October 10 Special Seminar on Christian Marriage and Indigenous Sexuality in the 17th century Philippines

Date & Time: October 10, 2019, 4-6 p.m.
Venue: Tonantei (room 201 Inamori Foundation Building)

Speaker: Jean-Noël Sanchez (Université of Strasbourg, France)

Christian Marriage and Indigenous Sexuality in the 17thcentury Philippines
Reflections at the light of an unpublished collection of “Moral Cases”

How can we learn about the concrete indigenous response to the imposition of a totally new cosmology such as the Catholic doctrine introduced by Iberian missionaries in America and Asia from the 16thcentury on?

Western descriptions of the local customs at the time of their arrival? By definition, they only propose a vision – generally twisted – of the before. Religious chronicles of the “evangelical labor”? They logically tend to present the perfect tryptic script consisting in 1. confronting apocalyptic local habits 2. carrying out miraculously the conversion 3. Confirming the perfect adequacy to the Christian morals of the new flock, a schema which allows little space for understanding the “real” local answer to the new norms. Religious trials? As the institution of the inquisition was not supposed to intervein regarding indigenous new Christians in the colonies, they can only provide extreme cases, which cannot be regarded as representative of the ordinary trends.

Then, how?

The archives of the Society of Jesus of Barcelona – AHSIC – shelter two handwritten volumes of a compilation of “Moral Cases” proposed and resolved in the 17thcentury by theologians in activity in the Philippines. These exceptional, unpublished and almost unknown texts bear witness to the ideological, but also political, economic and societal issues that perturbed this colonial hyper-periphery at the time of its first evangelization.

Among the many themes discussed, the question of the validity of indigenous marriages occupies a consequent place. Baptism, sexual promiscuity, incestuous practices, all incongruous habits that are conditioning the validity of the sanctification of conjugal unions by the sacrament of Christian marriage.

First, this intervention will focus on explaining the context and structure of evangelization in the New World – The Philippines are administered from Mexico – as well as the particularities of the Philippine context to which missionaries are confronted.

Secondly, it will analyze those Moral Cases related to the issues of “matrimoniality” and sexuality, in order to reveal the disciplining strategies put at work by the missionaries, the negotiation process with local culture they were obliged to carry out in this context, but also the proper space of freedom the indigenous women intended to preserve through what could be called a bargaining process.

Finally, it will briefly present other available materials that allow to observe the reverse side of the picture generally presented by traditional religious sources.

Jean-Noël Sanchez is Associate Professor at the University of Strasbourg. He is part of the CHER and DynamE research groups. He is an expert on 16thand 17thcenturies history of the Philippines, which he studies particularly in the perspective of geopolitics and ideology, both secular and religious. The topic of the presentation is part of a publication project of new Jesuit sources from the 17thcentury. In addition, he occasionally works on more contemporary problematics, still on the Philippines question, from 19thcentury to the present day.