Saturday, March 28, 2015

Position Paper Against the Divorce Bill & Decriminalization of Adultery and Concubinage

Every time a survey comes out claiming that the majority of Filipinos favor divorce (or any anti-life issues for that matter), you can expect a bunch of lawmakers throwing their support behind the survey, as if life issues like divorce, euthanasia, abortion, reproductive health, and same-sex marriage are just a matter of popular opinion and public perception. A maleficent/malevolent lady senator recently expressed her support behind the divorce bill, saying that the absence of such law in this country is not something we should be proud of. Well I guess the feeling is mutual. I certainly am not proud of you and the likes of you who introduce immoral laws in this country like the RH law. Shame on you.

Be sober and vigilant. Your opponent the devil is prowling around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. (I Peter 5:8)


One senator of the Republic was recently quoted as saying that the fact that the Philippines is the only country without a divorce law is not something we should necessarily be proud of. To that, I hasten to add: Neither is it something for which we should be apologetic!

That all countries of the world save ours have it is no compelling reason to have it. Ours is the only Constitution in the world that includes the non-juridical word “love”. That is no reason to expunge it from our fundamental law!

The reasons thus far advanced for a divorce law fail to convince! Divorce, its advocates argue, is a solution to failed, if not oppressive and dehumanizing unions. The terms are powerful, but they invite visceral, rather than rational reactions.

A failed marriage is not an argument for divorce. It is rather proof of the necessity that only mature people enter into it. It proves the wisdom of the judiciousness of the Church in its conduct of pre-Cana and canonical inquiries. It proves the woeful inadequacy of the present system under Philippine law that makes the issuance by the civil registrar of a marriage license and attendance at a government-delivered seminar on family planning the sufficient conditions for marriage!

If indeed a spouse proves not only to be overbearing but oppressive and cruel, there are sufficient provisions in the Family Code, specifically those that provide for the legal separation of the spouses, and, in some cases, even annulment of voidable marriages. There are furthermore the salutary provisions of Republic Act No. 9262, the Anti-Violence Against Women and their Children act for the protection of women and their children.

If, on the other hand, one spouse finds the other – or himself or herself – psychologically incapable of fulfilling the obligations of marriage, the much-abused Art. 36 of the Family Code on psychological incapacity, ironically patterned after a similar canonical provision, is available.

In other words, the supposed suffering that a spouse must bear owing to a failed marriage is more imagined than real, and comes only upon one who does not make use of the remedies already available under existing law.

So, why then would one want divorce if legal separation, annulment and declarations of nullity are juridical options already available? The answer is simple: Divorce allows an already married person to have another go at it, despite failing at the first.

While one can reasonably test-drive a car and replace it with a better one should the test-drive prove unsatisfactory, it is plainly dehumanizing to both spouses to allow for a test-run, through a first marriage, and then grant the possibility of a replacement of spouses should the test fail. It is ironic that those most vocal in their support for divorce also hold themselves out as champions of human rights – and there can be no violation of human rights more egregious than to treat human persons the same way that you treat vehicles and appliances!

Divorce is a deterrent to working on differences. Marriage is and ought to be a work in progress. There is no such thing except in the limp imagination of mediocre, starry-eyed writers of romance novels as “a couple meant for each other” or a man and a woman who are a “perfect match”. Matches are worked out on earth, not pre-fabricated in heaven! When the expedient of divorce is readily available, a couple will be less likely to work on differences, dialogue and reasonably work out solutions because there is a quick fix to “incompatibilities”. While the blending of different tempers, attitudes and perspective should be enriching, although a challenge of harmonize, a token effort at ‘making the marriage work’ is all that can be expected when the possibility of ending the union by divorce is offered by the State!

Logically, divorce puts its advocates in the dilemma of choosing between making of marriage a mockery and being arbitrary. A divorce law will either grant divorce on any ground – in which case marriage becomes a mockery – or on some grounds. But if it is granted on some grounds, irreconcilable differences, for example, who is to say that a person is more greatly challenged by irreconcilable differences than by the snoring of a spouse at night? Setting forth grounds for divorce is always tricky business, if not downright whimsical, because it assumes that one is in a position to grade degrees of misery or difficulty, and to say of some that they are worthy of the ‘relief’ of divorce while others are not. But how does one construct a hierarchy of miseries?

