Academicians critique priest’s book on Aglipayanism

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FR. ERICSON JOSUE is one of few Catholic priests I admire. Besides being bright and hardworking, he is humble and sensitive. We have known each other since our early teens (when he was still so lanky while I was then too fat), and I have always held him in high regard.

While other priests were busy attending parties, grooming expensive dogs, and constructing an ostentatious swimming pool in the Bishop’s Palace, Ericson had been busy writing books. Only in his early thirties, this son of Pasuquin has already published his second research output. “Out of the Depths”, which came out last December, tackles the phenomenal rise and eventual decline of Aglipayanism.

Well-meaning scholars must be given support and due recognition, and so I encourage my students and friends to read the book, if only to generate intelligent and enlightened discourse, a rarity in the Church (and government) these days.

Here, allow me to share excerpts of an interview conducted by students with Professor Fides Bernardo A. Bitanga, who teaches Sociology of Religion in the Mariano Marcos State University. Bitanga is also the new Editor-in-Chief of Sabangan, a social sciences publication in MMSU.

*****

We have heard some readers react that the presentation of the data was one-sided, very biased and seemingly many more important historical facts were left out. Was Bishop Sergio Utleg wrong when he called Fr. Josue as “a scholarly-but-unassuming young priest”?

This book has to be dealt with critically. It has opened up a lot of sensitive issues which entail a lot of discussion and clarification. One should not casually announce and invite people to buy and read it. Using MTRCB terminologies, reading it needs parental guidance. Many issues were opened up by the book which many Christian Faithful (Clergy and Laity) still do not understand. For instance, it opened the topic on Ecumenism, Ecclesia semper reformanda and also raised the question on whether Aglipay is a hero or a villain. Yet the book does not offer clear answers to these sensitive questions. With this ambiguity, I am afraid it might arouse bitter emotions between the Romanos and the Aglipayanos again.

So what about the theme on Ecumenism?

As far as Fr. Josue writing the book, the theme on ecumenism only comes out towards the end, particularly on pages 87 to 89. This theme comes out surprisingly since the author never mentioned this as one of his objectives in his Preface. I suspect three things. First, the section on ecumenism was not part of the original writing plan. It was a later addition but he failed to go back and revise the Preface. The author probably added ecumenism after he read the powerful Foreword of Fr. Laeda which made mention of the said theme.

Second, Fr. Josue failed to get out from the usual style of theologians or even catechists of including everything when they write: the Dogma, the Bible, the Morals, the Liturgical and the Current Events. Such a style sometimes may loosen the historical sense or impact of the research or any writing at that. However, if he is dealing with an interpreted history, then he is justified.

Finally, Fr. Josue, like many writers are wont to do, theologized and spiritualized too much, especially at the concluding sections of his works. A historian has to make himself convinced that his findings are themselves beautiful stories without blending his theological reflections. A good historical presentation is enough to encourage the readers to reflection.

So do you disagree with Rev. Fr. Romeo Magsingit’s comment on the back cover page that the author is someone struggling to transcend the confines of sectarianism and seeking for solidarity which he called Ecumenism?

I think Fr. Magsingit did not read the book. Anyway, he was just saying his impression. Impressions are not always correct. They may be wrong.

Are you saying that the book is not ecumenical?

Change the title and it becomes somehow ecumenical. The expression “out of the depths” sounds inspiring or edifying, but its biblical context can never be ecumenical. It gives the impression that the Catholic priest is crying because of the pain that Aglipay brought upon, and this Catholic priest prays to God to destroy these Aglipayanos.

Why do you say that?

It is found in Psalm 130 and this is a lamentation as the author would point out. It is seen in the context of a prayer where God’s servant calls upon God to come and destroy the enemies of his servant. As Biblical exegetes would say, Psalm 130 is a reinforcement to Psalm 129. In addition, one should remember that the Psalms were the prayers and songs of David who was so engaged in bloody battles with the enemies of Israel. It seems to me now that David represents the Catholic priests and the enemies would be the Aglipayanos.

Perhaps a better biblical title to this book could be found in the writings of Ezra, Nehemiah or from the prophets who talked about the rebuilding of the Temple.

In page 87, Fr. Josue tried to discuss ecumenism, but it is loaded with quotations that are difficult to understand.

With the presence of so many direct quotations, surely it gives the impression that he did not discuss it well. Ironically, this section of the book is supposed to be his reflection part.

Was the author successful in tackling Ecumenism?

Ask Archbishop Edmundo Abaya. He was the CBCP chair on Ecumenism when he was Bishop of Laoag. Honestly, I am not comfortable with words or expressions such as “separated brothers and sisters” when referring to Aglipayans. Is there any other word that is more friendly or accommodating? Oh, the difference is the same.

