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There’s the Rub

Change or die

/ 12:20 AM October 15, 2012

It began on a rather freakish note. From out of the blue, The Varsitarian, UST’s school organ, came out swinging at Ateneo and La Salle, calling them “cowards and lemons,” and their faculty a bunch of “intellectual pretenders and interlopers.”

The reason for it was this: “(Over) and above academic freedom, the Catholic university exists for evangelical purposes. By going against the stand of the bishops, the Ateneo and La Salle professors are saying they don’t agree with the Church’s mission. If so, they’re free to leave. In fact, they must leave. They must resign if they have the courage of their conviction. But alas, it seems intellectual honesty and moral conviction are in such short supply in Katipunan and Taft Avenue.”

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I’d have left this alone and enjoyed myself as the schools slugged it out, if at all Ateneo and La Salle cared to. But the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) found the issue too tempting to resist and promptly joined the fray, as might have been expected. Endorsing the UST view, it issued a statement that said: “Academic freedom is not absolute. It is necessarily limited by the moral law, as taught authoritatively by the magisterium or teaching authority of the Church. It is not a right for faculty members of a Catholic educational institution to betray its Catholic identity and nature.”

First off, I liked it that The Varsitarian threw down the gauntlet at Ateneo and La Salle. I don’t believe in the kind of etiquette that says school newspapers—or national ones—should refrain from criticizing each other, or the institutions they represent, on matters of principle. I’d be the last person to say that if you don’t believe in this etiquette, you should quit campus publication and bring your complaint elsewhere. You’ve got every right to. This makes for better intramurals than the UAAP.

I doubt, however, that it is going to bring campus publications to the dizzying heights reached by the Philippine Collegian in the pit of martial law, when it took the place of a muzzled press. The reason for it is the quality of the complaint, which reflects more on the complainer than on the complained. I do not particularly care that Ateneo is called a refuge of lemons and cowards, or people lacking the courage of their convictions, but I do care that La Salle Greenhills in particular is called so. That school was a veritable beacon of light, quite apart from being the single biggest dangler of moral balls, during the dark nights of Ferdinand Marcos and Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. For it to be called lemony and cowardly because of its championing of reproductive health—by itself the very sign its heroic spirit remains alive—well, like I said, it reflects more on the complainer than on the complained.

That brings me to the part about teachers in Catholic schools needing to resign if they do not subscribe to Catholic teachings, defined as the canons of the Church magisterium. You enforce this, and you’ll have only the dregs of the profession left to teach in a Catholic university. Vatican does not just proscribe contraception, it also proscribes divorce, married priests and women priests. What happens if you’re a teacher who believes in these—you should resign your post to show the strength of your convictions? Or be fired for your sacrilegious views?

Why in hell, or heaven, shouldn’t you harbor them? We’re the only country in the world, apart from Vatican, a city-state of less than a thousand souls, which thinks divorce is a sin. Not even Italy does. Just as well, if Harvard professor Karen L. King is to be believed, Christ might have been married, as indicated by his saying “my wife” in a fragment of papyrus she discovered. I can see the virtue of priests being unmarried, but not so their being celibate. The first may be wise but the second is inhuman. Which in any case is more honored in the breach than the observance here. As for women priests, I leave the feminists, some of whom come from UST, to argue for it.

In fact, you believe in these things, the more you should stay in Catholic universities and fight off dogmatism and intolerance. A university, Catholic or not, does not exist for evangelical purposes, it exists for educative purposes. It does not exist to preach, it exists to teach. It does not exist to restrict the frontiers of learning, it exists to expand them. A Catholic university is not a seminary, it is a university. “Catholic,” not quite incidentally, means “of broad, liberal and comprehensive scope.”

Ironically, it has been the dissent by people like Ateneo’s teachers who made public their support of RH that has given the institutions they belong to a new lease on life. In Ateneo’s case, as I wrote about some time ago, it was the teachers’ demand in the late 1960s for the university to be Filipinized, or its topmost positions turned over to Filipinos, that allowed those who now threaten to expel the pro-RH professors to be where they are now.

Farther back, it was the call of the native priests during Spanish times to secularize the parishes that not only helped make them so but that started the revolution that was to make the country free—until the Americans came along. Of course not without fierce opposition from the Spanish. They did not just expel Gomez, Burgos and Zamora, they garroted them presumably for subversion but in reality for being too vocal—Burgos particularly—in the secularization campaign. It is the Philippine Catholic Church itself that has reaped the fruits of their martyrdom.

The point is simple: The choice doesn’t always have to be, “Believe or leave,” it can always be, “Change or die.” As indeed it has always been. You cling to the past and you will have no future. You do not grow and you will die.

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Or become like, well, UST.

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TAGS: ATENEO, La Salle, religion and belief, RH bill, schools, UST
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