Divorce victimizes children. The separation of parents is already traumatic on the children who must choose between mother and father when custodial rights are judicially resolved. Visitation rights are a poor substitute for living with one’s parents. Divorce however compounds the trauma by allowing a total stranger to the children to enter into their lives – the new spouse.

Society should be able to count on some promises as irrevocable. The promise of a physician to serve life and not to destroy it, the promise of a public official to serve and defend the Constitution, the promise of spouses to be faithful to each other, the promise of a priest to mirror to the world the care of the Good Shepherd – all these are promises that society has a right to rely on and that those who so promise have no right to renege on. If you cannot keep the promise, do not make it all. Do not claim its privileges while refusing to own up to its demands!

Decriminalizing Adultery and Concubinage?

The State sends a signal to the public and educates its citizens by the incentives it offers as well as the matters it penalizes. By penalizing offensive conduct, the State signals its ideal of social cohesion and of living together. Article II of the Constitution reads:

“Section 12. The State recognizes the sanctity of family life and shall protect and strengthen the family as a basic autonomous social institution.”

Adultery and concubinage have been in our penal code for not only decades but centuries now. Striking them off the catalogue of crimes – will this not send the message to Philippine society that now, sexual liaisons and dalliances with persons other than with one’s spouse are now allowed? How can such a legislative proposal “protect and strengthen the family as a basic social institution”? While it is true that Article II is a set of non-self-executory principles and policies, the provisions give direction to legislation and shape jurisprudence. Otherwise they would have no place in the Constitution at all.

Under our VAWC law – passed as domestic legislation in response to international covenants, the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women, as well as the Covenant on the Rights of the Child among them – we consider violence not only physical but psychological cruelty. What can be more cruel for a spouse than to have the other sexually engaged with another and entering into intimate liaisons with another? How can it serve legal coherence for us to de-criminalize under one title what we consider criminal cruelty and violence under another?

What can be done though is to eliminate the discriminatory distinction between adultery and concubinage, for it has long been observed that limiting the applicability of adultery provisions only to women is in fact discriminatory. Concubinage – the crime for which a husband with extra-marital affairs can be charged – is more difficult to prove because its elements are “cohabitation with another under scandalous circumstances” while all it takes to commit adultery is one act of sexual intercourse with a man other than one’s husband! It is this asymmetry that should be rectified.

We have taken tremendous strides in the direction of protecting women and children. The proposal to pass a divorce law and to decriminalize adultery and concubinage go in the opposite direction. We should not lend to support to such moral and juridical incoherence!

Let the Word of God guide us.

The Pharisees approached and asked, “Is it lawful for a husband to divorce his wife?” They were testing him. He said to them in reply, “What did Moses command you?” They replied, “Moses permitted him to write a bill of divorce and dismiss her.” But Jesus told them, “Because of the hardness of your hearts he wrote you this commandment. But from the beginning of creation, ‘God made them male and female. For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.’ So they are no longer two but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, no human being must separate.” (Matthew 10:2-9).

From the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines, March 25, 2015, Solemnity of the Annunciation

Archbishop of Lingayen Dagupan
CBCP President

Thursday, March 19, 2015

The Titles and Glories of St. Joseph

As we celebrate today the holy feast day of St. Joseph, let us contemplate on the many titles and honors that have been bestowed upon him and may all of us be the more inspired to turn to him in our needs and imitate his excellent virtues. This excerpt was taken from the book Saint Joseph As Seen by Mystics and Historians.

Sacred Scripture is the principal foundation for devotion to Saint Joseph under the various patronages the Church has accorded to him. The slowness of the development of his devotion throughout history is traceable to the predominance of the non-scriptural, false images of him presented by the apocryphal writings. Joseph serves today as a patron and model for all people in general, and for many individual groups in particular. This chapter ends by listing some of the lights in which he may be seen, as grounded directly in Scripture, or as extrapolated from the Scriptural data and suggested for contemporary society.

1) Model disciple, dedicating his whole life to the interests of Jesus. - Joseph is an example of faith, righteousness, trust in God's providence, and prompt obedience to God's call.

