When life gives you lemons: A response to The Varsitarian
I recently read an article by the University of Sto Tomas’ collegiate newspaper, The Varsitarian, regarding the school’s “position” on the RH Bill and the “ignorance” of the Ateneo and De La Salle professors who released statements regarding their position on the said bill.
Along with most of my friends and colleagues, pro- and anti- RH alike, I could not have been more frustrated with the claims of the article.
In my opinion, the article is full of fallacies that only aim at destroying the reputation of the said institutions. It does not encourage discourse between the two sides of the RH bill. It only widens the rift between religion and the academe.
Most parts of the article were inconsistent with facts related to the statement that the professors of Ateneo and De La Salle actually released. Here are some of them:
“UST and her physicians surely know whereof they speak. They’re scientists and experts, unlike the Ateneo and La Salle professors who are intellectual pretenders and interlopers!”
On the contrary, most of the signatories from the two universities are medical experts and top academics. Hence, the MDs, PhDs, MSs and MAs attached to their names. Some of the medical doctors were in fact gynecologists. I’m pretty sure these people know what they are talking about.
To call these academics “intellectual pretenders and interlopers” is absurd. These people achieved their degrees from top universities here and abroad. Some of the professors I know have worked in the area of social development to improve the poverty situation in the country. They know the facts. They have seen realities firsthand. Their position comes not from ignorance but from research and direct involvement with the urban poor.
“Ateneo said it respects the academic freedom of its professors: it had nothing to say about the intellectual dishonesty of its faculty members who are teaching in and receiving high salaries from a Catholic institution who however chose to bite the hand that feeds them all in the name of academic freedom.”
The first thing that’s wrong with this statement is that it’s a run-on (okay, I’m nit-picking). The more important part is that it seems to equate the professors’ position – which is accidentally against the CBCP’s – with intellectual dishonesty. As a center of academic excellence, the Ateneo encourages dialogue among its faculty and students.
It is safe to say that the Ateneo community is divided in this debate. There are those who are against the bill and there are those who support it. The 192 professors merely gave their position on the matter. In the simplest sense, the professors only practiced their right to freedom of expression.
Didn’t Ateneo president Fr Jett Villarin SJ say that the administration and the school stand by the CBCP? This is a way of striking a balance between being a Catholic university and being a university.
“And as far as the Pro-RH Ateneo and La Salle professors are concerned, they’re dishonest and don’t have the courage of their intellectual conviction.”
This, perhaps, is the greatest irony in the article. How can they call the professors cowards when they, in fact, presented their position on the bill? In what way did our professors show cowardice in standing up for what they believe in – despite the negative criticism they knew they would get?
I’ve attended the classes of some of the professors who signed the bill. They, however, have not in any way influenced my position on this issue. They have always encouraged dialogue and discourse in the classroom. Under their watch, I was never afraid to express my views and opinions even if they ran counter to theirs.
“As these professors have chosen to teach in a Catholic university, they must abide by its teachings and beliefs. In the first place, the same is demanded of students.”
In the statement signed by the Ateneo professors, they said that they, “in no way speak for our University, the Society of Jesus, or the rest of our colleagues.” In the same statement, they regarded the bill as “compatible with core principles of Catholic social teaching, such as sanctity of human life, the dignity of the human person, the preferential option for the poor, integral human development, human rights and the primacy of the conscience.”
They did not attack the Catholic Church; nor did they promote disobedience to it. The professors merely expressed their views as Catholics grounded in the social teachings of the Church.
I am not a Catholic but because of my Ateneo education, I have grown to love and respect the religion. I see Catholic teaching as compatible with my own faith and set of principles. Studying liberation and contextual theology, my understanding is that no institution or people hold the monopoly of knowing God. God dwells in our freedom. There is not one way of knowing Him as He reveals Himself in our different contexts in life.
If students and faculty members, or Catholics in general, are not allowed to express their own views, how far have we progressed from the time of the Inquisition? Why can’t the CBCP tolerate religious freedom when its views are challenged?
I have a lot of friends from UST who were enraged by the same article. The problem, I think, is that The Varsitarian’s piece was made to look as if it is the same position taken by the whole Thomasian community. It is not.
To the disappointment of “true-blooded Thomasians,” there are people in the university who are pro-RH. Perhaps, this is a call for better representation and leadership in UST’s publication.
My perspective on RH comes from my organization and out-of-school activities which allowed me to talk and dialogue with urban poor families ang barangay officials. All of the people I talked to were Catholics, yet most of them shared the same opinion as mine. I witnessed their plight. That is why I am pro-RH.
In the end, I am proud of my school for standing by the Church and for upholding academic freedom at the same time. This is a position that encourages discourse and freedom of speech – the very basics of a democracy. It is, in my perspective, both respectful of the doctrines of the Catholic Church and the God-given right to free will.
I am from the Ateneo. Hence, this article is in defense of the institution that I love and respect. This does not, however, represent the position of my school. I'm just a happy lemon on Katipunan. – Rappler.com
David Lozada is a student leader involved in social development initiatives.
Read up on related stories:
- UST disowns Varsitarian's stance vs 'lemons, cowards'
- The Guidon: Stay away from 'dismissive language' in RH debate
- Varsitarian slams pro-RH Ateneo, DLSU profs
- La Salle, Ateneo papers slam Varsitarian editorial
For more updates on the RH Bill, check out our #RHBill Debate Microsite.