A fearless sermon during a liberal interval by Reverend Dr. Pedro P. Pelaez

Tuesday October 13, 2015 ()

Dr. Pedro Pablo Palaez
(Dr. Pedro Pablo Palaez)

(Sermon in honor of Nuestra Senora de la Guia, before the liberal Governor Andres Garcia Camba and other government and church dignitaries, in the Manila cathedral, December 28, 1838. Pelaez's death in the 1863 earthquake, in the same cathedral when he was ecclesiastical governor of the archdiocese during a vacancy, undoubtedly saved him from being garroted on the scaffold with his disciple, Professor Jose Burgos, in 1872. The sermon appears in a memorial volume published in Madrid in 1869 during another liberal interval.)

And thou, Luzon, hast thou reflected sufficiently upon the era of utter darkness out of which this dawn has begun to draw thee? Ah, hadst thou realized how horrible was the night enveloping thee, thou wouldst have longed for the light with greater anxiety than the lost traveller awaits the coming of day.

A fearless sermon during a liberal interval by Reverend Dr. Pedro P. Pelaez

Thy tractableness would have been even greater than when thou receivedst the light of the Gospel, and, confusing thy present with thy past misery, thou wouldst have wanted to tear from the histories also the pages which tell of it.

Of a truth, how pitiable was thy ancient idolatry. It was like a blindfold that covers the eyes, or as one who walks in darkness, falling over this or that precipice.

Just as the Babylonians adored fire, the Egyptians worshipped a sacred bull Apis, and Greeks and Romans had as their gods men worse than ourselves, so the ancient inhabitants of these islands were sunk in inconceivable ignorance. They had scarcely any idea of a supreme being or of their future destiny, for they reverenced outstanding trees, rocks, reefs and headlands, or in the interior forests gave to their ancestors a ridiculous deification.

Their errors in moral practices were not less than those of dogma that have been described. They did not indeed have horrid sacrifices of human victims as did the Phoenicians, the Carthagenians and the Mexicans, but they had a thousand impious superstitions, unfounded fears, vain observances, and errors of all kinds.

They considered slavery lawful, deceit legitimate, and permitted unjust wars, usury, fraud, drunkenness, and other graver faults that I may not mention in this holy place.

How lamentable is the lot of man who finds nature mute, though for the understanding it so eloquently preaches of his Creator! Shameful, too, is the lack of human reason which fails to comprehend the teachings of natural law: Frightful is such misfortune, for although the Apostle tells us that those who have not heard the Gospel with not be judged by it, human judgment is sever( enough to condemn to eternal infamy the idolaters.

But let us leave off looking on this unpleasant picture. It moves to commpassion every fibre of our souls and covers our countenances with blushes of shame in spite of the fact that the whole world has been in as pitiable darkness and would be yet had there not descended from Heaven the religion which enlightened us.


  1. Gems of Philippine oratory; selections representing fourteen centuries of Philippine thought, carefully compiled from credible sources in substitution for the pre-Spanish writings destroyed by missionary zeal, to supplement the later literature stunted by intolerant religious and political censorship, and as specimens of the untrammeled present-day utterances, by Austin Craig, pages 27-28, University of Manila, 1924.


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