The Schism between the Catholic and Aglipayan Church

Philippine Folio

Part 8: The Schism between the Catholic and Aglipayan Church

(from TO BE OR NOT TO BE, Make My Day Book 10 by Larry M. Henares, Jr.)

     The Philippines was governed by a theocracy, a Catholic hierarchy which governed the Spanish governors. The Cavite Mutiny in 1872 was in considerable part a Filipino religious rebellion in the pattern of the Reformation in northern Europe. The execution of three Filipino priests, Burgos, Gomez and Zamora by the inhuman garrote was akin to the burning at the stake of Thomas Cranmer and Hugh Latimer in Great Britain, lighting a fire that never flickered out. Filipino priests bore arms in the army of Aguinaldo, and thus to the political and racial aspects of the conflict was added the sombre note of a religious war.

     It resulted in a religious schism. The Philippine Independent Church was formed and numbered in the millions. It was in precarious state at birth. Father Gregorio Aglipay has been requested by the Catholic hierarchy to attempt to reconcile the Filipinos to Spanish rule. Instead, Aguinaldo converted him into being his military Vicar General. Mabini himself forced the issue. When Father Aglipay called upon Filipino clergy to support the Filipino cause, he was excommunicated. He promptly excommunicated his ex-communicator, Archbishop Bernardino Nozaleda. Father Aglipay called the Filipino clergy into an ecclesiastical assembly at Paniqui, Tarlac, and on October 23, 1899, a Provisional Constitution of the Filipino Independent Church was drawn.


Matters were in such poor shape, however, that Aglipay and some of the Filipino clergy took to the field to act as soldiers. The new church was in a position more precarious than the new government. On January 2, 1900, there arrived from New Orleans an Apostolic Delegate, Monsignor Placido Chapelle. Upon arrival, he harshly declared that he would treat those opposed to the Spanish friars, as enemies of religion. So far, so good, he was within established Canon law. But when he declared that as an American he would use force against the Filipino clergy to return the ousted Spanish friars to their domain, he was far off base, and the American government called him out.
While not naming specifically the participants of the schism, the instructions to the Taft Commission settled the matter in short order. It declared that the separation between state and church to be real, entire and absolute. Further, the Americans did the their best to settle the religious property. William Howard Taft hauled his huge bulk to Rome in 1903, and purchased from the Vatican the ownership of 400,000 acres of extremely productive farmlands for $7,543,000, later transferred them to 60,000 peasant tenants. Further, from 1903 on, the Americans instituted surveying and registry of land titles. But eventually by the terms of the Paris Treaty, all church properties seized from the Spaniards were returned to them.

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