2) Patron of the Church. - This title results from a combination of various elements: a) Paul's theology of the Church as an extension of Christ, the mystical body; b) an extension of John's and Luke's type of theology by which Mary, the Mother of Jesus, also in some sense becomes Mother of the Church; c) the Apostles' Creed's doctrine of the "communion of the saints," understood to mean that the deceased and saved continue to pray for their fellow Christians on earth.

As Joseph protected the physical body of the Child Jesus on earth, so does he continue to protect, through his intercessory prayer from Heaven, the mystical body of Christ, the Church. As the Mother of Christ is called Mother of the Church, so also Her husband, the guardian of Christ, is called the Protector of the Church.

3) Patron of Husbands and of the Engaged. - Joseph exhibits the deepest love for his Fiancee and Wife, and the highest respect for women. He in no way seeks to use Mary, but rather to give himself to Her in accord with his God-given vocation. His call to live a virginal relationship with Her does not deter him from immediately and wholeheartedly taking Her as his Wife.

He is an example of true spousal love. For fiances, he is an example of sexual respect during engagement. For the married, who for a good reason must postpone another pregnancy, he is a model of the loving abstinence they must exercise during the fertile times, in order to practice natural family planning, rather than have recourse to artificial contraceptives, which may be easier but which are not in harmony with their commitment in Christ.

His virginal relationship to Mary, however, does not indicate a lack of openness to offspring; Joseph is a model of acceptance of children in marriage, in his quick response to do so when so told by the angel. Mary and Joseph have a unique vocation to virginal marriage, because their love is already blessed with the greatest of offspring, the Son of God, with which no number of other children could ever compare.

4) Patron of Fathers. - Joseph models total self-sacrificing concern to provide for, protect, raise, educate, and be an example to the Child entrusted to him. He shows that authentic fatherhood consists in much more than physical generation. He constantly recognizes the subordination of his role to the primordial Fatherhood of God, always cooperating and never interfering with His designs.

5) Patron of Family Life. - With Jesus and Mary, Joseph is a model of unity, love, and shared faith, showing the priority of family life over one's individual interests, and also the necessity of family life as a basis for learning to form community as Church.

6) Protector of the Unborn and of Pregnant Mothers. - After Mary, no one appreciates life in the womb more than St. Joseph. In faith, he recognized the Baby in Mary's womb as the Incarnate God, and was willing to make any sacrifice to care for that Life, and for the Mother called to bear It. In our age of rampant abortion, Joseph calls us as a society and as individuals to recognize the divine source of life and to always respect and defend it.

7) Model of Workers. - Joseph the Carpenter, who teaches his profession to Jesus, shows the dignity of work, which is measured not by earning power or prestige, but by the love and motivation with which it is done daily.

8) Patron of the Marginalized, Emigrants, Refugees, and Those Discriminated Against. - The father of Jesus experienced all these hardships in the persecution by Herod, and in the attitude of the ruling Judean authorities towards people from Galilee. He shows that one's dignity does not consist in social, political, or economic standing, but in one's inner integrity in being true to one's own calling. God favors and protects the lowly.

9) Model of Humility, the Hidden Life, and the Sanctification of the Ordinary. - Joseph's great sanctity is accompanied by no great words or deeds. The details of his life remain lost to history. Jesus' first 30 years belong to the "hidden life" at Nazareth. Joseph teaches us that holiness need not catch the world's attention. It consists, rather, in being lovingly faithful to the ordinary: family, work, religious observance, the indications of circumstances, and God's revelation.

10) Model of Contemplative Union with Christ. - Besides Joseph's total availability to God's will, his daily life is dedicated to union with Christ. He is known as the "saint of silence," because no word of his has been preserved (except the name "Jesus," which he gave the Child). He is thus a model of the interior life and contemplative prayer.

11) Patron of Apostles. - Joseph's role, in large part, is to prepare Jesus for His life and ministry. All involved in apostolic ministry may learn from him those attitudes and virtues needed to bring Christ to others.

