Being Catholic in the Contemporary Philippines


Being Catholic in the Contemporary Philippines: Young people reinterpreting religion

by Jayeel Serrano Cornelio (2016)
This book, based on extensive original research, examines the nature of Catholicism in the ontemporary Philippines. It shows how Catholicism is apparently flourishing, withgood attendance at Sunday Masses, impressive religious processions and flourishing Charismatic groups, and with interventions by the Catholic hierarchy in national and local politics. However, focusing in particular on the beliefs and practices of young people, the book shows that young people are often adopting a different, more
individualized approach to Catholicism, which is frequently out of step with the official position. It considers the features of this: a more personal and experiential relationship with God; a new approach to morality, in which right living is seen as more important than right believing; and a critical view of what is seen as the Catholic hierarchy’s misguidedness. The book argues that this reinterpreting of religion by young people has the potential to alter fundamentally the nature of Catholicism in the Philippines, but that, nevertheless, young people’s new approach involves a solid, enduring commitment and a strong view of their own Catholic religious identity.





Controversies in Contemporary Religion


Is Religion Dying? Secularization and Other Religious Trends in the World Today
Jayeel Serrano Cornelio

Is religion dying? The significance of this question to many is immediately demonstrated by the fact that is generates a long list of Google results, ranging from online forums to blog accounts. And apart from passionate critics, those who have something to say about the question include religious leaders, academics, and policy makers. Media outfits also devote attention to this question by providing space to experts in the study of religion. A very recent entry comes from Bass, who argues that religion is at a crossroads today whether it dissipates or reinvents itself. To her, either way is a choice for religion, with the succeeding generations looking back to ours as a watershed with far-ranging consequences.

Bass' attitude reflects a sense of urgency over the future of religion. Perhaps resonating with her are those who mourn what they see as the consequences of religious negligence: moral breakdown, the disintegration of the family as a social institution, pornography, and materialism. This lamentation, however, runs in contrast to the triumphalism of a particular brand of secularism that calls for the eradication of the religious in public life. Casanova describes this a "secularist secularity" whose lobbyists believe that "being liberated from 'religion' is a condition for human autonomy and human flourishin." Reinforcing this is the increasing prominence of "New Atheism" that champion a militant attitude against those who profess religion.

Rightly or wrongly, the question "is religion dying?" readily unravels the tensions in the public sphere. No wonder those who wish to address it objectively have to carefully explain themselves. Herein lies the main controversy or "discontent" concerning the supposed dying state of religion. Sentiments toward religion are surfaced by the question.

Without doubt, the question is important -- and controversial -- to the public and also to students of religion who have engaged the question from various angles and disciplines. The central idea that this question underpins is secularization, which broadly argues that religion is expected to fade away from social significance as societies undergo modernization. From this perspective, religion, in other words, is dying a natural death.

It is not, however, as forthright as it seems. For many observers, the geographic relevance os secularization is a crucial source of controversy. The question on the death of religion appears, for example, to be rather a public concern in advanced societies, mostly in the West, where cathedrals are increasingly empty. In the non-West, perhaps the main problem of the public sphere, if any, is that it may be too religious. This distinction is verified by Norris and Inglehart's recently updated work on "global religiosity." Although belief in God is very high across societies around the world, there are statistically significant variations between agrarian, industrial, and post-industrial societies with regard to religious participation, values, and beliefs. Agrarian societies are consistently high in these areas. Therefore, as opposed to the experience of the West, the rest of the world appears to be, in the words of Peter Berger, "furiously religious."

The controversies manifested in these incessant debates cleearly demonstrate to us that the question remains far from being answered with finality. Claims by social scientists that secularization, as a theory, needs to be put to rest once and for all may not be giving due credit to the merits of divergent analyses. Also, there is a tendency for both the supporters and refuters of the death-of-religion thesis to accuse each other of hiding their ideologies behind purported sociological facts. In another work, Cassanova, for example, has questioned the value judgment that sees secularization as "normal" and "progressive." In discussing secularizationm, then, Wilson has felt the necessity of articulating the sociologist's position of neutrality: "To put forward the secularization thesis as an explanation of what happens in society is not to be a secularist, nor to applaud secularity; it is only to document and to illustrate social change.

