The Philippines Under Attack: The Divorce Deception

The last country in the world to completely outlaw divorce is the Philippines. Now, however, a new bill, House Bill 6027, is threatening the sanctity of marriage and family life by introducing divorce in a predominantly Catholic country (86%), seeking to permit divorce in the broad and undefined cases of “irreconcilable differences” or “severe and chronic unhappiness.” This is but the latest attempt by anti-family legislators to sponsor a divorce bill, the last being in 2016.

The bill is being sponsored by House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez, who is himself separated from his wife and in a relationship with another woman, and who has reportedly fathered eight children with different women. Mr. Alvarez is not alone in his assault against marriage and family life. He is joined by fifteen members of the Philippine government who co-authored the legislation.

To many people in the West it must seem like this is a news story from a far-off, more backwards time. Surely – some would say – in the 21st century we’re past letting the government restrict grown adults from making decisions about their own “private” love lives.

And yet, though this attitude is far too common now, it is truly astonishing to think how recent the invention of no-fault divorce even is, and how recently the vast majority of people understood that divorcing one’s spouse was not only morally wrong, but socially destructive, impacting not just the couple choosing to divorce, but the entire social fabric.

Governments understood this too. Until only a few decades ago, most nations in the West either completely outlawed divorce, or placed severe restrictions upon circumstances in which a divorce might be obtained. In America, the first no-fault divorce law was passed in 1969, in California.

Surveying the catastrophic impact no-fault divorce has had upon marriage, children, and society, it sometimes seems that the strangest thing about the modern world’s brief and disastrous dalliance with divorce is the lack of proportion between the extent to which the worst predictions of those who opposed divorce have come true, and the widespread apathy in relation to the issue.

Even the Christian churches have made a troubled peace with a practice that can in no way be reconciled with Christ’s forceful and unmistakable words on the permanence of marriage. Most denominations now either outright endorse divorce, or, at best, avoid talking about it, for fear of “offending or driving away the faithful.”

The Catholic Church, however, has continued to stand firm, acting – at least in Her formal teaching – as a true voice crying out in the wilderness. As the Catechism of the Catholic Church clearly states:

“Divorce is a grave offense against the natural law. It claims to break the contract, to which the spouses freely consented, to live with each other till death. Divorce does injury to the covenant of salvation, of which sacramental marriage is the sign. Contracting a new union, even if it is recognized by civil law, adds to the gravity of the rupture: the remarried spouse is then in a situation of public and permanent adultery.” (CCC, ¶ 2384)

The Catechism adds: “Divorce is immoral … because it introduces disorder into the family. This disorder brings grave harm to the deserted spouse [and] to children traumatized by the separation of their parents.” (CCC, ¶ 2385)

Those who defend no-fault divorce by saying – as former Canadian Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau once did while attempting to liberalize the law regarding sexual matters – that “there’s no place for the State in the bedrooms of the nation,” need to be shown the pernicious lie behind his pithy statement. Namely, that what happens in the bedroom is clearly not just a “private” matter between two consenting adults. It is, in one sense, the most public of all acts – the procreation of children, the building of families, the genesis of generations.

In most of the West, divorce has become pervasive, with as many as 30-50% all marriages (depending on how it’s calculated) ending in divorce – that’s assuming that the couple bothers even to get married in the first place, choosing instead to cohabitate (simulate married life). As I mentioned a few weeks ago, the impact this behavior has had on children is catastrophic.

Indeed, those who persist in their belief that divorce is a fundamentally “harmless” choice between consenting adults need only spend a few minutes talking to the children of couple’s who divorced. While their feelings may be complex, especially if their parents’ marriage was especially troubled, many will (if they are being honest) confess to profound feelings of abandonment, uncertainty, and anxiety following the divorce, as the entire supporting framework of their lives is pulled out from beneath them. Often they are then thrown into an uncertain, nomadic life: being shuffled from one parent to another, while – to add insult to injury – being asked to accept and feel affectionate towards their parents’ new partners.

For many children, this is devastating.

