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6 Aug 2012: An important date. The disestablishment of the Church, On humanism

Alright, the Philippines is a secular state as defined in its constitution. How can it have an established religion which Wikipedia defines as "a church which is an organ of the state"?

However I would argue sociologically that the Catholic Church is an organ of the Philippine state. After all, you have a senator who recently famously said "my foot" on the floor, smooching the Cardinal's ring in his palace when she launched her bid for the presidency against the Protestant Fidel Ramos. Ramos won the vote.

That my dear friends is so Canossian, and I am not referring to the socially involved order of nuns but to what Henry IV of the Germans got when he was excommunicated by the Pope!

Excommunication was recently first bandied around by one Catholic bishop on the President. Excommunication is a serious business and the Pope today never says the "E" word since we are in an ecumenical age. The Pope as much as possible won't excommunicate unless by sheer disobedience the excommunicated deserves it and excommunicates himself. This is what happened to a traditionalist bishop in the 1980s who defied Pope John Paul II.

So I don't need to argue about about the de facto establishment of the Catholic Church in PH. Politicians want to curry the favour of the bishops even if there is no Catholic vote. And this was the incentive for smaller religious denominations to insist their flock vote as one flock!

The disestablishment of the Catholic Church was central to the 1896 Revolution. It is not that Filipino people were against the Church but they were against the political abuses of the Church which included  denying Filipinos to head their own parishes (even if qualified) and to have Filipino bishops run dioceses in the Philippines. The Philippine Republic's constitution required the separation of the Church  and State. And since then the secularist principle was enshrined and even more reinforced with American tutelage in constitutional government.

Here the story of the Philippine Independent Church or Iglesia Filipina Independiente must be told. The IFI seceded from Rome not because of doctrine (the IFI maintained the Roman beliefs) but because of politics for Rome denied the government of Filipino dioceses from Filipinos. It's first primate Bishop Gregorio Aglipay up to the last moment resisted schism until it was impossible to do so due to Rome's policies.

However the IFI never sought to be an established religion and to this day remains critical of the Establishment but no longer of the Roman Church. It remained critical of the position of the Roman Church in the Philippines until after the Second Vatican Council. After Vatican II, the Catholic Church had a sea change in how it viewed other Christian churches, became ecumenical and it also expressed a preferential option for the poor which most of the IFI's flock come from. Today the IFI works with the Catholic Church on many social and ecumenical activities.

However old habits die hard. The Philippine hierarchy expected privileges from the elite ruled state and it got it. Some bishops like Fortich of Bacolod became social activists, sided with the poorest together with the first generation of newly ordained priests after Vatican II and the Medellin statement. They earned the ire of the landowners and some were killed for doing so. Fortich survived an assassination attempt.

But by and large most of the bishops did not go as far as Fortich even if they remained critical of the Marcos regime. Of all the bishops of this time, the most politically savvy and humorous at that is the Cardinal Archbishop of Manila, Jaime Cardinal Sin whose exhortation after the Snap Election of 1986, overthrew the Marcos regime and installed Corazon Aquino as President. Since then it seemed that the Church was well established as Manolo Quezon opined and got some of its doctrinal positions written into the 1987 Constitution. This is something that the Masonic Vallejos will find enough reasons to spin in their graves!

 Quezon excellently reviews the Church and State and Revolution nexus. He however opines that the Malolos Republic wanted a  National Church along the lines of the Anglican Church. I would disagree for the most nationalist  of the founding fathers would like to keep the ties with Rome except perhaps Apolinario Mabini who wanted a Filipino Church independent of Rome. However they all wanted a Roman Church governed by Filipinos but loyal to the Pope. But he reviews the several times the secular ideal of the Philippine state clashed with the Roman Church. One was in 1938 when a proposal to allow the teaching of Religion in public schools was defeated (this was made a constitutional option in 1987) and the famous clash involving the teaching of Rizal's novels in schools where Senator Claro M Recto threatened to nationalize all Catholic schools. The Church believed Rizal's novels were damaging to Catholic faith. As a compromise the Church got the right to have Rizal's novels expurgated for use of Catholic students and an conscientious opt out clause for any college student who fears his/her Faith will be damaged by reading the Noli and Fili. Dr Ambeth Ocampo does not know of any student that has availed of this right!

According to Quezon, the history of the Philippine state with respect to its relationship with the most dominant Church can be divided into two. The first is the anticlerical period from 1896 to 1956 and the Catholic accommodation from 1956 and peaked in 1986 but appears to be waning in 2012.

While Quezon disagrees with me in the context of the framing of the RH bill, I would say that a more technological age made possible by the mobile phone and increasing internet penetration has overtaken the nationalist anticlerical ethos in secularism. I myself have been influenced by this tradition and my Science, Technology and Society students at UP Diliman find me anachronistic. The secularism that is being planted in Pinoy society is different from the nationalist kind which has roots in the 1896 Revolution which is humanist. Remember that all the Revolutions ideologues from Bonifacio to Mabini adhered to the central humanist idea that man's character can be perfected. The Revolutionists were not moral relativists.

What is the nature of this new secularism? Will it be less humanist? If it is less humanistic, then the nation will be in danger. And I think this is the reason why the Church went overboard with its denunciation of the RH bill and both sides pro and anti shut off voices of moderation like constitutionalist Fr Joaquin Bernas. You should read the vile in the exchange in social media. Hardly humanist at all.

Mene mene tekel upharsin as the Book of Daniel says. The secularist hand has written. The RH Bill will be up for amendment and eventual passage. The Roman Church is finally disestablished but on less of a moral anchor which the secularism that will replace it requires. I do not think this is a moment for rejoicing in the rain and it could only happen in a Presidency, yellow, banal and ideologically unhinged.


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