From the blog site: A Catholic Position on the RH Bill

This blog is thankful that Fr. Villarin declares that the Ateneo De Manila University “does not support the passage of House Bill 4244.” This blog also thanks the Ateneo De Manila University for coming out with this public adhesion to the Catholic stand versus the RH bill, something that too many Catholic colleges and universities have not (yet) done in their own name. Nevertheless, there are also some things in Fr. Villarin’s memo that need to be discussed and brought under scrutiny; on these we cannot be silent.

The first thing that seizes our attention is the lack of any reference to fidelity to Catholic doctrine, and the absence of any allusion to doctrinal investigations, as demanded over this past weekend by Msgr. Leonardo Medroso, Bishop of Tagbilaran. Those who signed the pro-RH declaration are even praised for their “social compassion and intellectual efforts”. (May we remind everyone that this is an acknowledgment of intelligence and good intentions that the pro-RH side, for all its self-proclaimed tolerance, has scarcely reciprocated towards the opponents of the RH bill?) While the memo goes on to urge the signatories to “continue in their discernment of the common good”, this can mean almost anything; it does not necessarily point to the need to think with the Church. However, the call to think with the Church is precisely what needs to be explicitly heard from the Jesuit Fathers right now. Ateneo, after all, continues to call itself a Catholic university.

Some might object that at this stage, the dialogue between the leaders of the Church and of the Ateneo and the pro-RH section of its faculty has to be of a purely positive and persuasive nature, without any threats or commands to mar it; the shepherds must not shake their rods at the sheep, but only call to them with soothing words. Perhaps things have gone down so far in the Ateneo de Manila that the most that the voice of Catholic orthodoxy should hope for is to be allowed to have a say — as but one among many voices — within its walls. However, this is not a situation that is worthy of any Catholic university worthy of the name, even if it might be the reality in not a few Catholic institutions of higher education worldwide. As for the idea that heterodoxy must be fought with the rod, it is an unpopular and rarely-heard notion even within the Church, but it remains part of the Church’s own thinking. As Pope Benedict XVI declared to the priests of the world on the Solemnity of the Sacred Heart of Jesus in 2010, ” The Church too must use the shepherd’s rod, the rod with which he protects the faith against those who falsify it, against currents which lead the flock astray. The use of the rod can actually be a service of loveToday we can see that it has nothing to do with love when conduct unworthy of the priestly life is tolerated. Nor does it have to do with love if heresy is allowed to spread and the faith twisted and chipped away, as if it were something that we ourselves had invented. As if it were no longer God’s gift, the precious pearl which we cannot let be taken from us.” To ask the Church to cease to exercise any discipline is to tell the Church that it should not protect its own identity.

Second, the memo’s language is insufficient regarding the true nature of the Catholic Church’s opposition to the RH bill. While the memo rightly states that the leaders of the Catholic Church do not support the passage of House Bill 4244, and that this bill “contains provisions that could be construed to threaten constitutional rights as well as to weaken commonly shared human and spiritual values”, it also calls upon Ateneo faculty to “support amendments to remove provisions that could be ambiguous or inimical from a legal, moral or religious perspective”. Here we come upon a briar patch: naturally, an RH law with amendments that will prevent it from impeding the freedom of the Church and the conscience of Filipinos is better than an RH law without such amendments. Nevertheless, it should be made clear that any support for such amendments are of a purely pragmatic character; the stand of the Church continues to be that the RH bill, as it now stands and even with all the amendments currently proposed, remains too poisonous to the Filipino nation to be passed. As for the “positive elements” of the RH bill, these should be enacted into law separately, or be supported through the enforcement of already existing laws.

Last but not the least, the memo pleads that “all those who are engaged in the Christian formation of our students to ensure that the Catholic position on this matter continues to be taught in our classes, as we have always done.” We confess to being skeptical about the efficacy of this plea. The memo also claims that the Catholic position on the RH bill is being properly taught in Ateneo, but if this true, the overall silence of both Ateneo students and faculty in the struggle against the RH bill (with a very few honorable exceptions) belies it. On the contrary, some of the worst, most anti-clerical, and most insulting language and rhetoric against the pro-life movement and the Catholic Church in this whole debate has come from Ateneo’s faculty, students and alumni. It is a scandal not only to those who come from other Catholic schools, but also to those pro-lifers who come from secular schools such as the University of the Philippines (which, despite its secularist and anti-religious reputation and its own large contingent of RH supporters, is also the alma mater of a disproportionate number of Catholic pro-life speakers, writers and activists, and the home to what is currently the largest student group devoted to fighting the RH bill). What have the Jesuits done about this? Perhaps they have done something about this privately, but given the nature of things they need to be heard publicly about this.If the situation in Ateneo is such that Fr. Villarin cannot call upon its pro-RH contingent to reverse its support for the bill, could he not at least publicly and openly rebuke the shameful anti-Catholic rhetoric that is coming from them? If even this cannot be done, then how could the Ateneo “bring to the judiciary whatever legal questions we may have” about the RH bill, and “be vigilant in ensuring that no coercion takes place in implementation”?

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