Prof fired for pro-life lecture: Defend truth even if ‘spineless shepherds’ won’t
ROME, May 18, 2018 (LifeSiteNews) – In a brilliant lecture today at the 2018 Rome Life Forum, Professor Stéphane Mercier illuminated just how ridiculous the state of affairs has become in the Church and pleaded for an end to the cowardice so characteristic of modern Catholic bishops and priests.
Professor Mercier became a good friend of LifeSiteNews and household name across the pro-life world last year when he was fired by the Catholic University of Louvain in Belgium for asking his students to consider arguments against abortion and gender ideology.
He explained to the Rome Life Forum today the course of events that led to his sacking and the spineless response of the Belgian episcopate to a Catholic university officially coming out in support of abortion. Professor Mercier, who is as humble as he is witty, used the ordeal he underwent to make a larger point about the crumbling of Catholic universities and "sixty years of suicidal secularization within the Church."
His lecture was a rousing call for Catholics to actively and boldly fight evil and stand for the truth, no matter the cost.
"If we cowardly give up and sit back, then we become accomplices of the evils we fail to stand against," he said. "An apostle makes waves, and the world is most likely to be upset, but it is our duty to keep going and follow the lead of Our Lord himself, who came not to send worldly peace, but the sword."
It's not enough for a faithful Catholic to just be "nice," quiet, and try to avoid confrontation, Professor Mercier said. The prevalence of cowardice is why "it’s absolutely critical to be firm and explicit, to revive the smouldering fire, and to try and awaken what’s left in people today so that we all man up already before it’s too late."
Professor Mercier is the author of La Philosophie Pour La Vie, a straightforward examination of the moral standing of abortion.
LifeSiteNews is pleased to present his full speech below.
Standing for the truth (in a world that doesn't)
Text version from April 9th, 2018—feast of the Annunciation
Synopsis: The Academy is a place where truth is explored and cherished, or is it? Political correctness, gender mainstreaming and liberal lobbyists are taking over Universities all around the world and putting a ban on sound thinking and natural reason. Even Catholic-branded institutions are giving way on their principles and offering pledges of good will to the world; then Church leaders too follow suit and sacrifice the uncompromising faith on the altar of worldliness and sentimentality. Standing for the truth (and for the Truth with a capital T) comes with a price, yet standing firm is required more than ever, for “if the salt shall lose its savor, wherewith shall it be seasoned?”
I used to be an invited lecturer at the Catholic University of Louvain, in Louvain-la-Neuve, Belgium. I had been a student there in the Faculty of Philosophy, then an assistant. After completing my Ph.D., I stayed there as a research fellow from the Belgian Funds for National Research. Thereafter I became an invited lecturer in the same University until last year. I gave lectures in philosophy to students from various backgrounds, including applied sciences and economy. The lectures were aimed at presenting various philosophical issues and topics as an introduction to the field and to its general interest for deepening our understanding of man and meaning. I chose to illustrate the interest of philosophy applied to present-day concerns by lecturing my students about abortion. As I told them, a message is all too usually conveyed nowadays that abortion is “acceptable.” But this is all about slogans really, and, as young and responsible citizens, they should learn to avoid thinking through catchphrases. A good judge, says Cicero in his treatise On Obligations (bk. II, chap. 8 & 51), is one who hears both parties first, and then takes a decision knowingly. Alas most people hear only one-sided views telling them that it’s acceptable to have an abortion; I told my students I wanted them to hear what the other side had to say, and to reflect on arguments rather than through shallow taglines. I laid my cards on the table, and made no mystery that I strongly thought that abortion is utterly wrong in all cases. But I insisted nonetheless: my expectation as a lecturer in philosophy was not that they would parrot my words and feel compelled to agree with me simply because I was the one in charge of the lecture; as I said, my goal is that everyone would think by himself and reflect on the basis of arguments, because I believe in the power of truth. Thus they were free to disagree with me, but it was compulsory that they pondered the whole issue for real, without just discarding it as if it were trifles.
My six hundred students were somewhat surprised or taken aback, as it was a bit of an unexpected topic, but the vast majority understood the challenge pretty well. Then I kept lecturing on various issues over the next few weeks without an incident. All of a sudden, after more than one month, some small-size LGBT pressure group no one had previously heard of alerted the media and sounded the alarm, so to say. The media went crazy, as expected. More unexpected was the equally insane reaction from the authorities of the Catholic University itself, which immediately summoned me while a spokesperson went to the media: she addressed the journalists to assure that my arguments against abortion “in no way reflected the official stand of the University.” A Catholic University. Are we dreaming here maybe?
