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Rev. John N. Schumacher SJ, 1927–2014
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Fr. John N. Schumacher SJ died on 14 May 2014, thirty-four days short of his 87th birthday. Born in Buffalo, New York, on 17 June 1927, Father Schumacher entered the Society of Jesus on 30 July 1944, arriving in the Philippines four years later to undertake philosophical studies at the Sacred Heart Novitiate. From 1951 to 1954 he taught English and Latin and served as Prefect of Discipline at the Sacred Heart Novitiate. He returned to the United States to pursue Theology at Woodstock College. He was ordained to the priesthood on 22 June 1957. Fascinated by Rizal, he went on to pursue a doctorate at Georgetown University. He returned to the Philippines in 1964 and became part of the pioneer faculty of the Loyola House of Studies, which would become the Loyola School of Theology, where he devoted over forty years to impart church history to generations of Jesuits, seminarians, and students. Father Jack, as he was known, took his oath as a Filipino citizen in 1977. In 1998, on the centenary of Philippine independence, he received the Ateneo de Manila University’s Gawad Tanglaw ng Lahi.


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The demise of Fr. John N. Schumacher SJ marks the passing of a generation of postwar Filipino historians who established the contours of a new national history anchored in the events of the revolution. Teodoro Agoncillo fired the first salvo in 1956 with Revolt of the Masses, followed by Malolos (1960). Cesar Majul followed with Political and Constitutional Ideas of the Philippine Revolution (1957) and two books about Apolinario Mabini (1960 Apolinario Mabini (1964). By 1970 the radical, Marxist-inspired readings of the revolution, which had been brewing for the past two decades, were brought together and popularized in Renato Constantino’s A Past Revisited. At this point, Schumacher joined the fray with a book on the Propaganda Movement (1972). But his decisive intervention in the field of Philippine Revolution studies would come in 1981 with his monumental Revolutionary Clergy: The Filipino Clergy and the Nationalist Movement, 1850–1903.

The Agoncillo, Majul, and Constantino histories are not dissimilar in displaying the cumulative results of the nationalist challenge to the colonial and clerical histories that had dominated up to the 1950s. One notices in them, for example, a conscious marginalization of the role of Catholic priests and popular religiosity in the struggle against colonial rule. While the former are ignored, signs of the latter are mocked as “superstitious mumbo jumbo”—to quote Constantino. The overall effect is that of making the “secular” Filipino style of revolutionary struggle unique in Southeast Asia, where Buddhist pongyi and Muslim ulama provided leadership in anticolonial movements. Revolutionary Clergy realigned the Philippines with the rest of the region. Surely, writes Schumacher, the majority of Filipinos did not, with the revolution and the republic, simply abandon their loyalty to the Church of Rome. With the imprisonment and departure of the majority of friars during the Katipunan uprising and the republican period, Filipino priests rapidly filled the vacuum. To Schumacher, it was this element that truly represented the sentiments of the masses. The ups and downs of the republic, the guerrilla struggle, and the accommodation to the United States could be traced to what these priests were thinking and doing, and their relationship to the revolutionary and colonial regimes.

Contrary to Agoncillo’s widely accepted view that antifriar sentiment was the underlying cause of the popular unrest in 1896, for Schumacher “the mass of ordinary people were grieved by the loss of their friar parish priests” and “were repelled, even horrified, at the idea of the friars being held prisoners.” The republican government was rent apart, he insisted, by struggles between the anticlericals and “devout Catholics,” and not between the “haves and have nots,” as Agoncillo would have it. Despite their differences, however, both historians agreed that the main social contradiction in the revolution was between the super rich, educated, urban dwelling, weak-kneed ilustrados, and the revolutionary masses led by the principalía. Schumacher fine-tuned this picture by showing that the ilustrados were anticlerical as well, and by counting native priests among the revolutionary leaders from the principalía class.

To Constantino’s...



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