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  • The Manila Synod of 1582: The Draft of Its Handbook for Confessors by Paul Arvisu Dumol
  • Msgr. Sabino A. Vengco Jr.
Paul Arvisu Dumol, Trans.
The Manila Synod of 1582: The Draft of Its Handbook for Confessors
Quezon City: Ateneo de Manila University Press, 2014. 162 pages.

Paul Arvisu Dumol's publication of his translation of the two drafts of what was purportedly to be a handbook for the use of confessors in late–sixteenth-century Philippines is a remarkable work that will benefit not only historians and theologians but also ultimately and hopefully the public that is interested to gain a deeper understanding of the development of the Filipino people under Spanish rule and care. The two manuscripts, the Suma de Una Junta kept in the Dominican archives in Manila and the Junta y Congregación found in the Jesuit archives in Rome, both give a summary, varying in length and style, of the 1582 Synod of Manila's acta or synodal acts and decrees pertaining to matters of justice and compiled explicitly in accordance with the synod's own purpose for the guidance of confessors in solving moral cases and abuses in the Philippines. It was to guard against the laxity of Spanish officials tasked with the welfare and evangelization of the natives, and against pusillanimity on the part of church people tasked with the care of souls, through the special pedagogical and compelling power of the confessional. The documents of the full proceedings of the synod were burned in the fire that gutted Manila in 1583, and even the drafts here translated are incomplete. The manuscripts represent only the first part of the intended confessors' handbook. Although written differently in terms of style they both reflect the orientation, scope, sequence, and thoroughness of what must have been the synod's actual treatment of the pressing subject on justice and the rights of the natives during the particularly difficult early years of the colonization of the islands when colonial policy from the crown was just emerging by bits and pieces. The subsistence economy of the country then did not make it easy for the colonists who expected to make a fortune and have a good life in the islands.

The diocesan Synod of Manila in 1582 was convened soon after the arrival of Domingo de Salazar, OP, the first bishop of the entire archipelago. The synod was the assembly of the bishop and his advisers, composed of both religious and diocesan clergy, along with competent laymen who were invited as resource persons on the rights and duties of everyone in the colony and the abuses thereof. The synod was clearly the platform for Salazar's [End Page 399] crusading stand for the rights of the indios in the vein of his colleagues in spirit Francisco de Vitoria, OP, in Salamanca, Bartolome de las Casas, OP, in the West Indies, and Juan de Zumárraga, OFM, in Mexico. It was from Mexico whence Salazar was plucked by the King of Spain to be the first bishop of the farthest royal colony in Asia.

According to Fr. John Schumacher, SJ, in an article reprinted by Paul Dumol as an introduction to his translation, the lengthier Junta y Congregación could have been from the pen of Fr. Alonso Sánchez, SJ, a main figure in the synod who submitted it in his narrative style as a report to the Jesuit superior general in Rome, while the Suma de Una Junta, composed more like a list of prescriptions, could have been written by Fr. Cristóbal de Salvatierra, OP, synod secretary and companion of Bishop Salazar. The initial violent reactions from Spanish officials against the synod's strict dispositions could have prevented the completion of the synod's handbook for confessors, overtaken by Salazar's 1591 departure for Spain to plead personally before the king his case for the natives and against Spanish abuses. There he passed away three years later. But even if the intended confessor's handbook was never completed, it certainly kept the discussions alive concerning the moral principles that should accompany the Christianization of the islands, animated debates both in the church hierarchy where opposition...


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pp. 399-402
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