This is a great mystery, and I am applying it to Christ and the Church. (Eph. 5, 32)

My dear people of God:

I come to you not only as a teacher in the Church of Lingayen-Dagupan but also as a bishop of the universal Church whose bounden duty it is to preach the message of Christ, in season and out of season.

For a long time now, it has been remarked often as some kind of self-reproach – that we are the only country that has not made divorce legal. To any faithful Catholic and to any Christian who takes the Gospel as the ultimate norm of human life, this should not be a reproach but a badge of honor, a mark of distinction!

Couples in loveless unions should not be forced to endure a lifetime of hell, it has been argued. In the first place, marriage should be entered into only by those mature enough for a lifetime of consecration and fidelity in wedded life. To criticize this as an unreasonable demand is to cast a slur on the hundreds, thousand even, of couples in the Philippines who have remained true to the promises of their wedding day. They are the tangible proof that such fidelity is possible. They are the empirical evidence that personality differences notwithstanding, difficulties are not impossible to overcome as long as couples do not give up on love.

The Church considers matrimony one of its sacraments one of the acts by which the Church, as Christ’s Body, continues the saving work of Jesus, the Christ of God. And because it is a sacrament, it is an efficacious sign. It brings about what it symbolizes. The union of husband and wife is not only a symbol of the union of Christ and his Church. It brings this union about. Through the wedded love of husband and wife, Christ the Lord seals his love for his Church, and because the bond that the Lord forges between himself and his Church is a bond that can never be broken, divorce would be perfidious to the reality of the sacrament!

As if the prophet’s words – “I hate divorce, says the Lord, the God of Israel” (Mal 2, 16) were not enough the Gospel and the teaching of the Pauline letters make abundantly clear that for the true Christian, divorce cannot be an option. This however is no mere negative injunction. It is an exhortation to that degree of fidelity that triumphs over disagreements and emerges victorious from the test of time. It is a summons to that consecration to one’s partner so that it truly becomes sacramental of Christ’s union with his Church, his unbreakable fidelity to the Bride he has taken unto himself!

While we may not have the power to thwart the passage of a law that would legalize divorce by legislators minded to pass it, it nonetheless remains the duty of every Catholic to catechize and instruct fellow-Catholics and brothers and sisters in other faith-communities the reasons why we cannot support a bill that makes legal what to us is a transgression of Christ’s sovereign will. The existence of a divorce law will not render divorce a moral option for Catholics for whom it will always remain contrary to the Gospel and to the constant teaching of the Church. Catholics who apply for and obtain divorce and re-marry are in a seriously, morally wrongful state!

The Church urges that those intending to contract marriage discern with maturity their
preparedness for the duties marriage imposes on them and not treat it as some provisional arrangement that can be conveniently set aside when it so suits them. For those with marital problems, the Family Life Apostolate that will be found in every diocese and in every parish offers its services of counseling and companionship. And where true grounds exist, the canonical processes for the judicial declaration of the nullity of void marriages remains an avenue for unburdening couples from a marriage that does not, from the perspective of the church’s law, truly exist.

Faith is never imposed on anyone. This teaching of the Church is not burden laid on the shoulders of the sons and daughters of God. It is the consequence of what we believe and of what Jesus, the Eternal Word of the Father, has made of us in relation to himself-his Bride, the Church, to whom he unites himself with a bond that can never be sundered!

May St Michael defend us in this battle for the family!

From the Cathedral of St John the Evangelist, Dagupan City, May 28, 2024

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