Divorce

So I finally got to jotting down what I felt/feel about the whole issue on a possible “divorce law” – given of course I had just watched another show which was discussing it. And that my opinion is based solely on a very limited understanding on the scope of the matter.

In any case, the intro that triggered the post went something like this.

“Now that we have the RH law, it’s high time that we discuss divorce.”

It’s interesting because I used to be apathetic towards this particular issue. And I guess I still am, emotionally speaking. My Mom is happily re-married (I’m not even sure if she had a divorce or annulment), and I don’t believe I’ve had any uneasy feelings about the whole thing. So I’m inclined to think that for me, as long as a person’s happy, then they can do whatever the hell they want.

But as a “logical exercise” 1 Which is funny, since I just came from a debate where my logical “competence” was condescended upon hehehehe I just can’t get on board with the the point of the “divorce bill” (and possibly the concept in and of itself) and I’ll tell you why.

Qualifications

First let’s qualify what divorce is. By definition, it’s the dissolution of a union while acknowledging of its existence. This is obviously different from an annulment, where the union is nullified – therefore considered never to have taken place.

So in short, if I marry, then get divorced, then marry again – I would have married TWICE. If I get an annulment instead, my second wedding would still be considered my first and only wedding.

At this point, I will also admit that I’m not familiar with the different “ways” one could get separated in the Philippine context. But up to this point, there seems to be, at least in our country, no divorce, and 2 types of annulment: legal/civil and church… and yet another called “legal separation.” Now I’m not sure if “legal separation” and “civil annulment” are one and the same thing – but in case they aren’t (and in case there are other nuanced types of separation that haven’t yet been mentioned here),_ I don’t think its likely to change my stance – considering the angle I’m approaching it with.

Second, lets assume and, more importantly, admit that the true value of a divorce is that it’s a practical solution. In short, the appeal is in how easier it is to obtain (as long as both are willing to end it), and how encompassing it can be. If you were annulled instead of divorced, technically you aren’t legally entitled to claim alimony or spousal maintenance – precisely because you weren’t married in the first place. But when divorced, spousal maintenance can be mandated by law – even when you’re already married to another person.

Separataion of Church and State

Clever as the section title is, it’s not nearly what I’m trying to say. Here I simply mean to emphasise that in order to proceed, we must first accept that there are two very different ways of “getting married” (and separated) depending on which type of union you choose. Specifically civil/legal, or church.

A Church wedding is what everyone in the Philippine culture is used to seeing – it’s the sacrament of matrimony. And by virtue of being a sacrament, it adheres to different values/conditions than a civil wedding.

A civil wedding, I guess, does stipulate (lifted?) a lot of concepts from the sacrament by default (that you should be in love, etc. etc.) but what it really covers is the legal implications of a union: If the state will acknowledge you as a married person, what surname you’re (the woman) going to use after the change in marital status, how your taxes will be affected – stuff like that.

As far as I know (based solely on observation) the “legal” aspect is already integrated when you do the whole “church wedding package” (I think it’s that part where the couple signs some documents with the priest, etc.) – and you can certainly have a church wedding after a civil union (assuming you’re marrying the same person). What I do not know is if it’s possible to have a church wedding exclusively – and not be tied legally. Either way, I don’t think that’s really a concern at this point.

Stance

I don’t think a divorce bill is necessary – or at least I don’t think it’s the answer to the problem. Because the reason people are simply asking for it is to make separation easier. And even if I were to get on board with it, I think that it should only applicable on the legal/civil level. It should in no way affect Church marriages (should the couple be joined by the sacrament)

So again, when people ask me if I’m ok with divorce, technically I am, I mean I’m all for practicality – and when we’re talking legal stuff, I don’t think it should be any issue to have two consenting adults to call it quits. But sacramentally, I don’t think it should be a matter of practicality – and that’s funny coming from a non-religous person like me.

If you would consider the vows you give during the sacrament, you’re practically promising that whatever happens, your love will (or should) endure. In sickness and in health… till death do you part. The way those vows are phrased, simple as they may be, are pretty much iron-clad reasoning. So much so that even the provisions given by annulment, technically shouldn’t apply (i.e. if you made a mistake, tough luck) – but I think the Church recognising grounds for annulment is more than enough that any couple (who partook of the sacrament) deserves. Promising (under God no less) that you will love a person, and work on your relationship no matter what already covers pretty much every “bad thing” that you can possibly muster. So I’d say that those unfortunate enough to get into a sacramental marriage are lucky they even have the option of annulment.

Why Should the Sacrament be More Special?

