Ateneo won’t sanction profs
Jesuits shrug off bishop’s call, say they recognize profs’ opinion on RHBy Dona Z. Pazzibugan
Philippine Daily Inquirer
Despite a call from a ranking Catholic bishop, officials of the Jesuit-run Ateneo de Manila University saw no need to investigate the professors who defied the Church hierarchy and supported the controversial reproductive health (RH) bill pending in Congress.
Dr. John Paul Vergara, Ateneo vice president for the Loyola Schools, said the university’s management recognized the opinion of the professors.
Vergara stressed, however, that the university is fully behind the Church hierarchy in opposing House Bill No. 4244 (Responsible Parenthood, Reproductive Health and Population and Development Bill).
“We find no reason to investigate or take action against the 192 faculty members,” Vergara told the Inquirer by e-mail on Thursday.
“Although the position they have taken differs from the university’s and the Catholic Church’s position, we are instead encouraging dialogue among members of the community and with the Church officials,” Vergara said.
He assured the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) that Ateneo theology courses, particularly the theology 131 course on marriage, family life and human sexuality in a Catholic perspective, “discuss the Catholic position on various topics as indicated in their respective course descriptions and syllabi.”
But “moral questions in light of Church teaching and the Philippine context are always discussed and students are provided with opportunities to discern and reflect on these questions,” Vergara said.
Earlier this week, Bishop Leandro Medroso, a canon law expert and a member of the CBCP permanent council, said the Ateneo professors who support the RH bill should be investigated because Catholic school educators should follow Church teachings in their classrooms.
Medroso’s call followed a warning from the CBCP president, Cebu Archishop Jose Palma, to Catholic school teachers to leave if they do not teach the official Church line.
Abiding Church’s teaching
Asked how the Atenean management reconcile academic freedom with the CBCP’s expressed order to Catholic school educators to uphold the Church’s opposition to the RH bill, Vergara said the university primarily abided by the Church’s teaching.
“What Bishop Palma has reiterated and what Ateneo continues to do is to ensure that our responsibility as a Catholic university is maintained, which is that we should not teach anything contrary to the official teaching of the Church,” he said.
“I reiterate Father Villarin’s statement that the Catholic tradition has always taught that reason and faith are not enemies but allies in the service of God’s truth,” he added, quoting Ateneo president Fr. Jose Ramon Villarin’s statement on Tuesday in reaction to Medroso’s call to investigate the pro-RH bill professors.
In their latest statement of support issued last week, professors from Ateneo Loyola Schools and Ateneo Professional Schools said the RH bill would provide much-needed maternal and infant health care to all Filipinos regardless of religious beliefs.
“The reality is, despite the Philippines being predominantly Catholic, the majority of Filipinos want the full range of family planning services, including ‘artificial’ contraception,” they said.
Villarin said the 192 faculty members “have spoken in their own voice in support of the bill.”
Spectrum of views
He said Ateneo agreed with Catholic Church leaders that the RH bill “contains provisions that could be construed to threaten constitutional rights as well as to weaken commonly shared human and spiritual values.”
“As there is a spectrum of views on this ethical and public policy issue, I ask 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,” Villarin said in a statement posted on Ateneo’s website.