This is far from pure speculation. Study after study has shown that divorce is one of the worst things that can happen to a child. In fact, one Irish study found that the sense of loss that children experience after a divorce is worse than if one of their parents had died. That might sound counter-intuitive, but it actually makes sense because in one case the parent’s departure, while tragic, is involuntary, while in the other case, the parent chose to leave their child.

Another article in The Week lists nine negative impacts that science has shown divorce has on children, including: significantly higher incidences of smoking and Ritalin use, poor math skills, susceptibility to illness, increased likelihood of dropping out of school and engaging in criminal behavior, to list just a few.

But perhaps one of the most revealing, and troubling, is the eighth on the list: that children of divorce are up to twice as likely to get divorced, or, if both spouses are children of divorce, up to three times as likely to divorce. In other words, a couple’s choice to divorce not only affects their marriage, but the marriages of their children – potentially for generations.

Yes, there are cases – for instance of serious abuse – where it is necessary for couples to separate for the good of one or more of the spouses, and for children. Catholic ecclesial law (Canon Law) clearly provides for those cases. But that is not what we are talking about here.

Divorce simply is not the answer for couples having difficulties. There are options that would better serve a married couple, their family, and society. Rather than making it convenient for couples to take the “easy way out,” governments should, instead, be supporting the common good by finding solutions to support couples to strengthen their marriages.

Governments could partner with the Catholic Church and other faith communities with a vested interest. Together, they could create Marriage/Family Life Support centers, which could offer counsel to couples and families, helping them to remain together – building a stronger and healthier marriage and family life; after all, society has everything to gain in the protection of marriage, which is meant to be exclusive, fruitful, and indissoluble.

The Marriage and Religion Research Institute (MARRI) has completed a massive study entitled the Mapping America Project, which is based on the USA’s National Survey of Family Growth (NSFG). MARRI has found that the people who are happiest have three characteristics: They are religious, they come from an intact family, and they are married.

Fortunately, many Filipinos are fighting back against this current affront against marriage and family life. Rene Josef Bullecer, M.D., Country Director for Human Life International (HLI) in the Philippines, is among Catholic leaders greatly concerned by the development. He has been meeting with the National, Regional and Local Councils of the Laity and granting media interviews to try and stop the threat – bringing greater awareness. Quoted in Cebu News, Dr. Bullecer said: “Let’s not wait for this bill to become law before we take actions against it.”

Please pray for Dr. Bullecer and other Filipino Catholic and family leaders as they wage battle against this proposed anti-family legislation. May they be successful!

About Fr. Shenan J. Boquet

Fr. Shenan J. Boquet has served as president of Human Life International since 2011. He was ordained in 1993 as a priest of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Houma-Thibodaux, Louisiana. As HLI’s president, Fr. Boquet collaborates with fellow laborers in the pro-life and family movement in over 80 countries, offering the Sacraments, giving seminars and trainings, appearing on numerous media outlets, and encouraging people of all walks of life to live as faithful advocates for a Culture of Life and Love. He is available for interviews and bookings on behalf of HLI by emailing


  1. Mary Laing on August 26, 2017 at 8:06 PM

    If you don’t worship God, you’ll worship anything. Too many people worship sex, power, or money. Scripture says, “The bad things that people do lives on for five generations. The good that they do lives on for a thousand generation.” Of course, the culture of death dies out. All the people die. They lose their lives, their families, and their cultures. European countries cannot pay couples to have children.

  2. Anthony Tassinari on August 26, 2017 at 11:16 PM

    I think the quote is, “The evil that men do lives after them; the good is oft interred with their bones.” William Shakespeare in Julius Caesar → Act 3, Scene 2 This is why we need to reverse divorce in our country and do what we can to prevent it from happening anywhere else in the world.

  3. Joanne Noll on August 27, 2017 at 10:40 AM

    Sooo grateful for these very powerful & truthful statements from HLI! Divorce is a very destructive family harmony. I have first hand experience.

  4. Jeff on August 29, 2017 at 11:08 PM

    Right. So when a woman marries a man only to see his true heart after the union is made, she should be forced to remain in an unhappy, abusive relationship…even though the husband is going against everything the bible says about how a husband is to treat his wife.