In any event that lady heard about my calling a spade ‘a spade,’ and abortion ‘a murder;’ and, as the official “responsible for implementing gender policy within the Academy”—for we have this nonsense in a Catholic University—she felt entitled to grant a TV interview and say that the Catholic University of Louvain rejected the views I expressed, and that the very same Institution promoted a purported “constitutional right” to abortion and the “right to choose,” as they say, and terminate their pregnancy at will. This is both surreal and malevolent. Remember, it’s a Catholic university, and then you’ve that lady speaking on behalf of the University and standing for the so-called right to abortion, that she says is “enshrined in the Belgian constitution.” Which is a lie, by the way: we tolerate an awful lot in Belgium as far as abortion is concerned, but there’s (still) no formal right to it for all that. That’s the problem with such people: they can’t help uttering lies; the Psalms warned us though, stultorum infinitus est numerus, “the number of fools is infinite” (Ecclesiastes 1:15), and the University chose to endorse her views rather than mine, and to suspend me without any further from all teaching activity.
Interestingly, the gender agenda being pushed forward by the lady I just mentioned, and now heavily promoted within the Academy, might be the main yet untold reason behind my removal from position. Indeed, the whole thing might have more to do with gender mainstreaming than what meets the eye in the first place. There’s the gender-equality policy, there’s a brand new “gender studies” Department in the Faculty of Philosophy, and teachings about gender have reached the (Modernist) Faculty of Theology. My suspension from lecturing came a few weeks after I spoke against abortion, but just a few days after I exposed the malevolent gender mainstreaming currently taking over the Academy: I lectured against the Judith Butler delusion, and openly exposed the gender agenda as promoting a pseudo-science no more legitimate than astrology, and, to borrow the words of His Excellency Bishop Schneider, as “a depravity, a final form of Marxism” (interview with Adelante la Fe, Jan. 2017). Then I was silenced, officially because of what I said against abortion. They didn’t say anything about gender studies, for there are still some people out there, even atheists, with enough common sense to acknowledge the ideological lunacy of it all. On the contrary, they knew pretty well I’d find almost no allies on the subject of abortion.
First they wanted to have me sacked and dismissed altogether. A lawyer came to my rescue, scrutinized the University’s internal rules and discovered that sacking me was illegal. They nonetheless kept me off the tracks while they devised something else. Appeal was made to an external commission, which ruled that I had been (I quote the words they used, as they’re instructive to say the least) “exploiting” my teaching position on behalf of “radical activism” at the expense of a “mostly deprived audience.” If the whole thing didn’t revolve around grave matters, it would be laughable. “Exploiting” my teaching position: well, in a philosophy class I presented philosophical arguments showing that taking the life of an innocent unborn child amounts to murder. “Radical activism:” I explicitly told my students that as a lecturer in philosophy, I didn’t expect them to agree with me, but to reflect on what I’d said, ponder arguments and think by themselves so that they reach their own conclusion based not on mainstream catchphrases, but on sound thinking. As for the “mostly deprived audience,” I’m sure the students are flattered at the commission’s patronizing tone and its objection to my treating these young citizens as intelligent adults…
Long story short, the authorities refrained from illegally sacking me out of fear that I’d bring the case to the court. They nonetheless maintained the ban on all my teaching activities until my contract was due for renewal a few months later—my status was such that my contract was renewed on a yearly basis, and it wasn’t illegal to choose not to employ me anymore after one year was over, even though I had been working there for thirteen years in a row in various positions. My contract was of course not renewed, and is not likely to be renewed in any foreseeable future…
In the meantime the authorities issued a statement in which they falsely declared that the problem was not with the contents of what I said, but with my way of doing things. That’s an obvious lie, of course, because they said they really didn’t like how I developed “one-sided views” on the issue. What’s wrong with having one-sided views against rape of genocide, for example? Since when should one balance his one-sided views against slavery with nuances reflecting the “complexity” of situations? An obvious lie then from the authorities, but a smart move nonetheless, which allowed them to avoid addressing the real issue anymore.
