Priests frown on bill allowing online weddings
It’s one thing to hear Masses online, but it’s quite another to wed couples virtually.
While the outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) has forced everyone to adopt new norms of living and working, Balanga Bishop Ruperto Santos said the pandemic should not change how weddings are performed.
The prelate thumbed down the idea of online weddings after a lawmaker filed a measure in the House of Representatives that would amend the Family Code to allow and honor the validity of marriages done online.
For one thing, Santos said weddings called for two consenting adults. If weddings are to be done virtually, he wondered how priests could be certain that the couple was “not impeded in their free decision to get married.’’
Besides, he said, the parties have to sign a marriage contract after the rites to make it official.
“How can a marriage contract be signed when the three contracting parties, namely, the couple, the celebrating priest and the sponsors, are not present?” he said.
Fr. Jerome Secillano agreed that the couple had to be physically present so the priest could determine whether their consent is freely given.
“Marriage can wait. And if couples are truly for it, there will always be a time for its proper celebration,’’ said the executive secretary of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines’ public affairs committee.
In House Bill No. 7042, Kabayan Rep. Ron Salo wants the legal meaning of personal appearance of the contracting parties to be “liberally construed to include virtual presence or presence through videoconferencing.” He pointed out that this was the new norm in other countries, such as the United States.
Salo, however, did not specify why there was an immediate need to pass this measure other than saying that “anecdotally” there are already couples who have decided to live together “without the benefit of marriage.”
To help curb the spread of the coronavirus, the government has banned mass gatherings, prompting a number of couples to cancel and postpone their weddings.
Given strong family ties among Filipinos, guests in a typical wedding can reach to a hundred, increasing the risk of coronavirus infection, especially if one of them unknowingly carries the virus.
Bishop Santos said a church wedding was not a mere show but rather a “sacrament” and “a celebration of life and love.”
He said that since some areas had already transitioned to less strict community quarantines, weddings could be held in churches, albeit with limited attendees.
In the Archdiocese of Manila, only the bride and the groom, one set of sponsors, and their immediate families are allowed in the ceremony.
Couples living in virus-hit communities should exercise patience and wait for the perfect time to wed, Santos said.
“As they say, love can wait. So we should be patient. We will surely surpass this COVID-19. God, in his perfect time, will give us a cure to this virus,” he said. —WITH A REPORT FROM TINA G. SANTOS INQ
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