Ah, here’s the part I like arguing the most. For me, marriage [at least as a sacrament] is a construct/concept exclusive to religion(s). Hell, I will dare say that the construct of marriage (both legal and sacramental) in and of itself is ultimately fabricated. Therefore the rules that govern their “eligibility” is subject to whatever system that has put it in place – and are under no obligation to be changed out of “preference.” So if the state says to be married you need to be married to a donkey, then by jove you must only marry a donkey to get those tax breaks! And if the Church says that only a man and woman can partake of the sacrament matrimony, then gay marriage, as far as the sacrament goes, is out of the question. No ifs, no buts.

But the state, and its government, by nature adheres to the will of the people – so you can see why a secularistic approach is needed in crafting marriage policy – and that can change through time depending on what society deems is best. And now you see why I have no issues with divorce if it stays in the side of the state.

Such is not the case for religion and the sacrament of matrimony. Now, it’s the will of God you’ll have to follow if you want to get in on the sacrament.

Hypocrisy or Conviction?

Why is it that I could fight for Reproductive Health despite the Church’s stance on it? And yet choose to respect the Church’s stance on divorce – why are they totally different issues for me?

Because the whole RH thing was related to elements of human living that would have existed with or without Religion. Even with the total absence of Religion, people will still fuck, reproduce, the world would still operate under the same finite resources, and so population will still affect the general economy and the individuals under it.

Without trying to belittle the concept of marriage, I have to honestly say that the stakes with the RH bill are much higher. Most of the concerns with marriage (with exceptions, of course) are all related to a person’s “state of happiness.” Now I’m not saying happiness isn’t important – and that we shouldn’t strive to achieve it. But its very difficult for me to say that it’s as important as surviving. The RH bill does relate to survival to some (or to a large) degree. Unless your spouse intends to kill you, one is not likely to have the same issue with marriage.

At the end of the day, we still know that for the most part – getting out of a marriage is usually just about not being happy. And annulment already covers most if not all the “exceptions” one can think of (violence, adultery, etc.). So I don’t see why we should change anything.

The only thing I see faulty with the current system is not the difficulty in which to get an annulment, but that the cost for the procedure itself can be a barrier even for those who need it (beaten wives, etc.) But again, as far as it being “difficult” is concerned, I don’t think the church is under any obligation to revise such an important construct for the sake of “convenience.”

In the first place, no one’s forcing anyone to get married. Unlike sex, which can be very impulsive – and by “impulsive”, I mean at-that-very-second impulsive. Marriage, unless done in a drunken context, often requires discernment. Couples are asked to attend retreats/seminars, etc. before going through the sacrament. And suppose you were drunk, there are only a few places you can have those types of weddings (Las Vegas, etc.) – but the good thing about that is you can also just as easily dissolve it. If you get married in LV, by US laws you can get a divorce, problem solved.

Another reason why I can’t help but relate it to the RH bill arguments is because they both have the argument where “people shouldn’t be penalized their entire lives for a mistake they made.”

Now, I can totally dig that reasoning in context of the stakes of the RH bill. But its the type of mistake that’s the the main differentiator – and the two types (marriage and getting knocked up) have drastically different implications, at least for me.

Sex is a very hard thing to not do – regardless of cultural/religious bias. But marriage, or the “need” to get married, like I said, is a fabricated religious/cultural construct. If marriage wasn’t as hyped up as it is, and that there would be no backlash from people choosing not to marry the person they’re with – I’d imagine that the need to marry wouldn’t be top of mind for a lot of people (especially men). Not all of course, but definitely not like it is now where it’s made out to be the end-all and be-all of all relationships.

Even if you had argued that we’re somehow biologically/chemically predisposed to be with someone – that only justifies the need to be with someone. It doesn’t in any way give an specifics as to how that arrangement should be carried out. Living in with someone, forever remaining BF/GF, or not have any titles at all and simply be together as permanent companions – all those scenarios technically can fulfil that same “biological requirement.” Let’s even include civil unions – because there are actual practical benefits (taxes, etc) to avail of such a union.

But in context of the sacrament, it obviously is a different ballgame. And the truth is, whether or not you believe in what the sacrament should stand for, if you choose to do it the sacramental way (given the myriad of alternatives) – then I don’t think it’s unreasonable at all to expect you to follow the Church’s rules regarding it – no matter how asinine they may seem in the modern world.

