Wednesday, April 23, 2008

An Atenean's Opinion of the Jesuits (Before They Exiled and Murdered Him)

There's a wee lil tempest in a teapot going on over at the Philippine Daily Innuendo over some guidelines or other that the Philippine Jesuits have issued about People Power. PDI Senior editor John Neri has some comments on the comments of Manuel Buencamino and Filomeno San Juan on the guidelines. All three are alumni of the school run by the local Jesuit order (that for some odd reason is located along a road called "Katipunan." ) Well, before he was exiled, then setup and murdered by his former mentors, Jose Rizal made his opinion of the Jesuits known by putting them in a conversation between Don Filippo and Pilosopong Tacio in Chapter 53 of the Noli Me Tangere:

[Excert from the Noli Me Tangere by Jose Rizal, Chapter 53, entitled "Il Buon Di Si Conosce Da Mattina -- A Fair Day Is Known by the Morn" from the 50th Anniversary Edition of the 1956 English translation by Jorge Cleofas Bocobo]

“According to you, do the Jesuits keep up with the march of Progress?” Don Filipo asked in wonder; “why are they attacked in Europe?”

“I shall answer like an old follower of Scholastic philosophy,” answered the philosopher, lying down again and resuming his ironic expression; “in three ways may men go along with Progress: ahead, side by side, or behind; the first guide it, the second allow themselves to be carried, and the last are dragged, and the Jesuits belong to the last. They should certainly like to guide it, but as they see it so strong and with other tendencies, they capitulate, they would rather follow than be crushed or be left behind in the darkness. Now, then, we in the Philippines are at least three centuries behind the chariot of Progress; we have scarcely emerged from the Middle Ages; for this reason, the Jesuits who are backward in Europe, represent progress when they are seen from here. The Philippines owes them her nascent education and the natural sciences, the soul of the XIX century, just as our country owes the Dominicans Scholastic philosophy which is already dead despite Leo XIII: no Pope can revive what common sense has sentenced to death and executed (pause). But what was the original question?” he asked, changing his tone. “Ah! we were speaking of the present condition of the Philippines. Yes, now we are entering upon the period of struggle, I mean you, the youth; the old generation belongs to the night: we are about to depart. The conflict is between the past which with curses clings and holds on to the tottering feudal castle, and the future, whose triumphal hymn is heard from afar illumined by the splendor of daybreak, bringing with it the Good Tidings from other countries (pause). Who will fall and be buried in the ruins of the structure that is falling down?”
José Rizál had the Jesuits' number 122 years ago. Except they hadn't invented the veridically correct term for them yet: CLERICO-FASCISTS! But then again, I prefer my own neologism: "Spanish Taliban."


Gabby said...

what did the jesuits do?

Richard said...


Interesting series of posts here. I just don't buy the thesis, as I understand it, that there are too many Filipinos and the Church is to blame. I think there are just as many Filipinos as there should be in the world today, no more and no less. It's not the number of Filipinos in the world that is the problem. No, it's the leaders who don't provide the means of an expanding world for them that is the problem.

The problem is a political system that looks more like Tzarist Russia in 1917 every day. You can lay that on the corrupting influence of one GMA and her dear friends in China, as I know you do, since she corrupts everything her gready, self-centered heart comes near.

The Church is her latest victim...and that is not unique in history...see one Luther, Martin about the corruptibility of the Catholic Church.

The level of corruption and incompetence (based on the Clinton model) has reached a critical mass and now nobody knows who is to blame or how to fix it. And everybody knows that things will get worse before they get better.

In the US, the same process in now well underway, though we have a lot more room to pull out of the nose-dive than the Philippines. No, it's always the politics that lead the way...everything else will follow...Churches, Courts, Assemblies, individual always depends upon the character of those who are chosen to lead. Make the wrong choice, even once, and it will be very very bad.

I hope Filipinos will finally realize where the wrong turn in the road was taken and pull out of the dive before it is too late...unfortunately, they cannot look for guidance from the US in that department any longer.


DJB Rizalist said...

no doubt there are many other factors involved in economic development. But the Catholic Church is more than the population problem, more than ideology or religion. She is in fact the single largest political party. All others are basically sects or branches, which is why we have none that are true political parties and always have more than five presidential candidates running. Every Philippine President since 1987 has won as a plurality president, with FVR winning only 20% of the vote.

It is a situation that suits the Catholic Church just fine, not only from a religious standpoint but politically as well.

Americans are lucky that they do not have an established Church as such. We are not so lucky. We are more like the Islamic theocracies, which is why I call them the Spanish Taliban.

Think about it like that and you may see the population problem not as a moral or religious issue but a means to divide and conquer the State itself and to rule the people without having to subject itself to elections or the normal political processes that we are used to in America.

Thus I do not even regard the population problem in moralistic terms, or as "freedom of choice to breed or not" but indeed of the more essential issue of popular control over government policy and of their destiny in all spheres.

