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Tag Archive | "marriage"

FF Podcast 65 (Audio): Decriminalizing Adultery

FF Podcast 65: Decriminalizing adultery

In the Philippines, adultery is a crime. This week, we discuss adultery and what reforms have been suggested.

You may also download the podcast file here.

Filipino Freethinkers Podcast (Audio) feed

Filipino Freethinkers Podcast (Audio) feed

Filipino Freethinkers Podcast (Audio) on iTunes

Filipino Freethinkers Podcast (Audio) on iTunes

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FF Podcast 65: Decriminalizing Adultery

The Philippines has strange laws about adultery. This week, we discuss adultery and what reforms have been suggested.

You may also download the podcast file here.

Filipino Freethinkers Podcast feed

Filipino Freethinkers Podcast feed

Filipino Freethinkers podcast on iTunes

Filipino Freethinkers podcast on iTunes

Posted in Media, Podcast, Religion, Society, VideoComments (0)

FF Podcast (Audio) 020: “Traditional” Marriage and Freddie Aguilar Converting to Islam?

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This week, we talk about “traditional” marriage and how romance ruined it. Then, we talk about Freddie Aguilar and his consideration of converting to Islam in order to marry his underage girlfriend.

You may also download the podcast file here.

Filipino Freethinkers Podcast (Audio) feed

Filipino Freethinkers Podcast (Audio) feed

Filipino Freethinkers Podcast (Audio) on iTunes

Filipino Freethinkers Podcast (Audio) on iTunes

Posted in Audio, audio podcast, MediaComments (0)

FF Podcast 020: “Traditional” Marriage and Freddie Aguilar Converting to Islam?

Screen Shot 2013-11-08 at 7.09.23 AM 1

This week, we talk about “traditional” marriage and how romance ruined it. Then, we talk about Freddie Aguilar and his consideration of converting to Islam in order to marry his underage girlfriend.

You may also download the podcast file here.

Filipino Freethinkers Podcast feed

Filipino Freethinkers Podcast feed

Filipino Freethinkers podcast on iTunes

Filipino Freethinkers podcast on iTunes

Posted in Podcast, Religion, SecularismComments (0)

Love is Thicker Than Water (But Not True Semen)

Andy_Gibbq_(2)Former CBCP President Oscar Cruz has said that LGBT weddings are OK, but there’s a catch: Lesbians can only marry gays, gays can only marry lesbians, and the rest can only marry someone from the LGBT community if the other party has a different set of sexual organs:

May a lesbian marry a gay man? My answer is ‘yes’ because in that instance the capacity to consummate the union is there. The anatomy is there. The possibility of conception is there.

Aside from having the right pair of genitals, Cruz mentioned two other requirements for couples: capacity to consummate the union, and the possibility of conception. Many commented with the same questions: What about love? Is marriage just about sex? What about straight couples who cannot have children?

This led a fellow freethinker to write a satirical article about Catholic marriage, reporting that the Church will now integrate a sperm count in the wedding ceremony. I hope that few would miss the fact that this is satire. But no matter how satirical, I don’t think it comes close to how absurd the official Church position is. I’ll get to this shortly, but first, a reminder: The following is not satire.

Correcting Cruz

First of all, I’m surprised that Cruz got an important detail wrong, considering he is the judicial vicar of the CBCP National Appellate Matrimonial Tribunal. Possibility of conception is not a requirement for marriage. Or stated another way, sterility is not a marital impediment:

Can. 1084: §3. Sterility neither prohibits nor nullifies marriage, without prejudice to the prescript of ⇒ can. 1098. (The marriage contract can be invalidated if one of the parties is dishonest about their sterility.)

Although Cruz was wrong about sterility, he was right about impotence. Couples who want to get married must have the capacity to “consummate the union”:

Can. 1084 §1. Antecedent and perpetual impotence to have intercourse, whether on the part of the man or the woman, whether absolute or relative, nullifies marriage by its very nature.

So sterility is OK, but impotence is not. But this was not always the case.

Cum Frequenter and True Semen

In 1587, Pope Sixtus issued a papal document known as the Cum frequenter. (Again, this is not satire.) In the document, Pope Sixtus said that because eunuchs cannot have intercourse, they shouldn’t be allowed to marry. This was interpreted as saying that for men to have proper marital intercourse, they must be able to produce “true semen.” True semen, as it was first understood, meant that it contained a crucial element that could only come from the testicles: sperm. In other words, even sterility was an impediment to marriage.

