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RELIGION: Catholicism in the Philippines



Bienvenido Macario from the Philippines repeatedly and rightly stresses similarities between Spain and the Philippines, which were linked to Spain via Mexico. Our conference theme "Are religions the enemies of global peace?" applies to South East Asia, where several major religions clash, the Philippines being the only Catholic country in the region. The Spaniards were dismayed when the circled the globe and found the hated "Moors" (!) there. The fight between the two faiths continues today.

Seldom mentioned is the anticlericalism in the Philippines, which parallels that of Spain. Now it is almost a dead issue in Spain, but when I first went there I was surprised by the strength of anti-clericalism there. Bienvenido again makes the comparison with Spain:

"I am re-reading your book SPAIN: From Monarchy to Civil War, 1931-1936, You mention that one of the causes of Spanish anticlericalism and in due course of the Civil War was the dogma of the immaculate conception of the Virgin Mary, which elevated the status of Ana, the mother of the Virgin Mary. Many university professors resigned rather than swear belief in that dogma.

I call this is upward or vertical nepotism. While mere mortals hand down power, money, prestige and all the good stuff to their scions, some of the more prominent religions bestow upward the glory and honor of being near to God, whichever God they are referring to in the first place. It is very similar to the indulgence principle that Martin Luther questioned.

Now the implication is more complex. Saints are already dead. This practice of exalting those who have since moved on may have a counterproductive effect on people or constituents. Politicians are not spared. Applied in political science, this is what I would like to call necrophilocracy or necromancracy. This is the subconscious practice of both politician and constituents to look up to what a dead person would have done had the person been alive. It's like being imprisoned by the way things might have been. In the Philippines, political arguments dwell on both Marcos and Aquino, both of whom are already dead.

How in the world would a nation move forward when politics revolve around the deeds, misdeeds and how current, real time situations would have been handled by dead people?"

My comment: I do not know how widespread anticlericalism is in the Philippines. In Spain it was general, while in Mexico few common people or peasants are anti-clerical, possibly because the Virgen de Guadalupe is viewed as the embodiment of Mexico. Going around the world, we go back in history. The present religious wars echo the religious battles in sixteenth-century and the Thirty Years War. Like the present battles, they showed the destructive side of religion and promoted secularism and anti-clericalism. The present religious wars may well have the same effect, albeit more slowly in Islam.

Ronald Hilton - 10/28/00


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