Rev. Leo A. Collum, S.J. on the Consecration of the Philippines to the Sacred Heart of Jesus by Pres. Ramon Magsaysay in 1956

During the ceremonies of the Second Eucharistic Congress held in the Philippines on Dec 2, 1956 in the Philippines, against the protest of several non-Catholic groups, President Magsaysay read an act consecrating the Philippines to the Sacred Heart.  The non-Catholic groups contended that it violated the principle of “Separation of Church and State,” and that the president, who is a political leader, should not consecrate the whole Philippines in a Catholic ceremony using an exclusive Catholic formula.  Dr. Gumersindo Garcia, in his objection said,  “In accordance with the principle of separation of Church and State, the president of this country should not give any special preference or favor to any particular Church.”  In reply, Rev. Leo Cullum of the Ateneo de Manila said that the basic principle of Church-State relation is that the government may not establish a Church, i.e. sect or give preference to one religion over another and what is corollary of this, may not prevent or hinder the exercise of any religion.  The principle, however, does not say that the Church is deprived of a de facto preference it enjoys by the presence of its members in high positions who thus reflect prestige upon it.  In this respect, President Magsaysay did not act as President in his official capacity but as a Catholic layman who was prominent because he was President and is therefore a natural leader and spokesman for his fellow Catholics.

The consecration could be done by anybody, and that in this case, the one chosen to lead the religious rite is the President who would therefore be acting in his capacity as an individual Catholic without committing the State in which he leads.  The right of the individual Catholic to the external manifestation of his love for God, invoking such impressive things as constitutional tradition and fundamental democracy and in questioning the extent to which an individual may publicly display his love to God can hardly be disputed.  It is tradition which allows us whether in public office or not to display to the world our love for God.

Source:

Jorge Rioflorido Coquia, Church and State Law and Relations, 4th ed., p. 82