Two of my friends are getting married this year and I can’t help but to look back and realize how time flies so fast. It was as if yesterday when we were just wide eyed probinsyano and probinsyana in a catechetical formation house in Siena, Quezon City nine years ago. Today, many of us are already licensed teachers and missionaries. While some of us considered religious life after college like me, others have already decided to settle in their life and start a family. I can sense my friends’ excitement and the fact that many of us are coming proved that such excitement is contagious. I just admire them—really I am—for marriage implies a commitment that is final: an irrevocable vow to live with a person whose being, despite knowing him for years, remains elusive and even mysterious! Honestly I am surprised with myself of having such thought being a religious person who similarly took a vow publicly to live a life of obedience to God, His Church and the Dominican Order. For, while living in a community is not as simple as eating butong pakwan, I know that living with a person is a different story. But to promise to do so for life? You must be very in loved to the person to say “I do!”
This makes me admire young couples who are deciding to get married. For I trust that they knew very well that by tying the knot, they tell the public that “yes folks, we’ll love each other until Thy Kingdom come.” I believe that they look at marriage not as some other stage in their relationship which they can just terminate when the feeling is gone. I hope that they knew very well that marriage is a mutual decision to spend the rest of their years together, “for richer and for poorer.” Marriage is anchored to a profession of lifelong commitment with one another. Unless the couple missed this essential element, there is no such marriage at all.
This makes me so surprised about some of our legislators who find it difficult to look at marriage in this essential aspect. They are the same legislators in the Philippines who feel pressured about the fact that our country is the only nation left in the world (aside from the Vatican, of course) that has no legal process for the termination of marriage, i.e. divorce. Our legislators are becoming ‘Manichaeans’—they fight evil by countering evil right away: They suggest that to a failed relationship, divorce is the answer; to infidelity, divorce; and to seemingly irreconcilable crises, still divorce. While divorce presents itself as a handy solution to marital crisis, it does not address the problem per se. It provides superficial answer to a problem that instead demands moral imperative. If the government is willing to push through with such legislations, it should prepare itself to accommodate every family that would knock on the door of its agencies for support—something that the government is already struggling to address nowadays! And if divorce was ever implemented in this country, it would not promise a decline of marital crisis in the future. Trust me.
If the government is interested to save future couples from falling into crisis, assuring them of chances of terminating marital vows would not help. If they remain consistent to this recent ‘Manichaean’ attitude of theirs—that is, their reactive way of responding to our socio-political problems—they fail to address once again the real situation behind, this time, why Filipino couples end with failed relationship. If only the government would recognize the Christian way of fighting evil. Unlike Manichaeans, evil for Christians is not by some doing of a sinister god whose defeat is only by eliminating him. Evil for Christians is more of a deprivation of perfection that is due to a thing. As Aquinas puts it, “A man is said to be evil because he lacks some virtue; and an eye is said to be evil, because it lacks the power to see well (ST I, Q. 5, A 3, ad. 2).” It is obvious that most unfortunate marriages are like this. They lack something. They are deprived of that which is due to a marriage that would lead to a fulfilling one. If so, then the pressing concern which our legislators should look at is not that the Philippines is the remaining country without a divorce law but that there is a serious need to empower Filipino couples for a successful marriage. Hence, the Christian way to address marital crisis requires moral extension. It is difficult, yes and might appear idealistic compared to the seemingly practical way of simply cancelling marriage bonds. But terminating vows would not solve the crisis in the future. Unless a serious step to strengthen couples by means of serious preparation and on-going assistance which the Christian solution proposes, marital crisis remains a problem that even a divorce law could not handle.