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Philippine Catholic bishops caution against rush to legalize divorce, cite family values and social stability

The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) on July 11 issued a pastoral statement that addresses the ongoing debate on civil divorce in the country, urging a cautious and reflective approach before adopting such legislation. 

The statement, titled ‘A Nation Founded on Family, A Family Founded on Marriage,’ underscores the Church’s adherence to the sanctity of marriage and poses critical questions about the societal impacts of divorce.

Bishop Pablo Virgilio S. David, President of the CBCP, emphasized the Church’s position that while they respect the legislative bodies and the principle of separation of Church and State, the decision to introduce divorce should not be taken lightly. 

He noted that the Philippines remains the last country in the world, except from the Vatican City, without legal civil divorce, asking, ‘Should we therefore join the bandwagon?’

The bishops also raised concerns about the statistical likelihood of failed marriages, citing the “failure rate for first marriage is roughly 48%, 60% for second, and 70% for third marriages,” according to the National Center for Health Statistics. 

They argued that these statistics should prompt deeper consideration about the long-term effects of legalizing divorce.

Furthermore, the statement highlights the importance of the Filipino family as the foundation of the nation, a sentiment enshrined in the Philippine Constitution. 

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The bishops suggest that any rush toward legalizing civil divorce could undermine this foundational aspect of Filipino society.

The CBCP also acknowledges the complexities of marriage, pointing out that not all couples who are married have been ‘joined together by God’ and thus could have their unions annulled. 

However, they stress that such measures should be approached with deliberation and compassion, especially considering the potential impact on children and the broader community.

The pastoral statement invites all stakeholders, including lay ecclesial movements and family-oriented organizations, to lead discussions on the pros and cons of divorce, sparing the clergy from ‘ad hominem’ attacks and focusing the debate on the welfare of families and the moral fabric of society.

The bishops called for a balanced and informed discourse, hoping that lawmakers will consider the gravity of the issue before making any decisions that could significantly alter the social landscape of the Philippines.

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