A Larger Group

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At their next meeting, Brent asked Fr. Henry to open with a prayer, after which Henry announced, I heard about the discussion you had last week, about AB 7303, the bill to legalize divorce. So I took the liberty to ask some friends of mine, from various churches, to come and discuss—maybe argue—the issue with all of you. Let me introduce them: Here on my left is a sister Anglican, Deacon Annabelle from Holy Mackerel Church. Next to her stands Pastor John Stalwart, UCCCP Baguio. Then to my right is Pastor Jerome, from Balili Born Again Baptist Church, and then The Reverend James Yamaguchi, from the Holy Moses R.C. Church.

Now when you get a group together to discuss important and difficult issues, it helps to begin by getting on common ground, so I’m thinking (“Congratulations!” says his wife, Henrietta), that we should first talk about a serious need for some other legislation, namely the need for a law governing the length of time bus and truck drivers can spend on the road. You all remember the fatal bus accident at Tuba a few months ago? Well, a friend of mine in La Trinidad Rotary, a policeman, told me that passengers reported the driver was falling asleep. Drivers go all the way from Baguio to Manila and back, each day. I even rode with a driver from Loaog who told me he goes from there to Baguio and back, each day! By the way, this group wants to help initiate legislation that would limit a PUV to something like 6-8 hours a day.

Brent, the unofficial group leader, speaks up. I bet we could all support that, right? Let’s take a vote! All in favor, raise your hands. All hands indicate Aye except Deacon Annabelle’s, whose family owns a bus line. Good, says Brent. Now let’s proceed to the more controversial matter.

Socrates Benedicio, a philosophy prof at BSU and newcomer to the group, speaks up. As a former priest, I can testify to a lot of misery brought about by the Philippine prohibition of divorce—the only nation besides the tiny Vatican that does that. I think one way to look at it is the ethical principle set forth by the utilitarian, John Stewart Mill—“The greatest good for the greatest number of people.” I think society’s laws should reflect that, and ask, “What is the greatest good for everyone?”

No, no, says Father Yamaguchi, God’s law is never determined by majority rule!

True enough, says Pastor Jerome, but first of all, are we most basically under Law, or Grace, as Romans 6 asserts? And isn’t love the fulfillment of the law? Pastor Stalwart jumps in: Yes, and didn’t Jesus, while asserting the sanctity of marriage, say that one reason for divorce was “infidelity”? Your church, Father, seems stricter than Jesus!

I see why you say that, says Fr. Yamaguchi, but if you enshrine infidelity as the one thing that will permit divorce, where will that leave society? People will go have an affair, in order to justify a divorce!

It seems that would be like sinning that grace might abound, the thing that Paul condemns in Romans 6, says Deacon Annabelle. But in the proposed law, infidelity is only mentioned as one factor making a marriage “irremediably broken”.  I think that all churches should teach the sanctity of marriage, should insist on real pre-marital counseling and marriage-enhancing seminars, and counseling for those wanting to divorce.

Yes, says Brent, and provide training in discipleship and love, the glue that holds everything together.  And with that he closed the meeting with a prayer.

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