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Daniel Moss

How Catholicism Lost Political Clout in the Philippines

A Q&A with academic Jayeel Cornelio on the diminishing power of the Church and Bongbong Marcos's path to power.

Weakened forces.

Weakened forces.

Photographer: Ezra Acayan/Getty Images AsiaPac

Four decades ago, the Catholic Church inspired the movement that helped overthrow Ferdinand Marcos. Now, as the autocrat’s son begins his own presidential term, the Church’s sway over politics doesn’t come close. Few figures can step into the vacuum left by the nation’s towering public figure of the late 1980s, Cardinal Jaime Sin, who became a key architect of the “People Power Revolution.” 

While about 80% of Filipinos are Catholic, attendance at Mass is waning. The clergy has suffered some big defeats, chiefly the passage of landmark legislation in 2012 that made contraception more widely available to the poor.