This attempt at clarifying matters informs, too, the thrust of this chapter. In what follows, I wish to unravel for the reader the layers of complexity of the concept of secularization. The idea of secularization has a long history, and so generations of scholars have tried to define, describe, and comment on it. I have tried to the best of my ability to include in this chapter the many thinkers in the study of secularization from the classics to the contemporary. As a result of their scholarship, we are in a better position now to assess the merits of secularization and in so doing be able to define our own convictions over the fate of religion in the world today. So as to avoid redundancy with other theoretical overviews of secularization, I have drawn from the most recent scholarship of some of these thinkers. Also, the other contribution that this chapter makes is that it reflects on the limitation of the question above and offers an alternative to it. To ask whether religion is dying limits the potential answers we can get and may in the end be ideologically  infiltrated.

Before I proceed, I need to make clear here that the ideological infiltration may be due to the confusion between secularism and secularization. As Taylor puts it, "we think of 'secularization' as a selfsame process that can occur anywhere...And we think of secularist regimes as optiions for any country." Secularism is not a neutral word, and its definition is historically and politically contingent, with varying attitudes toward the presend of religion in civil and public life. Suffice it to say that secularism is a framework by which institutions are established and governed using a "secular imaginary" of being without recourse to religion. Social space may be afforded in a secularist regime but with careful management of religious presence. Secularization, which is the topic of this chapter, speaks mainly of an empirical trend concerning the decline of religion; thus the questioin, is religion dying?

The first section offers a brief historical overview of the concept of secularization and how it has become a master narrative in thinking about religion and modernization. The master narrative, however, can be problematic and has been contested in terms of what secularization really means and whether is it indeed a linear process. To address these problems, I then present the different nuances by which the concept of secularization has been clarified and explained. But again, because of its status as a master narrative, its relevance to the vibrant state of religion in other societies has been called into question. From there on, I would suggest that perhaps the question "is religion dying?" needs to be rephrased to allow other analytical possibilities. The last section deals with the "coexistence thesis" in which secularization is just one of the trends concerning religious change in the world today.

Christianity in the Modern World - Changes and Controversies


Chapter I
Young People and Golden Rule Catholicism in the Philippines: The Case of Religiously Involved Filipino Students
Jayeel Serrano Cornelio

The condition of Catholicism in the Philippine presents nuances that can potentially enrich the understanding of Christianity in the world today. On one hand, the Philippines demonstrates the continuing vibrancy of Catholicism outside the supposedly secularized world of the west. Around 80% of the Philippine population is Catholic (National Statistics Office 2008), with 72.4% of Filipinos attending religious services at least two to three times a month, a participation rate which is vastly different even compared to Catholic countries in Europe, such as Italy (41.1%), Spain (27.5%) or Portugal (30.1%). (ISSP 2008) At the everyday level, fervent Catholic Charismatic movements such as El Shaddai (Kessler and Ruland 2008; Wiegele 2005) are quite common, as is pious devotion to the various idonographies of the Black Nazarene, the infant Jesus, Out Lady and the saints. (Cannell 1999; Bautista 2010) Re-enacted cruficixions are typical in the country and graphically portrayed in the media. (The Telegraph 2011) At the level of the religious institutions, the perennial intervention of the Catholic Church in public issues such as divorce and artificial family planning is unmistakable. (Gloria 2008; Raffin and Cornelio 2009; Bautista 2010) Today, the continuing involvement of conservative Catholicism in state affairs is a political saga to behold. On the other hand, the Philippines presents itself as an interesting empirical site for the discovery of novel, even revolutionary, nuances within the Catholic Church.

