Largest Catholic school group won’t expel AteneoBy Dona Z. Pazzibugan, Kristine L. Alave
Philippine Daily Inquirer
The biggest organization of Catholic schools in the country will not disown Ateneo de Manila University after some of its professors appeared to defy the local Catholic Church and the university itself by offering support to the controversial reproductive health (RH) bill pending in Congress.
An official of the Catholic Educational Association of the Philippines said the CEAP could only revoke Ateneo’s membership if ordered to do so by the local Catholic Church.
“It’s only the bishops who can revoke a school’s identity as being Catholic,” CEAP president Fr. Gregg Bañaga was quoted as saying on the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) news website.
“The CEAP for its part can only reprimand its members if they fail to fulfill their duties, like paying their dues,” added Bañaga, the president of Adamson University.
Bañaga, however, admitted that while the CEAP supported the Church’s stand against House Bill No. 4244—The Responsible Parenthood, Reproductive Health and Population and Development Bill—some of its members would support an amended bill.
“Officially, the CEAP supports the bishops because Catholic schools are under the bishops’ leadership. But, individually, some of us may differ with them,” he was also quoted as saying.
“Some support an amended RH bill. Perhaps if we infuse some amendments or alter those provisions that are ambiguous, then the RH bill might be acceptable,” he added.
The CEAP has 1,345 member educational institutions. Membership in the group is voluntary.
Last week, the Jesuit-run Ateneo de Manila University was forced to reiterate its opposition to the RH bill after 192 of its professors issued a statement of support for the measure, calling it a vital piece of legislation for much-needed maternal and infant health care.
“The reality is, despite the Philippines being predominantly Catholic, the majority of Filipinos want the full range of family planning services, including artificial contraception,” the professors had said.
Ateneo president Fr. Jose Ramon Villarin said the school supported the Church’s stand that the RH bill “contains provisions that could be construed as threatening constitutional rights as well as weakening commonly shared human and spiritual values.”
Ateneo vice president Dr. John Paul Vergara, however, said the school was not about to take any action against the pro-RH bill professors, despite a call by Bishop Leandro Medroso to have them investigated since Catholic educators were supposed to teach Church doctrine.
CBCP president Cebu Archbishop Jose Palma had also warned Catholic educators to uphold Church teachings or else leave their schools.
In vehemently opposing the RH bill, the Catholic Church has taken particular issue with the promotion of artificial contraceptives for family planning.
Palma on Tuesday said he was gladdened by the “sincere” explanation of the officials of the Jesuit-run school and their vow to back the Church in its fight against the RH bill.
Palma said that as an academic institution, Ateneo could engage in the discernment of various issues for the “common good.”
“I am happy that coming from the president of the university and also from the provincial superior, they are both sincere in saying that they are with us when they say Ateneo de Manila University does not support the passage of House Bill 4244,” Palma said over Church-run Radio Veritas.
Villarin was compelled to issue a statement saying the university would continue to back the Catholic Church in its opposition to the RH bill, after 192 of the university’s professors endorsed the proposal. The faculty members said the RH bill would provide much-needed maternal and infant health care to all Filipinos regardless of religious beliefs.
The Church, on the other hand, believes the bill would result in a culture of promiscuity among young Filipinos and would encourage abortion. Lawmakers backing the bill said it would not make abortion legal in the country.
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