Scientists soon discovered that the male ejaculate contained not only sperm but other stuff as well. According to Dorland’s Medical Dictionary, semen is “composed of spermatozoa in a nutrient plasma, secretions from the prostate, seminal vesicles and various other glands, epithelial cells and minor constituents.” So it could be argued that sperm, although often found in semen, was not what made semen “true.”

The uncertainty on what constitutes true semen led the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) to allow marriage involving men who had legally imposed vasectomies. It was only in 1977 when the CDF declared with certainty that canonical potency “does not necessarily require anything in the ejaculate that has been produced in the testicles.” True semen need not have sperm.

What’s Love Got To Do With It

But if sperm is no longer crucial, what is? Three things: (1) an erect penis (2) penetrating a vagina and (3) secreting true semen. The reason for this, however convoluted, is easy enough to explain. When a married couple successfully procreates in the Church-approved way, all 3 things are present. Therefore, all 3 things are essential in every sexual act — even though it may not necessarily lead to procreation.

So even though sterile couples cannot have children when they have sex, the fact that they’re having sex in the same Church-approved way that fertile couples do makes their intercourse valid.

Unfortunately, the first requirement — an erect penis — rules out the Church-approved way for impotent men. And the fact that there has to be one penis and one vagina rules out the Church-approved way for same-sex couples.

It’s also worth noting that even fertile couples who do not ever plan to have children are not allowed to marry. This, together with the other rules I’ve discussed reveal the Church’s true understanding of marriage: nothing more than a license to have sex. It doesn’t matter to the Church how much two people care for one another. Love may be thicker than water, but not true semen.

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Monopolizing Marriage: Gay Marriage and Other Traditional Versions

It’s a good time to be gay (and lesbian and bi and trans). Obama’s support for same-sex marriage came shortly after another LGBT win: Miriam Quiambao’s recent homophobic statements galvanized support for the LGBT community, raising awareness and even sympathy for their cause.

Momentum is on the LGBT community’s side, and with this week’s celebration of International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia (IDAHO), debates on marriage equality and other LGBT issues have reignited. Although an LGBT win is not guaranteed, the debate itself is a minor victory; the status quo is a defeat by default.

Dictating Definitions

To maintain the status quo, the Catholic Church and other conservative elements will try to dictate definitions — the terms of the debate. In the reproductive health (RH) debate, the most time-consuming distraction they use is the question, “When does life begin?” Pro-RH legislators would invariably fall into the trap of trying to define “life.” The anti-RH then argues as if it had a monopoly on the its meaning, which is to be expected from a group that has proclaims itself the “pro-life” side.

In the marriage equality debate, conservatives will use a similar tactic: they will try to monopolize the meaning of marriage. Marriage, they will argue, is a Catholic sacrament reserved for one man and one woman who love each other (unitive) and intend to have children (procreative) — to go beyond that definition bastardizes its meaning and endangers the institution of marriage itself. But even a brief look at history will show that the Catholic marriage is nothing but a modern invention.

What’s God got to do with it?

Long before God even created the world 6,000 to 10,000 years ago (if you’re a Young Earth creationist), people were getting married. The institution of marriage was invented before history was recorded reliably, and there’s as much variation in its practice as there are ancient cultures.

Back then, marriages were personal agreements that did not need the approval of the government or Church, and could easily be done informally — ceremonies were optional.

The Lesser Sacrament

It was only in the 12th century that Catholics started calling marriage a sacrament, and only in the 16th that they made the status official. And even then it was considered one of the lesser sacraments, and until the 10th century it was performed outside the Church. Priests didn’t officiate until the 13th century, a fact that mirrors the low esteem many Catholic leaders had for marriage.

Although Augustine believed that marriage was a sacrament, he thought that it delayed the coming of God’s kingdom. Jerome, a saint and Doctor of the Church, called marriage evil. Tertullian, called the founder of Western theology, said marriage “consists essentially in fornication.” Opinion varied, but it’s clear that marriage was viewed by early Catholic leaders as a necessary evil at worst and a lesser good at best.

What’s love got to do with it?

Far from the formal ceremony it is today, marriage was originally an agreement between individuals, a partnership — not a permanent commitment of love. It did not need the approval of the church or state, and it was often done informally — ceremonies were optional.

Rather than love or even lust, these agreements had more to do with money and power. Wives were not loved by their husbands and vice versa: women were simply child bearers; men, child supporters. As Demosthenes explained, “We have prostitutes for our pleasure, concubines for our health, and wives to bear us lawful offspring.”