Historically, for example, religious texts were strategically used by peasants to articulate discontent and rebellion against the Spanish regime, which ruled and evangelized the country from the sixteenth to the nineteenth century. (Ileto 1979). In less than one hundred years since its liberation from Spain, the Philippines saw yet again the pivotal role fo the Church for political reform, this time the removal of a dictator in 1986. (Moreno 2006) And recently, the thought of liberation theology has become important in the furtherance of participatory development among grassroots communities in the country. (Nadeau 2004).

One aspect of the vibrancy of Catholicism in the Philippines that remains important, but continues to be neglected by observers, is the participation of its youth. this is in spite of, for example, the biggest papal crowd gathered during the World Youth Day celebrations in Manila in 1995. (Zimmerman 2008) Most of the time, as suggested above, the focus of observers has been on the visible expressions of religiosity and the Church's institutional activities. Discussions concerning youth religiosity have been scanty and in fact dominated by impressionistic accounts (see, for example, the accounts in Leung 2009). Thhis problem, of course, is not isolated to local sociology of religion. It is only recently that interest in religion and youth has started to gain ground even in Western academia. (Collins-Mayo and Dandelion 2010) In a way, this chapter is also a contribution to that emerging body of literature.

To approach this interest in youth and see how the face of Catholicism in the Philippines might be changing, this chapter will look at how religiously involved Filipino students live their Catholic religion. Lived religion, as a concept, gives emphasis to the practise of tje faith and not  simply in the profession of a particular religous affiliation or belief. (McGuire 2008)

The regliously involved Filipino young people referred to in this chapter are undergraduate student members of Catholic organizations based in various universities in Metro Manila. In the Philippines, 21.62% of college-age Filipinos (approximately 16-21 years old) are enrolled in a tertiary institution. (Commission on Higher Education 2005) According to the Episcopal Commision on Youth, 40% of Catholic youth are members of religious organizations, a big proportion of which (72.9%) are parish-based, while 15% are campus-based. (Episcopal Commision on Youth 2003)

Religious involved students are an important sector to study because of their educational attainment and religious socializations. These considerations suggest that this particular group of young people are not only highly educated, they also undergo more organized religious socialization, which should make their nuances about their religion particularly informed and interesting. Furthermore, their interest and participation in Catholic organizations may suggest their future leadership in public and religious opinion. (Wuthnow 1999) It is in this sense that this research aligns with Louden and Francis's, which looks at the religious views of Catholic priests in England and Wales. (Louden and Francis 2003)

The data presented below are drawn from interviews with sixty-two students involved in various Catholic organizations based in twelve universities in Metro Manila, the capital region of the Philippines. The selection process has been largely purposive in view of differences in gender, academic discipline and nature of religious organization (liturgical, catechetical, outreach-orienteated, charismatic and campus ministry-based). My informants come from various types of universities, (state, private Catholic and private non-sectarian), a methodological decision that has allowed me to factor in class differences as lower-income students, for example, are more likely to be in state-funded institutions. Based upon these data, it is clear that in the midst of a highly pious and conservative Catholic Church, a strand of Golden Rule Catholicism or practical religiosity is discernible. Its dimensions include 'being there'  for other people and tolerance for other religions, both underprinted by what can be considered a relational form of religious authenticity. Towards the end of this chapter, I articulate such Golden Rule Catholicism as expressive communalism which should inform understanding of youth religiosity in the Philippines and possibly elsewhere today.

Special Issue of Philippine Studies - Historical & Ethnographic Viewpoints


Popular Religion and the Turn to Everyday Authenticity: 
Reflections on the Contemporary Study of Philippine Catholicism
Jayeel Serrano Cornelio

The seminal works on everyday religion in the Philipines that appeared in the 1960s were motivated by pastoral concerns. Since the 1990s, however, there has been a growing interest in everyday religion as authentic expressions of what it means for individuals to be Catholic. This turn in the scholarship of social scientists and religious scholars has been driven less by the question of secularization than the demand for religion's local relevance. This article explores the conditions under which the turn to authenticity has emerged in Philippine studies: the socioeconomic contexts, the expansion of the social sciences, the changing attitudes to religious institutions, and the emergence of local theological reflections.