Catholics against independence (2)

Published February 21, 2019, 12:32 AM

by Charissa Luci-Atienza & Bernie Cahiles-Magkilat



Gemma Cruz Araneta
Gemma Cruz Araneta

As early as 1902, Pope Leo XIII convened the Quae Mare Sinico to   address the clamor for church reorganization in the Philippines, after the fall of Spain and the emergence of the Philippine Independent Church. Although there was no need for the Holy See to divide the world between the USA and Spain, like Pope Alexander VI did in 1494 between Spain and Portugal by virtue of the Treaty of Tordesillas, Pope Leo XVIII did proclaim the end of Spanish sovereignty over the Philippines and the Americanization of the Philippine church. That was unmistakeably a political act clothed with religious sanctity.

At least three American presidents (W.McKinley, T. Roosevelt, and W.H.Taft), American cardinals, archbishops, and bishops colluded to influence the Catholics in the US Congress to reject the Clarke Amendment, which would have granted Philippine independence within two to four years, and not after 30 years.  From my perch, I see a veritable  “Patronato Manifestado” (I coined that)  at the turn of the 20th century that married Church and State  (Krag and Cross?) to delay the restoration of our independence.

My   source is   historian Richard Lee Skolnik (Brandford College) whose polemical article “The Catholic Church and Independence, 1898-1916” is difficult to put down; in fact, I am rereading it.  Even his choice of epigraphs and quotes is provocative; for instance, the statement of the Philippine Independence Commission in 1904: “However benevolent the American rule may be, it will remain to them [the Filipinos] foreign rule, the rule of a foreign conqueror and, as such, galling and hateful.”  Another one dated 1907, from William Howard Taft to President T. Roosevelt: “The Roman Catholic Church is exceedingly important in the secular life of the Philippine people, and the deplorable condition in which it finds itself by reason of the destruction of the war and insurrection, appeals strongly to anyone interested, as the government of the United States is, in the maintenance of order and the moral welfare of the people.”

Dr. Skolnik shed light on how the Roman Catholic Church and the US government came upon an “identity of interests.” He said thepost-revolutionary issues that endangered the survival of the Church as an institution were the very same ones that threatened the continued occupation of this country by the Americans.  President T. Roosevelt, through the influential James Cardinal Gibbons, cultivated friendly relations with the Vatican, so he and the Secretary of War were consulted about the appointments of ecclesiastics destined for the Philippines.  Already, in 1902, the Archbishop of Manila was an American. President Roosevelt also made sure that the Roman Catholic Church won all its disputes with the Aglipayans over church properties.  When they lost church buildings and other places of worship, the impact of the Aglipayan schism began to wane, as the Roman Catholic Church steadily regained its preeminent position.  “When W. H. Taft was elected president in 1908,” wrote Skolnik, “ the USA and the Church had already ‘won’ the Philippines and could now consolidate their hold on them. In so doing, they had realized a community of interests—the immediate future of which would be working together against Philippine independence….”

Historian Skolnik observed that whenever the Philippine Assembly made choleric demands for immediate independence, President Taft hurriedly sought the help of the American Catholic Church, through the auspices of James Cardinal Gibbons.  The two men had agreed that the successful passage of any independence legislation would “inevitably lead to anarchy in the Philippines… Taft’s cause was, in the eyes of at least an important segment of the American hierarchy, a necessary one for the Church to support, and Cardinal Gibbons proved a competent and willing asset to the forces working against Philippine independence.”

However, in 1910, when the Democrats took control of the Lower House, Congressman William Jones, head of the Insular Affairs Committee, introduced the first Jones Bill, which provided for “qualified independence” by 1913 and complete independence after eight more years.  An alarmed Archbishop Harty of Manila wrote Cardinal Gibbons, vehemently opposing independence because “about one-ninth of the population are still savages, or wild and fanatical Mohammedans; independence would place a tyrannical oligarchy in control of the country….” Archbishop Harty was echoing President Roosevelt’s words, when in 1904, he warned Cardinal Gibbons that independence would mean the destruction of the Catholic Church in the Philippines and the loss of faith to its 7 million Catholics. I wonder if he was aware that the surge of Protestantism, protected and encouraged by the American colonial administration, compelled the majority of Filipinos to rally behind the beleaguered Roman Catholic Church.

In my humble opinion, the  “Patronato Manifestado” was a clever ruse crafted by its American protagonists. Just as the Patronato Real used Christianization to perfume the malodorous conquest of land and people, the Patronato Manifestado used the Roman Catholic Church as an obstacle to immediate independence.

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