When a man loves a woman

Traditional marriage? Solomon had 700 wives and 300 concubines.

Before heterosexual marriage became the norm, same-sex marriages had been in existence for centuries. It was a socially recognized institution in Ancient Greece and Rome, in some regions of China, and in Ancient Europe.

The one-partner limit is also relatively new. In Old Testament times, husbands could take multiple wives at the same time. Solomon, with all his divinely inspired wisdom, thought it was a good idea — he had 700 wives and 300 concubines. It was only in 342 AD that Christian emperors enforced the one-woman-one-man rule and ordered the execution of those who disobeyed.

More than baby-making

Despite their differences, the Church version and the more traditional ones share having children as a goal. But unlike their other marriage restrictions (consanguinity, affinity, age, etc.) the intention to have children is impossible to check, and is therefore unenforceable anyway.

This is probably why marriage is evolving to be something more than just baby-making thanks in no small part to the rise of reproductive health services and education around the world.

Traditional Marriage?

This review of the history of marriage is hardly comprehensive, yet it sufficiently shows how marriage has changed. If we include in our scope the various versions of marriage practiced today, it will make one thing clear: there is no individual or organization that can monopolize the meaning of marriage.

Giving the LGBT community the freedom to marry is not a break from tradition but a return to it. To be more precise, although it is different from the Catholic tradition, it is part of an older one, and if history is any justification, it’s just as valid. So the next time somebody protests that same-sex marriage destroys the traditional one, ask them: which tradition?


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Sanctity of "Sanctity"?

A news article at The Daily Tribune narrated a story about a woman having been conned by a “fixer” who was supposed to ensure her marriage annulment. The victim, who has been separated from her husband for about four years, paid the suspect Php85,000 in exchange for the suspect’s services to facilitate a “sure thing” and “hassle-free” annulment ruling. When the victim received the document for a favorable court ruling, she was very happy as this would enable her to proceed with her new life with her British boyfriend. However, her happiness was cut short upon learning that the court ruling document she received was a fake.

I see a couple of tragedies here. First, we have a victim who lost a huge sum of money from a scam. Second, we have someone whose hopes for having a new and promising life get crushed. While losing hard-earned money from a scam is a painful experience, I feel that having one’s hope crushed compounded with a feeling of helplessness is even more devastating. The Philippine government is certainly not helping out in preventing such tragedies from happening with its zealous Family Code. The Code aims to preserve the “sanctity of marriage” but when a marriage is irreparably broken what is the point of being confined in a mere nominal union if not to merely preserve the sanctity of “sanctity” itself?

Cavite Congresswoman Lani Mercado-Revilla said that people should work in preserving the holiness and purity of marriage. Marikina Congressman Marcelino Teodoro expressed his surprise upon learning of an increasing number of annulment filing in the country. Teodoro said that the figure: 

“…is an alarming percentage for a predominant Catholic country. There is a need to strengthen the law on the family as an inviolable institution.”


He further states:

“The problem with couples getting married is the lack of informed decisions which should have been provided by the seminars required before marriage…What couples fail to realize before getting married are the legal implications of their actions as husband and wife which entails deep thought and understanding. These obligations stretch out from co-habiting, obligations of the man to woman and vice versa as well as supporting the family. These are vital legal obligations that must be fully understood by couples and strictly informed to them by legal and Church-related seminars… Annulment should not always be the option. We must not relax the rules on annulment but make the provisions of the Family Code be clearly informed before entering the marriage. Marriage should not be done out of impulse or mere feelings but both parties should be psychologically prepared and legally informed for the lifelong commitment that it entails.”


I feel that it is this kind of thinking that is to blame. While Teodoro and Mercado-Revilla may believe that marriage is a holy sacrament according to their religious inclinations, preserving this religious ideal may not spell justice and promote happiness to the many lives trapped in an irreparably broken union. Granting that it is an assumption on my part to assert that a marriage involved in an annulment application is irreparable, I submit that it is also an assumption for the respectable lawmakers to say that the root of the problem stems from couples’ lack of psychological preparation and lack informed decisions for what is meant to be a lifelong commitment. We simply are not gods to have omniscience and omnipotence to ensure and maintain order in our lives all the time.

Is it a sin or is it wrong to have a marriage annulled by estranged couples? Why is this so wrong? Is it because of the perception of the “sanctity” of marriage? What does “sanctity” mean, anyway? When the marriage itself becomes a problem where can we find this “sanctity”? It may have been forgotten in bed the very moment the actual “sin” was committed!

