House Bill 6027 proposes to make legal the dissolution of marriage on two grounds: irreconcilable differences and chronic unhappiness.
Before we entertain the dissolution proposition it is imperative to examine the institution of marriage itself, and how it is viewed in the predominantly Catholic Philippine society.
Catholics and Christians in general reject the idea of dissolution of marriage or divorce. This is because Christian doctrine asserts that marriage is a Divine Institution that God himself gave to man as a gift after God created man and made him in His own image. Jesus Christ himself elevated marriage to the dignity of a sacrament.
Thus to a Catholic Christian, marriage is a covenant- a special contract between two baptized persons, a male and a female, where the terms of the contract do not simply involve exchange of services or goods, but the exchange of the persons executing the contract themselves.The contract is in effect as long as both are alive, and is terminated only by the death of one of the parties.
Catholics believe that a Catholic marriage is valid and sacramental at the same time when all the requirements are fulfilled.
We turn to the principles and beliefs that the generosity of the Church has handed down to us through the Holy Fathers. The true understanding of the nature of marriage should lead us to judge how we should approach the proposed bill.
First the nature of marriage is human. Meaning it is an institution that requires the parties involved to be fully aware of their dignity as persons, their intellectual capacity (to know fully) and the exercise of their will (to choose freely).
Second, marriage is total in nature. It is total in the sense that as a special contract, the commitment to be fulfilled is a total gift of self. Not less than 100% as in a compromise, unconditional and surely not limited for a fixed period of time. This totality implies that each party gets the whole being of the other: the good and the bad, the good health and sickness, the weakness and strength. Each compliments one another in fulfilling what the other lack.
Third, marriage is faithful. It is presumed that the contract is exclusive to the persons involved and cannot be replicated with other persons. It is clothed with fidelity that God requires of His children.
Finally, marriage is fruitful or open to life. Marriage is established both for the good of the spouses as well as to beget children and provide them with sound Christian education. Marriage is the means by which human race will survive.
The couple is assured that this contract is not just between themselves, but between themselves and God, a tripartite covenant as it were. God will accompany them throughout their marriage. The Church has the authority and responsibility to ensure that persons asking to enter into this special contract have full knowledge and acceptance of these concepts as the nature of the contract they are binding themselves to.
Presuming that the couple embrace all four characteristics of the covenant, and satisfy other requirements for the parties involved, the Church designates an authorized representative: a bishop, priest or deacon, to witness the exchange of vows. Thus not only a valid marriage but a sacramental marriage takes place. A sacramental marriage cannot be dissolved.
However, there may be reason, after the marriage ceremony, to conclude that a mistake was made at the start of the marriage which made the marriage invalid and not sacramental. In cases like this, after thorough presentation of evidence and investigation, the church will declare a nullity of the marriage. An annulment has a different nature from a dissolution or a divorce. A marriage that is valid and sacramental does not become null and void for reason of irreconcilable differences or chronic unhappiness.
Irreconcilable differences in its most profound meaning points to the incapacity of one or both of the parties in marriage to listen to and know the other. It is the absence of hospitability of the heart to allow the other person to grasp the presence of the other and adjust, adapt and accept his or her very person.
Chronic unhappiness is a malady of a selfish world where each person gets his/ her own way with utter disregard to the good of others. The pursuit of individual happiness and self satisfaction in this modern society has led to an ideology of each man to himself and the survival of the fittest.
There are means to reconcile differences and modify behavior and attitudes of persons. The church has established ministries and collaborated with medical and social development institutions to assist couples and individuals to accompany them through the process of therapy and healing.
Chronic unhappiness may be presenting signs of various forms of psychological or emotional distress or some form of disorder. There are medical and psychiatric remedies to such conditions that help the unhappy person deal with their reality. Being sick or disordered does not mean the marriage is defective. There is no need to assign blame to either party.
Marriage has a huge impact on our civilization whether it be good or bad. Thus there is a grave responsibility for every sacramental couple to work at their marriage and make their marriage a positive influence in the community. Every married couple has an accountability to others to model a good marriage, and prevent a bad image of marriage.
A law to justify the dissolution of valid marriages is a danger to society because it provides a quick and convenient way out from a situation that was created by human vice and irresponsibility. When human weakness occurs in a marital covenant, the logical solution is to strengthen the person and help him/ her to achieve the best version of him/herself. That is God’s design for the marriage: for the couple to walk together in the path of holiness that often requires sacrifice and selfless giving in order to experience God’s presence in their lives.
When a quick fix legal recourse is presented as available to persons experiencing difficulties with themselves and their relationship, they will fail to address the root of their conflicts and unhappiness. Making a mistake like that will only create for them a never-ending spiral of self-obsession and selfish flight from their fears, and will not allow them to grow to the fullness of being that they deserve.
Say NO to House Bill 6027 and similar proposals that will destroy marriage and family. Say YES to unity in marriage and fullness of life.