(It should be noted that a majority of the responses in this post come from alumni of the Ateneo De Manila University.)
Aug 22, 2012
The very same day that Fr. Jett Villarin came out with an official letter to quell the fire of dissent started by the 190 or so professors who publicly and surreptitiously used the Ateneo’s name to push their ideology in support of institutionalized contraception espoused in the RH Bill, hordes of Ateneo students, graduates and faculty, started beating on the drums in support of their president and in support of these dissenting faculty members and their cause. I was amused (and baffled) at the “drum beating” because Fr. Villarin explicitly said that the Ateneo rejects the bill and supports the position of the Catholic Church on the matter of rejecting the bill and the teaching on contraception, which means (not sure if they got this) that the Ateneo is dissociating themselves from these faculty members. Did the drum beaters’ clouded minds miss this fact totally or was there a cryptic message that the ADMU president sent to them that the rest of us, including the Bishops, didn’t know about?
While many welcomed the letter, including me (tiny woohoo, what could I do, sigh ), in reality, Fr. Vilarin merely repeated the perfunctory, mild dissociative statement issued by Fr. Ben Nebres three years ago when 14 faculty members made their first stand. Would those 14 abscess into 190 if that letter was stronger in tone and if reprimands were given and enforced, I wonder, hmmm. Looking at the statement in detail, one cannot miss the double-speaking style that pseudo-orthodox dissenters are so fond of employing. The letter, in my opinion, serves one purpose and one purpose alone and it is to satisfy (and douse) the Bishop’s warning that Catholic schools who do not tow the Catholic line may be stripped of their “Catholic” status.
The Jesuits, it appears, are so very fond of doing the finger wagging with the left and patting the back of dissenters with the right hand. It is the “Ateneo magisterium’s” interpretation of Christ’s words, “do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing.” Without going into details, the letter appears to be an adaptation of Fr. Joaquin Bernas’ idea that we can accept the bill if we remove the “problematic” provisions in them. He penned this in his blog with the title “Do not burn the house down to roast a pig.” Strange for a priest to essentially say, yes we can accept contraception for society but as Catholics we should obey Church teaching and shouldn’t…huh?? You mean artificial contraception has no negative societal effects and is only applicable to Catholics, really?
Oh my dear Bishops I am afraid you no longer have to do any canonical sanctions to the Ateneo because they themselves are jumping out the window committing spiritual suicide. They had already started to cut themselves off from the vine a long time ago and fortunately for them it is a rather thick vine from which they are still hanging on by a mere strand! They hardly realize they are at the edge of a cliff and see their worldly prestige, honor and accolades, their social justice activism and their championing the causes of the poor as their new “life line.” They no longer understand the meaning of the passage “what does it profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses his soul for it.” A long time ago the Jesuits of the Ateneo had started this by inventing for themselves, an imaginary, separate Catholic “magisterium” devoid of any real accountability to Rome (brings me back memories of Fr. Tanseco and his famous alternate magisterium hypothesis). They say one thing and do another, that’s the trick, the official stand and the de facto stand which no one hears about except if you are an insider within the halls of the institution.
This is diabolical because of its insidiousness. It seems that Ateneo students really think that what they are being taught, this alternative, dissenting “magisterial” teaching, is what the Catholic Church teaches and that the CBCP and everyone else is, well, just too stiff, orthodox and not cool (they should get all the coolness they can for where they’re headed!). Could this be the “Catholic position”, that “…continues to be taught in our classes, as we have always done” that Fr. Villarin refers to in his letter? I only ask because based on my exchanges with Ateneans in that Facebook page, there is not a single iota of evidence I have seen that is reflective of this “Catholic position”, that corroborates the claim of Fr. Villarin, that the Ateneo teaches what the Church authentically teaches. Instead, you see students with an utter hatred for the Bishops and their requirement for the Ateneo to adhere to the Church’s line against the RH Bill. It appears that the dissent is alive and healthy within the House of Ignatius and it will be for many more years to come!
If that is the case my dear Ateneans, I believe that what Fr. Bernas said was wrong, it appears that we DO have to burn the house down to roast that pig!
The number of professors who endorsed the RH Bill in their position paper now rose from 160 to 192. Even after Fr. Jett Villarin, SJ distanced Ateneo from the faculty endorsers of the bill, another declaration of support for the RH Bill was signed by Ateneans for RH with 1465 from Ateneo de Manila University, 79 from Xavier University (Ateneo de Cagayan University), and 21 from Ateneo de Zamboanga University. At such news we should rejoice and be glad: the depth and extent of dissent in Ateneo de Manila University on the Catholic teaching on contraception is now laid bare. I hope more students will add their names on the list so that the Catholic Church hierarchy can fully assess whether Ateneo still deserves to be called a Catholic university or not.
What we are seeing is a declaration of open rebellion against the Catholic Church, which began more than 40 years ago when clerics and bishops rebelled against Pope Paul VI’s Humanae Vitae. What was once whispered in seminary halls became taught in the classrooms. And what was taught in the classrooms became preached at the rooftops of cyberspace.
The pro-RH camp is now emboldened. They have Ateneo professors and students supporting their cause–the elite thinkers of the country with more than 150 years of intellectual history. The Jesuits, the Church’s shock troopers and loyal soldiers in the bygone years, appear weak and helpless in the face of the mounting opposition. And even they themselves are divided. There is no more a Padre Pastells who will debate with Rizal on the truth of the Catholic Faith or a Padre Faura who will scold Rizal for his heretical views. The pro-RH groups are already at the Gate 2 and they demand that the Church surrender to the modern world by embracing contraception and the RH Bill.
Saruman the Wise says it best:
And listen, Gandalf, my old friend and helper!… I said we, for we it may be, if you will join with me. A new Power is rising. Against it the old allies and policies will not avail us at all. There is no hope left in Elves or dying Numenor. This then is one choice before you, before us. We may join with that Power. It would be wise, Gandalf. There is hope that way. Its victory is at hand; and there will be rich reward for those that aided it. As the Power grows, its proved friends will also grow; and the Wise, such as you and I, may with patience come at last to direct its courses, to control it. We can bide our time, we can keep our thoughts in our hearts, deploring maybe evils done by the way, but approving the high and ultimate purpose: Knowledge, Rule, Order; all the things that we have so far striven in vain to accomplish, hindered rather than helped by our weak or idle friends. There need not be, there would not be, any real change in our designs, only in our means. (Fellowship of the Ring, p. 291)
What does the RH Bill promise us? It is the great Ring of Power: it will reduce poverty, promote responsible parenthood, and lead to good governance–the high and ultimate purpose that our country has striven hard to accomplish only to be derailed by the Catholic Church and the Anti-RH groups. The RH Bill promises us a “choice”–to order our married life as we will. We can bide our time until we are financially and emotionally ready to have children. We can justify to ourselves that we are obeying our conscience whenever we use the condom or the pill, and ignore many things that pester our thoughts, such as the possibility of getting pregnant, because the unwanted child that can easily be disposed by morning-after pills or abortion. Each child should be a child we want to have and not a child by accident. And as we use the pills more and more through the help of RH Bill, our power over our bodies will also grow, and we shall be like the gods who define what is good and what is evil through three criteria–me, myself, and I. We can forget about what the Catholic Church says–it’s a Medieval institution out of touch of the modern-day Filipinos. Mortal sin? There is no sense of talking about ”a sin whose object is grave matter and which is also committed with full knowledge and deliberate consent.” These are scholastic definitions and modern man has no need for such rubbish. And if the government passes the RH Bill, millions of dollars from UN and US will pour into the Philippines. The poor shall be no more. There will be a high quality of life for all. By embracing the RH Bill, we remain as Pro-Life as ever. There need not be, there would not be, any real change in our designs, only in our means.
Wonderful words befitting of Saruman the Wise. But his voice has already lost its charm: the end does not justify the means.
For my students, friends, and colleagues in Ateneo who support the RH Bill, let me end with the words of Gandalf to Saruman:
What have you to say that you did not say at our last meeting? Or perhaps you have things to unsay? (Two Towers, p. 205)
Sincerely yours,The Monk’s Hobbit
In their position paper expressing support for the RH Bill, certain faculty members of the Ateneo de Manila University, my alma mater, singled me out in their justification for enacting a bill that provides mandatory budgetary allocations, among others, for reproductive health and birth control. This, despite the yearly appropriations for such purpose, in the billions (P2.5 billion for next year), in the Department of Health and other pertinent provisions of the Magna Carta for Women and Children.
They effectively say that, despite the billions yearly provided for contraceptives under the maternal health program of the DOH, an RH bill is necessary precisely to override the actions of local government units that might not be in keeping with their interpretation of the constitutional mandate giving families freedom to plan responsibly but at the same time protecting the rights of the woman and the unborn child.
Specifically, the Ateneo faculty members took issue with my official actions as mayor of Manila, a position I held for three terms, during which the long-neglected capital city enjoyed unparalleled economic growth and fiscal health, alongside human development.
While the faculty members of the Ateneo have, in fairness, pointed out that they do not speak for the university, I wish to make it clear I neither profess to be able to represent perfectly what my alma mater stands for; after all, such has been eloquently re-stated in the August 20, 2012 "Memo: To the University Community" issued by Ateneo's president, Fr. Jett Villarin, on the House Bill 4244. For my part I only wish to stress that all my life, I have sought, though not always succeeded, in living out all that Ateneo and my parents have taught me, with "Lux in Domino" as a compass in navigating the often complex challenges thrown by our public roles.
To the teachers who singled me out by name, I wish to say I am closely related to the institution where you are teaching. Despite their modest means, my parents strove to send me to the best school – Ateneo de Manila University. I received my basic education, from grade school to high school in this great institution, where I was honed in my religious and social convictions, besides getting the rigid academic discipline.
I grew up firm in my belief that everyone should be given a right to pursue his ideals of love for God and country.
I was very fortunate for having been given the opportunity, through three terms, to take over the reins of government in Manila, imbued with what I have learned from my Ateneo professors, foremost of which is respect for life. This strengthened what I have also been taught by my parents at home.
I dispute your claim that my Executive Order in 2000 violated people’s rights and may have "deprived thousands of poor women for whom natural family planning was not feasible". Contrary to these obviously misinformed and biased views, that policy direction was in pursuit of the constitutional mandate for everyone to respect human life from conception to its natural end. I believed that such respect for life dictated that before defaulting to the cop-out policy that having more people around will mean more poverty, the State—the city government in my case—should first strive to provide for a better, progressive city, by: shoring up the city coffers with a revenue collection system that is transparent, efficient and fair; and making best use of such improved resource levels by applying them to vital infrastructure need to make businesses and other institutions run well at all times while giving priority to human-welfare services like education and health. That was our approach from the start, and the record of what we accomplished in nine years vindicates this.
You believe that our policy of not allowing the distribution of contraceptive pills, condoms, IUDs and ligation of mothers in city-run public hospitals was contrary to law. I was positive in my and my lawyers’ definition of the Constitution, proof of which is the fact that no one dared to question us in court or questioned my decision. Instead of using population as an alibi for failure, we strove to give Manilans a better life. We improved the local economy by a very successful, transparent regulatory and fiscal regime for business transactions, thus shoring up the city coffers with resources that allowed us to provide for a better city to live in.
We took the positive route by providing opportunities for our impoverished sector by giving them decent livelihood, employment and other means of income generation. Even the lowliest sidewalk vendors were given a share of these opportunities by accepting their role as productive individuals and not as mere pests that are swatted away every now and then, and occasionally milked of their hard-earned money by crooked city hall or police officials or criminal syndicates. We legalized their business enterprises by providing them with confidence and the full realization of their value as Filipinos, contributing to efforts to lifting Manila from the cesspool of poverty. This policy deviated from the direction of previous administrations which deprived the poor of opportunities to engage in productive activities. Our positive organized vending program provided this particular sector – the long-oppressed Manilans - with an honest source of income.
Please look well at the histories of Hong Kong, Singapore, Taipei, Japan, and key cities in America which handled similar situations starting from organized vending – they have all geometrically progressed into healthy, active entrepreneurs in a healthy economy. This is just one example of what we should all be doing to provide our common aspirations through equitable opportunities in the economy.
Likewise, we promoted an aggressive urban renewal and development program, which saw Manila's transformation from a dark, dangerous, and decaying metropolis into a colorful, vibrant and progressive city.
Our slogan, "Buhayin ang Maynila", caused excitement among Manilans and the business sector and in a short period of time, the city was on its way to prosperity. We inherited a P2-billion budget and successfully steered the city to a point that the public revenues rose to almost P7-billion annually, and we had a surplus of P2.3-billion which we left in the city coffers after our nine-year term.
Of course, all of these government actions were anchored on good governance. We addressed corruption squarely and minimized it. The prices of books, medicines, supplies and public works were all brought down, which redounded to the best interest of the city; meanwhile educating our poor was a priority we pursued. Even those who failed in their efforts at studying were given an alternative learning program to complete their basic education. Our school-feeding and nutrition programs for schoolchildren consistently won awards.
When I look back, I still believe we had the correct approach to governing, i.e.,. that people are part of progress, and having more of the should not be automatically seen as obstacles to such progress.
Population control and the size of the family are not the problems. Good governance is the challenge. Spending so much time and effort to cause a reduction, and to intrude in the life of families will merely destroy the values – primary of which is the valuing of life – which will merely serve as a band-aid solution.
They say an RH bill is needed to stem the rise of maternal mortality, but do not wonder why the numbers are increasing, with all the billions thrown in past years for artificial contraception and not enough for healthcenters, training and hiring of qualified midwives and birthing attendants.
Focusing the solution on just reducing the number of people will result in long-term damage in the minds of our young, which will, in turn, destroy our nation's future.
Haven't we learned enough from the examples of those who sought the easy resort to population control as a means for economic prosperity?
I challenge the professors to study the economic histories of China, India, Europe, America and the western world – their economies grew by leaps and bounds when their population increased. At the same time, please look at the problematic state of Japan, Singapore, Taipei, Germany and Italy, which are all suffering from total demographic collapse.
Population control damages people's thinking by permanently accepting the distorted notion that pregnancy is a problem to be avoided. Materialism has overtaken values in today’s world. The young are taught that they can engage in sex as long as they do not get pregnant. This is exactly the unwritten message, the signal if you will, of the RH bill you are supporting.
May your children and grandchildren be spared from this destructive thinking.
I, for one, am committed to promoting the positive and not the negative. So do all Filipinos who understand what the RH bill will cause to our nation's future.
God has given us abundant natural wealth and extra gifts in the field of arts and culture, and has blessed us with beauty, intelligence, industry and a natural empathy for people. These elements provide the economic emancipation that are wrongly presented as the automatic end-result of an RH bill.
I believe all of Filipinos who say we love our country and its people will be united and inspired into action by good and effective leadership. Instead of dividing our nation over this foreign-crafted and imposed program, we should stand up as one to reject it as it violates rather than promotes God’s will.
Again, as a young boy trained and educated and whose values were shaped by my Jesuit professors, I must differ totally with your wrong assumptions and conclusions.
By Francisco S. Tatad
August 27, 2012
As 192 or so “Catholic professors” surrender the rights of the family to the State, reject Church teaching against contraception, and call for the “urgent passage” of what many regard as an “unconstitutional” and “anti-Catholic” reproductive health bill, it becomes clear that the RH issue has not been sufficiently understood even among academics, who may be suffering from a severe corruption of ideas and values.
According to the group of “professors” from the Jesuit-run Ateneo de Manila University, the RH bill is “a vital piece of legislation that needs to be passed urgently.” It “upholds the constitutional right of couples to found a family in accordance with their religious convictions; honors our commitments to international covenants and conventions; and promotes the reproductive health and reproductive rights of Filipinos, especially of those who are most marginalized on this issue—our women, poor families and young people,” they say.
In making that statement, they want to make it clear that they are not speaking for Ateneo de Manila University, the Society of Jesus, or the rest of their colleagues, but only in their “individual capacities as educators, researchers, medical doctors, lawyers, and citizens.”
“As members of the academe who value academic freedom and responsibility, we wish to put knowledge at the service of national development goals that promote the wellbeing of the majority of our people,” they say.
Their statement appears as the bill nears its final vote, after the House of Representatives had forcibly terminated the debates, upon instruction of the President. It comes amid so much speculation about the kind of money that has entered the country from the foreign population control lobby to push for the passage of the bill.
It is not known whether the professors had prepared the statement themselves or the foreign-funded Philippine Legislative Committee on Population and Development, which has been doing much of the pro-RH propaganda and paper work, had written it, and the professors were simply asked to sign it.
Last December, President Benigno S. Aquino III asked the congressmen to impeach the sitting Chief Justice, and 188 congressmen promptly signed the Articles of Impeachment without reading the document.
The “professors’” statement drew instant rebuke from the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines whose president, Archbishop Jose S. Palma, D.D., of Cebu, reminded the professors of their duty as “Catholics” to defend the teaching of the Catholic Church on the evil of contraception, if they were to continue teaching in a Catholic university.
Promptly Father Jose Ramon T. Villarin, S.J., president of the University, issued a memo to the University Community, reminding everyone that, “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).” He assured the “professors,” however, that he “appreciate(s) their social compassion and intellectual efforts, and urge(d) them to continue in their discernment of the common good.”
At the same time he asked “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.” This seemed to indicate that not all of the pro-RH “professors” were engaged in giving Christian formation to students.
The publication of the pro-RH “professors’” position and their firm defense of it in the name of academic freedom has not only fueled further confusion and division but also raised serious questions about the kind of “Catholic professors” Ateneo nurtures, and the kind of “knowledge” they would like to put “at the service of national development goals.”
Exactly what “knowledge” has been revealed to the “professors” and withheld from the rest? Contrary to their claim, it appears that on the issue at hand the “professors” do not know enough—whether of the Constitution, which they selectively quote, or of the bill, which they say is in full accord with the Constitution and should therefore pass.
Contrary to what the bill’s title seeks to convey and what its defenders say about it, the bill is not about responsible parenthood or women’s, men’s, or children’s health. It does not seek to “give” anyone the “right” to practice contraception or sterilization, for everyone is already free to practice and at least 51 percent of the women of reproductive age are already practicing it.
Rather the bill is all about population control, and some pro-RH advocates have been honest enough to admit it. The bill wants to give the State a “right” it does not have, and which the Constitution expressly forbids, namely—- the “right” to enter the family bedroom and run the sexual lives of individuals and families, exactly as in totalitarian states.
The bill prescribes to the individual and to families essentially two things.
First, that everyone practice birth control, by one method or another, whether they like it or not. For that purpose, the government would be spending billions of pesos of taxpayers’ money every year to provide contraceptives as “essential medicines” to the public.
Second, that schoolchildren undergo compulsory state-run sex education, from Grade V to 4th year high school, without parental consent.
The second point is sometimes discussed in the media and elsewhere, without acknowledging the fact that the parents, not the State, are the primary educators of their children.
But the first point has been kept out of debates. Both sides of the controversy have managed to skirt the issue, as if it were absolutely peripheral, although it is in fact the main issue, involving as it does a fundamental liberty and human right.
The “professors” say the bill “upholds the constitutional right of couples to found a family in accordance with their religious convictions.” Section 3 (1) of Article XV of the Constitution says, the State shall “defend”— not simply uphold—-“the right of parents to found a family in accordance with their religious convictions and the demands of responsible parenthood.”
But that provision is precisely one of the many constitutional provisions the bill violates and attacks.
Without the bill becoming law, anyone who wants to practice contraception or sterilization may freely do so, without compelling anyone else who does not believe in it to do the same. This makes non-passage of the bill non-injurious to anyone who believes she or he must practice contraception or sterilization for his or her own good health. She or he can continue contracepting as before.
However, if the bill is enacted into law, all women and men would be required to practice birth control as a component of marriage, whether they like it or not, whether their faith considers it licit or not. Catholics who are taught and believe that contraception is intrinsically evil would additionally be required to fund with their tax payments the very program that attacks their moral belief.
In any country under any regime, that amounts to religious persecution, except that in this case it would be a non-religious minority persecuting a religious majority. That would be the very opposite of “upholding the right of couples to found a family in accordance with their religious convictions.” It would turn the Philippines into a “totalitarian democracy”, an oxymoron that has come into recent usage.
Articles II and XV contain other provisions, which the professors, like the pro-RH legislators, have apparently chosen not to talk about. But central to the issue is Section 12 of Article II, which provides:
“The State recognizes the sanctity of family life and shall protect and strengthen the family as a basic autonomous social institution. It shall equally protect the life of the mother and the life of the unborn from conception. The natural and primary right and duty of parents in the rearing of the youth for civic efficiency and the development of moral character shall receive the support of the Government.”
Certain parties have tried to muddle this issue by raising the question of, when does conception begin? They claim it begins upon implantation rather than upon fertilization, which medical science has held consistently for hundreds of years. That is a distraction meant to derail discussion of the real question at hand.
The point of the provision is that, at whatever point conception occurs, the State’s duty is to protect the unborn as soon as it is conceived. Unless conception occurs, the State shall have nothing to protect. Does that give the State the right or the duty to make sure that no new human life is ever conceived?
The law of reason says no, the State cannot prevent any woman from conceiving just so it will have no unborn life to protect. But that is precisely what the RH bill wants the State to do—-prevent conception from taking place.
In his letter to the congressmen on August 2, 2012, Archbishop Palma says the Church is opposed to the bill not because it wants the State to become the enforcer of its teaching against contraception. The Church is simply asking that no law be passed that tramples upon its religious beliefs and moral convictions, he says.
“As protector of the unborn, the State is ipso facto the protector of conception,” Palma says. “It cannot be the preventer of conception. As no law prohibits contraception or sterilization, the State may not be able to prevent women from using contraceptives or getting sterilized on their own. But the State cannot be the author, source or medium of contraception, or even be a mere participant in a program of contraception. This is what makes the RH bill clearly unconstitutional, and not qualified to become a law of the Republic of the Philippines,” he says.
The only way the Ateneo “professors” or any of the pro-RH proponents can refute that statement is to show that the Constitution does not make the State the protector of the unborn from conception; that, to the contrary, the State has a right and a duty to prevent women from conceiving.
The “professors” should also try to show that Congress can enact any law that does violence to the belief of any religious community—the Moslems, Episcopalians, Iglesia ni Cristo, etc.—-without committing “religious discrimination” or “persecution” against those affected.
They may also want to assure the nation that, based on their specialized knowledge as “Catholic professors,” Congress would be serving the common good in enacting into law a bill, which from the very beginning has already divided the nation, and which can only divide it further still, as Palma put it to the congressmen.
MANILA, Sept. 5, 2012— Academic freedom is not absolute when matters of faith and morals are at stake, a former head of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines said.
Retired Archbishop of Lingayen-Dagupan Oscar Cruz said that such freedom is not unlimited especially when certain viewpoints already contradict explicit principles of Catholic faith and morals.
“Let it be also said that academic freedom is applicable to philosophy and ethics – among other scholastic matters – not to faith and morals,” said Cruz.
According to him, every educational institution has an identity and mission which it must uphold, particularly Catholic schools.
The prelate made the statement amid claims that the position made by several professors of the Ateneo De Manila University in favoring the reproductive health (RH) bill is a matter of academic freedom.
The Jesuits, which run the university, reiterated that they are one with the CBCP in fighting the RH bill and encouraged dialogue among members of the Ateneo community and Church officials.
The Catholic Educational Association of the Philippines (CEAP), the umbrella organization of Catholic schools in the country, also said it will actively campaign in blocking the passage of the bill.
Last week, Senator Miriam Defensor-Santiago, the author of the Senate version of the RH bill, defended the Ateneo professors, saying academic freedom is a “Constitutional right.” (RL/CBCPNews)
RH, the academe, and human rights
is the subject of my Trade Tripper column in this Friday-Saturday issue of BusinessWorld:
To those actively participating in the national conversation regarding the RH Bill, a constant source of frustration is discussing the same with somebody who keeps shifting ground while one is in the middle of directly addressing a particular issue. Deliberate tact or not, it unfortunately prevents intelligent discourse in what is clearly an important national subject.
That problem again came up when the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines urged "Catholic" universities to adhere faithfully to Church teachings. It was a logical, reasonable enough request: like simply telling a history teacher to teach history or a math teacher to teach math. But that CBCP statement met with almost hysterical reaction from certain quarters, particularly those advocating for the RH Bill. Commentators supposedly more circumspect are now seen labeling the Bishops the "Taliban," or of reviving the "inquisition," or "waging a just war."
But did the CBCP cross the line in making that call as they did? Religious freedom is a confirmed international human right. As the UN Declaration of Human Rights provides:
"Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes freedom to change his religion or belief, and freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship and observance." This is expanded by the later International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights to include: "respect for the liberty of parents and, when applicable, legal guardians to ensure the religious and moral education of their children in conformity with their own convictions."
So the Bishops, like anybody else, had the right to say what they said. Note that the Bishops were not asking people to obey without thinking or coercing them to let go of their conscience. All they were asking is for Catholic universities (or at least those who say they are Catholic academic institutions) to teach Catholic doctrine correctly.
But doesn’t this violate academic freedom? The answer is no. It’s not even the issue. Does the Church, through its Bishops (mandated, as declared in the Catechism, as the "authentic teachers of the apostolic faith"), have the right to determine what is Catholic doctrine from what isn’t? Of course it does. And our Supreme Court recognized this right through a long line of cases: from the right of the religious to "proselytize" (American Bible Society case) to the fact that the State should not interfere with any religions’ beliefs, creeds, or doctrines (see Islamic Da’wah, Seventh Day Adventists, and Ebranilag cases).
The Catholic Church’s teachings are succinctly and widely available in compiled form in the Catechism of the Catholic Church. Do the Catholic Church and Catholic universities have the right to have that taught to its students? Yes. It’s a constitutional and human right as mentioned above. Do Catholic universities have the right to direct how that particular subject is taught, who teaches it, and retain who it thinks is fit to teach it? Yes. Again a constitutional and international human right; further discussed in Article XIV of the Constitution and elucidated by the Supreme Court in cases such as Miriam College Foundation and Alfredo de Torres.
And let’s not forget: nobody is forcing anybody to study or teach in those schools.
As mentioned above, academic freedom is not even actually the issue. It is academic or intellectual honesty, and respect for the contractual rights of the university and of the parents who enrolled their children in a Catholic school expecting a Catholic education. Again, nobody is telling anybody not to teach what he or she doesn’t want. But it’s simply dishonest and wrong for one to teach against Church doctrines and then pass that off as Catholic doctrine. Teach that if you want but call it something else. Call it "Liberation Theology" or "Critique of Church Teachings from the Marxists Perspective." Anything. But don’t call it "Catholic." In short, if a teacher was asked (and he agreed) to teach Catholic doctrine, then that teacher is contractually obliged (either to the school administration or to the students or to the students’ parents) to teach it. Not doing so could simply result in civil (or possibly even criminal) liabilities.
Contrast that established right to religion with that oft-repeated claim that access to contraceptives is an international human right. It is most definitely not. There is no treaty that ever mentions contraception nor is there any binding international norm that requires States to supply contraceptives (see White Paper on Family Planning by the World Youth Alliance).
"Reproductive Health" is a right but that term is not synonymous with contraception. And international law clearly does not require the need for reproductive health to be fulfilled merely through contraception.
In the end, it’s good to remember Cardinal Newman’s dictum: our "conscience has rights because it has duties." For our students’ sake, lessening our egos and developing rational thought would be quite helpful indeed.