Even Saruman the Wise supports on the RH Bill: Ateneo professors and students endorses the bill

The number of professors who endorsed the RH Bill in their position paper now rose from 160 to 192.  Even after Fr. Jett Villarin, SJ distanced Ateneo from the faculty endorsers of the bill, another declaration of support for the RH Bill was signed by Ateneans for RH with 1465 from Ateneo de Manila University, 79 from Xavier University (Ateneo de Cagayan University), and 21 from Ateneo de Zamboanga University.  At such news we should rejoice and be glad: the depth and extent of dissent in Ateneo de Manila University on the Catholic teaching on contraception is now laid bare. I hope more students will add their names on the list so that the Catholic Church hierarchy can fully assess whether Ateneo still deserves to be called a Catholic university or not.

What we are seeing is a declaration of open rebellion against the Catholic Church, which began more than 40 years ago when clerics and bishops rebelled against Pope Paul VI’s Humanae Vitae.  What was once whispered in seminary halls became taught in the classrooms.  And what was taught in the classrooms became preached at the rooftops of cyberspace.

The pro-RH camp is now emboldened.  They have Ateneo professors and students supporting their cause–the elite thinkers of the country with more than 150 years of intellectual history.  The Jesuits, the Church’s shock troopers and loyal soldiers in the bygone years, appear weak and helpless in the face of the mounting opposition.  And even they themselves are divided.  There is no more a Padre Pastells who will debate with Rizal on the truth of the Catholic Faith or a Padre Faura who will scold Rizal for his heretical views.  The pro-RH groups are already at the Gate 2 and they demand that  the Church surrender to the modern world by embracing contraception and the RH Bill.

Saruman the Wise says it best:

And listen, Gandalf, my old friend and helper!… I said we, for we it may be, if you will join with me.  A new Power is rising.  Against it the old allies and policies will not avail us at all.  There is no hope left in Elves or dying Numenor.  This then is one choice before you, before us.  We may join with that Power.  It would be wise, Gandalf.  There is hope that way.  Its victory is at hand; and there will be rich reward for those that aided it.  As the Power grows, its proved friends will also grow; and the Wise, such as you and I, may with patience come at last to direct its courses, to control it.  We can bide our time, we can keep our thoughts in our hearts, deploring maybe evils done by the way, but approving the high and ultimate purpose: Knowledge, Rule, Order; all the things that we have so far striven in vain to accomplish, hindered rather than helped by our weak or idle friends.  There need not be, there would not be, any real change in our designs, only in our means. (Fellowship of the Ring, p. 291)

What does the RH Bill promise us?  It is the great Ring of Power: it will reduce poverty, promote responsible parenthood, and lead to good governance–the high and ultimate purpose that our country has striven hard to accomplish only to be derailed by the Catholic Church and the Anti-RH groups.  The RH Bill promises us a “choice”–to order our married life as we will.  We can bide our time until we are financially and emotionally ready to have children.  We can justify to ourselves that we are obeying our conscience whenever we use the condom or the pill, and ignore many things that pester our thoughts, such as the possibility of getting pregnant, because the unwanted child that can easily be disposed by morning-after pills or abortion. Each child should be a child we want to have and not a child by accident.  And as we use the pills more and more through the help of RH Bill, our power over our bodies will also grow, and we shall be like the gods who define what is good and what is evil through three criteria–me, myself, and I.  We can forget about what the Catholic Church says–it’s a Medieval institution out of touch of the modern-day Filipinos.  Mortal sin?  There is no sense of talking about “a sin whose object is grave matter and which is also committed with full knowledge and deliberate consent.”  These are scholastic definitions and modern man has no need for such rubbish.  And if the government passes the RH Bill, millions of dollars from UN and US will pour into the Philippines.  The poor shall be no more.  There will be a high quality of life for all.  By embracing the RH Bill, we remain as Pro-Life as ever.  There need not be, there would not be, any real change in our designs, only in our means.

Wonderful words befitting of Saruman the Wise. But his voice has already lost its charm: the end does not justify the means.

For my students, friends, and colleagues in Ateneo who support the RH Bill, let me end with the words of Gandalf to Saruman:

What have you to say that you did not say at our last meeting? Or perhaps you have things to unsay? (Two Towers, p. 205)

Sincerely yours,

The Monk’s Hobbit

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Back to the Future in 1968: Rahner on Humanae Vitae and the Present Ateneo Dissent

In September 1968 issue of the America magazine, Cardinal Avery Dulles, S.J. summarized the views of his fellow Jesuit, Karl Rahner S.J., published in Stimmen der Zeit, on the then recently published encyclical of Pope Paul VI, Humanae Vitae.  The summary is long, but two points struck me:

In the first place, Rahner points out that Human Life cannot reasonably be considered irreformable doctrine. But this does not mean that it may be ignored. Since Catholics believe that the magisterium ordinarily operates under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, the presumption should be in favor of the Pope’s declaration. Any such presumption, however, must also allow of the possibility that a Catholic can arrive at a carefully formed and critically tested conviction that in a given case the fallible magisterium has in fact erred. Nobody today denies that there are cases in which official, reformable teaching of the Holy See has in fact been erroneous. As examples, Rahner cites the views of Gregory XVI and Pius IX on liberal democracy, and various statements about the Bible issued in the aftermath of the Modernist crisis. It cannot therefore be assumed that a Catholic who conscientiously opposes the non-infallible doctrine of the magisterium, as it stands at a given moment, is necessarily disloyal. (In this connection an American Catholic might think of the long struggle of John Courtney Murray to obtain revision of certain papal pronouncements on Church-State relations.)