    When she discovers he is a murderer….She must still remain.
    When he sleeps with a loaded gun….She must still remain.
    When he rapes her…..She must still remain.
    When he threatens to dismember her with a machete…..She must still remain.
    When he tells others “If my wife ever remarries, I will decapitate our son….She must still remain married to him.

    She no longer loves him…She fears and despises the man she has come to know….but still she must remain.

    But what if she runs away and years latter finds real love with a man that treats her as she should be treated….Is this love not a gift from God?

    And what if after years of being together in a perfect relationship, a child is conceived?….Is that child not a gift from God?

    It is easy for you to site how divorce is a sin and should not be allowed and yet, ignore your own sins…for we are ALL sinners.

    And tell me, How can the church allow annulment, but only make it accessible to those that can afford it? Is this not a contradiction? Shouldn’t everyone have the right of safety, happiness and love?

    The current system of obtaining an annulment is about money, not truth. Is that not in itself a sin?

    Unless the church can change this and make annulment affordable for all, it has no right to dictate the law…It has no right to keep the poor in the virtual slavery of a bad marriage for allowing the system to operate in this manner has NOTHING to do with protecting the country’s morality and citizens.

    What are we to do when the church fails us?

    • Allan on August 30, 2017 at 4:43 AM

      She was the one who forced herself in that “unhappy, abusive relationship” when she did not properly know her husband during courtship yet still agreed to a marriage “for better or for worse,” until death. She can separate, but the contract has been written. She is married in the eyes of God.

      What you are doing is making excuses for people who did not properly know their spouses and who want to run away from the consequences of their mistakes and fix their wrongdoing with another one. If people thought like you did, they would not bother about marriage preparation and background checks of their potential spouses because they can patch their failures with your band-aid solution of “divorce” that perpetuates more misery to society.

      An illegitimate child may be a gift from God, but one that was improperly obtained. The adultery was not a “gift,” but a sin. So was the divorce.

      Just because we are all sinners does not mean we should be permissive. By your thought process, we should be accepting of fornication, adultery, sodomy, polygamy, incest, bestiality, etc., after all, “we are all sinners.” You forgot to mention that we must also be perfect as our Heavenly Father is.

      You posture yourself to be concerned about truth, yet you libel the Church by writing “The current system of obtaining an annulment is about money, not truth.” The Vatican has asked dioceses whenever possible to waive their marriage tribunal fees. The USCCB states in its website that the fees “may be reduced or even waived in cases of financial difficulty.” But, you seem to have forgotten that fees are normal, since you have to pay people for their time. If you need a service, then work to earn the money you need for it rather than blame others for charging you fees for what they would do for you, in the first place.

      Apparently, you are not interested in any thoughtful discussion on the Church’s teaching on divorce. You are only interested in pro-divorce propaganda and smearing the Church for not falling in line with it. Blame yourself for your sins, not the Church
      for not accommodating your plan of escape from their consequences.

      • Sheryl on December 1, 2017 at 8:45 AM

        Allan, maybe you are wrong about this one. I lived in the same barrio and grew up with my husband. I marry my husband because I loved and trust him, but after I found out his girlfriends he leave me and his kid, and even he have many kids to other women and he had new family now for many years. He will never comeback now and there’s nothing I can do. Maybe you should come here in the Phils. and understand the problem before you judge people. The problem here in the Phils. is not the teaching of the church, it’s about the law. I went to the church to asked for help even they agree but they can’t do anything because of the situation of the law here. And even the Pope waived the fees and the church but the court cannot because of the law here. Even I could work for ten years I cannot save enough for the court and atty. fees. And even I did and the church approved for the annulment the court can still deny the legal annulment. Understand that the discussion of annulment is about the court annulment not the church annulment. The fees of the Filipino cannot afford to pay is due the court system not the church. Even the church can approved an annulment it’s not legal in the court. Also the job situation is not good in the Phils. that’s why many Filipinos are working abroad because it’s not enough job here. Maybe you understand the law there in the US but you cannot understand the law here in the Phils. If people can stop talking about the church law and start fixing the problem the court law maybe we can solve this problem.

