Starting September 8, 2012, anonymous comments -- whether for or against the RH bill -- will no longer be permitted on this blog.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Ateneo De Manila University's Memo on the Pro-RH Declaration: Text with Commentary

The following is the memo published by Fr. Jose Ramos "Jet" Villarin, President of ADMU, regarding the pro-RH declaration of 192 members of its faculty. My commentary comes right after this. 


20 August 2012

Memo to: The University Community

Subject: HB 4244 

Together with our leaders in the Catholic Church, the Ateneo de Manila University does not support the passage of House Bill 4244 (The Responsible Parenthood, Reproductive Health and Population and Development Bill). As many of these leaders have pointed out, the present form of the proposed bill contains provisions that could be construed to threaten constitutional rights as well as to weaken commonly shared human and spiritual values.

Now that the period for amendments is about to begin, I enjoin all in the Ateneo community to continue in-depth study of the present bill, and to support amendments to remove provisions that could be ambiguous or inimical from a legal, moral or religious perspective.

In connection with this, I call attention to the 192 members of our faculty who have grappled with the underlying issues in the context of Catholic social teaching, and who have spoken in their own voice in support of the bill. Though the University must differ from their position for the reasons stated above, I appreciate their social compassion and intellectual efforts, and urge them to continue in their discernment of the common good. As there is a spectrum of views on this ethical and public policy issue, I ask all those who are engaged in the Christian formation of our students to ensure that the Catholic position on this matter continues to be taught in our classes, as we have always done.

Should the bill with whatever amendments be passed, we should neither hesitate to bring to the judiciary whatever legal questions we may have nor cease to be vigilant in ensuring that no coercion takes place in implementation.

If there is no easy answer to the concerns that the proposed bill raises or no facile unanimity among divergent views, this only proves the complexity, depth, and sensitivity of these concerns. Nevertheless, Catholic tradition has always taught that reason and faith are not enemies but allies in the service of God’s truth. From this tradition, we can draw strength and compassion in our often tortuous journey as persons in community toward the greater glory of God and the service of God’s people.

Jose Ramon T Villarin SJ

Now, for my commentary:

This blog is thankful that Fr. Villarin declares that the Ateneo De Manila University "does not support the passage of House Bill 4244." This blog also thanks the Ateneo De Manila University for coming out with this public adhesion to the Catholic stand versus the RH bill, something that too many Catholic colleges and universities have not (yet) done in their own name. Nevertheless, there are also some things in Fr. Villarin's memo that need to be discussed and brought under scrutiny; on these we cannot be silent. 

The first thing (or rather, the first absence of a thing) that seizes our attention is the lack of any reference to fidelity to Catholic doctrine, and the absence of any allusion to doctrinal investigations, as demanded over this past weekend by Msgr. Leonardo Medroso, Bishop of Tagbilaran. Those who signed the pro-RH declaration are even praised for their "social compassion and intellectual efforts". (May we remind everyone that this is an acknowledgment of intelligence and good intentions that the pro-RH side, for all its self-proclaimed tolerance, has scarcely reciprocated towards the opponents of the RH bill?) While the memo goes on to urge the signatories to "continue in their discernment of the common good", this can mean almost anything; it does not necessarily point to the need to think with the Church. However, the call to think with the Church is precisely what needs to be explicitly heard from the Jesuit Fathers right now. Ateneo, after all, continues to call itself a Catholic university. 

