Catholic educators' group defends academic freedom in RH debate
At a press conference on Wednesday, Fr. Joel Tabora, SJ, of the Catholic Educational Association of the Philippines (CEAP)-National Advocacy Commission said the pro-RH bill position taken by nearly 200 faculty members of the Jesuit-run Ateneo de Manila University (ADMU) should "be considered normal."
He said "the calling forth of other positions" on the issue on family planning is consistent with the principles of academic freedom and "should encourage people to come out with more conscientious statements" that seek to discern the common good in a pluralistic society.
A ranking member of the CBCP, Bishop Leonardo Medroso, condemned last week the Ateneo faculty's position and called for an investigation. "The first principle of canon law is that we don't allow teaching that is against the official teachings of the Church," Medroso said in a radio interview.
Meanwhile, Lingayen-Dagupan Archbishop Socrates Villegas said objectors, particularly the faculty members of the ADMU, will likely not face sanctions for their views on RH.
"We bishops are not trigger-happy with imposing penalties," Villegas said at the same CEAP press conference.
"When we see error... the first thing we do is dialogue," he said, adding that if sanctions have to be given, "[these] are not always excommunication... There are differing degrees of sanctions" which do not necessarily result in removal.
Bishop's call to investigate Ateneo faculty
Earlier, the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines urged an investigation of the position of nearly 192 ADMU faculty members who said "the time has come to vote on and pass the RH bill."
Bishop Medroso, a member of the CBCP Permanent Council or governing body, said in an interview over Radyo Veritas last week that the professors' stand is contrary to the teachings of the Catholic Church.
“That has to be investigated. The first principle of Canon law about this matter is that we don’t allow teaching that is against the official teachings of the Church,” Medroso told the Church-run Radio Veritas. “Now, if there is somebody who is giving instructions against the teachings of the Church, then they have to investigate immediately.”
In an implicit warning to the Ateneo, Archbishop Jose Palma, the CBCP’s president, said, “If we are a Catholic school, we should not teach anything contrary to the official teaching of the Church.”
In a finely nuanced memo to the ADMU community, Ateneo president Fr. Jose Ramon Villarin, SJ, urged the 192 faculty members to "continue in their discernment of the common good."
Villarin said "Catholic tradition has always taught that reason and faith are not enemies but allies in the service of God's truth."
But the professors merely reiterated the statement they first released in 2008, after the House of Representatives entered into the period of amendments on the RH bill.
The professors also said their stand is their own personal opinion and not the position of the ADMU.
But CBCP president and Cebu Archbishop Jose Palma said "[Catholic schools] should be consistent and true to the nature of their calling which is to enlighten and teach the Catholic doctrine."
Palma added that parents who send their children to Catholic schools hope that their children "will learn Catholic teaching and also Catholic formation."
"It will be a contradiction if we will bombard them with ideas which are against the official teachings of the Catholic faith,” he said.
"Academic freedom is Constitutional right"
Last week, Senator Miriam Defensor-Santiago said the CBCP threat of sanctions against Catholic schools whose faculty members do not follow its stand against the RH bill might violate academic freedom.
"The threat... to blacklist the members of the Ateneo faculty just because they took a position in favor of RH is an infringement of a Constitutional right – the right to academic freedom." Santiago said.
"I doubt very much if what is religious should be allowed to trample on the academic freedom of all intellectuals in the country," she added.
"A Catholic is not supposed to just swallow everything that is recited by a cleric, whether he is a parish priest or a bishop. Only the Pope can dictate, and that is when he categorically claims that he is speaking ex cathedra, in his role as Supreme Pontiff," she said.
"Meaning to say, if you don't follow that dogma, then you are no longer a Catholic. But the Pope never exercised that power with respect to reproductive health, or population control, or responsible parenthood," she added.
She likewise said that such a message from the CBCP is "backward-looking." — Earl Victor Rosero/ LBG/HS, GMA News