In the present case, Rahner continues, the complexity of the issue is such that no one opposed to the encyclical can claim absolute certainty for his own stand. But it is normal and inevitable that some should be unable to accept the pope’s doctrine. The encyclical, although it claims to be an interpretation of the natural law, does not in fact give very persuasive intrinsic arguments. The encyclical seems to look on human nature as something static and closed–not open to modification by free and responsible human decision. But for some time many moral theologians have been teaching that what is distinctive to human nature, as distinct from plant and animal life, is precisely man’s power to modify his own nature according to the demands of a higher good. The pope, in fact, seems to allow for a measure of rational manipulation of human fertility in permitting the practice of rhythm and the use of the “pill” to regularize the menstrual cycle. Undoubtedly this differs somewhat from the use of the pill for directly contraceptive purposes, but in some instances the distinction is so subtle that many will regard it as hair-splitting. Since a notable majority of the Papal Commission is known to have come out against the position later taken in the encyclical, one can hardly expect the majority of Catholics to find the reasoning of Human Life convincing.

Rahner’s arguments are echoed weeks ago when 69 (ominous number) professors of Ateneo de Manila University signed a petition in support of the Reproductive Health Bill, in defiance to the Catholic Bishops of the Philippines who insist on fidelity to Humanae Vitae:

As Catholic educators, Racelis said it was incumbent upon them to teach their students that the RH bill was not “immoral” as the Church claims.

“We respect the consciences of our bishops when they promote natural family planning as the only moral means of contraception. In turn, we ask our bishops to respect the one in three [35.6 percent] married Filipino women who, in their most secret core and sanctuary or conscience, have decided that their and their family’s interests would best be served by using a modern artificial means of contraception,” they said. (Manila Standard Today, 29 Oct 2008)

See the similarities? After 40 years, the seeds of dissent Rahner sowed in 1968 reaped 69-fold .  That is,

  1. Papal encyclicals are fallible documents.
  2. Catholics can disobey them without being disloyal.

Infallibility is defined in the Catholic Encyclopedia as follows:

  1. Infallibility means more than exemption from actual error; it means exemption from the possibility of error;
  2. It does not require holiness of life, much less imply impeccability in its organs; sinful and wicked men may be God’s agents in defining infallibly;
  3. The validity of the Divine guarantee is independent of the fallible arguments upon which a definitive decision may be based, and of the possibly unworthy human motives that in cases of strife may appear to have influenced the result. It is the definitive result itself, and it alone, that is guaranteed to be infallible, not the preliminary stages by which it is reached.

Furthermore, the Catholic Encyclopedia continued, in Session IV, cap. 4 of Vatican Council I, it is defined that the Roman pontiff when he teaches ex cathedra “enjoys, by reason of the Divine assistance promised to him in blessed Peter, that infallibility with which the Divine Redeemer wished His Church to be endowed in defining doctrine regarding faith and morals”.

Was Pope Paul VI making a definitive statement as Vicar of Christ when he declares the evil nature of contraception? Let us listen to Pope Paul VI’s words in Humanae Vitae:

The Magisterium’s Reply

6. However, the conclusions arrived at by the commission could not be considered by Us as definitive and absolutely certain, dispensing Us from the duty of examining personally this serious question. This was all the more necessary because, within the commission itself, there was not complete agreement concerning the moral norms to be proposed, and especially because certain approaches and criteria for a solution to this question had emerged which were at variance with the moral doctrine on marriage constantly taught by the magisterium of the Church.

Consequently, now that We have sifted carefully the evidence sent to Us and intently studied the whole matter, as well as prayed constantly to God, We, by virtue of the mandate entrusted to Us by Christ, intend to give Our reply to this series of grave questions.

So as Aragorn said in the Last Debate before the assault on the Black Gates of Mordor:

We come now to the very brink, where hope and despair are akin. To waver is to fall. Let none now reject the counsels of Gandalf, whose long labors against Sauron come at last to their test.

Let us heed then the counsel of Pope Paul VI and reject the melodious music of Rahner the Wise.  Let us reject contraception.  Let us reject the Reproductive Health Bill.

If it is the Pill they clamor for, then a Pill must be given–the Pill that brought many souls back to the Catholic Faith, the Pill that sent the Roman Emperor Theodosius begging for pardon before the doors of the Church of Milan under St. Ambrose: Anathema Sit. If they do not wish to listen to the Church, then they must be excluded from the Church, and sent outside in the darkness where they will wail and gnash their teeth until they repent and pay the last penny.