed bill as those actively and strongly supporting this advocacy? So, how about the men? How can this be a women’s rights issue, when most married women are evidently more faithful than men? How can this be a women’s rights issue when women are those who would normally prefer to save their marriage? As a matter of fact, some married women would even plea and pray to God that their ex boyfriends (who became their husbands) who have previously promised them the moon and the stars, be enlightened and for them to stop their philandering activities? Take the case of Marian and Nathan as illustrated earlier. Because of prayers and the grace of humility and patience of the woman, their familial and marital relationship became successful and happy in the end. This women’s right issue-rationale for divorce, so to speak, is just a ploy and could serve as an easy way out for men to be absolved of their extra marital affairs, and to continue doing what they want based on their personal whims and desires. Divorce should never be considered as a free pass or even as the last resort to solve marital problems.
As Catholics in a predominantly Catholic country, we are all aware that the Catholic Church does not recognize Divorce. We believe in the sanctity of marriage mainly because it is God (represented by the officiating priest) giving His blessings to the couple in the Sacrament of Matrimony (or Marriage). According to our Lord Jesus Christ, when two baptized persons are married, they are “no longer two but one”. St. Matthew 19:6 also states that “What therefore God has joined together, let no man put asunder”. St. Paul concurs in this teaching about marriage in his letter to the Corinthians 7:10-11: “To the married I give charge, not I but the Lord, that the wife should not separate from her husband (but if she does, let her remain single or else be reconciled to her husband)—and that the husband should not divorce his wife”. Divorce is not acceptable in the eyes of God, it is not in line with the teachings of the Church and that of Jesus Christ. In view of this, the Catholic Church teaches that marriages are unbreakable unions, and thus remarrying after a divorce (without an annulment) is a sin.
With all the aforesaid teachings, how can we Catholics and Christians deviate from this?
It is non sequitur that just because Divorce is “trending” in other countries such as the United States (the Divorce Capital of the World), the Philippines should follow suit. The Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) maintains its stance since day one that divorce is basically “anti-marriage and anti-family”. It contradicts the essence of family, betrays family morals and sacredness of the Sacrament of Marriage. There have been studies conducted that divorce has been a failure as it did not effectively resolve marital issues as a whole. In most cases, divorce does harm and many families have been adversely affected and greatly devastated, specifically the children.
Pope Francis’ prayer intention for last month, June 2021, delved on the beauty of the Sacrament of Marriage. He specifically prayed for young couple about to enter marriage life that they may grow in love, generosity, fidelity, and patience. It has been observed that some young people nowadays don’t want to welcome marriage, just yet. However, some unfortunately would want to explore and some have actually tried live-in relationship to ascertain if their love for one another is genuine or not. It is a sad thing that this live-in kind of arrangement for couples these days is becoming a rising trend, and that the Sacrament of marriage is considered unfashionable and pas·sé.
The Holy Father further stressed that while marriage is a “demanding journey” which can be complicated at times, it is worth noting that “getting married and sharing one’s life is something beautiful.” The Holy Father emphasized that the family serves as the “greatest treasure and so, he encourages Christian families to fervently pray and receive the grace of the sacraments to be always in God’s presence, to be living examples of love, forgiveness and care. Every couple should be reminded that marriage is not a bed of roses, it’s definitely not only about being lovey-dovey to each other, and that, it is but normal for families to encounter challenges.
It is our hope and prayer that the concerned lawmakers of the Philippine Congress (both the House and the Senate) be enlightened by the Holy Spirit not to be in a hurry to push for the said proposed divorce bill. Or much better, these legislators should scrap the bill instead. It would even be more prudent if they could focus more on reviewing and reassessing the provisions of existing laws related to this. Should there be flaws and vague provisions, improvements can be introduced to strengthen related existing laws without the need for legalizing divorce. Marriage is a life-long journey, it is about building the foundation of a family, as such it should be inviolable, and because of this, Divorce is unnecessary.
Loving and Generous God, we pray that each family, everyone in the Philippine Congress, and all of us be good followers of Yours, to undertake matters that are in consonance with Your teachings, and to make You as the center of our lives. Amen.