Politicalized weddings

I RECEIVED a reaction on February 18 to the highly publicized mass wedding of 200 couples that was performed by Bacolod Mayor Evelio Leonardia earlier. We assume it was an official city affair. The couples were probably recruited by barangay officials and the reception paid for by the city. The star of the day of course was the mayor with his councilors as supporting cast.

He does this every year, if I recall right, and relishes his performance. With wide publicity and large audiences of families and their individual sponsors, the occasion cannot be but festive.

Considering Filipino culture that creates a special bond between the wedding sponsors and the bride and the groom and their families, staging this kind of affair at the expense of public funds is good election campaigning. That gives political color to the occasion; in effect it is clearly political. I don’t think that politicians are concerned with the family or sinful cohabitation as much as the political gain. This is the reason many politicians hold mass weddings.

The feedback to the Bacolod mass wedding from a former resident of Bacolod but who now lives in the US is frank. Let me quote the writer with a little editing to make it more readable.

“God have mercy to those who masterminded this event. What did the Catholic Church do? Did any apostolate come forward to offer Church validation of the civil contract to those who were baptized Catholics (confession and other sacraments should follow accordingly)?  My, this is serious matter, do something for the salvation of souls, talk to your bishop, get any ministry perhaps the Legion of Mary.

“The organizers, if they are Catholics, are limiting marriage to a civil contract and making these couples to live in sin and think that everything is ok. It is not ok. I am bothered with this crowd committing sin; the organizers making it appear all is now rosy and acceptable. This is a big blunder to those who were baptized Catholics and mal-informed of the Sacrament of Matrimony. These Catholics need instructions of what that civil contract meant – it is only for civil society but not enough for the Church.

Sorry, I can write pages and pages for this event, but you are very knowledgeable and my whining serves me no purpose. God help us!

“The ministers of these contracts, if they are Catholics, committed a mortal sin. The publicity and TV appearances show those government officials having fun on doing these, instead of seeing to it that the sacrament of Holy Matrimony be also done after the civil contract…you know the drill. The salvation of souls here is in danger for the wrong intentions.

“Catholic Bishops (most of them) are worried about saving the environment, the plastics, etc. than saving souls (sic). That event in Bacolod, what did the Bishop do? He could have arranged a marriage validation right after the civil show or did he? I have not read news about the Catholic Church doing something to this effect although changes are going on now with a cardinal being laicized. Now I am smiling as I could picture myself screaming at Mons (Antonio) Fortich”.


Civil weddings are not recognized by the Church as valid. Catholic couples just cohabit but in sin. Canon Law, 1108 §1, is very precise: Only those marriages are valid which are contracted before the local ordinary, pastor, or a priest or deacon delegated by either of them”.  Wedding ceremonies thus performed or presided over by mayors, ship captains and other civil or military authorities are valid only in the eyes of the government but not before the Church.

While our laws recognize their union, they cannot be accepted by the Church and those Catholics who performed them, as our letter writer said, committed a sin for the violation of Church law. Worse, they create the continuing belief, especially for uninstructed Catholics, that their union is no longer sinful.  The mayors are responsible for repeated sinfulness, because they should have taken the prudent step by asking Church authorities. But I believe they did not because their intention is political gain.

If civil authorities really want their citizens to be married, they should help them do so in accordance with their respective churches that also follow the civil laws. But then the politicians have different objectives – votes.