On Ecclesia Semper Reformanda, some readers say that the book is very biased in its presentation of the achievements of the clerics in the so-called “turning the table around” or “the coming out of the depths”? What is your take on this?

That may be the bias of the writer because he is a priest himself. But I am not in the right position to judge. I just hope that Fr. Josue’s next book would give more emphasis on efforts of the laity, which is also my bias since it is where I belong.

One point for reflection though, if you present baptismal proofs, will you see that as an effort of the priest? Or an effort of the Bataqueños? I believe that Bataqueños have reached a certain Christian maturity that whoever is the priest assigned to them now, it does not matter much anymore. Their history would say that they are people who would strongly reject erring priests, which was never mentioned in the book, but I guess the Bataqueños are more forgiving now to “seminarians turned priests” who were also escaping from the seminary like Aglipay.

Is Aglipay a Hero or a Villain?

Fr. Laeda’s Foreword, quoting the work he has done in tandem with Fr. Ian Rabago, answered this question more than the book itself. So, read the Foreword first before reading the last chapters of this book.

What is your advice to those who read the book?

Let us develop the attitude taught by St. Anselm – “Fides querens intellectum.” Our faith should always be in search for explanations or understanding. We should ask more questions. Our relationship to such books, letters, and even teachings should always be critical. Questions are not dissents. They are indicators of a thirsty soul longing for enlightenment. Having spent long years of formation, our priests are ready to answer us. If we choose to conceal things into silence, our faith dies.

*****

Professor Andres Tungpalan, the Faculty Association President and Faculty Regent of MMSU, also feels that the book left a lot of gaps, issues which remain unaddressed. These gaps, explain Tungpalan, led to some biases that make the veracity of the book questionable.

Tungpalan says the book failed to mention or did not give due emphasis on the root causes of the Independientes’ departure from the Catholic Church, i.e. the discrimination against Filipino priests and the execution of Gomburza and other native clergy. “The reasons given for the split were rather shallow, thus trivializing the crusade of Aglipay and his companions”, he adds.

It seems, Tungpalan surmises, that there was an effort, consciously or not, to romanticize the sacrifices made by the Catholic hierarchy. “The biases for the Catholic Church and against Aglipayanism were so glaring, and were reflected in the use of certain words that belie true ecumenism”, explains the professor, an alumnus of the University of Sto. Tomas.

Nonetheless, Tungpalan says we should commend Fr. Josue for bringing out these issues for everyone to reflect on and react to.

30 Comments

Filed under Books, Church, Heroes, Ilocos, Revolution

30 responses to “Academicians critique priest’s book on Aglipayanism

  1. Donna

    I know Ericson, too. He stayed here for a couple of days when he was on his way from Rome to Spain(?). So, he has a 2nd book? Nice critics. I am going to read this 2nd book as well when I get a copy.

  2. Herdy La. Yumul

    I am relieved that you find our critics “nice”. I did not give my own take anymore, believing that they may have said more than enough.

  3. Greg

    I did’nt find anything wrong with book. Actually, I enjoyed reading it. It showed more information about the origins of our beloved Batac City, the birth of Aglipayanism and the efforts that revived Catholicism.

    • Herdy La. Yumul

      Book is good. It just fell short of what we expect an ecumenical book should be.

      But Ericson meant well, and his efforts must be recognized.

  4. Pearl

    More power to Fr. Ericson! It’s very rare to find people of his generation who has special interest, diligence and commitment to local history. Our kudos to him! He is very much missed in Laoag and surely we will miss him in Batac when he goes for further studies in Spain soon.

  5. Lysa

    A Promising Priest!

  6. Gristy

    Reading the book, I guess it was intended for history. Ecumenism was only emphasized in Bishop Utleg’s message and Fr. Laeda’s foreword. It seems to me, ecumenism is just the author’s secondary aim.

  7. analine

    wow! i appreciate something like this which i can relate on…….

  8. lolita

    i met fr. ericson last june or july of last year.he gaved my mom communion every first friday until her passing away.he baptized my 95 year old dad.i would say he is instrumental in both my parents lives.i respect him and thank him very much. he will be missed although we have known him for just a short period when he leaves batac. i wish him luck in his studies in spain..lolita..manchester n.h.03103

  9. lolita

    oh yes i was supposed to comment on the book..i enjoyed reading it.i even brought some back and gave it to my friends.fr. ericson is a very down to earth priest..batac will miss him..

  10. Herdy La. Yumul

    Manang Lolita, Ericson is a good man and a good priest, no doubt.

    He represents something fresh in a basket of rotten eggs.

  11. lolita

    herdy ..you got that right.specially nowadays where the priests here in the States are getting rotten left and right. hopefully fr. ericson will be able to visit the U.S. next MAY as he told me.My husband and I are ready for his visit…LOLITA

    • Herdy La. Yumul

      Not only in the US, but also here in the Philippines, even in Ilocos. Please extend my hellos to him when you meet. Oddly enough, he is assigned in Batac and I teach in MMSU Batac, but we have never chanced at each other, not in the last couple of years.

