The divorce bill

THE DIVORCE BILL I. Introduction of Divorce Bill With Malta’s recantation of its long-held Catholic views on marriage, all eyes now turn to the Philippines as the last nation, apart from the Vatican, that disallows divorce. At the onset, the institution of divorce to the Philippines appears to be a simple issue of whether or not it is now opportune for it to finally be introduced as an additional remedy to the dissolution of an intolerable union between a husband and wife. With legal separation unable to grant freedom to remarry and with annulment being viewed as anti-poor, being both too time-consuming and too expensive to procure, proponents of the bill perceive divorce as a timely option that guarantees the full respect of human rights, particularly those of women and children who have endured inequalities, abuses and violence in marriage as well as a means of helping victims of failed and irreparable marriages to eventually find peace and self-fulfilment. Prevalent arguments of the opponents of the bill, however, revolve around the moral, spiritual and social grounds — citing divorce as a mechanism that would ultimately weaken personal values on the institution of marriage and that would usher in a society of men and women oriented to the freedom of conditional marriage. Opponents of the bill infer that, with divorce being presented as a liberating instrument to intolerable unions, such presentation, in effect, would be culpable to the formation of an entire society of individuals who view marriage as a loss of freedom, and so, would find marriage as either a temporary union that can be dissolved the moment either party is unhappy or as a non-essential in society that can be replaced by such unions as cohabitation. Conversely, upon further examination, the issue of whether or not divorce should now be introduced to Philippine society is not as clear-cut as many proponents and opponents of the bill have made us to believe. The following are elements imperative to the consideration of whether or not it is indeed time to institute divorce in our society: The Right Perspective In as much as marriage is not as simple as the legal union between two individuals, divorce too, is not as unelaborate as the termination of a lawful union. In the issue of whether or not divorce ought to be introduced to our society, perspective plays a crucial role in the evaluation of the validity of the proposed bill. Hence, it is absurd to even ask whether or not the safety and well-being of emotionally and physically battered women and children carry weight because they most assuredly do. In the same vein, it would also be pointless to debate whether the moral, spiritual and social implications of divorce are significant because they very indisputably are. What we must consider is this: are we asking the right questions? Since both proponents and opponents of the bill raise compelling arguments, what we ought to be asking are not about the validity of their arguments but the weight, scope and implication of those same arguments. Which is a heavier burden for society to carry: failed marriages or a changed orientation about the nature of marriage? Which has bigger ramifications to present and future unions: the great good that the second chance given to victims of disastrous marriages brings or the immense wrong it does to the very perception, conditioning and orientation of marriage as an institution? Which has greater implications: the moral and spiritual difficulties that troubled marriages bring or the moral and spiritual complications that the introduction of divorce brings? The Separations Involved Contrary to how society has been conditioned to believe, divorce does not begin and end with the severing of legal ties between husband and wife but so much more; it involves: – Emotional separation — divorce necessitates an abandoning of an individual’s feelings about the marriage — disenchantment, disappointment, dissatisfaction, bitterness and anger, among others, for the former spouses and feelings of rejection, confusion, fear, anger and dejection, among others, for the children. – Co-parental separation — even while contending with post-marital conflicts as well as economic and time restructuring, divorce demands that parents still share legal and physical custody of children despite the dissolution of the marriage. – Economic separation — more so for the less-earning or non-earning spouse, it is imperative to acquire new financial skills which include but are not limited to gaining employment and skills in reallocating funds and assets. – Community separation — the same support, comfort and warmth from shared family, friends and acquaintances in the community, at work and at church should no longer be expected. – Legal separation — professional mediation may be necessary in the resolution of such issues as reputation, privacy, division of assets and custody raised in the legal proceedings — especially in the part of the innocent or less capable party. Divorce as the Solution It is a reality that not all marriages succeed as a permanent union. Many women, despite unspeakable emotional and physical abuse, cling to their marriage due to economic dependence as well as fear of social stigma for themselves and for their children. It is mainly to address these marriages that divorce has been advocated. Is