I got support from a few brave colleagues. Brave indeed, but very few in numbers. In my own Department of Philosophy, only one emeritus professor took a stand for me. The others carefully looked elsewhere, ran with the pack or loudly came out in favor of abortion. Also several individuals despicably pointed out that we were to avoid “sensitive” issues that may damage the corporate image of the Department of Philosophy. They told me plainly that they were in fact worried about a bad image that would scare away potential students. How is that not pushing the limits of indecency? I raise the issue of children being slaughtered in their mother’s womb with philosophical arguments that are in line with my position as a professional philosopher and lecturer, and they come up with nauseating complaints about the number of students who will enroll in the Department because of their supposedly offended feelings! On second thoughts, perhaps they should get their numbers straight and consider how many people will never attend a philosophy class in their Department because they’ve not been allowed to be born in the first place…
The incumbent Belgian bishops’ reaction was appalling: one of them said I got what I deserved since he openly stated that I had infuriated the students, apparently unaware of the fact that I kept teaching for several weeks without an incident until the media coverage and the authorities’ reaction triggered the whole show. Then there’s one bishop who said that although abortion was something the Church didn’t allow for, one had to show mercy and acknowledge the suffering of people rather than condemn and be judgmental. But I didn’t condemn anyone, since as a philosopher I limited myself to define what abortion is all about, period. I then met with the Archbishop in person, who said my predicament was quite unfortunate, but he insisted more on the living together and being nice to everyone in pluralistic society. Everyone except the endangered unborn children, it appears. And so he did nothing; and the priest acting as a spokesperson of the bishops publicly and shamelessly said to the media that my labeling of abortion as murder was outrageous. Make sense of that if you can, for I cannot.
Now what makes this even more serious is the fact the Archbishop is also the Great Chancellor of the Catholic University of Louvain. And what support do I get when I’m being dismissed for standing against the abortionists? I get the following, I quote: “This is sad.” And that’s it? Pretty much indeed. And this is hardly surprising, alas. Our incumbent bishops never raise a strong voice against the murder of tens of thousands in Belgium, because they don’t want to be perceived as “haters,” and because their main concern is to “respect the others’ viewpoints within a pluralistic society” while (at best, in their good days) paying suppressed lip-service to the stronger demands of the faith. I’d really like it all to be an overstatement from my part, yet downplaying the bishops’ responsibility would be delusional.
The same goes for a strongly related issue, marriage. I was having a public debate a few months ago with another of our bishops, and the theme of the debate was the Church under Pope Francis. As a signatory of the correctio filialis last summer (which also caused me to lose my other job, at the Jesuits’ Institut d’Études Théologiques in Brussels, for as you know “mercy” is heavy-handed these days—and there are a few amongst us here who have experienced it lately), I obviously raised the sensitive issue at stake. The question I asked was crystal-clear: yes or no, is it permissible for divorced people to receive the Holy Eucharist and keep sleeping with their new partner, that is: keep being sexually active outside of wedlock? Our good bishop plainly refused to offer a straightforward answer; and the most I could get from him was, I quote, “Who am I to judge? who am I to refuse giving the Eucharist to one who wants to receive it?” He added that he would not himself provide authorization for them to receive the Eucharist, but that he’d get along with everyone’s personal decision, since, I quote again, “the Host is not only for the perfect, but also for the sinner even though he may be in state of grave sin.” His very words.
This is pure sophistry! So what then? Maybe this: “I will not encourage blasphemy, but I certainly will not oppose those who believe in conscience that they may utter a blasphemy?” Or this: “I don’t grant an authorization to rape women, but if you come to the conclusion that you may, then who am I to judge and stand against you?” Who are you indeed, if not a follower of the Apostles? And then came the inevitable mantra about “accompaniment” and “discerning” the will of the Lord. There’s nothing to discern here! Blasphemy is wrong, and so is rape, period. And one should stand firm against it whatever the cost. People sexually active outside of wedlock are in an objective state of mortal sin that prevents them from being granted access to communion unless they repent. There’s nothing more to discern here, unless you’re committed to spreading the moral disease. Hence the saying by a character from an ancient French play:
Mais je sais encore mieux qu’une aveugle clémence,
Loin d’arrêter le crime, en nourrit la licence.
“Even better do I know, that blind clemency will not staunch evil; it shall instead give it free rein.” (Crebillon, La Triumvirat, Act II, scene 1) While they’re obsessed with not hurting anyone’s “sensitivity,” they hurt the feelings of Catholics who try and live according to the unchanging teaching of the Church with the help of God. They blur everything with their endless nuances, and forget the Lord’s saying: “Let your speech be yea, yea: no, no: and that which is over above these, is of evil.” (Matthew 5:37). I’m thus quite happy and relieved that several bishops have felt it necessary to set the record straight and join His Excellency Bishop Schneider in reminding everyone the meaning and implications of marriage (see the Kazakh statement from December 31st, 2017 v.gr. LifeSiteNews, January 2nd, 2018). Good news came from Mexico too a few days later, when His Lordship Cardinal Juan Sandoval Íñiguez, emeritus Archbishop of Guadalajara, reminded everyone that sodomites, adulterers and contracepting couples were simply not allowed to receive Communion (see LifeSiteNews, January 9, 2018). If only more bishops spoke in such a straightforward way! But we were warned by the Apostle himself that a time would came, when people would “not endure sound doctrine; but, according to their own desires,” he added, they would “heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears.” (2 Timothy, 4:3-4)
I’m not here to settle personal scores with the ex-colleagues and the Belgian bishops, but how are we to cure the disease if we fail to speak openly and be vocal about what’s going on? Please understand that it’s not about me. I’m a nobody, but my case is the one I know best, and is an obvious illustration of what we’re all facing nowadays.
