Catholic leaders warn Philippine divorce bill lacks sufficient debate

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Catholic leaders in the Philippines have voiced concern that a bill aiming to legalize divorce is progressing without significant debate.

"I was expecting exhaustive deliberations and discussions would be conducted on the measure," said Father Jerome Secillano, executive secretary for public affairs at the Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines.

"I was surprised at the speed at which the committee accepted the bill," he said, according to UCA News.

The House Committee on Population and Family Relations approved House bills 100, 838 and 2263 on Feb. 5. The bills, which would allow for divorce in the country, will be consolidated before receiving a full vote in the House.

A similar effort to legalize divorce in the previous Congressional session passed the House but failed in the Senate.

The Philippines is the only country in the world beside Vatican City where divorce is not legal, CNN reports. More than 80% of the population in the Philippines is Catholic.

Father Melvin Castro, spiritual director of the Pro-Life Philippines group, also objected to the lack of discussion surrounding the bill.

"With the sensitivity of the issue and the magnitude of its effects, Congress should allow open, honest and exhaustive discussion and debate on the issue of divorce," he said, according to UCA News.

Bishop Arturo Bastes of Sorsogon has said he hopes the bill would not pass Congress, because it will create additional problems for families.

The Council of the Laity of the Philippines has also opposed the measure.

Rouquel Ponte, president of the council, warned that the experience of other countries shows that the legalization of divorce leads to the weakening of families.

The Council of the Laity has cautioned against the divorce bill, warning in a statement reported by UCA News that divorce introduces disorder into society, and "brings grave harm to the deserted spouse, to children traumatized by the separation of their parents and often torn between them."

Rather than legalizing divorce, Ponte said, society should accompany those in difficult marriage situations, offering them support and resources.

He encouraged pro-family organization in the country to reach out to those suffering in their marriages, according to CBCP News, the media outlet of the bishops' conference.

These efforts, he said, should focus on "education, formation and accompaniment of this generation, along with the values of life-long commitment and steadfast love."

Stressing that marriage is a gift, Ponte called on the Philippines to "forever stand as a beacon of hope for the family and society."

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