Ateneo, La Salle, and RH Bill: Is academic freedom incompatible with the primacy of Catholic teaching?

From RH Bill and the Catholic University:

OBJECTION 2: The primacy of Catholic Theology in Catholic Universities is incompatible with academic freedom

The primacy of Catholic Theology in Catholic Universities is incompatible with academic freedom.  Professors should be free to teach whatever truths they have obtained through years of scholarly research.  What does the study of galaxies and viruses have to do with Catholic theology?


Professors in Catholic Universities are free to pursue any field of knowledge in so far as they do not trespass on Catholic doctrine in the same way as school children are free to roam around the school as long as they respect the proper boundaries: they cannot disturb other classes; they must be in their classroms during class hours; they cannot enter faculty rooms without permission; they must be silent at the library or in the chapel; and they must not jump over the fence during school hours.  That is why a school map is useful, because it defines the boundaries of the school and the freedoms associated with each school area.  In a similar way, the Catholic Church also has an amazing map of human knowledge that “looks like a maze but is in fact a guide to the maze”–locating where men are free to engage in idle speculation and where discussion is off-limits.  Chesterton says it best in his essay, Why I am Catholic (1926):

The truth about the Catholic attitude towards heresy, or as some would say, towards liberty, can best be expressed perhaps by the metaphor of a map. The Catholic Church carries a sort of map of the mind which looks like the map of a maze, but which is in fact a guide to the maze. It has been compiled from knowledge which, even considered as human knowledge, is quite without any human parallel.

There is no other case of one continuous intelligent institution that has been thinking about thinking for two thousand years. Its experience naturally covers nearly all experiences; and especially nearly all errors. The result is a map in which all the blind alleys and bad roads are clearly marked, all the ways that have been shown to be worthless by the best of all evidence: the evidence of those who have gone down them.

On this map of the mind the errors are marked as exceptions. The greater part of it consists of playgrounds and happy hunting-fields, where the mind may have as much liberty as it likes; not to mention any number of intellectual battle-fields in which the battle is indefinitely open and undecided. But it does definitely take the responsibility of marking certain roads as leading nowhere or leading to destruction, to a blank wall, or a sheer precipice. By this means, it does prevent men from wasting their time or losing their lives upon paths that have been found futile or disastrous again and again in the past, but which might otherwise entrap travelers again and again in the future. The Church does make herself responsible for warning her people against these; and upon these the real issue of the case depends. She does dogmatically defend humanity from its worst foes, those hoary and horrible and devouring monsters of the old mistakes.

In the case of the RH Bill and contraception, the Catholic Church has already mapped out the roads and the cliff awaiting us if such a bill is going to push through: loss of respect for the woman, destruction of the family, and government’s interference in married life.  All these are described in Paul VI’s Humanae Vitae:

17. Responsible men can become more deeply convinced of the truth of the doctrine laid down by the Church on this issue if they reflect on the consequences of methods and plans for artificial birth control. Let them first consider how easily this course of action could open wide the way for marital infidelity and a general lowering of moral standards. Not much experience is needed to be fully aware of human weakness and to understand that human beings—and especially the young, who are so exposed to temptation—need incentives to keep the moral law, and it is an evil thing to make it easy for them to break that law. Another effect that gives cause for alarm is that a man who grows accustomed to the use of contraceptive methods may forget the reverence due to a woman, and, disregarding her physical and emotional equilibrium, reduce her to being a mere instrument for the satisfaction of his own desires, no longer considering her as his partner whom he should surround with care and affection.

Finally, careful consideration should be given to the danger of this power passing into the hands of those public authorities who care little for the precepts of the moral law. Who will blame a government which in its attempt to resolve the problems affecting an entire country resorts to the same measures as are regarded as lawful by married people in the solution of a particular family difficulty? Who will prevent public authorities from favoring those contraceptive methods which they consider more effective? Should they regard this as necessary, they may even impose their use on everyone. It could well happen, therefore, that when people, either individually or in family or social life, experience the inherent difficulties of the divine law and are determined to avoid them, they may give into the hands of public authorities the power to intervene in the most personal and intimate responsibility of husband and wife.

