In the matter of divorce, can the state be ‘holier than thou’? | Inquirer Opinion
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In the matter of divorce, can the state be ‘holier than thou’?

/ 04:01 AM September 06, 2021

Allow me to react to Anna Cristina Tuazon’s “Divorce should be an option” (9/1/21). The reasons she advanced for a divorce law in this country are quite solid and sound. The problem has always been the unflappable opposition of the Catholic Church which gave past presidents and lawmakers the willies, given that its followers comprise about 80 percent of our population. It was deemed political suicide for any politician to be associated with such advocacy.

But there is hope. If President Duterte is truly concerned about his legacy, getting a well-crafted divorce law passed during his watch would put him on top of all presidents this country has ever had for his sheer guts and gumption to make the once-thought-of-as-unthinkable happen. The closest we got to a divorce law was the so-called annulment of marriage by reason of “psychological incapacity.” It was no doubt a compromise arising from the formidable resistance put up by the Church. In numerous cases, that window to a relief from matrimonial woes proved to be too tight. For many, it was a big cruel joke.

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As the long-running comedic quip goes: The annulment of a marriage contract is much more expensive than the most lavish ceremonial events occasioned by the signing of one. Yet, in spite of the humongous expenses annulments entail, there is never a guarantee that trial courts will be sympathetic; and that if they do ever grant such annulment, it will be smooth sailing on appeal, where it will then, horror of horrors, pass through “a needle’s eye” to get affirmed. It just seems not worth all the trouble for those whose pockets are not deep enough to keep their hopes high.

The misfortune suffered by a celebrity couple who had been separated in fact for several years and had already lived separate lives with their own respective children comes to mind. They did get their annulment from the trial court all right, only to be reversed on appeal because the bar set by law and prevailing jurisprudence was (and still is) too high. With finality, they have thus been doomed to live the rest of their lives in “sin” since they are Catholics, and their children are stigmatized as bastards.

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The Catholic Church abides by the unbending biblical injunction: “What God has joined together, let no man put asunder.” But first of all, who really is to say that God is responsible for such a union? It almost borders on blasphemy to attribute to God something He may not have anything to do with. Secondly, the Church itself has been setting married couples “asunder” by annulling their unions along the blurry lines ordained by the State: “psychological incapacity” which renders the party concerned incapable of performing his or her marital duties or obligations, blah blah blah. To their credit, Church arbiters are more “innovative,” more “imaginative,” and more lenient! The trouble is, their judgments, standing alone, are useless—not binding on the State.

So, in light of the Church’s less stringent standards for annulling marriages, can the State be “holier than thou”? Here’s the real deal: Since Mr. Duterte himself has shown not much respect for the sensitivities of Catholics and the omniscience of their God whom he once called “stupid,” the conscience that had previous presidents and lawmakers discombobulated whenever the subject of divorce came up should no longer bother, much less deter, him. A divorce law finally signed by President Duterte will be remembered — with appreciation — for many generations to come, never mind his admission that he has bungled practically the rest of his job as president.

George del Mar,
[email protected]

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