Belgium: Ex-“Catholic” University promotes new “values”

UCL-logoA truly incredible case of bigotry is reported from Belgium, where the (once upon a time, but not anymore) “Catholic” University of Louvain has suspended a lecturer and launched disciplinary proceedings against him for having written in a text manual that abortion is murder.

The lecturer, Stéphane Mercier, teaches a course in Philosophy at the French-speaking spin-off of the University of Leuven, one of the oldest and (once) most reputed Universities in Europe, which in 1968 split into a Flemish and a French branch.

The University reacted on a complaint it received from a radical feminist group, which had got hold of a manuscript written by Mr. Mercier, entitled “The Philosophy of Life – Against a Pretended Right to Abortion”, in which it is said that “the term ‘voluntary interruption of pregnancy’ is a euphemism that covers up a lie, but the truth is that abortion is the murder of an innocent person” and therefore should be punished like other serious crimes.

The feminist group that complained about the text apparently comprises many murderesses of innocent persons, and therefore felt offended by Mr. Mercier’s lucid assessment. The “Catholic University”, on its part, was eager to oblige the feminist radicals, and immediately issued a statement in which it affirmed that “abortion is enshrined in the Belgian law” and that the manuscript was contradicting “the values that this University stands for”. It further said that “using a lecture to promote positions that are contrary to these values is unacceptable”. It is, however, not clear whether the manuscript has actually been used in any of the lectures given by Mr. Mercier.

These affirmations were published on the “Catholic University’s” website even before Mr. Mercier had any chance to defend himself. It is therefore not surprising that his hearing by a disciplinary board was a pure formality; the suspension of his course was already decided before the hearing took place.

It is, however, completely unclear what is wrong about the affirmations contained in Mr. Mercier’s manuscript. It would be unbefitting for any University that claims to honour the freedom of speech to censor the statements, including controversial ones, of any of its teachers, as long as these statements are at least arguable. But Mr. Mercier’s statement that abortion is murder is not just one possible point of view among many, – it is the inevitable conclusion at which anyone investigating the matter with a sober and honest mind can arrive. There is nothing “radical” or extremist” in this conclusion, which simply spells out an undeniable fact. If anything, those claiming that abortion is not a murder are radical and extremist in their denial of palpable facts: the human embryo is a human being, separate and distinct from its mother, and it is deliberately killed.

The University’s statement that “abortion is enshrined in the Belgian law” and thus should be “respected” replaces ethical reasoning with mere legal positivism, which is the kind of argument one would expect from persons without any interest in, and knowledge of, ethical reasoning – but not from a University Department responsible for the teaching of Philosophy.

Qualifying abortion as murder is not a Catholic article of faith, but a pure application of ethical reason. Non-Catholic researches, when investigating the matter honestly, will come to no other conclusion.

However, a “Catholic” University should be aware that the in the Second Vatican Council, abortion was qualified as “abominable crime”. The current Pontiff, albeit considered more “liberal” than his predecessors, has in November 2016 called it a “horrendous crime” and “very grave sin.” It remains mysterious how a University that claims to be “Catholic” can affirm that Mr. Mercier’s statement that abortion is murder is “contrary to its values” – if it is, then so are the very similar statements made by Vatican II and Pope Francis, not to mention the entire magisterium preceding them.

What is, however, even more astonishing than the action taken by the “Catholic” University is the lack of reaction of the Belgian Bishops, or, failing such, the Vatican. It is highest time that the Catholic Church clarify its position with regard to this once reputed academic institution. As it appears, the UCL has not only abandoned the last remnants of loyalty to the Catholic faith, but also its academic standards. An institution like this is not only not “Catholic”, but it also seems unworthy of the name “University”.

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