ANNULMENT AND THE CHRISTIAN LAWYER

I do not know if this blog is the proper place or the opportunity to say something about the holiness of marriage and whether annulment or divorce is antithetical to this concept. After all, a lawyer’s blog is expected to promote a service for a fee. But then again, lawyers believe it or not are also human, and we do have spiritual lives to live. Since part of our practice is Philippine Family Law, which includes annulments or declarations of nullity of marriage, to this writer and the lawyers of the firm, our approach to a broken marriage is almost always “clinical” in nature. Too often , we look at a case as a collection of facts oblivious to the reality that there is behind those facts people and children in pain. A family in the throes of failure, and lives forever hurt by indifference and self-centeredness. It has always been a wonder how two people who were so in love could end up the worst of enemies. (they say there is a very thin line between love and hate) . Marriage , we are taught, is a sacred institution ( a legal one too). It has been used in scriptures as the model by which God has fashioned his church as a covenant with his people. So, while annulment of a marriage is allowed by law, is it, nonetheless, un-Christian ??

In another blog, we already mentioned the fact that the Philippines and Malta are the only two countries which do not allow for absolute divorce. In one account of the proceedings of the Committee which came up with the Family Code of the Philippines, it would seem that annulment in the Philippines was a compromise between the Catholic church in the Philippines and the Committee members, the intent being that the ground of psychological incapacity for the nullity of a marriage should be interpreted restrictively and should follow the lead of Canon Law. Early Philippine cases have reflected this struggle. Recent decisions have tested this concept though. Be that as it may, annulment then as a legal concept is NOT anathema to the sacredness of the institution of marriage since the Church allows the same based on certain grounds. . But the church taking into consideration that a marriage is made up of fallible human beings has allowed for a mechanism for the nullification of that marriage to pave the way for the remarriage of the parties in the hope that given a second chance the parties would be able to find happiness ever after. Perhaps then, this should be the way we should look at what we do. While there is of course a deep-seated constitutional separation in the concept of annulment between the Church and the State, and an annulment in either institution is not binding on the other, lawyers and the courts should be the instrumentalities to bring this about. In doing so, it is hoped that we promote peace, the good of all, and with a tinge of irony rest in the thought that it is the man-made way of precisely upholding the sacredness of marriage both as a social and legal institution. Without giving human beings some allowance for their weaknesses and foibles, marriage would be nothing but a necessary evil of sorts, recognized more in its violation than its observance.

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