CATHOLIC bishops on Thursday said they could “only propose but never impose” on the issue of civil divorce, warning the faithful of the evils of dissolving the marital bond and citing statistics on the high failure rate of remarriages in the West.

The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP), in a pastoral statement issued at the end of a plenary assembly, said it was in no position to make rules for civil marriages.

“As spiritual and moral leaders of the Church, we can only propose but never impose. We can only motivate our faithful to actively participate in reasoned public discourse as citizens,” the pastoral statement, signed by Kalookan Bishop Pablo Virgilio David, on behalf of the bishops’ conference, said.

The CBCP however urged Filipinos to thoroughly discern on the basis of statistics amid efforts in Congress to pass an absolute divorce bill.

“Statistics tell us that in countries where civil divorce is legal, ‘failure rate for first marriage is roughly 48%, 60% for second and 70% for third marriages,’” the CBCP said. “Are we sure we want our families to become part of this grim statistics?”

It pointed out that there is a reason the Philippines is the only country in the world apart from the Vatican where divorce is not allowed, citing the pro-family provisions of the 1987 Constitution where “The State recognizes the Filipino family as the foundation of the nation” (Art XV, Section 1) and that “marriage, as an inviolable social institution, is the foundation of the family and shall be protected by the State” (Art. XV, Section 2).

“The Church is in no position to dictate on the state what is best for Filipino families. We know that our stubborn assertion that a genuine marriage cannot be dissolved, is not necessarily shared by all religions; and we respect that,” the CBCP said.

“But before we join the bandwagon, shouldn’t we ask ourselves on the basis of research and statistics, if the legalization of divorce all over the world has indeed helped in protecting the common good and the welfare of the family?”

The CBCP also called on the government to “maximize remedies” before considering the reinstatement of divorce.

“The absence of a legal civil divorce remedy should in fact be an additional reason for couples to think twice or thrice before entering into a civilly-binding marital commitment, precisely because of the value we put on the family as the foundation of society,” it said.

The bishops encouraged Catholics to reflect on Pope Francis’s thoughts in his pastoral exhortation, “Amoris Laetitia,” where the Pontiff wrote:

“Divorce is an evil and the increasing number of divorces is very troubling. Hence, our most important pastoral task with regard to families is to strengthen their love, helping to heal wounds and working to prevent the spread of this drama of our times.”

A survey by Social Weather Stations in March showed that 50 percent of Filipino adults supported the legalization of divorce, while 31 percent opposed it.

On May 22, the House of Representatives approved a bill to reinstate absolute divorce in the country.

Several Catholic groups and leaders have since opposed the measure including the global lay organization Couples for Christ, which said that God is using the Philippines, the only country where divorce is not allowed, as a beacon for the world to rediscover the importance of a solid marriage and family.

A divorce law was originally enacted in 1917 during the American colonial period but was repealed in 1943.

In 1950, Republic Act No. 386, or the Civil Code, was introduced to allow legal separation instead of absolute divorce. Justin Benedict T. Lim


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