FINALLY, THEY’RE discussing divorce again in Congress. And expectedly, Catholic Church leaders are raising hell again in the pulpits.
What sparked the (re)consideration in Congress was Malta, a predominantly Catholic country, voting in a referendum to legalize divorce. That leaves only the Philippines, apart from the Vatican, that still rejects it.
Pia Cayetano wants to go the route of Malta. It’s time, she said, to expand the meaning of annulment, a thing that is allowed in the country. “Call it divorce, call it another animal, (but) there has to be some change because the reality is, (the lack of) it is one of the discriminatory practices we have (against women).
“Luz Ilagan puts it more trenchantly: “Let us not keep our country in the Dark Ages.”
The usual suspects, the same people who believe contraceptives are the devil’s invention, are unfazed. “Let’s not get into the habit of copying what other countries are doing,” says Tito Sotto. “Referendums are merely a political, not a moral exercise,” said Archbishop Ramon Arguelles. “What is right or wrong is not dependent on how many voted for it,” said Archbishop Emeritus Oscar Cruz.
Well, let me put it this way: You find another fellow to be wrong, you deserve a hearing. You find a second fellow to be wrong, you deserve a hearing. You find still a third fellow to be wrong, you still deserve a hearing. You find everybody to be wrong, you deserve dismissing. When you find everybody to be wrong, the problem is not everybody, it is you.
Referendums are political exercises, but they can also be moral ones. In the same way that elections are political exercises but they can also be moral ones. Certainly, someone cheating in them is a moral question. Certainly, someone stealing the vote is a moral question. Someone does that, you invoke God’s wrath upon the cheater. Someone does that, you invoke hellfire upon the thief. Arguelles did not. He said, “Everybody cheats anyway.” That is political. That is immoral.
I agree as well that morality cannot give way to political expediency. But so only if you can defend what is moral on the strength of what is comprehensible, not on the strength of dogma, or “Basta, it is what God wants.” It is the hardest thing in the world talking with someone who thinks his position comes from God. It does not produce a discussion, it produces a dead end. It doesn’t make love, it makes war. That is so whether you are Christian, Muslim, Jew, Hindu, or whatever religion you subscribe to. Fundamentalism and dogmatism are the most destructive things on earth. The road to hell is paved with all the monstrosities fanatics claim God wants.
In the end, that is the most infuriating thing about this, that what is moral is defended only on the basis of some abstract and ex-cathedra principle about God wants and not on the basis of actual, observable, comprehensible human experience.
What is so moral about preventing divorce? Or for that matter what is so moral about banning contraceptives? All it does is spawn hypocrisy, quite apart from unwanted children, and if that is not the most immoral thing in the world, then I don’t know what is.
In the case of RH, I’m perfectly willing to bet my life that if many of those opposing it really practiced what they preach, they would be in big trouble right now. Marital fidelity in this country being virtually nonexistent among the rich and powerful, particularly among public officials, appointive or elective, they’d have a horde of illegitimate children running around if they truly eschewed contraceptives. They would either be already dead right now from their spouses’ wrath or turned into the walking wounded from having had their offending organs lopped off.
Just as well, in the case of divorce, or the lack of it, all it does is to legitimize keeping mistresses or lovers, the mistresses to have additional children with and the lovers to go for emergency purposes to but to avoid being seen with or leave any evidence behind with. Quite apart from that, all it does is force couples who have become positively homicidal toward one another, or where the husband routinely beats up the wife when he comes home drunk, to keep together.
The justification for it is that “what God has put together, let no man put asunder.” But what lunatic can possibly imagine God to have had a hand in putting all of this together? Half the time, what put it together was just plain libog, the Church also officially frowning on premarital sex (but tolerating priestly one), and driving the youth to go to the whorehouse for the initiation (a veritable and venerable cultural tradition) and to get into marriage for more of heaven. Only to find—or give—hell.
Far more formidably, there’s the utter hypocrisy of annulment being permitted while divorce is not. The hypocrisy does not just lie in separation being made available only to the rich—it costs a veritable fortune—it lies in the nature of the annulment itself.
To have your marriage annulled, you have to lie through your teeth. Annulment is premised on the idea that the marriage was never consummated physically or psychologically. The psychological part being that one of the couple was an out-and-out bastard from the start and never gave the marriage a chance to work. A couple seeking annulment may not say that they loved each other once but the love turned to hate, or even less but that that they grew apart in time. That is not permissible. So they have to invent the most atrocious things about each other, which they can only hope their children, like everybody else including the judge, will just take with a grain of salt. A couple may not separate except under conditions of strife and spite. And deceit. Lots and lots of deceit.
That’s what God wants?
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