President Quezon retracted from Masonry
As we end the month of Filipino language, Buwan ng Wikang Pambansa, I would like to remember Don Manuel to whom this month is dedicated.
Lucky Quezon, for what guided him all his life were the moral values and religious practices of his mother and the Dominicans, for which he was forever grateful. He wanted the same moral values and religious practices passed on to his children.
It was six in the evening, and young Don Manuel was going through some documents. In the same room were his small kids – Nonong, Baby and Nini – playing under the watchful care of Mameng, their maiden aunt. When the Angelus bell sounded from the nearby parish and he saw his children still playing, he told the maiden aunt: “Mameng, don’t you teach these children to pray the Angelus?”
Quezon the Mason had stopped performing the traditional Catholic practices and precepts and refused to believe any of the Catholic dogmas. Felix Y. Manalo of the Iglesia ni Cristo and the Aglipayan bigwigs were rejoicing because he had had the nerve to displease the Catholic Church on important matters.
How did it happen? During the Philippine-American War (1899-1902), after getting sick with high fever, Quezon had bed-rested at a house in Navotas. In his diary, he had written: “I read books which left in my mind some doubts as to the certainty of the existence of Hell (among other things) as taught me by my friar teachers, doubts which contributed to my leaving for a long time the Catholic faith and joining the Masonic Order.”
In 1929, the Supreme Council of the Scottish Rite Masons elected Quezon to the 33rd degree, the highest honor in Masonry, in Washington, DC, for being a proactive Freemason for 25 years. In less than a year though, something beautiful unexpectedly happened. When Freemasons everywhere were dying to reach the 33rd degree, Quezon was itching to get out of the secret society.
In his diary, he made this confession: “I first considered re-entering the Church for the sake of my children. My wife was a very devout Catholic, and as the children grew older I knew they would wonder why she was so religious when I was apparently lacking in religion…” On a trip to the United States in 1930, he found himself seated on the ship’s deck for long hours. Restless, he stood by the ship’s stern, making a succession of profound reflections. There were nights he was tossing on his bed, unable to sleep. Not all of a sudden but after a solemn period of soul-searching, he told himself that he wanted to go back to my Catholic roots.
In 1930, Senate President Quezon told the shocked Freemasonic world about his conversion. A conversion or metanoia is partly a human act and partly a Godly endeavor working through grace. History tells us that personal conversion came to Rizal and Del Pilar before dying, to Don Belong two years before his death, and to Quezon 14 years before his death.
Quezon’s retraction was originally in Spanish. In part, it said: “It has been twenty-five years more or less since I left the communion of the Catholic Church, to which I belong by virtue of Baptism, like my parents before me. This separation of mine from the religion which guided my boyhood, adolescence and the first years of my mature life was due not only to the fact that I had lost my faith but that I had joined Masonry.”
When Quezon returned from the United States, word of his conversion spread like wildfire, but supporters and colleagues in politics were skeptical. When watchful eyes saw him publicly attending the Holy Mass and re-enkindling his special devotion to our Lady of the Immaculate Concepcion and to St. Therese of the Child Jesus, then they knew he had returned to the Catholic Faith.
His conversion was so meaningful to his family, to the Filipino people, and to the American public that Time Magazine (November 25, 1935) noted it even five years after it happened.
“Catholic-born Manuel Quezon retracted Masonry on his 52nd birthday in 1930, aboard the S.S. Empress of Japan in the presence of Most Rev. Michael J. O’Doherty, Archbishop of Manila. Two years later he demitted (i.e. resigned) from his lodge.”
Jose Mario Bautista Maximiano (facebook.com/josemario.maximiano) is the author of Spiritual Man: Christian Anthropology (St. Paul’s, 1995), Why Remain a Catholic? (St. Paul’s, 1994), and The Signs of the Times and the Social Doctrine of the Church: An Epistemology (Salesiana, 1991).