Monday ∗ 06 Apr 2015

Against divorce #WomensMonth2015*

One can’t believe it sometimes, the way the patriarchy is so pervasive in this country, the way men get away with being pa-cute and being pa-witty when asked about something they can’t quite wrap their heads around.

And no, I’m not talking about the every man on the street. I’m talking Senators of the land, making a joke out of the question of divorce.

Welcome to the Philippines. Where it doesn’t matter that the latest SWS Survey on Divorce reveals that 60% of Filipinos are actually now for it. (, 23 Mar)

Where when asked if they are for divorce, our male Senators have different versions of the same answer: No, because my wife will get mad at me.

Yes, these are our Senators, ladies and gentlemen. The men we’ve elected into office. I’m looking at you, Bongbong Marcos, Serge Osmeña, and Tito Sotto. And I’m demanding that you stop joking about my freedom(s).

Belittling Catholics
Ah but the Senators have it easy, they’ve got the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines06 (CBCP) on their side.

That is, of course, no surprise.  The Pinoy Church has consistently been against divorce, no matter that annulment and legal separation already exist in the country. “Why would one want divorce if legal separation, annulment and declarations of nullity are juridical options already available?” asked CBCP President Socrates Villegas. “Divorce allows an already married person to have another go at it, despite failing at the first.” (CBCP Website, 25 Mar)

But that is also already what legal separation and annulment allow, yes? Except that these two options allow it only for those who are wealthy enough to afford it. That is, only the rich are allowed the freedom to have another go at falling in love and finding a partner, only the rich are given the right to their freedom and independence.

Oh but the CBCP President ain’t finished defending their stand against divorce. “Marriage is and ought to be a work in progress. When the expedient of divorce is readily available, a couple will be less likely to work on differences, dialogue and reasonably work out solutions because there is a quick fix to incompatibilities.”

And so it becomes clear that it is the ease with which marriages can be nullified, the ease with which separations might be made legal, that worries the Pinoy Church. It is because they don’t trust that the Catholics they are marrying are actually mature enough to work on their marriages and survive its difficulties. It’s because they imagine that it will make Catholics think: let me just marry this person, since if it doesn’t work out I can always divorce her.

That is how little they think of Catholics apparently. It’s how badly they’ve taught their own flock about marriage and relationships.

Whose fault is that?

Responding to modernity
When in fact the other option is to make sure that you’re educating your flock better, that you’re shaping them into mature individuals who will not take marriage lightly. If you’re not doing that as a Church, then you don’t have divorce – or annulment, or legal separation – to blame for the rising number of failed marriages.

Because a Pinoy Church that’s doing it’s job would have nothing to fear in having divorce in the country. In fact the Pinoy Church would cease worrying about modernity – from Lady Gaga to One Direction, the internet to divorce – if they were doing their job well, and actually engaging the changing times instead of fighting a losing battle.

Of course, the first step has to be admitting that the battle has been lost. That instead of bringing more Catholics into the Church, they have disenfranchised so many who have found refuge in Christian groups and other denominations. Many others label themselves “non-practicing Catholics.” A majority will declare that they have their own relationship with God, and that he is in fact more forgiving than the Pinoy Church as we know it.

Millions came out for Pope Francis in January. That is because he operates on kindness and compassion, he is not one to question the way we run our lives, as he does implore us to be better human beings. He does not imagine us stupid or immature.

Meanwhile, in the Philippines, CBCP President Villegas talks about marriage in the worst terms possible. “While one can reasonably test-drive a car and replace it with a better one should the test-drive prove unsatisfactory, it is plainly dehumanizing to both spouses to allow for a test-run, through a first marriage, and then grant the possibility of a replacement of spouses should the test fail.”

Only someone who has not been in a committed relationship with another human being would imagine talking about love and marriage to be a matter of test-driving cars.

Worse, there is a lack of grounding in reality – both of cars and marriages. Because we all know that sometimes cars break down, sometimes we get a lemon. Sometimes cars get us into accidents, and sometimes cars can maim us and kill us.

The goal then has to be to get out of that car, to save your life and your husband’s, as well as your children’s. The goal is to get into separate cars if it means becoming better parents and human beings, because you have admitted your mistake, and are ready to move on from it.

Thank heavens for Pia
See, with a CBCP that thinks like this, it’s no wonder that those three male Senators can joke about divorce and their wives, like it doesn’t mean anything at all to the 60% of Filipinos who agree that divorce should be made legal.

One can only be thankful that there is one Pia Cayetano, Senator of the land, who has taken a stand against the absurd presumption that we should take pride in being the only country in the world without divorce.

“I am of the belief that there is nothing to be proud about (the fact) we are the only country in the world that still doesn’t have divorce, that we are self-suffering, that we allow women, or men, for that matter, to stay in horrible relationships and possibly not even be good parents to their children, simply because our laws does not recognize they should live separate lives.” (Interaksyon, 25 Mar)

She asks: “The survey shows that the Filipinos are ready. The question is, are the Congress’ men and women ready to have the debate and to make a decision on it?” (GMA Network, 24 Mar)

Senator Cayetano is such a bright light in the midst of a Senate that is in crisis, becoming less and less credible as we speak.

Having Tito, Serge, and Bongbong joking about divorce does not help at all.

*This was previously published in two parts in The Manila Times, 29 March and 31 March 2015.

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