Then again, don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying the bishops or those in charge and the colleagues are bad people. Much to the contrary I really believe some of them at least to be nice fellows, and kind, and well-meaning. But let’s face it: they’re dramatically in want of guts, they’re spineless; and the agents of the Revolution who do the Devil’s work know that, and they take advantage of it. That’s why it’s absolutely critical to be firm and explicit, to revive the smouldering fire, and to try and awaken what’s left in people today so that we all man up already before it’s too late. The people who promote everything that is evil and contrary to the will of God are very strong-willed, they’re efficient and not inclined to fair-play. That’s why it’s not enough that we have nice people on the right side—that is: provided that they are on the right side, of course. Nice people who don’t feel like biting back and who lower their voice simply because they’re not good at confrontations, they embolden the enemies of Our Lord and his Church. And we’ve been warned about the fate of those lukewarm individuals, who are “neither cold, nor hot.” (Apocalypse 3:16)
Make no mistake: we’re being thrown out of the Academy because standing for the truth is considered an illegal “hate crime”; natural reason, and the laws of nature are being overthrown as “judgmental.” Spineless shepherds fail to come to our help, as they too are eager indeed to have us dismissed or silenced simply because we make waves and rock the boat. Yet if we cowardly give up and sit back, then we become accomplices of the evils we fail to stand against. You know the Latin saying, cum tacent consentiunt, “silence means approval.” Our Lord called us the “salt of the earth,” and went on saying: “But if the salt shall lose its savor, wherewith shall it be salted?” (Matthew 5:13) An apostle makes waves, and the world is most likely to be upset, but it is our duty to keep going and follow the lead of Our Lord himself, who came not to send worldly peace, but the sword (see Matthew 10:34).
What are we afraid of? Flesh and blood, really? How can that be? Even the heathens knew that one should stand for what’s good even though it comes at a cost. As Christians, we know that such cost is ultimately minimal indeed, and contrasts with the merces copiosa, the “great reward” awaiting us in Heaven if we remain faithful. The sermon upon the mount in Matthew 5 says it all, and he who tries to please the world is working for the Prince of this world. We do need to stand strong and firm; and for this purpose we feeble men and commoners from the pew need leaders, we need shepherds. Not the kind of effeminate romantic shepherd gently relaxing on the sunny slopes of an Edenic landscape; rather, we need a David ready to deal with wolves and lions with his slingshot—and also very capable of turning that very weapon against the giant Goliath. And yet, where are the Davids we are in dire need of? As a Roman Catholic, allow me to say that I feel betrayed by the sorry shepherds and real hirelings who keep fantasizing about religious liberty, dialogue and die-hard reconciliation with the world, the powers that be, and the enemies of the Lord. After sixty years of suicidal secularization within the Church, what’s left of us? A travesty of a Church in her human element, with the Popes themselves—I will not silence my dismay—constantly undermining the faith of our forefathers, outlawing our beloved Mass of ages, prompting false worship in Assisi, kissing the Qur’an, and now associating with abortionists, homosexuals, and atheists, in a way which gives scandal. Where is this leadership supposed to lead us to?
I’m just a nobody, you see, a little one, but I know that “he who shall scandalize one of these little ones, it were better for him that a milestone should be hanged about his neck, and that he should be drowned in the depth of the sea.” (Matthew 18:6) We shouldn’t mind standing against the world and the powers that be: it’s a fair deal, and we knew the world would come after us and treat us bad, since it didn’t treat Our Lord any better (see John 15:20). But who in the Church will help the weaklings like me to stand their ground, and support us by granting us the comfort we need for the fight: an adamant shepherd’s firm and vocal orthodoxy aiming at re-establishing the social Kingship of Our Lord Jesus Christ, the solace of the traditional Mass of ages, and the devotion to Our Lady Immaculate who alone crushes the serpent’s head? That is where we get our strength from. I humbly beg the shepherds to draw David’s slingshot against the roaring lions (see 1 Peter 5:8), and to not let us down as we try our best to “fight the good fight of faith.” (1 Timothy 6:12)
Thank you for your patience, and please pray for me, for my expecting wife, and for our first child who will be born (God willing) in July.