  12. lolita

    herdy…i will.lucky enough the catholic org here have so much money.they are paying like millions of $ to the people they had been abusing sexually which went on for years before they were caught mostly young boys. hundreds of priest are not practicing anymore leaving churches to merge . fr.ericson is one busy priest. he does not always answer my e mails.i do not even know if he has time to read them. hopefully he will have more time in spain…if you want give me your email address because i get carried away and i do not want to take so much space here…lolita

  13. lolita

    thanks…lolita

  14. lolita

    herdy..i would like to see pictures when you were both lanky in your teens. that will be one kodak moment!!! he he he…

    • Herdy La. Yumul

      wowww. I will try to do some unearthing of hidden treasures then, hehe… He was lanky, I was tabatsoy. Kindly wait. I’ll send them to you.

  15. lolita

    i will be waiting….

  16. lolita

    did you find the hidden treasures yet?

  17. Sir Herdy,
    Got some free time to look-see your other blogs and found this old one. Wish I could find copies of Fr. Josue’s books. Are they available here in Laoag? As I am married to an Aglipayan while I am a Catholic, I find the books to be enlightening. I blurrly recall history, that the Aglipayan Church was founded as a revolutionary Church in protest to the discrimination of Pinoy priests who are left out for higher positions in the church hierarchy, as well as their being branded to be conniving with the Katipuneros if they do not submit the confessions of the wives of KKK members. So the 3 friars were executed. Aguinaldo rightly espoused Aglipayanism to muster more recruits by inflaming the men’s ire that the Catholic friars have used the Faith to gain wealth, lands, forced labors and other abuses. “Give your land & wealth to the Church and God will reserve you a place in heaven…” was allegedly said to dying old faithfuls of long ago, so the Church amassed vast lands.

    • Herdy La. Yumul

      Asiong, the book is available in parish rectories here in the province.

      It’s too early for you to say that the book is “enlightening,” but you can begin by saying that Josue’s work is “interesting.” Ciao.

  18. William S.

    Herdy-
    On a side note, did you ever consider going to a seminary school to become a priest during your college days? It looks like sociology or human behavior studies are close alliance of those figures preaching the gospels on Sundays happy hours…=).
    Pls don’t get me wrong but it looks like your in- depth knowledge of theology is more than I would expect…have you had a chance to imagine yourself to be called as “Father Herdy” by your patronage…that would be exciting “Father Herdy- the motor cycle rider priest of Laoag City”…did you notice the rhyme…

    Pardon me but I have to admit that religion is the weakest link of my life.

    • Herdy La. Yumul

      I am not really into organized religion these days, William S. In fact, I never went to church last year.

      Hmmm… have I ever wanted to be a priest? As with many kids, priesthood was a childhood dream. You should read my “Questions of a budding atheist.” Anyway, priests here are generally immature, shallow, and materialistic. Most of them are spoiled brats. I can’t imagine myself being like them.

  19. tita lita

    william s ..you are right father herdy has a nice ring to it..i am trying to convince one of my nephews to become a priest…who else will better pray for the family in times of needs than a priest who is family?..anyway priest are also human like you and me .so they are also liable to be all of the above mentioned by sir herdy..i am friends with 2 young priests and they are not at all like that.

  20. I have been given a copy of the book by an academician-friend and have half-heartedly scanned each chapter. The book anchors more about the fall and rise of Roman Catholicism in the province. Prof Tungpalan is right, the root cause/s of Fr. Aglipay’s departure from RC was trivialized, not expounded enough for a better grasp. “Fr. Aglipay may be the Pinoy counterpart of Martin Luther”, Fr. Josue mentioned. I believe it so, more so on the IFI founder, Isabelo delos Reyes, but only to return back to RC fold on his deathbed. Rizal did the same, after being coaxed by the Frayles that he could be ex-communicated and his soul burned in hell. Faith has the mysticism that even the genius Einstein embrace. But Fr. Josue mentioned David coveting Bathsheba, causing the division of Israel. Such human frailties are present, but in the end, we seek God’s refuge. Ecumenism is just a word, but priests/pastors from different sects would never give way a hierarchical position for another, in case of a unity – One Solidarity Church. Priests are also human, they also have wants and caprices. Still, presently RC upholds celibacy, though old history is on record that RC clerics used to marry and sired children, some also became priests.

    • Herdy La. Yumul

      Asiong,

      1) Remember that the book was written from the point of view of a young Roman Catholic priest, so the biases must be taken into account.
      2) I do not believe in Rizal’s retraction claimed by friars.
      3) Ecumenism is devoid of hierarchy, it’s a frame of mind, an attitude.
      4) I don’t believe in celibacy either.

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