Separating Church from State

Manila Bulletin, June 3, 2008 | Go to article overview

Separating Church from State


Needless to say, a friar of a religious order had no business running a parish but since the early missionaries were either Augustinians, 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 not 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 Congress 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. …

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