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Family separation can be ‘morally necessary’ – Pope Francis

(UPDATED 10:23 p.m.) VATICAN CITY - Pope Francis said Wednesday that it may be "morally necessary" for some families to split up, marking a change of tone in the Catholic Church's attitude to troubled marriages.
"There are cases in which separation is inevitable," he said during his weekly general audience, with a message hoping to encourage greater compassion in the Church ahead of a highly anticipated global meeting on family life in October.
"Sometimes, it can even be morally necessary when it's about shielding the weaker spouse or young children from the more serious wounds caused by intimidation and violence, humiliation and exploitation," he said.
Francis said there were many families in "irregular situations" and the question should be how to best help them, and "how to accompany them so that the child does not become daddy or mummy's hostage".
The issue is likely to be addressed during the upcoming synod — a gathering of bishops — on the family, which Francis hopes will help reconcile Catholic thinking with the realities of believers' lives in the early 21st century.
A first synod on the issues last year saw riled conservative bishops mobilise to block the approval of language heralding an unprecedented opening to the gay community and greater flexibility on the treatment of divorced Catholics.

First victims are the children

GMA News TV's State of the Nation reported that the Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines agreed with Pope Francis' latest statement on separation.

"It's still true that the first victims, the first ones who suffer parental separation (are) the children," Archbishop-Emeritus Oscar Cruz said in a phone-patch interview.

Fr. Francis Lucas, executive secretary of the CBCP Episcopal Commission on Social Communication and Mass Media, said family separation "depends on the truth, context or mode."
He said the position of the CBCP remains that spouses who wish to break their union can only do so through "legal separation or annulment" or "until one party gets professional help."  
In a position paper published by the CBCP against the pending divorce bill in Congress, CBCP president and Lingayen-Dagupan Archbishop Socrates Villegas said that a failed marriage is not an argument for divorce.
Villegas added that there are laws protecting the victims of domestic violence
"The supposed suffering that a spouse must bear owing to a failed marriage is more imagined than real, and comes only upon one who does not make use of the remedies already available under existing law," Villegas said.
Besides the Vatican, the Philippines is the only country in the world where divorce is illegal. 
The CBCP has expressed heavy opposition against the proposed measure legalizing divorce in the country, despite a recent survey saying 60 percent of Filipinos are in favor of it.

Indirect support

Gabriela Rep. Luz Ilagan, the author of the divorce bill pending in the House of Representatives, took Pope Francis' statement as one supporting her initiative in Congress.

"That is an indirect support of the bill na sinusulong namin which is divorce. Para sa mga babae na matagal nang nagtitiis, lalong lalo na king sila ay biktima ng domestic violence, abuso o kaya ay inabandona ng kanilang asawa o wala nang suporta," Ilagan told GMA News.

"Hindi naman ito katulad ng Las Vegas style divorce na magpapakasal ngayon, tapos bukas magdi-divorce na. Meron kaming mga kundisyon na nilagay," she added.

Spousal violence in the Philippines
According to the Philippine Commission on Women, the latest available government data showed that more than one-third (37%) of separated or widowed women in the Philippines have experienced physical violence, implying that domestic violence could be the reason for separation or annulment.
The 2008 National Demographic and Health Survey conducted by the National Statistics Office showed that emotional and other forms of non-personal violence are the most common types of spousal violence (23% of ever-married women). 
It added that one in seven ever-married women experienced physical violence by their husbands while eight percent experienced sexual violence by their husbands. —Agence France-Presse with a report from Kathrina Charmaine Alvarez, GMA News; and Agatha Guidaben, GMA News Research/JDS/NB, GMA News