12) Patron of a Happy Death. - Total lack of mention of Joseph during Jesus' public ministry, even when Mary is present, leads to the assumption that he had already died. His acceptance of this death would be consistent with his quiet fulfillment of his role, followed by a gentle fading from the scene so as not to interfere with Jesus' proclamation of His Divine Sonship. His death in the arms of Jesus and Mary is the envy of every true Christian believer.

Joseph's role in the Scriptures will always be important for the life to the Church, because with him we celebrate our earliest origins as a Christian community. His union with Mary and Christ in the Mystery of the Incarnation means that he can never be far from us, Christ's Body.

What contrasts are found in Joseph! He is the patron of celibates and those who are fathers of families; he is likewise the patron of the laity and of contemplatives, and patron of priests as well as businessmen. Over the centuries, Joseph has shown himself to be an advocate of the world's needy.

To the thousands of men deprived of a healthy relationship with their fathers: Go to St. Joseph! To those seeking to overcome a negative father image: seek not further than St. Joseph for a potent cure. To the millions of children in fatherless families: Go to St. Joseph! You will find an earthly father who, like the Heavenly Father, is a father of the fatherless. The Heavenly Father has provided a link to Himself through the fatherhood of St. Joseph over the whole Family of God.

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Pastoral Moral Guidance on the Anti-Discrimination Bill

Our good friend and spiritual father in Courage, Bishop Gilbert Garcera, wishes this document to be spread to as many people as possible on the issue of anti-discrimination bill. May we all be enlightened.

Congress of the Philippines is poised to pass into law what was earlier known as the Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity Bill, which is now more generally referred to as the Anti-Discrimination Bill. We are grateful that the CBCP was earlier asked by the relevant committees of the houses of Congress to submit its comments, and we did so. But now, we deem it opportune to express ourselves collectively on the matter.

Non-Discrimination is a Christian Imperative

If discrimination means that certain individuals, because of sexual orientation or gender identity, are systematically denied fundamental human rights, then any measure that counters discrimination of this kind is a gesture of charity, one that reaches out to all and recognizes them in their inherent dignity as sons and daughters of God, called to new life in Jesus Christ.

This then is also the propitious time for us to call on all pastors throughout the country to be as solicitous of the pastoral welfare of all our brothers and sisters regardless of sexual orientation and gender identity. Their exclusion from the life of the Church, their treatment as outcasts, their relegation to the category of inferior members of the Church worthy only of derision and scorn certainly does not conform to Pope Francis' vision of the Church as the sacrament of Divine mercy and compassion.

In this regard, the Church has much to contribute towards the education of Catholics to be more accepting of others and to see through appearances the Lord present in each brother and sister. There can therefore be no more approval of parents who imbue in their children the loathing and disgust for persons with a different sexual orientation or with gender identity issues. In Catholic institutions, there should be zero-tolerance for the bullying and badgering of persons in such personal situations.

Christian Anthropology and Consequences for Pastoral Care

The Church remains firm in its teaching, however, that reason discerns in the process of human evolution, the perpetuation of humankind, and the complementarity of the sexes, as well as from the very nature of sexuality itself that God's image and likeness is found in either man or woman. The Church therefore compassionately reaches out to persons with orientation and gender identity issues so that they may clearly discern, with a well-formed conscience, and in the light of the Divine plan for humankind, how they ought to live their lives.

In this regard, a common fallacy has to be contested. Today, it is not uncommon to hear the assertion that the way a person chooses to live his or her life and with which gender to identify is purely a matter of personal sovereignty and choice. Much is left to choice, but much is also a matter of human given-ness, a matter of human facticity. From the perspective of Divine Revelation, much is not of the person's doing but must be counted as God's gift. Among these are sexuality and gender.

While contemporary psychology and psychiatry are far from unanimous on the causes of orientation and identity issues, it is as clear that the individual is not helpless in this regard. There are decisions a person can and must make. There are mind-sets a person must either acquire or discard.

On the basis of its understanding of the human condition, the Church cannot encourage persons to “choose” their gender, orientation, and sexual identity as if these were matters at the free disposal of choice. The Church therefore looks to mature parents, school counselors, community workers, professional psychologists and personality experts, as well as to her own priests engaged in pastoral counseling, to help in the resolution of what, it must be admitted, are very difficult personal issues, always with understanding, compassion, acceptance of the inherent worth of the human person and attentiveness to what has been revealed to us about the human person.