The very issue you believe is the root problem.

I do not think America would be America if you were 900 millions instead of 300 millions.

DJB Rizalist said...

what did they DO? 'Nuthin! And they said a lot of it too.

Richard said...


Very good counterpoint regarding the Church as a political party. And I think you are right regarding the establishment of a state religion. It never has been a good thing and never will be, in any country. At the same time, I cannot help but believe that the Church is a symbol more than a monarch. It allows itself to be ill-used by those that understand how to harness it's power for their own means (hint: lot's of cash helps), but does not itself stand for much of anything. The driving force is that the political process is driven by an Oligarchy that understand how to use the levers of social power and the Church is just one lever. They are not in drivers seat, they are just their to be bought.
In other words, if a political awareness were to occur that did not contradict the teachings of the Church itself, but acted in an accountable fashion, were to arise, the entire situation would change. It's happened before, actually quite recently, in some Latin American countries, such as Colombia. What a turnaround there...of course the Democrat US Congress snubbed them, but it is impressive all the same.


DJB Rizalist said...

I would be forced to your overall position if I could accept the premise you make that the Church is more symbol than monarch, more used than user.

But I cannot because though they are not in the drivers seat, they are much too powerful a backseat driver.

Let me make another analogy.

Overpopulation in the Philippines is a lot like being overweight and atherosclerotic.

I would not recommend liposuction or amputation at this stage since indeed we can survive in this state for some time. We can take anti hyper tensives and other palliatives. We can work on graft and corruption and the political orders of healthier living.

But if we do nothing directly about our weight problem, there is always the danger of sudden cardiac arrest or social aneurysm.

Yet the Church says dieting is against the will of God, that exercise is sinful and the avoidance of overeating (overbreeding) is a grave moral disorder, that we should just let Nature take its course, or to paraphrase your point, that we are just the weight we should be!

Richard said...


I can see I didn't make make original point well at all. I guess to latch on to your analogy, I don't think the Philippines is overweight because it is eating too much, it just needs to exercise more.

The current population is perfectly sustainable with the resources the Philippines has. No, the country cannot afford to waste anything, but an awful lot of resources go down the drain because of inefficiency, corruption and overall abuse. That's not a population problem, it's a political problem, whatever role the Church may or may not play.

In other words, the cure is both simple and extremely difficult...the country needs to simply exercise and exorcise it's current political class...sounds so easy rolling off the tongue, but it's going to take something drastic at this point. So, I'm not at all taking the position that nature should take it's course. Nature should be adapted to the needs of the people to make them happy and prosperous.

And yes, included in that package is a removal of the special status the Catholic Church currently enjoys in the political must be removed entirely as an organ of the state and it has to make it's case on the merits and not as a spoiled heir of privilege and unearned power.

manuelbuencamino said...


The lil tempest has spilled over to cyberspace. I responded to Nery's criticism of the article I co-authored with Men Sta. Ana (not San Juan) and Nery posted a yet unfinished riposte to my post.

I may have gone to Ateneo for high school and some college but I went to La Salle Taft avenue for grade school and there is still enough La Salle in me to know bullshit when I see it..

Jego said...

An obligatory persnickety bit:

And I think you are right regarding the establishment of a state religion. It never has been a good thing and never will be, in any country.

The English have one and I dont think having the Church of England as their state religion has caused them any lasting problems. It is not the establishment of a state religion that's the problem, but the separation of powers, like the one that exists between the three branches of our government. In the case of the Philippines, not only do we have the Executive, Legislative, and the Judiciary, we also have the Sanhedrin.

DJB Rizalist said...

Let's see how far a discussion based on analogy can take us, no matter how limiting it will end up to be.

I agree that we need to exercise more so as to get the blood flowing more freely. That is the point you are making I think about freedom of markets and freedoms in general of citizens to speech, education, expression and yes, religion.

But the matter of being overweight is not as a I said, to be solved by amputation or liposuction. Rather it is the slow attrition of planning and foresight and prudent conservation of resources to be made not by coercion or government enforcement, but by education, persuasion and the individual decision making of couples and families about how many children they really want to have.

It is a diet of wisely choosing "how much we eat" and not blind production or consumption.

Yes of course we can provide for as many as we end up having. We must! We cannot and ought not get rid of those who are already arrived, whether by birth or in migration.

But I see no harm in slimming down, the better to promote health and vigor in the body that results.

DJB Rizalist said...

Jego & Richard,
One big difference: America never had an established national Church, certainly not one which ruled for centuries virtually free of civilian power over her, as we had here in Spanish times. In England, democracy reigns in spite of an established Church, and that establishment has obviously been forced to respect the freedom of Religion.

