The Honeycomb, the Lily and the Bomb

by Plinio Corrêa de Oliveira


Folha de S. Paulo, 6th June 1987

Back in the seventies, the Brazilian newspaper, Folha de S. Paulo, asked Prof. Plinio Corrêa de Oliveira if he favored the end of legal restrictions to divorce. His reply is very applicable to the present debate around same-sex “marriage.” We reproduce the newspaper interview here having in mind the similarity between the two issues.

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The Brazilian Society for the Defense of Tradition, Family and Property (TFP) had numerous jousts against divorce in its history. Employing every means of action in this struggle, the TFP fought against it until the final moment.

The victory of divorce did not result, however, from the fact that a particularly fervid or efficacious pro-divorce onslaught had finally managed to raze the glorious rampart of conjugal indissolubility. Rather, this victory resulted from the lamentable relaxations that occurred within the Catholic milieu itself! But, I insist, it is manifestly well known that the TFP fought against it until the end.

These facts come to my mind with regard to a question presented to me by the newspaper Folha de S. Paulo about whether I am favorable to or against the “end of legal restrictions to divorce.” Clearly, I am against the revocation of these restrictions. If I see in divorce a catastrophe, I can only be enthusiastically favorable to that which curtails its effects.

I should add that the greatest catastrophe in this matter was not—nor does it continue to be—divorce, but rather the terrible dissolution of customs that has been spreading for many years in a gradual and inexorable way in our country. This is the profound final cause, of which the installation of divorce is only one of the catastrophic effects.

In other words, an increasingly growing number of Brazilians—practicing Catholics (!) or not, and even atheists—are agreeing in this matter.

For they hold that civil marriage between divorcees (or between a divorced person with a single person) lacks moral content, and thus they do not take it seriously. Thus, they agree, in innumerable cases, to live together without bothering with the empty ceremony of the civil contract. And by the time divorce had penetrated into our laws, concubinage had already been widely diffused in the customs of uncountable social sectors of the country—from the highest to the most modest.

It seems that certain persons favoring divorce seemed to think that, immediately after the approval of divorce, an avalanche of requests for the dissolution of the matrimonial bond would take place. It would be like a “stampede” of unhappily-married couples finally “liberated” from legal restraints and eager to form new unions. In fact, in certain places, the installation of more courts in the judiciary halls was quite seriously studied so that they might attend in some way to this avalanche.

However, this “stampede” did not take place simply because the greater majority of the unhappily-married who wanted a “formula” for escaping the conjugal bond did not by any means feel such an eagerness [for the solution], since they had already sunk into the  mud hole of concubinage, aggravated by adultery!

In comparison with the immensity of these moral ruins, what does the loosening—or suppression—of legal restraints for divorce signify? Quite little!

Let me say, however, that from the point of view of its repercussions in public opinion, the present controversy over this issue exerts a less than salutary effect, as long as all that was said above is not kept in mind.

In fact, this controversy presents many anti-divorcists with an occasion to reengage, on a small scale, in the battle lost with the approval of divorce. This they do by making shine, well in the background of a tenebrous horizon, the hope of a restoration of the indissoluble, monogamous marriage.

This can turn the attention of anti-divorcists to a terrain that is more important.

For the restoration of the indissoluble marriage to have viability, it is necessary that what should first be restored, in uncountable souls, is the desire for seriousness, austerity and mortification. This, and something more, which can be expressed by the word, sweet like a honeycomb, perfumed like a lily, and nonetheless, explosive like a bomb in today’s world. That word is purity. And it is closely followed by two sisters, no less sweet, no less suave, and with no less power of explosion. They are virginity and honor.

Until this happens, how can it be hoped that the country will revoke divorce.