I see marriage as a contract between two persons to love and honor one another till death parts them. Suppose that a man and a woman get married and everything is all nice and happy. Then after 10 years things in their lives have changed. Let’s say the man changed. Let’s suppose that he refuses to protect his wife; that he abuses, assaults, and tramples upon the woman he wed. Is his wife under any obligation to him? He has violated the contract. And despite all the counseling and intervention done to make the marriage work, the woman is still being hurt and tormented. Don’t we see that the husband has failed to live up to the oath in the contract, to love and honor his wife? In addition to physical injury and mental anguish, the kids are being affected by the constant violence they are seeing from their father. Is the wife under any obligation to the husband in that case? Is she bound by the contract the husband has broken? Must the wife live with the husband for the husband’s sake? Must the wife live with the husband and stay married to him for the sake of a religious ideal? Should we insist upon a wife to remain with a husband who torments her? Even married women have a right to personal security, don’t they? Do they lose their right of self-preservation the moment they say “I do” in the wedding ceremony? Does the woman have the right to seek a new life and a new happiness? Do we picture God, with His infinite wisdom and compassion, insisting that His child remain the wife of a cruel man? If our honorable lawmakers insist that marriage is a sacred inviolable union under God, even for a marriage that threatens the happiness and self-preservation of an individual, then I can only wonder why God could be so cruel as to limit and permit a person to live in a living hell. It’s easy to say that “God will find a way to make the marriage work if you just have faith” as well as “Having faith in God will make changes in the cruel partner’s ways, thereby saving the marriage”. It’s easy to say that those who opt to annul their marriage do not have faith and are immoral and so on. It is easy to condemn and judge these people but it is another story to actually feel their pain by walking in their shoes.

Those who oppose relaxing the annulment requirements or any bills with a shade of divorce may invoke religious beliefs or even quote Biblical passages to support their contention. That is fine and dandy and they have every right to express themselves. However, it is quite ironic that the only time Jesus was known to have actually written anything was the time when he wrote something in the sand when he challenged any sinless accusers of an adulteress to cast the first stone. Do all of our honorable lawmakers know how it actually feels like to be helplessly trapped in a miserable married life? Perhaps some of them do. But if they choose to remain in such a life, what makes it right for them to dictate how others, who perhaps don’t have the same means and privilege, ought to pursue their own new happiness and self-preservation?

To our Philippine lawmakers, please read the writings on the wall. Please look at the facts and please look at pragmatism once in a while instead of being overly fixated on cultural or even religious beliefs that are just simply too archaic and out of touch with the present reality. Laws are made for the sake of promoting and accommodating justice, not for the sake of promoting and accommodating laws.

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I Don't

Of the many things that terrified me when I was younger — ghosts,  garden gnomes, my father, that dead-Jesus-in-a-coffin statue at church — nothing made my skin crawl more than the thought of my wedding day. According to my relatives, taking some dude to be my lawfully wedded husband was as inevitable as getting stuck in traffic. No matter how consistent and insistent I was that I was never ever getting married ever, they’d just dismiss me as too young and angsty to know what I was talking about.

It’s true that my old reasons don’t hold much water nowadays, especially since the usual wedding traditions are no longer mandatory. I used to fear itchy, froufy white gowns with pearls and sequins; thick, smelly makeup; making little girls wear miniature froufy white gowns and thick, smelly makeup; having hoardes of kin fuss over you; spending over an hour in some creepy church (I was a wee, budding atheist then); letting your father walk you down the aisle all emotional-like; throwing a flower bouquet to a group of desperate, squealing women; the tears and syrupy well-wishing of said group of women; watching some dude put an absolutely unnecessary article of clothing called a garter on some tittering woman’s thighs; force-feeding cake; etc. Today, anyone can do away with these little nuptial chestnuts and it wouldn’t be a big deal. It could be a civil wedding with only one friend present and it would be fine.

But I am now 25 years old with a boyfriend of 2.5 years (which is, in my experience, a FUCKING MIRACLE), and the thought of marriage, however stripped down, still makes me queasy.

It’s not because I’m afraid of commitment; I want to nurture the relationship that I have for as long as humanly possible. In fact, we’ve been living together for more than a year, and pass as much gas in front of each other as married people do. What doesn’t sit very well with me, however, is the paperwork.

