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Ateneo professor resigns; decries Ateneans’ support for RH

MANILA, Dec. 29, 2012–An Ateneo de Manila theology professor has resigned, realizing that he could “no longer share the path” taken by the Jesuit-led university community that went all-out for the passage of the reproductive health (RH) law despite opposition from the Catholic Church.

Prof. Rafael Dy-Liacco, in a resignation letter, decried the “failure” of Ateneans to reject what he said was an alliance with a “spirit of disdain for the Church” that had worked for the RH bill’s passage.

“That spirit repudiates the Church’s holiness and, at the same time, attempts to assume it for itself (cf. 2 Thessalonians 2:4). It has manifested at an unusually high level of ferocity, even hatred. It has manifested in the wholesale denigration of the Church – of her teachings, of her bishops, of her catechists, and of her common lay faithful,” said the letter, addressed to the chair of the Ateneo’s theology department and the dean of humanities.

“Whatever material good Ateneans believe they have accomplished by supporting the passage of the Bill, their failure to reject alliance with that spirit, to truly seek counsel with the Church, and to make amends for and to repair whatever harm that their alliance with that spirit is doing and will do to the faith of believers in the Philippines, has not been right,” Dy-Liacco added.

The letter was written on Dec. 28, Feast of the Holy Innocents, the day on which the Church commemorates the massacre of children under King Herod and which resonates today amid the grim reality of abortion. It was on Dec. 28 that news first spread of the clandestine signing of the RH bill last Dec. 21 by President Benigno S. Aquino III, an Ateneo alumnus.

The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines had warned that a “contraceptive mentality” to be promoted by an RH law would lead to an “abortion mentality,” as what has happened in countries that had passed laws making contraception widespread.

In August this year, 192 Ateneo professors signed a statement of support for the RH bill, in open defiance of the shepherds of the Church and lay leaders. Ateneo professors, in a 2008 statement, had claimed Catholics could support the RH bill “in good conscience,” contradicting the papal encyclical Humanae Vitae which reiterated the Church’s ban on contraception.

The move by the 192 professors prompted the Ateneo president, Fr. Jett Villarin, SJ, to release a statement saying that Ateneo was officially against the bill. Villarin’s statement, however, was largely ignored as professors and students continued to call for the passage of the controversial measure, which calls for billions in taxpayers’ money for contraceptives and sterilization.

Dy-Liacco and two other Ateneo theology professors released a statement on Aug. 28 calling out their colleagues for distorting the Church’s teachings on conscience.

In his resignation letter, Dy-Liacco said the “procreative love” between husband and wife as well as the bond between the mother and child from the point at which life begins in the womb are “spiritual realities.”

He said: “One does not need infallible pronouncements from the Magisterium in order to willingly assent to their truth, and to their implications for any path towards genuine human fulfillment.”

The theology professor, who has a Master of Arts in Religion from Yale Divinity School, said the teachings of the Church indeed “clash with the ideologies that rule this age, while her ministers and her teachers are all too human.”

“Often times it seems easier to give up believing that the Church is the Holy Spirit’s work. But the gospels tells us that believing in the Son of God when He became incarnate was not easy either (cf. John 1:11).”

No compromise

Dy-Liacco maintained that there could be no compromise with the spirit of animosity against the Church, “much less collusion with it (cf. Revelation 18:4).”

“The Holy Spirit’s will and that spirit’s will are never the same (cf. CCC 676). It rejects God’s truth (cf. John 8:45). Moreover, when one becomes allied to it, one becomes like it (cf. John 8:44), he said. “Thus here the saying also holds: ‘No one can serve two masters. He will either hate one and love the other, or be devoted to one and despise the other’ (Matthew 6:24). Because of these realities, I believe that my service to the Church and my service to ADMU no longer coincide, and I believe that I can no longer share the path that ADMU has taken. Therefore I hereby resign both my teaching position and my tenure at ADMU Theology,” he said.

“Throughout my years teaching theology at ADMU, the Bible had increasingly become my primary teaching resource. I had found that the religious virtues, spiritual ideals, and array of theological perspectives on the human condition that are conveyed in the full range of Biblical narratives, from Genesis to Revelation, filled a lacuna that I had noticed in ADMU theology. It was a lacuna in the formation of character and conscience,” he said.

He said he would be judged in the way he had taught his students in grasping the truth. “I wish I had been a better teacher. I wish I had learned more quickly about hewing closely to the truth (cf. 2 Timothy 2:15). I wish I had learned sooner about not putting my own thoughts ahead of God’s teachings (cf. 1 Corinthians 1:20–25). I wish I had understood more deeply about avoiding self-promotion and not seeking praise (cf. 2 Corinthians 4:5). I know that I shall be held accountable for my students’ grasp of the truth (cf. 1 Corinthians 3:10–15).” (Dominic Francisco)