MANILA, Oct. 10, 2012—Teachers in Catholic educational institutions share in the responsibility to preserve the Catholic identity of the institution, according to the Primer on the Year of Faith and on the New Evangelization, written early this month to help the faithful understand the significance of the Year of Faith, which starts October 11, 2012.
The primer, written by Cotabato Archbishop Orlando Quevedo, explained faith, secularism, the changing times, and living and strengthening our faith as Filipinos, but also zeroed in on life issues and the topic of dealing with dissension among Catholic schools.
“A Catholic institution of higher learning, whether pontifical or not, has to be faithful to its identity, nature, and role as a Catholic institution. One of the distinctive marks essential for Catholic identity is fidelity to the Christian message in conformity with the magisterium of the Church,” the document stated.
“Faculty members share in the responsibility of preserving and promoting the Catholic identity of the institution. Pope Benedict XVI has pointed out the confusion created among the faithful ‘by instances of apparent dissidence between some representatives of Catholic institutions and the Church’s pastoral leadership,’” said the primer, written and released in October 1.
The Catholic identity of an educational institution is usually expressed explicitly in its vision-mission statement, the document stated, adding that this identity of Catholic universities in the Philippines is confirmed by membership in the International Federation of Catholic Universities (IFCU), the statutes of which were approved by the Holy See in 1949.
“Therefore, by its very nature and identity a Catholic educational institution adheres to the truths that are contained in the deposit of faith, Scripture and Tradition, as interpreted authoritatively by the Church.”
The fidelity of two Catholic universities had come into serious question in recent months after faculty members from each school publicly expressed their support for a legislative measure that mandates taxpayer-funded contraception, by becoming signatories in a declaration of support which explicitly carried the name of the universities in the documents, which were both widely circulated in social and mainstream media.
The reproductive health (RH) bill, the measure in question, has been rejected by Church hierarchy and lay faithful, citing its blatant disregard for the dignity of persons primarily through institutionalized contraception. Magisterial teaching on artificial contraception is definite and not at all ambiguous, with the matter being tackled quite extensively by Pope Paul VI in the 1968 encyclical Humanae Vitae(“On Human Life”).
Professors in the two universities invoked academic freedom in defending their moves in support of the birth control bill. Quevedo, however, clarified the matter.
“Academic freedom is not a right for faculty members of a Catholic educational institution to betray its Catholic identity and nature and cannot be a reason for dissenting against the official Catholic position as on the Reproductive Health Bill,” the prelate stated in the primer.
While promoters of the RH bill insist that the birth control measure had nothing to do with morality and that women deserved “freedom of choice” when it came to issues concerning their bodies, the prelate explained that as teachers of faith, “the Bishops of the Philippines point out that the distribution and use of artificial contraceptive means to prevent conception and the implantation of the fertilized egg in the womb are not morally neutral. Based on official Catholic moral teaching, they are in fact morally evil.”
The freedom to choose cannot be contrary to the law of God “who gave that freedom,” he added. “Briefly and simply, the freedom to choose is not absolute. It is necessarily limited by the moral law, as taught authoritatively by the magisterium or teaching authority of the Church.”
The issue concerning dissension by some faculty of Catholic schools took a more animated twist recently after a strongly worded editorial of a pontifical university’s official student publication pointed out the errors in insisting on the primacy of academic freedom over the nature and function of Catholic schools as regards the Church’s mission.
Year of Faith
Pope Benedict XVI on October 11, 2011 issued his Apostolic Letter, Porta Fidei (“Door of Faith”), and declared a Year of Faith from 11 October 2012 to 24 November 2013. The Year of Faith would be “a good opportunity to usher the whole Church into a time of particular reflection and rediscovery of the faith,” the Pope stated in the letter, adding that it is a “summons to an authentic and renewed conversion to the Lord, the one Savior of the world.”
The starting date of the Year of Faith – October 11, 2012 – is the 50th anniversary of the opening of the Second Vatican Council (1962-1964), as well as the 20th anniversary of the Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC) which is the summary of the Christian faith, Quevedo stated in the primer.
The ending date—November 24, 2013—is the Feast of Christ the King, the center of our profession of faith. (CBCP for Life)