I don’t really care about the legal benefits shared between spouses, which are, at the end of the day, the only real “advantage” of getting married (after all, it doesn’t take a ceremony and a signature to prove your love to anyone). My boyfriend and I are averse to credit cards, so the ability to use your spouse’s card means squat to me. Neither do the supposed tax benefits, since I insist on keeping our income and expenses separate. And as for schools prohibiting our (maybe) future kid from applying because his folks aren’t married, I wouldn’t want any child of mine to study in an institution with a rod up its ass in the first place.

And about the exit plan. The last two things I would want to face upon the end of a relationship are payments and paperwork. Thus, this isn’t even a matter of the Philippines prohibiting divorce. It is heartwrenching enough to part from someone you care/used to care very deeply about. Having to make certain legal arrangements of whatever sort due to separation sounds like a lot of unnecessary tedium and pain. And money.

In line with this, I wouldn’t want one’s apprehension towards this said tedium and pain and money to be the reason for two people to force themselves to stay together, either. I bet if my mom and dad — who are, objectively speaking, a doormat and an asshole, respectively– just had the luxury of splitting up without having to legally prove why they should, then I would have had a much happier childhood. I don’t believe in that Hollywood cliche where the kid is totally broken that his folks are splitting up. I was broken because my folks stuck it out. They thought that splitting up would be the easy, immature way out. I truly believe that the opposite is true.

This isn’t to say, of course, that I’m against legalizing divorce or same-sex marriage.  People should have the option to get married, whatever their gender, and with the option to get out of it, as long as they fully know what they’re getting into. In the same vein, people should have the option not to get hitched, too.

I know that my boyfriend and I are two perfectly intelligent, competent (and, like, totally hawt) individuals, and that we will only keep being together for the right reasons. I feel incredibly lucky that I get to see him everyday, have all sorts of adventures with him from week to week (especially in line with the Freethinkers’ shenanigans), and have absolutely no shame when I fart in his presence. Why mess with a good thing?

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Of Course I Don’t Want To Get Married!


Two stories. A well-meaning friend of mine hurt me badly this year when she said, after I shared that my marriage was over and I was getting an annulment – “Leons, you know it still means you can’t ever get married”. First thought that popped to mind was – “What?! You’re going to consign me to a life of solitary confinement, of being alone till the end of my days, coz I made one lousy mistake?!”.

Fast forward to another close friend telling me last week: “What’s the point of getting an annulment if I’m not getting married again?!”

I could speak volumes about this topic. And believe me I will. Or rather what could fit in one Facebook note.

I’m not getting an annulment because I want to get married again. I’m getting an annulment because I want a legal document stating my marriage is over. I want my name back. I want the assurance that no man has ever the right to dictate the way I live my life. I want to be free from his clutches. I want not to have to submit myself to anyone ever again. I’m doing this for myself and not for anyone else.

So of course I don’t want to get married. Why should I, when the only marriage I’ve known is one where I knew so much misery and pain for eight long years. For this is what I’ve known marriage to be:

A regimented life. It’s about being at home at a set time so one can fit into the image of a perfect wife. Women in this century have it far worse: they’re also expected to put food on the table (work during the day) and be Suzy homemaker when they get home. It’s doing the laundry, and the housework, taking care of the kids, dealing with dirty diapers and midnight feedings.

Being used. You can’t let me talk about marriage and not talk about sex. After all, marriage is the only arena where it is socially acceptable to have sex. It’s a bit hypocritical to tell women they have to say no to men when sexual overtures are made when they’re single, and then say, you can’t tell your husband “No” when you’re married (as a best-selling Christian book on marriage advised). Most nights it was just easier to say yes than to have to endure a grumpy husband for days on end.

Subjugating one’s needs for the other. Marriage is about putting your needs on the shelf, and relegating yourself to a far priority. It’s keeping your dreams on a leash so you won’t have your husband think he’s being overshadowed by you. It’s living Sandra’s life in Barry’s popular song: “I wanted to be like my mother But if I hadn’t done it as soon as I did Oh there might have been time to be me For myself, for myself There’s so many things that she wishes She don’t even know what she’s missin’ And that’s how she knows that she missed.”

So yes, that’s why I’m running scared. And I think I have every right to be.

Perhaps someday I’ll know marriage could be more than this — that it’s about sharing a life, bearing financial burdens together, having someone to be there when you panic when your daughter breaks her arm, or your autistic son falls down, hits his head and is rushed to the hospital. It’s making dreams come true, and growing old and having someone hold your hand. But that’s still a concept of marriage I’m altogether unfamiliar with.

Maybe someday.

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