      • Jeff on November 13, 2018 at 11:31 AM

        Allen, you are sitting here talking about stuff you no nothing about. She did not agree to anything. Young people often do not so smart things. She was young herself when he forced himself on her, impregnating her…Because she was pregnant her family forced her to marry…A few months down the road he began drinking an abusing her mentally, physically, sexually and financially….but still she stayed …he slept with a gun under his pillow and claimed to have killed a man in cold blood….the final straw came when he chased her and threatened to slice her up with a knife…She ran off to hong kong then Indonesia…I met her 6 years after she left
        and we have been in a very good place together since. I treat her like a queen…we never yell at each other and now have an 18th month old daughter together…We are happy…I protect them both

        As for the fees, If you had a brain in that head you would know how expensive those fees are….most poor Filipinos cannot afford them

        You know nothing about us nor do you know anything about the scores of abused women stuck in abusive marriages. The church claims that they are protecting families and children…..but tell me…how in a child stuck in the middle of a warzone of a family being protected????? More often than not it is not only the spouse being abused, but the children as well….Your hardheadedness is not protecting families, it is hurting them

  5. Athene Aberdeen on September 2, 2017 at 3:05 PM

    The truth of divorce and its effects may not be apparent to many today who get married too young to truly appreciate the sacramental reality of their union with each other. I do not believe that the spirituality of young persons today is being sufficiently shaped by extant catechesis on marriage in the Church. What I do know is that different values promoted by the secular culture seem to go relatively unchallenged by most families who are shaped more by the social fabric of the particular society- having a good job, a decent education, living comfortably- nowadays postponing having children because they cannot afford a house or other suitable accommodation, and/or getting married later in life because getting value for one’s education is critical to one’s sense of self. I do not know how strong the extended family still is in the Phillipines or, whether church pastoral initiatives are robust enough to
    cope with those who know their marriages are on the rocks and seek help. It is a complex situation and young persons cannot cope well, not in these times.

