Is the Ateneo de Manila a truly Catholic university?

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Very recently, the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) voiced its disappointment with the position paper signed by at least 160 Ateneo de Manila professors (192, according to its vice president) who support the Reproductive Health bill. This big number of pro-RH bill teachers (not 5 or 50 but at least 160!) is more than enough to influence, wittingly or unwittingly, its studentry into gradually embracing the RH bill. School officials, however, made a blunder by keeping silent about this position paper. Ateneo de Manila could have easily (and immediately) issued a disclaimer to that position paper, if it had wanted to. But it did not. Why?

It was only after a Catholic bishop expressed his utter disappointment over the professors’ pro-RH bill position paper did the university president, Fr. Jett Villarin, SJ, issue a statement to the effect that Ateneo de Manila supports the bishops in the fight against the RH bill. It was funny though that a few days after, the vice president for the university’s Loyola Heights schools came out with a statement saying that “we find no reason to investigate or take action against the 192 faculty members.” What now of Villarin’s statement? All empty talk?

By not investigating the pro-RH professors, Ateneo de Manila officialdom in effect is telling them to continue with their pro-RH stance in the guise of going through discernment and an intellectual exercise. Tolerance means conformity. Or Ateneo de Manila, because of its passion for unrestrained dissent in matters of faith and morals, conveniently serves as a breeding ground for heresies.

Ateneo did not know? It’s not as if the controversial position paper was prepared in just one night. It is almost certain that months and years of inaction and tolerance (described as “opportunities to discern”) by Ateneo de Manila over seeming heresies to take root in the campus finally led to the pro-RH position paper. A stand—whether authorized by the school or not—taken by one teacher in a school can always be (mis)construed by an innocent student as probably right. More so, with the position paper of the 160 Ateneo professors. Or, was Ateneo de Manila just too preoccupied with defending its basketball championship crown?

Therefore, my simple suggestion is to form an independent audit committee/team, ad hoc in nature, whose members are to be selected by the CBCP to once and for all determine, definitively, if indeed the Ateneo de Manila (and all Catholic schools for that matter) truly deserves the title “Catholic” and to be allowed to use the term in their vision-mission statements. The university should not fear this independent body as it will provide its officials the opportunity to disprove the foregoing allegations.

—LARRY M. ASUNCION,

larrymasuncion@yahoo.com

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