For me, what makes the sacrament “special” – why the Church even needs to differentiate it from the other types of unions – is precisely because to the Cathlolic faith, the sacrament of matrimony is more than just a practical union – based on the vows, it’s a promise of undying love – and constant effort to keep the relationship going – which only stops at death. Moreso, the gravity/caliber of this particular union that sets it apart from the other alternatives – is that you’re bound in God’s eyes. 2 But I wouldn’t be surprised if legal unions would also mention God, etc. – but that would be more like a throwback from a time when Religion was THE law – it no longer is Not just in the eyes of the the state, your friends, any other finite thing.

If you think about it, you can get all the legal/practical benefits you want by just getting a civil wedding – so what does the sacrament have that makes it much more important in the eyes of those who choose it? There’s absolutely no practical benefit to be had from the sacramental side of a union – most of its benefits are all perception-based: You show the world your love for each other (and your social standing while you’re at it) by putting on what essentially are parties of varying complexities depending on how creative and rich you are.

If you’re not happy with just being with someone, that you need some elaborate show to vindicate your relationship – then by all means get a church wedding – but first remember the real reason you chose to have the sacrament in particular. The reason why a couple should choose the sacrament over other equally possible (and far more practical) avenues of staying together. That apart from the human need to “show off” – you’re still ultimately making a promise – a promise that normally should only be broken in death… with a witness no less than God.

That’s what it should mean to choose the sacrament of matrimony. If you can’t handle that – then don’t ask for it!

Conclusion

So cheesy interpretations aside, I’m actually apathetic to where this will lead.

Mostly because my defense of the sacrament of matrimony doesn’t necessarily mean that I actually believe in what it stands for. And I use “believe” very loosely here. I simply mean that given normal human dynamics in the world today – and given the other alternatives people have of “being together” – the implications of the sacrament are, for all but the surest of people, quite impossible to uphold.

To me, it’s analogous to promising that you will never get sick. Nobody wants to get sick – so that would be a promise that anyone would be willing to make if they were just certain. And in rare occasions, its quite possible to actually never get sick – but for the most part the reality is that we do (get sick). And as far as relationships and love goes, the fact is people can and, as all failed marriages have proven, do change their mind(s).

The sacrament doesn’t allow for that kind of uncertainty. It specifically says “for good times or worse; in sickness and in health.” You can be uncertain of the road ahead, and the triumphs and tribulations you will encounter – but you should be certain if the person you’re standing next to would be the person with you through that road – that’s the whole point of wanting to marry him/her beyond the civil context.

So for those who actually go through with it, then want to end it at some point, the only question I can really ask is why did you get into it in the first place? I will certainly not judge them for what seemed to be “impulsive” behaviour. But even with all those possible scenarios, I still will never see the point of any revision in whatever law to make it easier for anyone to separate in the Church context.

I’d sooner support a law that requires a couple be legally married a certain time before they can avail of a Church wedding. Say 7 years (after all the seven-year itch does work) of Civil union where it’s much easier to dissolve should you want to call it quits. After 7, you have the option to do it in Church – and once you do that – then we can even terminate the provision of annulment – ‘cuz it would take a really dedicated person to fool anyone that they’re in love with them for 7 whole years. If you’re together that long, then still want to go, then chances are you’re really ready for even the worst events in your life – and that would be the only time I can see that you would truly be ready for those vows.

I don’t buy counter arguments saying that “no one is ever sure” as a basis of justifying separation in the Church context.

While it may be true (that no one’s ever ready), one must take a leap when plunging into this sort of thing – just like with faith. If you can believe in some invisible man with the reasoning that it takes a leap of faith Then you should be be able to commit yourself, no matter how ridiculously irrational the conditions may seem, to what the sacrament stands for. Because it’s really no different from what’s required to believe in God – especially when you realise this sacrament is in His domain.

If you aren’t ready for that kind of a commitment, there’s no shame in not asking for it. But if you do, then the least you can do is take responsibility of that decision – for better or worse.

PS

There’s one other thing I will accept as far as a “divorce law” goes. It is to allow a [legally] “divorced” couple to re-marry legally – regardless of their “church wedding status”.

As far as I know, if you’re married in the church, 3 Which means you’re married legally as well – as part of the church proceedings and get separated legally – you’re not allowed to re-marry both legally and sacramentally.

The latter (sacramentally) I do agree with – but the former I think should not be affected by the ramifications of a sacramental union – just as the church should not be subjugated to the legality of a divorce law.

In short, these two types of unions must be properly delineated in both law and doctrine – and should not encroach upon (and be subject to) each other.

Notes   [ + ]

1. Which is funny, since I just came from a debate where my logical “competence” was condescended upon hehehehe
2. But I wouldn’t be surprised if legal unions would also mention God, etc. – but that would be more like a throwback from a time when Religion was THE law – it no longer is
3. Which means you’re married legally as well – as part of the church proceedings

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