Humanae Vitae saw with clarity in 1968 the grave consequences of adoption of contraception, especially its elevation by the government into a national policy.  Let us take two countries, for example, USA and Singapore:

  • In the USA, the Birth Control Movement started with  Margaret Sangers in 1914.  The 7th Lambeth Conference of the Anglican Communion approved birth control in 1930.  Griswold of Planned Parenthood challenged the anti-contraception law of Connecticut which led to US Supreme Court’s declaration of unconstitutionality of the Connecticut law in 1965, citing the right to privacy of couples.  The Griswold v. Connecticut ruling was only for legality of the use of contraceptives by married couples.  In 1972, this ruling was extended in Einstadt v. Baird to unmarried couples as well.  (Roe v. Wade legalized abortion in 1973.)  In 2003, the ruling was again extended in Lawrence v. Texas to homosexual unions, thereby repealing the anti-Sodomy law in Texas as unconstitutional. Last Aug 1, 2012, Obamacare mandated inclusion of contraceptives in insurance takes effect.  This contraceptive mandate exempts Churches and Houses of Worship, but not Christian charities, Christian hospitals, and Catholic Universities.
  • In Singapore, family planning was introduced by volunteers in 1949.   In 1966, the Parliament established the National Family Programme which provides clinical services and family planning education.  In 1970 Lee Kuan Yew started the Stop at Two campaign with the legalization of sterilization and abortion.  Parents who did not abide by the two-child limit were penalized with taxes, higher hospital costs, and less opportunities in housing and education.  In 1975, the fertility rate dropped below the replacement rate.  In 1983, Lee noted the seriousness of the problem that women with educational degrees do not become mothers.  In 1984, the government established the Social Development Unit (nicknamed “Fat, Desperate, and Ugly”) that promoted dating among men and women with university degrees. In 1986, the government abolished the Stop at Two program and promoted Three or More (If You Can Afford It). Last Aug 11, 2012 Lee changed his decades-long policy and advocated marriage and more babies for Singaporeans. He said: “Do we want to replace ourselves or do we want to shrink and get older and be replaced by migrants and work permit holders? That’s the simple question.”

And now the Philippines wishes to take the same path as US and Singapore by trying to make the Reproductive Health Bill into a law.  The Catholic Church has seen the road that this bill will lead to as guided by her Teaching Authority and the evidence of others who went down on this path, such as USA, Singapore, and many other countries.  And this is why the Catholic Church is against the RH Bill.

Man is like sheep: his vision is limited only to what is immediately in front of him.  Man lives only for a few decades and his experiences does not span all human experiences across all places and times.  So his judgment is limited, even if he were a genius like Einstein.  Like a sheep who cannot see farther ahead–a pool of water, a green pasture, a cliff, or a wolf –man needs a shepherd.  He needs God as his shepherd, because God knows everything and He created the world and man himself.  Only God knows what is good for man.  As David would sing in one of his Psalms:

The LORD is my shepherd;*there is nothing I lack. a2 In green pastures he makes me lie down; to still waters he leads me;3b he restores my soul. He guides me along right paths* for the sake of his name.4 Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,c I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff comfort me. (Ps 23:1-4)

But Christ is God, the Second Person of the Holy Trinity.  Christ built His Church on Peter (Rock) with the gift of special revelation from the Father, with indestructibility, and with the power of binding and loosing:

Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah. For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my heavenly Father.18k And so I say to you, you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it.19l I will give you the keys to the kingdom of heaven. Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven. (Mt 16:17-19)

Thus, if the Catholic Church declares contraception as intrinsically wrong, a teaching binding on all the Catholic faithful, then we can bet with our life that the Church does speak the truth and that this teaching is ratified in heaven.

Christ is the Good Shepherd (Jn 10:1-6).  And Christ shared his ministry to Peter: feed His lambs, tend His sheep, and feed His sheep as a sign of his total love for Christ (c.f. Jn 21:15-17).  Christ appointed the apostles  to act as Judges of the Church: “Amen, I say to you that you who have followed me, in the new age, when the Son of Man is seated on his throne of glory, will yourselves sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel” (Mt 19:28).  He also appointed 72 disciples as his ambassadors: ”Whoever listens to you listens to me. Whoever rejects you rejects me. And whoever rejects me rejects the one who sent me” (Lk 10:16).  Such apostolic ministry is continued to this day by the Pope and the bishops and priests united with him.

About Quirino M. Sugon Jr
Theoretical Physicist in Manila Observatory

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