    • James on December 1, 2017 at 5:52 AM

      Unfortunately this is article serves as a valid example of the uninformed, dispassionate, inconsiderate, and sometimes inept mid-level leadership of the Catholic church in modern times. Before getting upset at this characterization, please allow a brief moment to explain. I hope to point out how the current annulment laws in the Philippines actually attack the sanctity of marriage and/or family.
      First of all, let me explain that I am Catholic, and harbor a deep love of God, Jesus and the Roman Catholic religion overall. However, I also acknowledge that the human factors occurring within the church clergy and/or leadership have incredible potential to harm the churches’ most faithful patrons. This level of harm is exemplified by events ranging from sexual scandals within the ranks of the clergy to the current stranglehold the Catholic Church holds over Filipino annulment law. Obviously, Catholic doctrine vehemently prohibits sexual misconduct by its Priests, but it does not always prevent them from acting in this manner. Unfortunately, it is not the offender that suffers the greatest consequences in life, it is the victim.
      Well, the same concept applies in the case of the current annulment law. This article sites the self-admitted conduct of House Speaker Alvarez. While I do not support his extramarital conduct, I do credit his candid acknowledgement and ownership in such a public forum. He shows courage and resolve. He has generously availed himself as a valid example of the failures of the current annulment code in public law. Seemingly, Speaker Alvarez chose to participate in extramarital activity, and for reasons perhaps known only to him, made a firm decision not to continue living within the boundaries defined by his contract of marriage—he made a firm decision to permanently disavow his wife. Whether one agrees with his conduct or not (I don’t), consider his wife for a moment; consider the underlying social truth to this situation. She has been disowned, and whether or not she chooses to be alone from this point forward, without an annulment she is destined to a life of solitude and loneliness in terms of domestic relationships, or a life of sin living together with a spousal replacement in some type of extramarital domestic relationship. Your next response will undoubtedly argue that she may obtain an annulment under these circumstances, and realistically with her wealth, she could probably obtain said annulment. She will have to prove psychological incapacity on the part of her husband and spend hundreds of thousands of pesos. Done—annulment granted, enabled by wealth.
      The average Filipino may not see this kind of money in decades of existence. How many Filipina wives have become permanent and irreversible victims of abandonment? How many Filipino husbands? What about them? What about the innocent victims who tried their best to influence a wayward spouse, but could not? What are the possible outcomes for them given the cost and criteria for annulment within the Filipino court system? The decision of the offending spouse to never again engage in marital responsibilities pertaining to the victim is well beyond the victim’s control.
      The husband is the victim, remaining at home with the children of a wife that abandoned him while working in Hong Kong; and, has since divorced abroad, remarried, and moved on to create a new family in Australia. He probably lacks all necessary documentation to file for annulment in the Philippines without her assistance, so he will seek out a new domestic situation. Out of wedlock, attempting to survive and meet the responsibilities of a parent, he can never marry the wonderful woman that voluntarily took on the responsibilities of mother and saved the concept of family for his children. While the offending wife is happy in Australia, never to return in the face of adultery charges, your laws have destroyed the husband who tried to act properly, and prevented the “sanctity of family” for him and his children, by not allowing a workable, affordable means to recover from hardship, remarry, and establish a proper family situation.
      The wife is the victim, whose husband left the province to work in Manila and has since abandoned her. She remains in the province with her children, hungry, borrowing what she can from her family, who really cannot afford to support her. But, the family will try to help at their own expense, because Filipino family ties run strong. They all live in poverty, scraping by, until one day she meets a man that loves her and wants to support her and her children, alleviating the burden on the family. He pays for an annulment proceeding that gets turned down because she cannot prove the ridiculous criteria of psychological incapacity in court. Her husband knew exactly what he was doing, therefore there was no psychological incapacity. In fact, he has other girlfriends and children and couldn’t care less about his wife in the province. He will never come back to her. The man that could have saved her and her children now considers leaving because he cannot marry, or even reside with her legally, without the potential of facing adultery charges himself. The broken family lives on in poverty without proper medical care, education and relief. She cannot understand why the Catholic hierarchy interfered with the man she believes God sent to relieve the burden of her and her children. So, she now converts to Islam, believing that divorce is permitted under certain circumstances, because she cannot independently survive and provide for her children properly. Her divorce case also fails because the marriage was not contracted under Islamic law. Her could-have-been husband for life, and provider for her children leaves for good. Congratulations Fr., your annulment law pushed this woman away from Catholicism and Christianity entirely, delivering her into the arms of Islam without cause, and prolonging the suffering of her and her children.
      Are those the results you hope to achieve by upholding your annulment law? Is that the way forward? – Because these cases number in the hundreds of thousands, if not millions, in the Philippines. While the initiating immoral conduct is admittedly not the fault of the Catholic Church, the lack of reasonable, affordable, and workable courses of action for victims of these situations is absolutely the fault of the religious leaders of Filipino Catholics. You Catholic leaders, and Catholics who do not acknowledge the widespread social truths imparted by the current laws share much of the fault in this paradox.
      Please do the right thing for those that suffer; be a part of the solution, not the problem. Enforce proper conduct within the church, but embrace separation of church and state as it pertains to the annulment law. Allow victimized Catholics a legitimate opportunity to move on with their lives after all pro-marital efforts have been expended, and have ultimately failed. Please see the consequential reality, and most importantly, do not force your victimized patrons away from the church. With consideration to the ground truth, you Catholic leaders in the Philippines have this one wrong! Please fix the problem before it ruins the lives of countless innocent victims, children, and furthers destroys the credibility of Catholic leadership! Please open your eyes to the truth for once, and stop spouting theoretical Catholic doctrine absent all means of practical application!

    • Sheryl on December 1, 2017 at 6:33 AM

      When I’m reading this at first I’m angry, but when I finished I wanna say thank you for this post kasi gaya ng sitwasyon ko. My husband abandoned me for how many years and now he has new family and nothing I can do because of the law.I hope they change this law talaga. Because I even asked help for the church and they agree, but they cannot even help me because of this law talaga. This law is very bad but the church is not.

  6. Leslie on February 24, 2018 at 3:38 AM

    Marriage should never be treated as if it were a disposable item — paper plate, disposable cups, disposable gloves… something that we can just throw away anytime we please. That’s what our legislators are trying to make of it here in our country. 🙁

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