Bernardo M. Villegas
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The True Nature of Marriage

           Almost like natural disasters that come in cycles, proposals for divorce hit the press or are made to the legislature by some celebrity or another.  Often times, they result from difficulties in their marriages the proponents have encountered.  As a social scientist, my immediate reaction is to cite volumes and volumes of studies from the West that contain empirical evidences of the great social, psychological and economic damage done to society and  individuals by the ease with which marriages are broken.  Billions of dollars spent on rehabilitating aberrant youth who are products of broken marriages, subsidies to single mothers, and money wasted on school drop outs among children of divorced parents are very strong economic arguments against allowing marriages to be easily broken.  I will, however, assume in this column that the majority of my readers are Roman Catholics who still listen to the authoritative teachings of the Church.  I will simply quote verbatim what Blessed John Paul II wrote in the Apostolic Exhortation entitled Familiaris Consortio just three years into his pontificate. All of us need this timely reminder of what our Christian faith teaches about the plan of God about marriage and the family.

          "Christian revelation recognizes two specific ways of realizing the vocation of the human person, in its entirety, to love:  marriage and virginity or celibacy.  Either one is, in its own proper form, an actuation of the most profound truth of man, of his being 'created in the image of God.'

       "Consequently, sexuality, by means of which man and woman give themselves to one another through the acts which are proper and exclusive to spouses, is by no means something purely biological, but concerns the innermost being of the human person as such.  It is realized in a truly human way only if it is an integral part of the love by which a man and a woman commit themselves totally to one another until death.  The total physical self-giving would be a lie if it were not the sign and fruit of a total personal self-giving, in which the whole person, including the temporal dimension, is present:  if the person were to withhold something or reserve the possibility of deciding otherwise in the future, by this very fact he or she would not be giving totally."

          Blessed John Paul the Great already had anticipated what he would later write in the encyclical Evangelium Vitae about human fertility:  "This totality which is required by conjugal love also corresponds to the demands of responsible fertility.  This fertility is directed to the generation of a human being, and so by its nature it surpasses the purely biological order and involves a whole series of personal values.  For the harmonious growth of these values a persevering and unified contribution by both parents is necessary."

          He then states in no uncertain terms the inviolability of the institution of marriage, also stressed by the Philippine Constitution of 1987:  "The only 'place' in which this self-giving in its whole truth is made possible is marriage, the covenant of conjugal love freely and consciously chosen, whereby man and woman accept the intimate community of life and love willed by God Himself which only in this light manifests its true meaning.  The institution of marriage is not an undue interference by society or authority, not the extrinsic imposition of a form.  Rather it is an interior requirement of the covenant of conjugal love which is publicly affirmed as unique and exclusive, in order to live in complete fidelity to the plan of God, the Creator.  A person's freedom far from being restricted by this fidelity, is secured against every form of subjectivism or relativism and is made a sharer in creative Wisdom." 

          There is no question what Filipino Catholics--whether here or abroad--should do in light of this timely reminder of the true nature of marriage according to the teachings of our Church:  totally reject any move to legalize divorce in the Philippines.  For comments, my email address is