A lifetime of unhappiness

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Date Posted: 24 Apr 2015

Peter Wallace BW

by Peter Wallace


Let me reflect on something very controversial but something that needs to be addressed: Divorce. Something I’d like you to think about with compassion in the Christian spirit Pope Francis entreated us to encompass.

The title says it all, why should you live a lifetime in misery. I’m divorced, Australia like all other countries in the world, except two accepts that people have the right to happiness in their lives and, hence, the right to divorce. The other “country” is the Vatican, but you can’t really count the Vatican as though it may well be listed as a country it’s full of celibate priests and only around 800 people in total (yes, that’s right 800). My first wife led a happy life with another man, until she died a few years back. I’ve had 36 years of a happy second marriage with a wife I love. In a 2-kid family held together in love, not suffering in anger and acrimony every day.

Mexico which is 85 percent Catholic allows it. Ireland, 84 percent allows divorce. Colombia which is 75 percent Catholic allows it. The list goes on, all other Catholic countries allow divorce. ONLY the Philippines doesn’t. The Philippines finally joined the rest of the world (Angola and Djibouti are now the only exceptions) when it implemented a 12-year basic education cycle (K to 12). The Philippines is joining the world in its openness to trade and investment. It’s only this one last hold-out where it stands out against the rest of the world.

The Philippine Catholic Church is opposed to divorce on the ground that it is against the will of God. Mark 10:9 of the New International Version states that: “Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.” Which is fine but there’s an important reason divorce should be allowed: The Constitution. The Constitution very clearly, and distinctly separates Church from State. Article ll, Section 6 of the 1987 Constitution states: “The separation of Church and State shall be inviolable.”

As in family planning the Church can dictate to its flock in any way it chooses, but has no right to interfere in the lives of others. And there are about 20 million Filipinos who are not Catholic. Plus, I’ve no doubt very, very many unhappily married Catholics who would welcome the chance for a new life with someone new.

Here we have the totally absurd situation where annulment is allowed but divorce isn’t. What’s the difference? The dictionary defines divorce as “the ending of a marriage by a legal process.” Annulment is defined as “a judicial or ecclesiastical pronouncement declaring a marriage invalid.” The same thing, except the second can also be by the church.  Over 10,000 cases (end-2012 data) have been filed for annulment and presumably most have been granted.

Now if that isn’t divorce by another name I don’t know what is. In other words divorce is permitted in the Philippines already. So it seems the Church is only opposing it for the poor, as the rich can afford the legal process of annulment.

Marriage is a legal process and you register that marriage in government record. The Church may consecrate it (“dedicated to a sacred purpose”) for believers who want it, but that is not a legal requirement, purely a church one.  And you don’t need the Church’s approval to get married, so why should you need it to cancel that marriage. As for Muslims, divorce is allowed under Presidential Decree 1083 (A Decree to ordain and promulgate a code recognizing the system of Filipino Muslim laws, codifying Muslim personal laws, and providing for its administration and for other purposes). However, Protestants or Buddhists or Atheists aren’t allowed. They should have the right to divorce if they wish it.

It is the same argument I used in fighting for the right to use contraceptives: The Catholic Church has no right to dictate to others. I’d even suggest it has no right to dictate at all. I’m sure Christ would not have, he would have persuaded, encouraged even cajoled. But dictate?  You only dictate when you know your cause is weak, that you won’t be able to justify your stand. So you dictate it.

I’ll be brutally frank about this. Those that will oppose divorce on their religious grounds are showing the same religious intolerance ISIS shows to non-Muslims.

The only problem, actually, is how to handle the children. If two adults want to split up, fine. That’s their decision to make, with the church’s guidance (not mandate) if they wish it. But children must be cared for. Is it better for a child to grow up in a household where their two parents hate each other, are continually fighting or in one with a single, loving parent? And anyway in Philippine culture the children would not be guided through early life by one, but by many: Lolos and Lolas, aunts and uncles, and older cousins. It seems to me this is a very stabilizing environment in which to nurture a child. I’d be interested in a child psychologist’s view on this.

I leave lawyers to decide asset splits, the other, possibly contentious issue.

The President has stood up to the Catholic Church once before, aggressively pushing for the enactment of the RH bill and therefore defending the independence of the constitution. I suggest he do so again to leave yet another legacy of change that improves the life of the people. Non- Catholics have every constitutional right to divorce. And I’d suggest so do Catholics whose conscience allows them. God did after all, give each human being the ability to choose how he lives his life.

I believe at the very least that divorce should be, must be under the article of the constitution allowed for non-Catholics. It’s their right.


Source: Philippine Daily Inquirer

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