During the Spanish colonial period, the Catholic Church was extensively involved in colonial administration, especially in rural areas. With the advent of United States control, the Catholic Church relinquished its great estates. Church and state officially were separated, although the church, counting more than 80 percent of the population as members, continued to have influence when it wanted to exert it. For much of the Marcos administration, the official church, led by archbishop of Manila, Cardinal Jaime Sin, adopted a stance of "critical collaboration." This meant that although Sin did not flatly condemn Marcos, he reserved the right to criticize. Below the cardinal, the church was split between conservative and progressive elements, and some priests joined the communistdominated National Democratic Front through a group named Christians for National Liberation. Cardinal Sin was instrumental in the downfall of Marcos. He brokered the critical, if temporary, reconciliation between Aquino and Laurel and warned the Marcoses that vote fraud was "unforgivable." In radio broadcasts, he urged Manileņos to come into the streets to help the forces led by Enrile and Ramos when they mutinied in February 1986. The church, therefore, could legitimately claim to be part of the revolutionary coalition.
Aquino is a deeply religious woman who has opened cabinet meetings with prayers and sought spiritual guidance in troubled times. Although there were reports that the Vatican in late 1986 had instructed Cardinal Sin to reduce his involvement in politics, Aquino continued to depend on him. The Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines issued a pastoral letter urging people to vote yes in the 1987 constitutional plebiscite. In March 1987, Sin announced that he was bowing out of politics, but two months later he broadcast his support for ten Aquino-backed candidates for the Senate and recommended that voters shun candidates of the left. In 1990 Sin defined his attitude toward the government as one of "critical solidarity."
The church was very pleased with provisions of the 1987 Constitution that ban abortion and restore a limited role for religion in public education. The Constitution is essentially silent on the matter of family planning. The church used its very substantial influence to hinder government family-planning programs. Despite the fact that the population grew by 100,000 people per month in the late 1980s, Cardinal Sin believed that the Marcos government had gone too far in promoting contraception. He urged Aquino to "repeal, or at least revise" government family-planning programs. In August 1988, the bishops conference denounced contraception as "dehumanizing and ethically objectionable." For churchmen, this was an issue not to be taken lightly. One bishop called for the church to "protect our people from the contraceptive onslaught" and the bishops conference labelled rapid population growth a "nonproblem." In 1989 the United States Department of Commerce projected the Philippine population at 130 million by the year 2020--in a country the size of California.
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