Sunday, May 19, 2024

Filipino bishop decries divorce reforms as a blow to family and society

As the Philippines moved closer to legalising divorce, a leading Catholic bishop has warned politicians that “divorce weakens the fabric of society.”

The House of Representatives of the Philippines this week approved House Bill 9349, which would legalise absolute divorce in the predominantly Catholic Asian country.

The Philippines is the world’s only country without a divorce law – excluding the Vatican – since Malta legalised the practice in 2011.

“I urge members of Congress to reconsider the proposed divorce bill and instead focus on promoting policies and programs that support marriage, strengthen families, and protect the well-being of all members of society,” said Bishop Alberto Uy of Tagbilaran in the central Philippines of the central Philippines, in an interview Catholic-run Radio Veritas on May 16.

The bishop said a “society that values strong, stable families is a thriving society”.

“Divorce weakens the fabric of society by eroding the foundation of the family unit. It leads to social fragmentation, increased poverty, and a host of other societal ills. By promoting divorce, we are contributing to the breakdown of social cohesion and the erosion of moral values,” Uy said.

Father Jerome Secilliano, executive secretary of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines-Permanent Committee on Public Affairs, said there is no need for divorce in the country.

“You weaken the commitment to marriage,” he told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.

“And of course you also just perpetuate the cycle of violence. You are not treating the person who is violent, you are just merely freeing the abused person from that violent situation. So that guy who may be abusive is not treated at all, he will be looking for another girl who is going to be his punching bag later on,” the priest said.

Secilliano told the Australian news agency there are already legal avenues for unhappy couples to split including filing for legal separation, which doesn’t allow parties to re-marry, or an annulment, which in effect means the marriage never existed.

“We are not lacking in legal remedies … and we don’t believe that adding another legal remedy to such an imperfect situation or union will still protect the sanctity and the dignity of marriage,” he said.

“Marriage is a lifetime union so even with its ups and downs, the good times and the bad, the sickness and healthier part, they have to live with each other as husband and wife for the rest of their lives,” Secilliano added.

Retired Redemptorist priest Amado Picardal told Sunstar Philippines also he affirmed the Church’s teaching on the sanctity of marriage and the value of family life.

“There are remedies when marriages break down such as annulment and legal separation. Easy access to divorce will weaken the family as an institution,” he said.

Despite the objections coming from the Church, members of the Congress are still hopeful the law will pass.

Representative Arlene Brosas maintained that the divorce bill will give a second chance to women “to start a new life.”

“And let’s give their children a chance to grow in a safe, and loving environment,” she told the media on May 16.

The bill will still go to its third reading at the House, and once approved in the third reading, it will be transmitted to the Senate, where the same legislative process will take place.

Senate President Juan Miguel Zubiri said the body “need to study it first” before agreeing on the House bill. If it is passed by the Senate, it will need to be signed by the president before becoming a law.

Senate Majority Leader Joel Villanueva on September 21 said he opposed divorce, but added, “We should speed up the annulment process, and make it accessible to all, regardless of their social status.”