Monday, August 20, 2012


Still in relation to the fiercely raging debate surrounding the RH Bill, the president of the Catholic Bishop's Conference of the Philippines had stated that Catholic institutions of learning--schools or universities--could be stripped of its affiliation with the Church and of their Catholic title if they teach or hold positions contrary to Catholic faith and morals. This came in view of the fact that a number of professors of the Jesuit-run Ateneo de Manila University had publicly declared their support for the controversial bill, which advocates the use of contraceptive and abortifacient devices as part of the solution to problems that are stunting the development rate of the country. Archbishop Palma had affirmed that this is possible as a disciplinary measure in the case of recalcitrant institutions bearing the name "Catholic". The official news organ of the the CBCP reports this here, at the CBCP Monitor. Furthermore, Archbishop Palma explained that in issues such as these, dialogue with the institutions would be the first logical step in clearing up problem. “In some places, we first talk to them because some teachers may have some misunderstanding of what they think of freedom of conscience or academic freedom,” he explains. The archbishop sees this measure as something that is merely logical, concerning the Christian identity of the institution: “If we are a Catholic school, we should not teach anything contrary to the official teaching of the church,” Palma said. Concerning the expression of personal opinion of part of any personnel within these institutions, it's not that they are curtailing their freedom of speech or opinion. They are free to express it if they wish to, but this should not be done at the expense of the institutions true mission of forming people in the Catholic Faith. "In some of the universities, we say that if you want to teach that idea, do not do it in a Catholic school because we are confusing the students… do it in other universities,” Archbishop said.

After being released, the statement drew varied reactions, as expected. I for my part thought that it was time to be clear on certain things. News agencies and the media at large pounced on the statement and reported it, each according to its tendencies. The Philippine Daily Inquirer, that with the "balanced news and fearless views"(a motto which I had long since doubted years ago, I'm sorry to confess, but hey, this is my blog) placed a sneering headline saying: CATHOLIC SCHOOLS TOLD: TOE RH LINE OR ELSE... GMA News Network said CBCP WARNS CATHOLIC SCHOOLS AGAINST PRO-RH TEACHING. The Manila Bulletin trumpeted CBCP ISSUES WARNING TO 'DEFIANT' CATHOLIC SCHOOLS.

I first got hold of the news from the CBCP Monitor, and I was expecting a barrage of acid remarks from that. I wasn't disappointed in this. But hey, that was to be expected. As I have come to point out, I see it as something perfectly logical and normal for a Catholic institution of learning to be conscious of its identity and to be faithful to it. Even many of the Pro-RH were reasonable enough to see it as logical (apart from the usual number of kibitzers who are always ready to contribute a ready supply of trash and asinine remarks to the comment boxes). Besides, to strip a school or a university of its Catholic title is no far-fetched thing, but as something that is perfectly possible. Last month the Holy See had stripped one of Peru's most prestigious institutions, the Pontifical Catholic University of Peru, of its pontifical and Catholic status. This came after years of recalcitrance on the part of the university with regard to the Church, and its obstinacy in distancing itself from clear Catholic teaching on faith and morals. Another catholic institution in hot water with this regard is the Catholic University of Leuven (Belgium), along with its sister university in Louvain.

What makes an institution of learning Catholic, especially one of higher learning? The Apostolic Constitution on Catholic Universities, Ex Corde Ecclesiae, promulgated by Pope John Paul II on August 15, 1990 (Archbishop Palma released the statement two days after the twenty-secondth anniversary of the constitution; mere coincidence? The timing of the events and issues could never have  been more perfect), delimits and defines the idea of the Catholic institution of higher learning. It's a ling document, but I hope to share one important part of it here:

12. Every Catholic University, as a university, is an academic community which, in a rigorous and critical fashion, assists in the protection and advancement of human dignity and of a cultural heritage through research, teaching and various services offered to the local, national and international communities. It possesses that institutional autonomy necessary to perform its functions effectively and guarantees its members academic freedom, so long as the rights of the individual person and of the community are preserved within the confines of the truth and the common good.
13. Since the objective of a Catholic University is to assure in an institutional manner a Christian presence in the university world confronting the great problems of society and culture, every Catholic University, as Catholic, must have the following essential characteristics:
"1. a Christian inspiration not only of individuals but of the university community as such;
2. a continuing reflection in the light of the Catholic faith upon the growing treasury of human knowledge, to which it seeks to contribute by its own research;
3. fidelity to the Christian message as it comes to us through the Church;
4. an institutional commitment to the service of the people of God and of the human family in their pilgrimage to the transcendent goal which gives meaning to life".
14. "In the light of these four characteristics, it is evident that besides the teaching, research and services common to all Universities, a Catholic University, by institutional commitment, brings to its task the inspiration and light of the Christian message. In a Catholic University, therefore, Catholic ideals, attitudes and principles penetrate and inform university activities in accordance with the proper nature and autonomy of these activities. In a word, being both a University and Catholic, it must be both a community of scholars representing various branches of human knowledge, and an academic institution in which Catholicism is vitally present and operative".

Pope John Paul II couldn't have been more clear than this. I won't elaborate more on it, as I believe that it is as clear as day. During the CEAP (Catholic Educators Association of the Philippines) meeting held las month at St. Scholastica's College of Health Sciences in Manlurip, Tacloban, Archbishop John F. Du of Palo had admonished the Catholic schools of the metropolitan province therein represented by their teachers to be faithful to their catholic identity. I guess that should be the battle cry of these institutions who are truly Catholic: Catholic institutions of learning, be thyself!!!

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