- Guest Editor’s Introduction
Catholicism is perhaps among the most discussed topics in Philippine studies. That this is the case is not surprising given the lasting Catholic influence that permeates not just popular religion but local and national politics too. Hence generations of scholars have given attention to a wide range of topics ranging from conversion accounts to the political involvement of religious leaders. At the turn of this century, scholarship on Filipino Catholicism has proceeded in different directions. It is now time to revisit them to reflect on their relevance and identify new questions that must be asked. This ethos—evident too in the discussions among members of the panel on Filipino Catholicism at the Asia Pacific Sociological Association (APSA) conference held in October 2012 at the Ateneo de Manila University—has brought together the contributors to this issue, some of whom first presented their papers at the APSA conference.
In this light, this special double issue on Filipino Catholicism attempts to (1) take stock of the literature on Filipino Catholicism by engaging some of its salient concepts, and (2) draw out the seminal questions these contemporary studies are now raising. Although the articles approach Catholicism from different angles, each of them tackles and brings up questions on a wider theme that matters to the study of Filipino Catholicism in particular and Philippine studies in general. The articles deal with three broad themes according to which these contributions have been arranged: the relationship between church and the nation-state, everyday religion, and reflections on theory and methodology. The first two themes are already salient in the literature, but the articles that deal with them advance the scholarship by looking at different units of analysis. The third theme is novel; the articles under this category offer critical reflections on the state of scholarship and the future of research on Filipino Catholicism.
The first theme recognizes that one of the most enduring facets of Filipino Catholicism is the question of politics, which is heavily informed by its dynamic view of the Philippines as a state and as a nation. Acknowledging [End Page 309] the secular character of the state, the Catholic Church, through its clergy and laity, enters the public sphere as a defender, for example, of the weak. Coeli Barry’s work documents the changes that took place as a result of the Second Vatican Council in the lives of nuns, who are often marginalized in Catholic historiography and the institution itself. Influenced by conciliar documents on social action, women religious started to become involved with the protests of the marginalized, including women workers, despite prohibitions during the martial law period. In other cases, however, the church is triumphalist, one with a privileged—and peremptorily male—voice in a society where it is clearly the dominant religion. As such the Catholic Church in the Philippines is in a perennial democratic dilemma. For David Buckley, the dilemma has to do with how the church sees itself as having substantial influence over legislation and voting behavior, but is in no position to directly control the outcome of democratic politics; the church’s influence may in fact be fleeting. Especially in relation to the reproductive health law, Catholic leaders resorted to a defensive stance to uphold “core values of life, family, and religious freedom,” which did not resonate with the general public. Perhaps underpinning the political behavior of the Catholic Church is its conviction that the Philippines is a “Catholic nation” with a divine destiny. What is intriguing about this view, as Fr. Jose Mario Francisco, SJ, recounts in his article, is that it has lacked consistency. By analyzing official documents of the Catholic Welfare Organization (CWO) and its successor organization the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP), Francisco traces the genealogy of the idea of the Philippines as a Catholic nation, discusses its contradictions, and identifies the challenges to this discourse in the context of globalization.
Three contributions revolve around popular religion, a theme that remains important in Philippine studies since the publication of the seminal writings of Bulatao and Ileto in the 1960s and 1970s respectively. Drawing from different historical and ethnographic materials, the contributions in this...