[#AwaNgDiyosPH] Filipinos’ own ‘synod’ re-enacts Vatican’s October ’14 gab



PASAY CITY (The Filipino Connection and Philstar.com)—A Filipino family congress here that coincided with the recent apostolic visit of Pope Francis provided a local version of what happened when the Catholic world’s top bishops discussed and debated ticklish issues last October.

What happened at the Vatican some three months ago was the Third Extraordinary Synod of Bishops, known for the unfinished debates over issues affecting families, as well as the dogmatic and pastoral responses of the Catholic Church for people experiencing these problems.

While many issues affecting  families were tackled and frankly discussed during the First National Congress on the Filipino Family (NCFF) at the SMX Convention Center, just tackling one issue alone —marital disunity— had participants test their tolerance and patience.

Filipino families, like others worldwide, face issues that threaten their unity. In his recent apostolic visit to the Philippines, Pope Francis said "protect families" (Photo by JEREMAIAH OPINIANO / The Filipino Connection)

Filipino families, like others worldwide, face issues that threaten their unity. In his recent apostolic visit to the Philippines, Pope Francis said “protect families” (Photo by JEREMAIAH OPINIANO / The Filipino Connection)

The Filipino family’s renowned close-knittedness isn’t bulletproof, like marriage, as warring couples see the apparent need for separation.

The Philippines, a large stronghold of the Christian faith with over-80 million faithful, has yet to have a divorce law. Prominent lawyer Lorna Kapunan thinks a divorce law is needed.

“As what I always say, if it looks like a duck, acts like a duck, smells like a duck, walks like a duck, and quacks like a duck, it is a duck,” says Kapunan in one of the sessions during the conference.

But canon lawyer Fr. Henry Bocala upheld the teachings of the church: “The minister (in the sacrament of matrimony) is not priests. It is the spouses who are the ministers. What makes them married is the pronouncement of ‘I do.’”

“When someone is caught fooling around, they’re not grounds for nullity. So pwede sila magkaroon ng separation, either temporary or permanent,” Bocala said.

The Philippines adheres to the teaching that the sacrament of matrimony bonds two people as “one flesh”. Marriage is thus indissoluble.

The validity of marriage is what sets divorce and annulment apart. Divorce is when the marriage is valid and the reason for separation occurred after marriage. Annulment, meanwhile, proves that no valid marriage ever occurred in the first place due to technicalities.

The couple may be declared separated legally, but that situation’s not the case in the eyes of the Catholic Church.

Like the case of actress Yayo Aguila, who had separated with her husband actor of 25 years, William Martinez, some seven years ago. Even if they’re separated, Aguila said “they’re still a family” despite being separated. It is also possible that an ex-husband and ex-wife can still have a harmonious relationship, she thinks.

“Communication really is the key,” said Aguila. “We always talk to verify things, even when we were still married.”

In contrast, singer Kyla said she can’t imagine herself having major marital bumps with her husband, basketball player Rich Alvarez.
Bocala thinks marriage is not a personal affair. “It becomes public, involving the entire community they are in.”
“The purpose of marriage is the preservation of the human species,” said philosopher Dr. Corazon Toralba of the University of Asia and the Pacific (UA&P). “That in itself is very communal.”

While still on the subject, Bocala echoed another related concern the Third Extraordinary Synod had tackled: the issue of non-commitment among couples. People nowadays are afraid to settle down and faithfully devote themselves to one person, seeing the first try as a “trial marriage” with the notion that they can separate and remarry again, says Bocala.

What Bocala thinks was that three got married: The marrying couple and God. “It takes three to get married. So married life is a vocation.”

But Kapunan wasn’t swayed by what others had said. What Kapunan said was that she agreed and disagreed with the things that were said.
“My appeal to the Catholic Church is to start being compassionate, like Pope Francis. It’s about time that the church will be more ‘pope-ish’ than the pope.”

Kapunan’s reference to the Supreme Pontiff is brought about by Pope Francis’ concern to the spiritual life of divorced, separated and married couples, with marital challenges being one of the wounds families worldwide face. During the Extraordinary Synod, cardinals and bishops had agreed to find ways to speed up annulment procedures.

Yet Kapunan, a legal counsel for celebrities in troubled marriages, is adamant that if a couple’s marriage doesn’t work, one should not continue staying in that relationship. “Everyone is entitled to their own happiness.”

Before a conference filled with female college students from Miriam College (one of the co-organizers of the congress), Fr. Bocala told them to be fearless in loving “but choose well and wise.”

The Vatican, in preparation for the 2015 Extraordinary Synod (again on the family), had issued a questionnaire (or the lineamenta) for the religious and lay faithful to reflect on pastoral approaches for families in troublesome situations.

Times have changed, resource persons during the National Congress on the Filipino Family agreed. (Organizers Miriam College and the Catholic Educators Association of the Philippines (CEAP) will bring outputs of the NCFF to the 2015 Extraordinary Synod.).

But many things did not change, including the stance of anti-divorce clergymen that became evident during the 2014 Extraordinary Synod. Round two of openly discussing these ticklish debates, come the October 2015 synod that Pope Francis will convene, is coming up—and resolving these issues remains uncertain.—The Filipino Connection and Philstar,com.


The Filipino Connection covers the visit of Pope Francis in partnership with Philstar.com.



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