I. The School Forum on MVP’s Speech
I attended the forum on MVP’s commencement speech yesterday. There were four speakers, but I can remember only two: Fr. Ben Nebres, S.J. and Mr. Leland de la Cruz. Fr. Ben announced the resignation of MVP and he emphasized the Board of Trustee’s decision was based on Catholic Moral Theology: there are many mitigating factors to the deed and among them are full knowledge and consent. Leland, on the other hand, talked about the hurt experienced by other members of the Ateneo community. His question is essentially on how do we reconcile the academic honesty we teach to our students with MVP’s speech. I admire Leland for his courage.
I did not share my opinion in the forum. I only listened. I noticed that those who speak in favor of BOT are generally older teachers and those who speak in favor of Leland are generally younger. If you ask my opinion, I shall say that this issue is beyond my competence as a blogger. I cannot directly quote from the Catechism or from a papal encyclical. This is not a doctrinal problem, but something academic or something on the question of personal culpability which I am not competent to judge. And besides, MVP and the Board of Trustees are not my colleague: they are my superiors. I can air my disagreement to my colleague’s opinions, but for those of my superiors, I shall prefer to be mum and let those in authority decide on the issue. My code of conduct is governed by St. Ignatius 10th Rule for Thinking, Judging, and Feeling with the Church:
Rule 10. We ought to be more inclined to approve and praise the decrees, recommendations, and conduct of our superiors than to speak against them. For although in some cases their acts are not or were not praiseworthy, to speak against them either by preaching in public or by conversing among the ordinary people would cause more murmuring and scandal than profit. And through this the people would become angry at their officials, whether civil or spiritual. However, just as it does harm to speak evil about officials among the ordinary people while they are absent, so it can be profitable to speak of their bad conduct to persons who can bring about a remedy.
I haven’t seen the letter of Leland’s group before it was published on the web. And many faculty members haven’t seen it. It would have been better if they shared it with all the faculty first, get the pulse of the community, and broadcast it afterward. More could have added their names on the list. But that is only in hindsight.
II. The Continuing Scandals: LADLAD and the Reproductive Health Bill
One faculty walked to one of the microphones to speak her opinion. And she passed behind my chair. And while passing by I heard her whisper something to this effect: “the Catholic teaching on … is next.” From the tone of her voice and murmurs I hear I can sense that she is referring to the issue of the Reproductive Health Bill which many faculty signed in support of the bill. For this matter I can speak my mind, because I will not be speaking my mind but the mind of the Church: I shall simply quote Humanae Vitae:
Neither is it valid to argue, as a justification for sexual intercourse which is deliberately contraceptive, that a lesser evil is to be preferred to a greater one, or that such intercourse would merge with procreative acts of past and future to form a single entity, and so be qualified by exactly the same moral goodness as these. Though it is true that sometimes it is lawful to tolerate a lesser moral evil in order to avoid a greater evil or in order to promote a greater good,” it is never lawful, even for the gravest reasons, to do evil that good may come of it (18)—in other words, to intend directly something which of its very nature contradicts the moral order, and which must therefore be judged unworthy of man, even though the intention is to protect or promote the welfare of an individual, of a family or of society in general. Consequently, it is a serious error to think that a whole married life of otherwise normal relations can justify sexual intercourse which is deliberately contraceptive and so intrinsically wrong. (section 14, par. 3)
Danton Remoto, the founding chairman of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgendered party list group LADLAD sits somewhere to my left. From the mention of the word “ladlad” which means “to lay bare in public” in one of the opinion presentations on MVP’s speech, I can see some nods in approval of LADLAD. This is the second continuing scandal in Ateneo de Manila University: you have a professor in a Catholic University which pushes for the adoption of homosexual norms in the government, in defiance of Catholic moral teaching on homosexuality as stated in the Catechism.
Unlike MVP who admitted his error, the proponents of the Reproductive Health Bill and LADLAD in Ateneo continued to claim to know better than the Church’s Magisterium. Fr. Ben Nebres’s appeal to Catholic teaching on full knowledge and consent for the sinful deed to be grave falls on deaf ears: you have a group of faculty members who do not anymore believe in the Church’s teaching authority. If the Catholic Church can err in its teaching on contraception and homosexuality, then the Catholic Church can also err in its teaching on venial and mortal sins.
The disobedience to Church’s teaching authority also leads to another thing: the spirit of dissent to authority in general. Dissent begets dissent. I saw this years ago when the Vice President for Loyola Schools, Dr. Cuyegkeng, was standing in front of the students explaining the new University dress code–a code for modesty as a guardian of chastity. Some Faculty members and Student leaders lambasted her in her face. They find it difficult to follow a simple rule as to dress decently when you are in school. Where is academic freedom in that? they say, forgetting that students come to the Ateneo not to tell Ateneo what to do, but rather to be formed by Ateneo in the Jesuit Catholic tradition. You don’t talk down to the Vice President; you entreat her in deference to her position, to the dignity of the office that she represents. And I feel that the wording of the letter in response to the BOT’s decision on MVP could also have been written in the same spirit: the spirit of entreaty and deference.