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Kris-Crossing Mindanao

Petition to the Ateneo

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Getting viral by the hour in cyberspace is a petition written and initiated by Dr. Ricardo B. Boncan, an alumnus and parent of the Ateneo de Manila University. The petition can be signed online at www.gopetition.com/petitions/re-claim-the-catholic-identity-of-the-ateneo-de-manila.html. I give way to Doctor Boncan’s petition, of which the publication in this space of an abridged and edited version he has so graciously permitted.

Dear Fr. (Jose Ramon T.) Villarin and the Jesuit Fathers of the Ateneo de Manila University,

Over the past three years, we, concerned alumni, family and friends of the Ateneo de Manila University have stood idly by as some Ateneo faculty members abused their position and misused the name of this Catholic university to express their personal stand and agenda in favor of the RH bill. The memo released against this by then ADMU President Fr. Ben Nebres was one of perfunctory, mild dissociation against the then only 70 or so faculty members who signed on.

While declaring the official Jesuit stand against contraception as being consistent with the Church, Father Nebres defended their actions by defaulting to what he claimed to be their “academic freedom” as faculty members of this Catholic university. As a result of that token denouncement and “academic freedom” excuse, these faculty members have become emboldened and have come out in bigger numbers to espouse an agenda and political ideology contrary to the teachings of the Catholic Church, confidently using the good name of our school, a Catholic school.

Academic freedom in the proper context of allowing academicians to explore the ethical and moral limits of their chosen field and teach the good that comes out of it is a praiseworthy principle. But what has happened in this case is clearly not that! Many of these faculty members are using the name of our university, its Catholic mandate, its Catholic ties, for their own ends in the guise of academic freedom. It gives the impression to many of us Catholic alumni, friends and family of the Ateneo that our Jesuit Fathers condone this, abandoning their calling to fight for Catholic truths.

My dear Jesuits, THIS IS NOT FREEDOM, this is ACADEMIC TYRANNY. The biggest and greatest casualties here are those who are under your intellectual and spiritual care, the STUDENTS of the Ateneo de Manila University. To Catholic priests of a canonically formed order, founded by a great saint, Ignatius of Loyola, this is unacceptable! These students are being made collateral damage by ideologically driven faculty members who freely “educate” them with things contrary to their Catholic upbringing. We, the parents of these students, have spent years bringing them up, espousing love of Christ, His Church and obedience to Catholic teaching, especially in the area of sexual morality; and sending them to your care, confident in the thought that the Ateneo would do the same and even strengthen them, only to be undone by these anti-Catholic principles espoused by faculty members under your employ, teaching under the name of this great school.

Calling to mind Blessed John Paul II’s “Ex Corde Ecclesiae” encyclical (on Catholic universities): “Catholic teaching and discipline are to influence all university activities, while the freedom of conscience of each person is to be fully respected (46). Any official action or commitment of the University is to be in accord with its Catholic identity” (Article 2).

“The responsibility for maintaining and strengthening the Catholic identity of the University rests primarily with the University itself. While this responsibility is entrusted principally to university authorities (including, when the positions exist, the Chancellor and/or a Board of Trustees or equivalent body), it is shared in varying degrees by all members of the university community, and therefore calls for the recruitment of adequate university personnel, especially teachers and administrators, who are both willing and able to promote that identity. The identity of a Catholic University is essentially linked to the quality of its teachers and to respect for Catholic doctrine” (Article 4). And lastly, “Those university teachers and administrators who belong to other Churches, ecclesial communities or religions, as well as those who profess no religious belief, and also all students, are to recognize and respect the distinctive Catholic identity of the University.”

We therefore (1) denounce the continued misuse of the Ateneo de Manila University’s name by these 160 faculty members for their statement and stand on institutionalized contraception as it is contrary to Catholic teaching; (2) ask our Jesuit Fathers, especially those in the administration, to publicly settle this matter unequivocally and strongly for the benefit of Catholic students under their care; (3) ask that an explanation to all students of the Ateneo on the clear and unwavering position of our Catholic school and our Jesuit fathers, on the matter of artificial contraception be also sent to parents and alumni of the university; (4) ask that a clear, strong and resolute reprimand be given to those who willfully signed that statement and made use of their position in order to voice their dissent to Catholic teaching.

Inspired by this and the Ignatian motto “Lux In Domino,” we pray that you, our dear Jesuit Fathers, take this letter as a show of nothing more than our love and concern for the school that nurtured our growth and made us what we are today, Men For Others.

“We should always be disposed to believe that that which appears white is really black, if the hierarchy of the Church so decides.”—St. Ignatius of Loyola, founder of the Society of Jesus, AMDG

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