We must also insist on the distinction between “orientation” and overt acts. No one may be excluded from the life of the Church and its sacraments merely because of avowed orientation or identity. However, the disapproval of homosexual acts remains part of the Church's moral teaching, a consequence in fact of its understanding of human dignity. If “gay rights” movements, for instance, encourage free and unbridled sexual relations between persons of the same sex, the Church cannot lend its support, for in its view, they ultimately do a disservice to our brothers and sisters. What gay rights can legitimately champion is justice for all, fairness that must extend to all persons regardless of sexual orientation and gender identity.

The Proposed Law

Before anything else, CBCP must ask whether or not the proposed non-discrimination bill is itself a manifestation of that pernicious form of “colonization” to which Pope Francis referred in his recent visit to the Philippines. Is this the “importation” into our country of values, behavioral norms and attitudes that the West has championed and peddled?

To the legislators who consider through future legislative initiatives giving legal recognition to same sex unions, the Church declares there is no equivalence or even any remote analogy whatsoever between marriage between a man and woman as planned by God and the so-called same sex unions.

Insofar as the proposed piece of legislation renders illegitimate the relegation of persons with sexual orientation and gender identity issues to citizens of a lower category enjoying fewer rights, the CBCP cannot but lend its support to this proposed legislative measure.

However, there are certain matters that the Church considers to be within its exclusive sphere of competence such as determining who should be admitted to priestly or religious formation, who should be ordained and received into Holy Order, or who should be professed as members of religious communities and orders. The Church asserts its exclusive right to determine its own criteria and to exclude even on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity if it finds these to be hindrances to the fidelity that is expected of ordained or consecrated persons. We believe that the Constitution of the Republic guarantees this under the “free exercise” clause of the fundamental law of the land.

With respect to Catholic schools and the guidance and counseling that it extends to its students, the CBCP herewith expresses its position that our Catholic schools remain at liberty to determine their own admission and retention policies on the basis of the manner in which the Supreme Court of the Philippines has developed the constitutional guarantee of academic freedom. We must, however, reiterate that none must be demeaned, embarrassed, or humiliated for reasons of sexual orientation and gender identity.

Persons with homosexual orientation are sons and daughters of God; no less than any of us is. Discrimination against them is contrary to the Gospel spirit. Verbal and physical violence against them is an offense against the good Lord Himself. Through honest dialogue and pastoral accompaniment, it should be our goal to assist them to respond to the demands of chastity and that purity of body and heart that Jesus, in the Gospels, calls 'blessed'. When they wish to make an offering to the life of the Church according to their talents, abilities and gifts, the Church as mother provides for them.


We foresee that CBCP will be reproved for not going “all out” in its approval of homosexual and transsexual orientation and identity. But we pray that all will understand that the deposit of faith is not owed to us, nor is it something we are free to modify or tailor to suit fad and fancy.

We conclude by reiterating our position that your bishops and priests welcome all of God's sons and daughters, that there is room in the Church for all, whatever our personal conditions, gifts as well as burdens might be, and the Church will be tireless in extending its support and care for those in the midst of personal conflict who must make crucial decisions for themselves in the light of the new life Christ offers us all!

From the Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines, March 3, 2015

Archbishop of Lingayen Dagupan
President, CBCP

Monday, March 9, 2015

On Gay Religious and Priests

It is appalling to think that within the hierarchy of the Catholic Church are religious men leading scandalous lives. This video narrates in particular a former Jesuit's experience while he was in seminary formation. To say it is shocking is an understatement.

To all practicing gay men in the priesthood or the seminary I have two words for you - GET. OUT.

And for those future gay seminarians who have plans of hiding behind the veil of religious life their deep seated same-sex struggle with no intentions whatsoever to divulge their condition to their superiors or seek help to reform their lives, I also have two words for you - STAY. OUT.

Or better yet join us in Courage. Frankly, we don't need gay men in the priesthood. We need real men who are fully capable of fulfilling the role of spiritual fathers to us, the flock. We have had enough of the sex abuse scandals in the Church.

May this video be an eye opener to all of us.