Some might object that at this stage, the dialogue between the leaders of the Church and of the Ateneo and the pro-RH section of its faculty has to be of a purely positive and persuasive nature, without any threats or commands to mar it; the shepherds must not shake their rods at the sheep, but only call to them with soothing words. Perhaps it can be argued that things have gone down so far in the Ateneo de Manila that the most that the voice of Catholic orthodoxy should hope for is to be allowed to have a say -- as but one among many voices -- within its walls. However, this is not a situation that is worthy of any Catholic university worthy of the name, even if it might be the reality in not a few Catholic institutions of higher education worldwide. As for the idea that heterodoxy must be fought with the rod, it is an unpopular and rarely-heard notion even within the Church, but it remains part of the Church's own thinking. As Pope Benedict XVI declared to the priests of the world on the Solemnity of the Sacred Heart of Jesus in 2010, " The Church too must use the shepherd’s rod, the rod with which he protects the faith against those who falsify it, against currents which lead the flock astray. The use of the rod can actually be a service of loveToday we can see that it has nothing to do with love when conduct unworthy of the priestly life is tolerated. Nor does it have to do with love if heresy is allowed to spread and the faith twisted and chipped away, as if it were something that we ourselves had invented. As if it were no longer God’s gift, the precious pearl which we cannot let be taken from us." To ask the Church to cease to exercise any discipline is to tell the Church that it should not protect its own identity. 

Second, the memo's language is insufficient regarding the true nature of the Catholic Church's opposition to the RH bill. While the memo rightly states that the leaders of the Catholic Church do not support the passage of House Bill 4244, and that this bill "contains provisions that could be construed to threaten constitutional rights as well as to weaken commonly shared human and spiritual values", it also calls upon Ateneo faculty to "support amendments to remove provisions that could be ambiguous or inimical from a legal, moral or religious perspective". Here we come upon a briar patch: naturally, an RH law with amendments that will prevent it from impeding the freedom of the Church and the conscience of Filipinos is better than an RH law without such amendments. Nevertheless, it should be made clear that any support for such amendments are of a purely pragmatic character; the stand of the Church continues to be that the RH bill, as it now stands and even with all the amendments currently proposed, remains too poisonous to the Filipino nation to be passed. As for the "positive elements" of the RH bill, these should be enacted into law separately, or be supported through the enforcement of already existing laws.

Last but not the least, the memo pleads that "all those who are engaged in the Christian formation of our students to ensure that the Catholic position on this matter continues to be taught in our classes, as we have always done." We confess to being skeptical about the efficacy of this plea. The memo also claims that the Catholic position on the RH bill is being properly taught in Ateneo, but if this true, the overall silence of both Ateneo students and faculty in the struggle against the RH bill (with a very few honorable exceptions) belies it. On the contrary, some of the worst, most anti-clerical, and most insulting language and rhetoric against the pro-life movement and the Catholic Church in this whole debate has come from Ateneo's faculty and students, not to speak of alumni. It is a scandal not only to those who come from other Catholic schools, but also to those pro-lifers who come from secular schools such as the University of the Philippines (which, despite its secularist and anti-religious reputation and its own very large contingent of RH supporters, is also the alma mater and academic home of a disproportionate number of anti-RH and pro-life teachers, speakers, writers and activists, and the home to what is currently the largest student group devoted to fighting the RH bill). What have the Jesuits done about this? Perhaps they have done something about this privately, but given the nature of things they need to be heard publicly about this.

If the situation in Ateneo is such that Fr. Villarin cannot call upon its pro-RH contingent to reverse its support for the bill, could he not at least publicly and openly rebuke the shameful anti-Catholic rhetoric that is coming from some of them? If even this cannot be done, then how could the Ateneo "bring to the judiciary whatever legal questions we may have" about the RH bill, and "be vigilant in ensuring that no coercion takes place in implementation"?

I have no doubt that there are Ateneans who love the Church, who are faithful to the Magisterium, who will stand by the Church even as it is publicly mocked. Dear Ateneans, please, speak out! We need to hear your voices!


  1. If ADMU will make a very weak stand on this matter, then I think there is no other choice but to remove the Catholic status of the university.

    1. UST is the only recognized Catholic university in the country...Ateneo is a university run by Jesuits who are part of the Catholic church

    2. Fine. The theology units could be used elsewhere. Like sex education.

  2. Mishmash:

    UST is the only PONTIFICAL University in the Philippines, but ADMU is definitely a Catholic university and not simply a university run by Catholic priests.

