No More Divorce?
By Teodoro M. Locsin
“ABSOLUTELY AGAINST LIBERALIZATION PRESENT DIVORCE LAW.”
“VIGOROUSLY OPPOSE LIBERALIZATION OF DIVORCE LAW.”
“WE URGE ABOLITION OF DIVORCE DISHONORS GOD DESTROYS FAMILY NATION.”
April 9, 1949—BECAUSE of a flood of such telegrams, and letters and petitions from Catholics all over the Philippines, Nacionalista and Liberal members of the House of Representatives decided in caucus last week, not only to vote against the proposed “liberalization” of the present Divorce Act, but to abolish absolute divorce.
Henceforth, only legal separation would be authorized, on the ground of adultery on the part of the wife, concubinage on the part of the husband. Re-marriage would be impossible. That is, if the bill sponsored by Congressman Lorenzo Sumulong of Rizal is passed, as it is expected to be passed, by the House, and if the Senate should act favorably on the measure and the President does not veto it.
One congressman was quoted thus, by the Evening News Saturday Magazine:
“I have daughters. For their sake, I’d like to liberalize the Divorce Law. I don’t intend to divorce my wife, but I would give my daughters a chance to mend their lives if they should happen to marry impossible husbands. I believe Catholics should exercise strict discipline among their flock instead of imposing their religious prejudice on other people, who are non-Catholics. It’s on the same principle of human rights that we would object if Mohammedans, whose religion forbids the eating of pork, should try to influence legislation so Catholics, like Mohammedans, would be prevented from eating pork. There such things as minority rights. Granted that Catholics are preponderant in this country, it should not mean that their religious prejudices should be visited on non-Catholics, or that non-Catholics should be bound by the limitations inherently religious, rather than civil, of Catholics. If Catholics don’t want divorce, let them restrain themselves, within the church, but not within the law. But don’t quote me,” laughed the congressman, “I want to get reelected.”
The congressman had good cause to fear electoral defeat if he should be identified with those who favor liberalization of the Divorce Law. “Catholic bishops,” reports the Manila Times, “from all over the country broadly hinted in their urgent wires that unless their pleas were heeded, reelectionists would encounter their Nemesis in November. The prelates also stated that they had no objection to passage of the proposed code provided its divorce provisions were eliminated, inferentially consenting to [the continuance of] the present law on absolute divorce.”
But the congressmen, Nacionalistas as well as Liberals, decided to outdo the bishops, to be more Popish than the Pope, to impose the Catholic religion, at least in the matter of divorce, on all Filipinos, Catholics and non-Catholics, and agreed not only not to liberalize the Divorce Law but to abolish absolute divorce. These members of Congress decided to sacrifice the rights of a substantial minority, the non-Catholic population of the country, on the altar of reelection.
Non-Catholics believe that divorce should be granted on certain grounds, such as, for instance, adultery on the part of the wife, concubinage on the part of the husband. Non-Catholics believe that after the marriage tie has been cut, the former spouses are free to remarry. But the Catholic Church holds that while there may be separation of the spouses, remarriage is not to be allowed. To remarry, while the other spouse, no matter how erring, is still alive, would be a heinous, a mortal sin.
So that non-Catholics as well as Catholics may not commit that “mortal” sin, members of Congress have decided to make the commission of the “sin” impossible by making remarriage legally impossible, a crime: bigamy.
Under the present law, a man may secure a divorce from his wife only after sending her to prison for adultery. He must send her to prison; he must feel no pity, grant no mercy, if he is to be free of her, and free to marry again. In the case of the woman, she must send her husband to prison for concubinage if she would be free to remarry.
Under the proposed law, abolishing absolute divorce, a man must not only be without pity and send his adulterous wife to prison if he would be rid of her and be able to remarry. He must harden his heart, plot and plan; lay a trap for his wife, catch her in the act of adultery and shoot her to death. He must kill.
If the husband of an adulterous woman hesitates to kill, then he must condemn himself to a life of perfect celibacy for the next 20, 30, 40 years. He must suppress all natural desires, he must be perfectly chaste. He is expected to be, under the proposed law abolishing absolute divorce. For the alternative would be to get himself a querida, which it is certain neither the Catholic Church nor our congressmen would countenance, or to take his faithless wife to himself again, to be, in short, as the Spaniards put it, a pendejo consentido.
It was St. Paul who said, “Better to marry than to burn.” Under the proposed law abolishing absolute divorce, a man who is the husband of an unfaithful woman must kill, or remain a cuckold.
Those who would abolish absolute divorce argue that the rights of a minority, that is, in this case, of the non-Catholic population of the country, may be overridden in the interest of the welfare of the state. In a time of revolutionary change, of political disorder and economic chaos, a state that would endure must be built on solid rock. That solid rock is the family; only on such a rock may a nation stand firmly and unafraid, etc.
Family relations must be strengthened and reinforced; the family must be placed beyond danger of dissolution. “Whom God hath joined together, let no man put asunder.” The words vary, the sentiment is the same. The family, at all cost, must be saved. The law must see to it that the family is not, for whatever reason, broken up.
But, it is enough to point out, when a wife becomes adulterous, or making of her marriage vows a joke, or when a man takes a mistress and openly lives with her and keeps her under circumstances “scandalous,” the family may continue to exist, but in name only. Its foundations are gone, it is an empty temple, a mockery and a sham. Nothing remains of the ties that had once bound a man and a woman together. There is only a festering sore.
The plain and true reason, of course, for the bill abolishing absolute divorce is no great concern on the part of the congressmen to save the Filipino family form rack and ruin. The purpose of the bill is political—reelection. The congressmen think that by giving the Catholic bishops, priests and laymen what they want, the non-liberalization of the Divorce Law, and more than they has asked for, the abolition of absolute divorce, they (the congressmen) have assured their reelection. That’s the only reason why they would abolish absolute divorce, and they will admit it, if they be honest. If they be honest!
As it is, these members of Congress have placed the Catholic Church in a dubious position. Catholics are always ready to cry out and complain when their rights as Catholics are trampled upon, when others would impose upon them a non-Catholic way of life. Now congressmen are making it appear that Catholics, when they are in the majority, have no compunction in imposing their way of life on non-Catholics. That Catholics are for freedom and tolerance—only when it suits them.
As a matter of fact, the Catholic Church need not fear that the present law permitting absolute divorce, or even a liberalization of it, would send true Catholics on a divorce spree. Remarriage, while the other spouse is still alive, is, the church teaches, a mortal sin, and, on this score alone, the sinner faces the threat of eternal punishment. That should be enough to keep any husband in the straight and narrow path.
If, despite threat of hell, a Catholic insists on getting a divorce and remarrying, why, he is no Catholic. And if he is not afraid of hell, no mere legal prohibition against remarriage will prevent him from leaving his wife for another woman, and breaking up the family. As a matter of fact, the proposed abolition of absolute divorce, ostensibly to buttress the Filipino family, allows legal separation of the spouses, which means the breakup of the family.