Elpidio V. Peria
10 April 2016


from :

Pope Francis recently came up with an exhortation to Roman Catholics worldwide on family life in a document entitled “Amoris Laetitia”, which is Latin for “The Joy of Love” and Filipinos who are suffering from unhappy marriages may find in it  some comfort  and get a measure of qualified support for separation or divorce from their spouses.

In the Philippines, which has no divorce law, what is in place is a process for declaring nullity of marriages by way of art. 36 of the Family Code on psychological incapacity which is tedious, expensive and uncertain.

Broad-minded and progressive politicians running for Senators or Congressional office might be inclined to pick up from where this Papal exhortation may point to and that is to file a bill that puts into operation the principles laid down in “Amoris Laetitia” when the divorce of spouses, given clear reasons, has to happen.

But first, a description of the document – it contains 325 paragraphs in 255 pages and the rest of the 264 page document consists of some prayers and an index of its contents which is divided into 9 chapters.

Married, newly-married, about-to-get-married couples and those in what the document calls are in “irregular situations” (people who have contracted a civil marriage, who are divorced and remarried, or simply living together), and single parents, including the youth, among others, are well-advised to read these exhortations which perhaps even non-Catholics, even if they may not be familiar with the Biblical citations and other Papal references, would really find uplifting and supporting, especially if they have some questions on how they will carry on their obligations as married couples and as parents and even as dutiful and loving children.

For those who are in what is called by Pope Francis as “difficult marriages”, he gives this advise in paragraphs 137 to 141 of the document and part of it reads :

     Take time, quality time. This means being ready to listen patiently and attentively to everything the other person wants to say. It requires the self-discipline of not speaking until the time is right. Instead of offering an opinion or advice, we need to be sure that we have heard everything the other person has to say. This means cultivating an interior silence that makes it possible to listen to the other person without mental or emotional distractions. Do not be rushed, put aside all of your own needs and worries, and make space.

What is also worth reading are the well-known passages on love from St. Paul (“love is patient, love is kind…) starting from para. 90 onwards of Chapter 4 and here, those key passages were each taken up, one by one by Pope Francis and he turned each one of these passages into instruction manuals as to how those specific passages are to be carried out.

Let’s now go to the Papal advise on “separation as a last resort” in para. 241, which contains some key principles that may be translated into a legislative measure containing principles or grounds for the grant of divorce, which we have placed in bold fonts, for emphasis :

In some cases, respect for one’s own dignity and the good of the children requires not giving in to excessive demands or preventing a grave injustice, violence or chronic ill-treatment. In such cases, “separation becomes inevitable. At times it even becomes morally necessary, precisely when it is a matter of removing the more vulnerable spouse or young children from serious injury due to abuse and violence, from humiliation and exploitation, and from disregard and indifference”. Even so, “separation must be considered as a last resort, after all other reasonable attempts at reconciliation have proved vain.

We should be mindful of what the Pope is saying here, that this is a LAST RESORT measure, but at least reading it from the Pope’s words himself, the stigma of the concept of divorce is at last removed, for all Catholics in the Philippines especially, to consider.

In fact the document also gives instructions to Parish Priests in para. 242 to set up specialized counseling centers in dioceses to help these particular couples find ways to resolve their differences, if it still is possible, and Catholics are exhorted to avail of these centers in their parishes.

For those who wish to take the litigation route to dissolve their marriages, it will now be up to them to incorporate these ecclesiastical concepts in their pleadings, on some of which the Philippine legal principle of psychological incapacity is based, to try their luck and see if, the Philippine Supreme Court, led by a declared openly-devout Chief Justice, might well consider, to at least broaden the existing interpretation of existing rules on how marriages may be dissolved in the Philippines.

A more effective approach still lie in the new incoming Congress that will be formed out of the 9 May 2016 elections. Perhaps the legislators who may be elected by that time would hopefully be open-minded and progressive enough to take their cue from Pope Francis and finally pass a law to update the archaic notions of divorce and legal separation in the Philippines.


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