  3. Even in the controversy surrounding the RH bill, I see the hand of the Divine Providence. If there was no controversy, or if it did not reach epic proportions, the 190-plus Ateneo professors would not voice their position, therefore, the CBCP would not hit back. Truly, "He directs all, even evil and sin itself, to the final end for which the universe was created" (

    For me, the language of Fr. Villarin's letter is indicative of the University's level of tolerance for things contrary to Catholic teaching. For example:

    The Department of Sociology and Anthropology, Sanggunian ng mga Mag-aaral ng mga Paaralang Loyola ng Ateneo de Manila, and Lupon ng mga Nag-aaral ng Antropolohiya at Sosyolohiya (LUNAS), would like to cordially invite you to attend


    2 September 2011 (Friday)
    Leong Hall Roof deck
    4:30 - 6 PM

    The speakers:

    Dr. Junice L. Demeterio-Melgar
    (Secretary General, Reproductive Health Advocacy Network; Executive Director, Likhaan Center of Women?s Health)

    Atty. Elizabeth Aguiling-Pangalangan
    (Professor, University of the Philippines Law School; Project Director, Reprocen - Center for Reproductive Rights)

    Mr. Ramon San Pascual
    (Executive Director, Philippine Legislators? Committee on Population and Development Foundation, Inc.)

    Fr. Roberto E.N. Rivera, S.J.
    (Associate Director, Institute on Church and Social Issues)

    ( )

    Mary, Exterminatrix of heresies, pray for Ateneo!

  4. Carlos, which parts exactly of the RH bill are you against? Would you mind enumerating them here? Thanks.

  5. If anyone is involved in their church/school or other group in campaigning against the introduction of the RH bill you might find my story of interest, recently published in the Dumagette Chronicle I just heard. Anyway FaceBook is a good tool for getting a message across so maybe share it with others. Pharmacists here will face a similar dilema to those mentioned when they are asked to prescribe pills and devices that cause abortion, providing the means to carry out a killing...Here's the story below..
    Opinion Page/Letters to the Editor

    Dear Editor,

    I have been following with interest the heated and passionate debate regarding the RH Bill.

    As a foreigner, originally from the UK; a country where we have had this kind of legislation and had the opportunity over the decades to see its fruits develop; I may be able to give a sober look at the future that awaits the Filipino people if you allow this process to begin.

    Please permit me to share my story.

    I was born in 1963, one of the last of a generation that had a much taken-for-granted but premier human right:- the right to be born. It is a right that is no longer enshrined in law in the UK.

    Some 30 years later I experienced the degree to which the country had changed. I was working as an environmental scientist in pollution control. One contract took me to a clinical waste incinerator to undertake monitoring of their process.

    During the course of the investigation I made a harrowing discovery. The plant was next to a hospital but also imported clinical waste from other hospitals and clinics in that part of the country. I discovered that one purpose of this seemingly ordinary looking establishment was to burn the thousands of aborted babies. It was as if I was stood at the gates of a Nazi concentration camp watching a genocide before my eyes, the ashes from burnt unborn babies corpses blocking out the sun.

    Horrified I immediately made my company aware of this and refused to work on this plant, but business is business, it is perfectly legal in the UK to kill babies with abortion now and so I was fired from my position, and they kept on with the contract. You see the right to a conscientious objection is also eliminated by the pro-death culture.

    Similar, and more numerous cases involved pharmacists who refused to sell pills and devices which cause abortion, their rights were also eliminated and they lost their jobs too. In hospitals the same pressure is on doctors and nurses who can be discriminated against if they don’t perform or assist in abortions, it makes a nonsense of the Hippocratic oath to ‘do no harm’.

    Once upon a time, the UK had many children, now a declining population, once there was decency and good moral behaviour, now the young people have little dignity and self respect and promiscuous behaviour brings such sadness to their lives and leads to so many abortions now, few families are left untouched by its effects.

    On a personal note, I really love the Philippines and its people, and I hope that your legislators and decision makers will defend the country, and stand up for the people, by rejecting the imposition of the western culture of death that would begin with this insidious RH Bill.

    Yours sincerely

    Stephen Clark