BELGIAN BISHOPS REFUSE TO CALL ABORTION MURDER

Belgian Bishops Refuse to Call Abortion Murder

Catholic Professor thrown under the bus for standing for Church teaching on Abortion

by Rodney Pelletier • ChurchMilitant • March 30, 2017

LOUVAIN, Belgium – The Catholic bishops of Belgium are allowing a Catholic university to persecute a professor who called abortion “murder.”

Stéphane Mercier, a Catholic philosophy professor at the Catholic University of Louvain (UCL), was suspended on March 24 for debating abortion in his philosophy classes on February 7 and 9. The students, who were first-year undergraduates, requested Mercier hold debates on ethical issues, specifically asking for abortion to be discussed.

Maurice Selvais, a Belgian Catholic, told Church Militant, “We are shocked to see that a Catholic professor, who shares the Catholic Church statement on abortion, is bullied and suspended by his own employer, who is a Catholic university and which declared that abortion is right and the professor is wrong.”

The school justified its actions in suspending Mercier, claiming that “in the spirit of the act decriminalizing abortion voted in 1990, it respects the autonomy of women to make this choice, in the circumstances specified by the legislation.”

Despite the fact that Mercier did not say anything in the debate that differed from Catholic moral teaching on abortion, the Catholic bishops of Belgium are standing behind the university’s decision and condemning him.

On March 27, Tommy Scholtes, the spokesperson for the Belgian Episcopal Conference, condemned the professor, calling his words a “caricature” of Church teaching.

“The word ‘murder’ is too strong,” he insisted. “It presupposes violence, an act committed in the consciousness, with an intention, and that does not take into account the situation of the people, often in the greatest distress.”

“Such formulas do not really help the Church, particularly in the context of the Pope’s call for life,” Scholtes continues. “For, on the other hand, respect for life remains, of course, at the center of the doctrine. But the Pope also calls for mercy: We must show understanding, compassion.”

He describes the relationship between the Belgian bishops and UCL as “both close and different,” adding, “We have no opinion on what the University is saying.”

The French-speaking Belgian bishops also declined to support Mercier, although they did not outright condemn him.

Michel Ghinz, previous head of the UCL philosophy department and Mercier’s teacher, comments, “I am Catholic [and] the university does not deserve to be recognized as Catholic.”

He questions Mercier’s wisdom in comparing rape and abortion, saying it was “not very clever.”

“I lectured at UCL for 40 years, holding strong ethical positions,” he said, “but I never got into trouble. My speeches were cautious.”

Mercier, however, is not intimidated. “I am proud of the firm position that I defend as a human being, as a philosopher and as a Catholic, for the honor of God and the protection of our most vulnerable brethren,” he declared.

He explained that the Catholic university was being asked to clarify its position on abortion because of Mercier’s class and that it “doesn’t know what to do.”

“I do not know if my position is contrary to the principles of UCL,” he explained. “What is certain is that my position is in accordance with what should be the position of the UCL, which is in conformity with the teaching of the Church, which strongly condemns abortion.”

He explained that the Catholic university was being asked to clarify its position on abortion because of Mercier’s class and that it “doesn’t know what to do.”

“I do not know if my position is contrary to the principles of UCL,” he explained. “What is certain is that my position is in accordance with what should be the position of the UCL, which is in conformity with the teaching of the Church, which strongly condemns abortion.”

Selvais told Church Militant, “The petition is a first step in our strategy. We know that we already can count on some bishops in the world,” yet he is hoping the laity will speak up as well. About 3,000 people have signed the petition.

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