Church and State

Church and State

Church and state were officially separate in the 1990s, but religious instruction could, at the option of parents, be provided in public schools. The Catholic Church's influence on the government was quite evident in the lack of resources devoted to family planning and the prohibition of divorce.

The Catholic Church and, to a lesser extent, the Protestant churches engaged in a variety of community welfare efforts. These efforts went beyond giving relief and involved attempts to alter the economic position of the poor. Increasingly in the 1970s, these attempts led the armed forces of President Marcos to suspect that church agencies were aiding the communist guerrillas. In spite of reconciliation efforts, the estrangement between the churches and Marcos grew; it culminated in the call by Cardinal Jaime Sin for the people to go to the streets to block efforts of Marcos to remain in office after the questionable election of 1986. The resulting nonviolent uprising was known variously as People's Power and as the EDSA Revolution.

The good feeling that initially existed between the church and the government of President Aquino lasted only a short time after her inauguration. Deep-seated divisions over the need for revolutionary changes again led to tension between the government and some elements in the churches.

Catholics fell into three general groups: conservatives who were suspicious of social action and held that Christian love could best be expressed through existing structures; moderates, probably the largest group, in favor of social action but inclined to cooperate with government programs; and progressives, who did not trust the government programs, were critical both of Philippine business and of American influence, and felt that drastic change was needed. Progressives were especially disturbed at atrocities accompanying the use of vigilantes. They denied that they were communists, but some of their leaders supported communist fronts, and a few priests actually joined armed guerrilla bands. There appeared to be more progressives among religious-order priests than among diocesan priests.

The major Protestant churches reflected the same three-way division as the Catholics. The majority of clergy and missionaries probably were moderates. A significant number, however, sided with the Catholic progressives in deploring the use of vigilante groups against the guerrillas, asking for drastic land reform, and opposing American retention of military bases. They tended to doubt that a rising economy would lessen social ills and often opposed the type of deflationary reform urged by the IMF (International Monetary Fund).

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