Two issues are ruffling the feathers of conservatives recently: divorce and same-sex marriage.
Late last week, Pope Francis was quoted admitting that there are instances when it is “morally necessary” to end a marriage. “ One particular instance cited by Pope Francis that makes ending a marriage justifiable is “when it comes to saving the weaker spouse, or young children, from serious injuries caused by intimidation and violence, by humiliation and exploitation, by lack of involvement and indifference.” Pope Francis also said, “ When father and mother harm each other, children’s souls suffer greatly, feeling a sense of desperation. And they are wounds that leave a lifelong mark.”
In reaction, Archbishop Socrates Villegas, who is also the president of the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP), reiterated the position of the Catholic Church in the Philippines against divorce and instead, pointed to legal separation and annulment as the only acceptable options.
Archbishop Villegas did not mention that legal separation merely recognizes that the husband and wife are no longer living together. It does not dissolve the marriage and the battered wife could not remarry. For annulment, it has to be proven that the basis for annulment, such as psychological incapacity, existed before the marriage.
As for domestic violence, Archbishop Villegas pointed to Republic Act No. 9262, the Anti-Violence Against Women and their Children Act, which is no guarantee that the battered spouse would not be harmed or worse, killed by the batterer.
Pope Francis’s statements recognize the seriousness of the problem of domestic violence, the danger it poses on the battered woman, and the trauma it creates on the children. Archbishop’s Villegas reactions, on the other hand, clearly show how out of touch the hierarchy of the Catholic Church in the Philippines is with reality.
Domestic violence does happen despite the law and some brave women opted out of the marriage, after much struggle and some were killed for failing to do so on time. Pretending this reality does not exist would not make it go away.
Ask any battered woman who has sought the advice of a Catholic priest on what to do and chances are, she was told to just pray and bear it.
The fact that sixty percent of Filipinos are in favor of the legalization of divorce shows that there is recognition that problems do occur in marriages; and the battered spouse does not have to simply bear it.
Gabriela Women’s Party Representatives Luz Ilagan and Emmi de Jesus filed a divorce bill in Congress.
But of course, with the right to divorce comes the responsibility of not abusing it. Actually, it is the Vegas-style marriage and divorce that gives both marriage and divorce bad names.
The second issue that really ignited a lot of vehement reactions from local politicians and Catholic Church alike is the decision of the US Supreme Court that same-sex marriage could not be banned by states.
The Aquino administration declared that it would never allow same-sex marriage, so did the Catholic Church. House Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr. does not see efforts at legalizing same-sex marriage and divorce succeeding in Congress.
Also a Laylo survey revealed that seven out of ten Filipinos oppose same sex marriage.
Again, this is an issue of accepting and recognizing the reality that LGBTs constitute a significant part of the population and that they have rights. Why would the state and the church prohibit them from forming long-term relationships?
This, along with the results of the survey, shows the deep-seated bias against LGBTs. It is ironic that we are already in the 21st century, and purportedly, democracy exists and yet LGBTs are discriminated against and denied their rights.
A few years back, a major daily featured a same-sex marriage being administered by the Communist Party of the Philippines and the New People’s Army somewhere in the mountains of Mindanao Island. Is this a sign that things would change in the future? Ironic that the first same-sex marriage in the country happened in a remote area and not in cosmopolitan Manila, which is supposedly the most modern part of the country.
Of course, with the right of LGBTs to enter into a marriage comes the responsibility of exerting efforts to make it last.