- Growth and Decline: Essays on Philippine Church History
John N. Schumacher is a recognized authority in Philippine Church history. His works Father José Burgos, Priest and Nationalist (Manila, 1999); Revolutionary Clergy (Quezon City, 1981); and Readings in Philippine Church History (Quezon City, 1987) are materials used in courses on the history of Catholicism. His latest book is an anthology of essays that span 1979 to 2006 and have been revised. The revisions have been prompted by the publication of newer material and by Schumacher's re-examination of his conclusions and generalizations. In these essays, he presents a nuanced and well thought-out writing of history, avoiding simplistic generalizations and reflecting knowledge of the changes that have occurred over time and space.
The theme of "Growth and Decline" links the six chapters that trace the development of the Catholic Church in the Philippines: "Bishop Domingo de Salazar and the Manila Synod of 1582 Fight for Justice"; "The Golden Age of the Philippine Church, 1700-1768"; "The Early Filipino Clergy,: 1698-1762"; "Sycretism in Philippine Catholicism: Its Historical Causes"; "The Burgos Manifesto: The Authentic Text and Its Genuine Author"; and "A Hispanicized Clergy in an Americanized Country, 1910-1970".
Chapter 2 was specifically written for this collection, serving as a linchpin that binds the other five chapters together. Here, Schumacher re-examines previous periodizations of Philippine history, proposes a more nuanced frame, and sounds the theme of growth and decline. He disputes John Leddy Phelan, who had a positive opinion of initial evangelization and a pessimistic [End Page 878] view of the period after 1630, because he drew mainly on sources pertaining to only the Tagalog-Kapampangan lowland region. The effective evangelization of other regions such as the Visayas and Mindanao came later; for example, the Recollects established themselves in eastern Mindanao in the 1620s, taking charge of the area because the Jesuits were undermanned.
Schumacher proposes the following three periods for the evolution of the Church in the Philippines: 1570-1650 (first evangelization), 1650-1700 (maturing Church), and 1700-1768 (full blossoming of the Church). The last he calls the "golden age," because, during this period, more and more Filipinos took active part in church life—shown by their spiritual practice, the emergence of religious life for men and women (the beatas and the beaterios), and the creation of the Filipino secular clergy. However, this blossoming came to an abrupt end with the expulsion of the Jesuits in 1768. A vacuum resulted. The religious were reshuffled, and secular priests were hastily ordained, with the outcome of a poor public perception of the Filipino clergy because of their lack of proper training.
The book shows the caliber of Schumacher's scholarly work, characterized by a critical reading of documentary sources as well as an examination of assumptions, conclusions, and generalizations of historians—including his own.