The Philippine church was almost a pure theocracy for 350 years and my general position now is that because of what Richard sees as our truly weak democratic tradition and ineffective institutions, the Catholic Church in fact has its cake and eats it too. Bearing even less official responsibility for what happens in society than it had in Spanish times, the situation suits her just fine, since not even William Howard Taft was able to strip her of her wealth in lands and her dominance of education. Her economic political and social power reigns supreme, without any restraint than her own innate sense of goodness and morality, which does however extend to superstitious and religious things some of which have resulted in evil and injustice.

The Laws of unintended consequences apply to even her best intentions and practices.

manuelbuencamino said...


what do you think of the political power of the christian right, do they not approximate the influence the american agenda as much as the church influences the philippine agenda?

Is it growing or diminishing, are americans concerned?

DJB Rizalist said...

i guess i would equate the American Religious Right, to the extent that they can be separably identified as being akin to the influence of the Philippine Left. They both exist in organized as well as unorganized forms, and have i think, about as much influence as each other in their respective societies.

But the Catholic Taliban in the Philippines is really in a league all by itself, historically and culturally.

manuelbuencamino said...


you mean they do not frame the abortion debate, the gay marriage debate and the stem cell debate in the US?

I always hear candidates asked where they stand on on those issues.

What about the debate about prayer in schools and creationism and evolution, they haven't succeeded in putting those issues on the national agenda?

Can the US teach us anything about dealing with Talibans or do we have to look at Mexico or France
as possible models?

Equalizer said...

"Mere quibble!Mere Equivocation!Jesuitical!Jesuitical!"

DJB Rizalist said...

Well of course they are up front on all those issues that you mention. Perhaps in many of them they also "frame" the debate. But they do not dictate the outcome of any of those debates, nor are they able to squelch all opposition to them the way the Catholic Bishops here do. The American Right is also quite highly fragmented and are opposed by forces that, in my opinion, are generally such a strong match for them that they cannot easily prevail over them.

Here they rule in smug silence.

Maybe the clearest difference to me is this: there is really nothing to "disestablish" in the US. Whereas here, I suspect we never effectively disestablished the Catholic Church. They still have a stanglehold in education, viz. the Deped Curriculum was developed for them by Opus Dei.

We are however truly unique. We need not really look at other countries but just our own past.

DJB Rizalist said...

I think when the Jesuits want absolutely nothing to happen, they go into a studied and elaborate act of public "discernment", which is when a person or persons takes QUIBBLING seriously and adopts an aspect of profound studiousness to the role.

blackshama said...

What did the Jesuits do?

1) Set up and run like a business Ateneo de Manila University.

2) Tricked and tried to bribe Father Gregorio Aglipay with empty promises of a bishopric. Aglipay was forced to schism and was elected bishop of the Iglesia Filipina Independiente.

3) By teaching them theology in college, made atheists of once devout Atenean friends.

What did the Americans do?

1) Establish one hundred years ago,the University of the Philippines.

2) By teaching secularism, made religious fanatics of some of my co-alumns!

3) Contributed to the ruin of this country. (Look at list of UP alums who have screwed up this country!)

cvj said...

Wow, Rizal's post could have been written today. I wonder if it's a coincidence that progressive Ateneans (like Rizal and Ed Jopson) often end up executed by the State.

DJB Rizalist said...

Yeah! He sure had their number didn't he? in 1886 he was already an uber-blogger!

Richard said...


Sorry I came late to the party. You made me famous, it seems, in the later post :-) Now on to Jego's points....

As DJB alluded, one of the specific complaints against England, that the US addressed in it's constitution. was the establishment of a state religion. And, to differ with you here, I don't think England HAS benefited from it at all recently, though it obviously did in the beginning...but please note that the specific doctrines of a given religion do we have learned in recent years.

I think England prospered in spite of it...mostly because, at the time it chose it's state religion, it was 'subversive' and 'radical' and relatively espoused the rights of the individual (and National Sovereignty, as opposed to a Global Dictatorship of morals..please see UN, United Nations for more about that) and his or her personal relationship with God. It did not require a supra-national ordained semi-divine human who represented God on earth. That is a huge difference in approach to freedom and liberty.

Today, The Church of England is a complete joke as a religion that works against personal liberty, the National interest and good morals...but thankfully it's time has past and everybody in England and the world now knows it.

I think the founding fathers of the US at least had the foresight to see even that constraining amount of religious liberty was going to eventually be a problem. What the reformation in England started, only complete religious liberation could sustain. It wasn't because the English had a state religion that made them achieve world power status in later was because of the rebellious and individualistic nature of that religion, that freed men and women to think and achieve for themselves that made England successful.

I think I just made good case here for independence of Church and State, but feel free to show me the error of my ways.

Richard said...

BTW, just to add the actual point I was making...It is that a state religion no longer has to make it's case, and thus intellectually and morally's got a guaranteed congregation (it's the LAW!)...and like anybody or anything that's guaranteed success, it always fails.