The second issue, the secularisation of parishes, turned explosive in 1826 when a royal decree ordered that parishes held by the native clergy be returned to friars upon vacancy. This move revealed growing Spanish suspicion of the native clergy and the government's desire to displace them. Diocesan priests with higher degrees from church institutions in Manila became more militant. Led by Pedro Pelaez, vicar-capitular of the Manila archdiocese, and Fr Mariano Gomez of the Cavite clergy, they planned to ask Spain for equal treatment for the native clergy.17

These developments had important consequences for the church. First, the rise of the landed elite strengthened church involvement in higher education and at the same time made the church vulnerable to political attack because of the friar estates. Together with the native clergy, the wealthy studied at the Dominican-run Universidad de Santo Tomas and Colegio de San Juan de Letran, and the Jesuit-run Ateneo Municipal, and this education led some to espouse liberal ideas. Second, internal church disputes became wider political questions, generating tension in the church between Spanish and native. Thus the native clergy had greater reason to align themselves with their school contemporaries among the elite who considered the inefficient and inconsistent policies of the often-changing colonial administrators to be obstacles to economic progress.

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