Just recently, the Philippine government through one of its agencies, The National Statistics Office (NSO), directed that Catholic priests will not be issued licenses to solemnize marriages unless they undergo a seminar on marriage laws. Of course, this was resented by some members of the Catholic Church led by His Eminence Cardinal Rosales and His Excellency Angel Lagdameo. (The Diocese of Cubao already took the seminar because of the necessity of solemnizing marriages by some of its priests whose licenses are expiring.) Cardinal Rosales said that the directive seems to regard the priests as stupid. He further said that the Catholic Church had been doing it for the last 2000 years. Solemnizing marriages is a serious act in the Catholic Church. Archbishop Lagdameo, on the other hand , said that marriage laws are included in the seminary course. Priest, before they graduate are well oriented in the solemnization of marriages. Besides, both prelates said that if there are additional laws or instructions, all the government had to do is to send them to the chancery of all dioceses and the Chancellors will take care of communicating them to the priests. Based on the seminars that had already been done, nothing much is really new with regards to the laws the NSO wanted to make Catholic priests should be aware of. Incidentally, a fee of 1,500 to 3,500 pesos will be paid by each priest.
This directive is defective and lacks good reason. If there are incidents of violation (which, I believe are rare!), then this is not the way to correct it. To put all priests in one basket would be, as Cardinal Rosales said, to regard "priests as stupid!" There are things that must be clarified here.
As mandated by law, couples must be married civilly. Therefore, no two people could live as husband and wife unless they are married before the law. The usual officer for this are the judges and mayors or other designated government officials. But because religions also require the same to their faithful, and for the convenience of the faithful, the civil marriage is done together with the sacramental marriage (church marriage) in the case of the Catholic Church. That is why, priests are also required to get a license to solemnize marriage civilly.
As far as the Catholic Church is concerned, she requires Christian couples to be "sacramentally married". Couples are bonded not by law but by their consent and the grace of God. Essentially, civil marriage is not a requirement. As far as salvation is concerned, civil marriage is not a marriage. In fact, it can be a source of legitimacy for sin for some. As long as one is sacramentally free to marry, then sacramental marriage can be made.
So, the real situation is that the Catholic Church is accommodating the law in order not to subject the faithful to legal consequences. Now comes this situation of a directive of not being given a license to marry because of not having undergone a seminar? A lot of repercussions may happen because of this.
But first, I would like to assert that if there is a marriage that is strictly guided and supervised, it is the one by the Catholic Church. In the Catholic marriage, the couple is required to undergo a "canonical investigation" where they are interviewed and examined not only of their freedom to marry but also their capacity to marry. They are required to have marriage counseling by model couples, and they are required to have basic and important sacraments. Some even require them to undergo discovery weekends in order to further challenge their decision and also have a taste of togetherness even in a laboratory setting.
On the other hand, the same could not be said of the civil marriages being conducted by civilian solemnizing officers, (and maybe including some supposed "pastors" of some sects or religions). That is understandable because their concern is more of what is legal and not much on the viability or sacramentality of marriage. Some "pastors" of other religions who are also given licenses are wanting in fully dispensing the spiritual aspect of marriage. Many are doubtful as to the authenticity of their sect or group. I will not be far from the truth if they only have a number of members and all are more into solemnizing marriages civilly and according to their"faith". The names of these sects, interestingly, make use of a mixture of words associated with the Catholic Faith in order to make it appear for those being married that they are being married "sacramentally"too!
The more important question is, "What if the government insists?". What are the options for the Catholic Church? One is, like the Diocese of Cubao, let the priests undergo the seminar and pay the fee. Another is not to undergo a seminar and not acquire a license. Priests will just ask the couples to have civil marriage first, then apply for sacramental marriage in Church. Or one priest will just undergo a seminar and let him sign the marriage licenses of those married in the Catholic Church. Only, in this case, the couples are made to undergo so much process which, before, can all be done in the sacramental marriage.
Abangan ag susunod na kabanata!