Sunday, June 8, 2008

Separating Church from State

> The gray areas between Church and State must be a legacy
> of our colonial past. For three hundred years, if not more,
> during the Spanish colonial period, the parish priests, the
> majority friars of religious orders, were considered the
> keystones of the Capitania General de Filipinas, the most
> remote corner of the Spanish empire. The friar was a
> permanent fixture in these islands while
> governors-general, military commanders or even Audiencia
> members came and went; it was rare for governors-general to
> stay more than two years.
> Needless to say, a friar of a religious order
> had no business running a parish but since the early
> missionaries were either Agustinians, Franciscans,
> Dominicans or Jesuits, they had to man the newly-founded
> parish, an anomaly that persisted through the centuries. By
> the 19th century, the friar/parish priest had immense power
> as he took care no only of the religious needs of their
> flock but of the civil registry, recommendations to public
> positions, public works, education, almost all aspects of
> social and economic life. During the Revolution, a group of
> friars were displeased at the “softness” of a governor
> so they sent a telegram to Madrid and got rid of him in
> forty eight hours.
> Strikingly, during the Malolos Congres the most
> contentious issue was the separation of Church and State.
> Felipe Calderon, principal author of the Malolos
> Constitution and delegate Manuel Gomez were the champions
> of the union of Church and State. So deeply passionate were
> the debates that one delegate, Tomas del Rosario, expressed
> his opposition in a five- hour speech. He and his brother
> Arcadio were professed Masons and former members of
> Rizal’s La Liga Filipina.
> Evidently conservative, Calderon and Gomez
> believed that the Catholic Church was the only force
> unifying the Philippines, a nation with diverse languages,
> cultures and regional idiosyncrasies and because the
> majority of Filipinos were Catholics, the separation of
> Church and State would be offensive to them. Delegate
> Gomez added that if Church and State remained united,
> people would be governed by an “internal force” and an
> “external force” , that is, religion and government,
> with the former moderating the latter.
> Felipe Calderon also argued that the Filipino clergy
> might feel betrayed ( and they did !) because for
> centuries they had aspired for both religious and political
> influence. Calderon warned about the Vatican refusing the
> ordidnation of Filipino priests and taking adverse
> measures in the final disposition of the enormous
> landholdings of the religious orders. His co-delegates
> criticized him for recognizing the friars’ ownership of
> land which was ‘vicious in origin”. Calderon felt
> rebuffed when the “Articulo Adicional” was attached
> to the Malolos Constitution; it stated that all friar
> lands had been restored to the State since the declaration
> of independence in June 1898.
> The del Rosario brothers insisted that aside from
> the religious factor, there were deeply –rooted secular
> values that unified Filipinos in their Revolution against
> Spain. Besides, a separation of Church and State did not
> necessarily mean the abandonment of Christian morality and
> doctrine which admittedly had become part of Filipino
> culture. To perpetuate the union of Church and State was
> tantamount to preserving “feudal theocracy “ which
> during three hundred and fifty years created a “State
> within a State’ to the misfortune of the Filipinos.
> Arcadio del Rosario pointed out that not all the
> inhabitants of the Philippines were Catholics, what about
> the Muslims? By favoring one religion, serious conflicts
> may ensue and lead the young republic to a civil war.
> When the Malolos Congress delegates voted on the
> Church and State issue, there was a tie, not once but
> twice, and on the third voting the results were 26-25 in
> favor of separation. The Filipino secular clergy was
> palpably disappointed. Apolinario Mabini, then Chief
> Adviser of Pres. E. Aguinaldo, realized that the First
> Republic needed the support of the Filipino clergy
> specially because the war with the United States was
> imminent. It was he who advised Pres. Aguinaldo to put the
> Church and State matter on hold until more normal times.

No comments: