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

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

When "commonly-shared values" are not enough: A diocesan priest's response to Ateneo De Manila

From Katolikong Pinoy:

Sept. 23, 2012
by Fr. Neil Gavan Tenefrancia

Full text of the MEMO here:

“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.”


I think, it is best to add to the reasons cited above (threats to constitutional rights & to commonly shared human and spiritual values) the non-negotiable basis of the Church’s objection to the present form of the RH Bill: it is objecting based on DOCTRINAL reasons to a proposed public policy that will significantly impact the freedom of its constituents with regard to their Christian moral witnessing.

This DOCTRINAL ground is the area where the Church is most competent to speak on, namely- the objective immorality of artificial contraception (aside from the questionable mandatory sex education in schools which is contrary to the inalienable, immediate, and primary right of parents to the upbringing of their children).

Basing the objection to the RH Bill on “commonly shared human and spiritual values” (aside from the constitutional implications) can be misleading. This is because “commonly-shared values” can be understood to be founded on, mediated by, or a result of CONSENSUS which can never be, according to the Catholic understanding of divine Revelation, the infallible and immutable foundation of moral and existential certainty.

In the Church, we receive God’s will as REVELATION which is faithfully transmitted and interpreted by the Teaching Office of the Church (the Magisterium), itself gifted by the charism of infallibility in matters of faith and morals. All of us will not want to follow a blind and erroneous guide.

God’s will, therefore, cannot be based on human CONSENSUS or on “commonly-shared values” if these values are understood as arising from CONSENSUS.

“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.”


I wonder how the “social compassion” of intellectuals can lead themselves to positions contrary to the doctrines of the Catholic Church. The Church, herself a world-expert in organized charity, cannot be accused of being insensitive to and ignorant of the various human forms of physical and spiritual poverty.

I think the questions to be asked are: Can Catholics innovate for themselves their own understandings and practices of CHARITY and do them outside the mission of the Church? Can we set up our own understanding of MINISTRY within the Catholic Church which is contrary to the very nature of the Church, to the nature of divine Revelation, and exercise them outside the supervision of our Church leaders?

Operare sequitur esse. The Church’s mission necessarily flows from its specific identity. You cannot tinker, therefore, with matters relating to the Church’s MISSION without inevitably tinkering with the Church’s very own IDENTITY.

The proper and healthy alliance of FAITH and REASON, a source of “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,” should imply that ‘intellectual liberalism’ will be employed at the service of the integrity of the Church’s identity and mission and not be used to relativize the truth claims of its doctrines nor to create cleavages and gray areas in matters that are non-negotiable.

“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.”


I think there is a need, so as to avoid misunderstanding, to emphasize the nature of the CATHOLIC POSITION alongside the other views. All Catholics should know that the truth-claims of Catholic doctrines on matters of faith and morals are essentially different from that of the others. They are expected to be infallible and binding on all who claim that they are Catholics. And here, intellectual liberalism cannot be considered a virtue. Yes, let us teach the Catholic position but let us also teach the infallible and necessarily-binding nature of this Catholic position.


Finally, some words from St Ignatius of Loyola:

“Always to be ready to obey with mind and heart, setting aside all judgment of one’s own, the true spouse of Jesus Christ, our holy mother, our infallible and orthodox mistress, the Catholic Church, whose authority is exercised over us by the hierarchy…

That we may be altogether of the same mind and in conformity with the Church herself, if she shall have defined anything to be black which to our eyes appears to be white, we ought in like manner to pronounce it to be black. For we must undoubtedly believe, that the Spirit of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the Spirit of the Orthodox Church His Spouse, by which Spirit we are governed and directed to Salvation, is the same.”

[RULES FOR THINKING WITH THE CHURCH, From the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius of Loyola in Documents of the Christian Church, 3rd ed., Henry Bettenson, ed., pp. 364-367.]

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