divorce the solution? Or will the introduction of divorce create more problems than it solves? The inherent complexity of marriage requires serious preparation. Maturity in terms of financial skills, communication, psychological readiness and emotional stability are just a few of the basics of what must be acquired prior to the act of marriage. Ironically, more primitive societies’ conditioning and preparation in these areas begin early in life, thus they suffer only isolated instances of abuse within marriage. With our present society being more preoccupied with preparation for material and intellectual fulfilment, preparation in these same key areas have taken the backseat. And with it, a steady rise in the breakdown of marriage. As it is, even without understanding all the preparations necessary prior to marriage, the absence of divorce naturally provides pause to those who are considering entering matrimony. With the institution of divorce, such constraints would automatically be removed, thus ushering in a society with a new attitude towards marriage: pre-wedding, that marriage need not be approached with too much caution and post-wedding, that too much adjustment to individual differences need not be exerted since, at the back of each person’s mind is this: it can be dissolved. Divorce, then, instead of becoming a liberating instrument, metamorphoses into an illusory tool teaching that freedom is the state of always having all options available when the actualization of freedom entails growth which, in turn, can only be realized through total commitment to a definitive choice. Christian Views on Marriage Nowhere in the Bible is remarriage by reason of divorce legitimized except only after the death of a spouse. Acknowledging the reality that the disbanding of a marriage, in certain circumstances, is inevitable [even necessary], provisions for divorce found in the Bible only discuss when separation is permissible. In contrast, emphasis on the sanctity of marriage and the so-called one-flesh relationship is underscored numerous times in both the Old Testament and the New Testament. Such emphasis is best embodied in the following verses: – Genesis 2: 24: For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh. – Mark 10: 6-9: 6 But from the beginning of creation, God made them male and female. 7 For this cause a man shall leave his father and mother, 8 and the two shall become one flesh; consequently they are no longer two, but one flesh. 9 What therefore God has joined together, let no man separate. – 1 Corinthians 7: 10-11: To the married I give charge, not I but the Lord, that the wife should not separate from her husband 11 (but if she does, let her remain single or else be reconciled to her husband)– and that the husband should not divorce his wife. – 1 Corinthians 7: 39: A wife is bound to her husband as long as he lives. If the husband dies, she is free to be married to whom she wishes, only in the Lord. The Crux of the Matter The above elements underline the reality that divorce as the solution to marital abuse is merely a liberating illusion. Far from relieving suffering brought about by tragic marriages, its very nature creates further possible suffering in that it does not assure that any resulting subsequent marriage will be a happy and permanent one. Having weakened the very structure of marriage, the establishment of divorce creates more problems than it solves since the elements that essentially contributed to the breakdown of the marriage such as immaturity in terms of financial skills, communication, psychological readiness and emotional stability were most likely not really addressed but merely recognised long enough for the present marriage to be dissolved. Furthermore, it also causes separations that go beyond legal dissolution to occur which damages the emotional, economic and psychological well-being of not just the spouses but the children, the community and the society as a whole. In the end, even while acknowledging the abhorrent condition of the marriages that prompted the endorsement of the divorce bill, the Jesus Is Lord Church, after considering the weight, scope and ramifications of the arguments both in favor of and in opposition to the bill, upholds that the preservation of the nature, sanctity and structure of marriage as an institution far outweighs the supposed advantages of divorce. As it is, we see that a three-fold solution to problematic marriages may be considered: (1) prevention in terms of strengthening the preparation process prior to marriage, (2) relief in terms of a revisiting of the provisions and implementing guidelines that make up annulment and legal separation and (3) support in terms of addressing the physical, emotional, economic, social and spiritual needs of those who are victims of intolerable marriages [particularly women and children]. To close, we can turn to the following Latin adageas a handbook to the solution of the divorce dilemma —Si vis pacem, para bellum [If you wish for peace, prepare for war — peace through strength]. A strong society is less likely to be attacked by enemies, that is, a society with a strong institution of marriage is less likely to suffer from tragic marriages. We have to prepare to battle for the preservation of the nature, sanctity and structure of marriage for there to be peace in our marriages.