A STUDY by former Arts and Letters dean Armando de Jesus shows the Catholic Church losing her hold on the young. With one out of three Thomasians surveyed saying that “there is nothing wrong with using birth control pills” and that “euthanasia is justifiable if the person has a disease that cannot be cured,” the Church has become much like a cassette tape on repeat mode, playing the “pro-life” manta over and over, but getting no hearing— not even in the so-called “Pontifical” University of Santo Tomas, “the Catholic University of the Philippines.”

Institute of Religion (IR) Director Fr. Filemon de la Cruz, O.P. has an explanation. He said that of the three indicators in the survey of religiosity (religious practices, adherence to Catholic teachings, and moral behavior), religious practices are the easiest to acquire, and moral behavior the hardest. “Moral maturity would take a lifetime to learn,” he added. “. . . A person is morally mature if he is able to make a sound judgment about an issue. You can follow moral teachings of the Church but it doesn’t make you morally mature.”

But of course! It would take a lifetime to acquire moral maturity. But if current trends in social behavior and attitudes continue, it wouldn’t take a magus to predict that the future would be one of increasing moral immaturity. And for all intents and purposes, the future is already with us, right here, right now.

The presumptive conceit of the survey is that UST students are representative of the young Filipino Catholic population and even of the Philippine youth in general. So obviously, the onus of the problem lies in the second of the three indicators—“adherence to Catholic teachings.” Do young Thomasians adhere to Catholic teachings? The question should be posed right at the doorstep of the religious curriculum of UST, nay, right at the religious establishment of UST. Is UST religious instruction effective? Does UST provide the proper religious environment, in form and content, so that Thomasians do not merely go through the motions of beautiful religious practices, but also live with moral conviction the important teachings of the Church. Does UST develop the proper theological and moral formation of her students, so that UST students go beyond their selfish perspective of looking at God as the God of Exams, one who provides the questions to their most difficult subjects, but as the God of Everyman, one who provides all persons the moral barometer to the key questions of life?

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Or for that matter, is the pro-life position of the Church effectively taught and practiced in the University? Judging by the course on Marriage and Family, it appears that there’s much to be done in imbuing Thomasians with the pro-life perspective. While the IR-produced textbook on the subject generally tackles the subject of “responsible parenthood” and enumerates in detail the natural methods approved by the Church, the lessons operate in a vacuum. They don’t take into account the social and geopolitical forces that seem to have compelled a global discourse on population control and family planning that discards the teaching of the major religions on the sanctity of life. The IR lessons seem to make its lessons on a “personalistic,” subjective perspective. There’s no critique on the structural forces that have put the Church on the defensive regarding her pro-life position.

What is shocking is that Marriage and Family is not a Theology subject, but a Sociology subject: in the student registration form, the subject is coded “SCL 9.” Already bereft of its old militancy because theology subjects for laymen nowadays are not taught in the manner of the old but very effective apologetics (perhaps that’s the reason why many Catholics have been too gullible to resist the proselytization of Bible-quoting evangelicals), Marriage and Family is taught minus the structural and contextual dimensions the subject should have been imbued by the social sciences, trendy “contextual theology” (whatever that means), and 1970’s liberation theology. But even with Gustavo Gutierrez, the father of liberation theology, joining the Dominicans, there’s hardly any structural and contextual dimension to the teaching of the pro-life, pro-family position of the Church in UST’s course on Marriage and Family. Deprived of social and geopolitical dimensions, the subject is a dreary, desiccated affair. Neither a Theology nor a Sociology subject, Marriage and Family is a pure bore. It is ignorance inflicted on the ignorant. No wonder Thomasians are moral lemons.

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