Legalizing divorce would devastate families, warn Philippines bishops

Ring marriage divorce Credit Unsplash CNA Unsplash.

As the Philippines considers legalizing divorce, the nation's bishops are speaking out against the measure, warning that it would be detrimental to couples and families, especially children.

"In a context in which divorce is presented as an easy option, marriages and families are bound to break up more easily," said Archbishop Romulo Valles of Davao, the president of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines.

"Divorce, while it may indeed provide quick legal remedies for some seemingly 'failed marriages,' might end up destroying even those marriages that could have been saved by dialogues or the intervention of family, friends, pastors and counselors," Archbishop Valles continued.

Valles' words came in a pastoral statement on behalf of the country's bishops, released on March 13.

A strongly Catholic country, the Philippines is one of the only nations where the practice of divorce is not legal, along with Vatican City. The new divorce bill, which was authored by Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman, would change the country's laws against divorce and make the practice legal throughout the nation.

Currently, annulments are allowed within the Philippines, although the process of obtaining one can be time consuming and costly. The country also allows for legal separation, which does not allow an individual to remarry.

The divorce bill was approved by the House of Representatives on Wednesday. It is unclear how it will fare in the Senate.

While the divorce bill is pending, Archbishop Valles urged lawmakers to consider the "social costs" which accompany the "easy recourse to the dissolution of marriage," especially when couples face difficulties in their marriage.

Valles pointed to "progressive countries," such as the United States, where he said 4 out of 10 marriages are ending in divorce. The archbishop urged against taking this same path, noting that every marriage will go through its own set of trials and challenges.  

"Even couples in seemingly successful marriages would often look back and recall the countless challenges that had almost brought their relationship to a breaking point if they had not learned to transcend personal hurts through understanding and forgiveness, or sometimes through the intervention of a dialogue facilitator such as a marriage counselor," the archbishop said.

He also emphasized the "emotional and psychological toll" that divorce imposes on children, warning that should the bill pass, "More children will grow up disoriented and deprived of the care of both parents."

The archbishop's words were echoed by a group of 24 other lay organizations and movements throughout the Philippines, who released a Feb. 21 statement against the divorce bill.

Signatories included the Couples for Christ Global Mission Foundation, Prayer Warriors of the Holy Souls, Alliance for the Family Foundation, and Educhild Foundation.

"Couples who overcome trials in marriage together grow in virtue and happiness," the statement read.

"That is why decent peoples of the world accompany couples and families toward reconciliation and healing."

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