A groom offers a toast to his wife during a wedding celebration in a northern Philippine village. (Photo by Jimmy Domingo)
Catholic bishops welcomed the passage of a bill in the House of Representatives of the Philippines that gives civil recognition to church-decreed annulments of marriage.
The prelates said the approval of the proposed law in the Lower House of Congress is "very logical" and "upholds the indissolubility of marriage.”
Bishop Arturo Bastes of Sorsogon said that because the government approves a marriage performed by a priest, "it is only very logical that when the church annuls a marriage ... the civil government should also automatically recognize [it]."
Bishop Ruperto Santos of Balanga said the proposed measure still protects the "stability and sanctity of marriage," adding that the new law will continue to uphold the "indissolubility of marriage."
"[It] is favorable to the church in her mission to protect marriage," said the prelate.
He said the passage of the bill means that the church declaration of nullity now has the same effect as civil court decisions.
The prelate said the church criteria to nullify a marriage can also be the basis for civil courts in its deliberation and decision.
Bishop Santos said couples can also now avoid the costly and tiring judicial process in dissolving their marriage.
The proposed law provides that a declaration of nullity of a marriage by the church has the same effect as a decree of annulment, dissolution or declaration of nullity issued by a civil court.
The bill also specifies that a church annulment decree shall be recorded in the appropriate civil registries with the agreement of the spouses.
Without prejudice to the conditions set forth by the church, either of the former spouses can marry again after complying with the requirements of entering into a marriage.
The measure also provides that the status of children of marriages subject of the church annulment decree shall be determined in accordance with the provisions of the Family Code of the Philippines.
An overwhelming majority of the member of the House of Representatives voted to approve the proposed law on Jan. 29.
"From the bottom of my heart, I thank my colleagues for the swift passage of the bill without jeopardizing the indissolubility of marriage," said Rep. Yedda Marie Kittilstvedt-Romualdez, the bill's author.
The legislator said her proposed law is an offshoot of Pope Francis' announcement to simplify the procedures for annulling marriages in the Catholic Church.
Kittilstvedt-Romualdez said the pontiff's proposal for a briefer annulment process would have been useless if the government did not recognize church-decreed annulments.