The Vatican’s infiltration and cooptation of American population organizations

By Stephen D. Mumford, DrPH | 21 March 2012
Church and State

(Credit: Manoej Paateel /

This chapter from our Chairman Dr. Stephen D. Mumford’s book, American Democracy and the Vatican: Population Growth and National Security (1984) reveals the Vatican’s vitiation of the American population growth control establishment. The book is available at Kindle here and to read for free here.

Chapter 8: The Catholic Hierarchy’s Cooptation of the American Population Establishment

Since the days of Margaret Sanger, the Church has ordered members to infiltrate population organizations to collect intelligence and under­mine them from within. Documented cases of this in Planned Parent­hood organizations across the country probably number in the hun­dreds. For example, while I was working at Planned Parenthood of Houston, a recently hired Catholic woman was caught photocopying the clinic’s foundation contributor list which she had no reason to have in her possession. She admitted that she had been asked to get the list by local leadership of the Catholic hierarchy.

However, by far the most significant example of infiltration and cooptation occurred during the 1970s. The target was the U.S. Agency for International Development’s Office of Population, which provides international population assistance. Dr. Reimert T. Ravenholt, that office’s first and only director until 1980, is unquestionably the most important leader in the international population field, a man of great courage and intelligence. From the very creation of this office in 1966, Ravenholt was the subject of intensive personal and professional attacks, some of them prompted by the Church, which often used unsuspecting non-Catholics to criticize his tactics and judgment. A few non-Catholics sought personal gain in return for their attacks. Despite the intense Catholic hostility directed at the program, successes of the program were considerable, a reflection largely of Ravenholt’s considerable courage and inner strength but also because the people of recipient nations greatly desired what this program offered.

Ultimately, the Vatican succeeded in forcing Ravenholt from office. Just prior to his departure, he sent to selected colleagues the following memorandum, which documents some of the techniques used by the Church to force him out. (Notes in brackets are my own.)

MEMORANDUM June 2, 1980

TO: Population Colleagues
FROM: R. T. Ravenholt
SUBJECT: The Population Jungle

The crocodile battles along the Potomac have flared repeatedly during the last year as a virulent coalition of those opposed to A.I.D.’s population program on ideological grounds and political appointees seeking to grasp the program more closely for their own political purposes usurped direct control of the program.

Whether they have introduced a comma or a period into my own long sentence as director of this program will depend upon the outcome of my Appeal to the Merit System Protection Board, now moving toward a formal Hearing.

At this time I wish to briefly communicate the accomplishments of A.I.D.’s population program, the evolution of adversary activities, and reflect upon recent events. . . . [Author’s note: The first section, “Nature and Accomplishments of A.I.D.’s Population Program,” an eight-page overview of significant accomplishments, is deleted for the sake of brevity.]

Adverse Action

With the above record of accomplishment, one would expect strong support for the further implementation of A.I.D.’s population programs. But alas, political appointees have during the current administration incessantly attempted to decapitate the program, culminating in a letter from then acting administrator Robert Nooter [to the effect that he was demoted and could appeal].

Adversary Activities

A brief account of events and activities leading to this adverse action may be of interest:

Reproduction and its control, a controversial issue for centuries, became even more of a public issue in the 1950s and 1960s with the growing move­ment to launch population and family planning population programs to solve many fundamental social problems, both in the United States and in the developing world.

A thorough study of the events, activities, and controversies in the population field during the 1950s and the 1960s which led to fundamental change in U.S. foreign policy and initiation of population program assistance in 1965 has been published (P. T. Piotrow, World Population Crisis: The United States Response, New York: Praeger Publishers, 1973).

Controversy both within and without A.I.D. attended virtually every action toward creation of the population program. In particular, controversy swirled about those actions aimed at making the most effective means of fertility control—oral contraceptives, condoms, intrauterine devices, surgical sterilization, and abortion—readily available to entire populations in develop­ing countries.

While authority for this action was dispersed in A.I.D. during the first half dozen years of the population program, reaction to diverse initiatives was diffused. But with the reorganization of 1972 which created a unified Office of Population in the Bureau for Population and Humanitarian Assistance, with me as director, and therewith the accelerated implementation of a central strategy, adversary activities became progressively more intensely polarized.

As the Office of Population moved with increasing strength to take the many concerted actions needed to achieve meaningful contraceptive avail­ability in developing countries, diverse elements coalesced in opposition thereto and often did their utmost to obfuscate such actions.

Many program actions now taken for granted, such as the annual pur­chase and delivery of huge quantities of contraceptives, household distribu­tion of contraceptives, and extensive support for voluntary sterilization, were initially intensely resisted by adversary groups, though now generally accepted by the Agency and many countries.

Repeatedly, “Right to Life” adversaries invoked the assistance of Congressman Clement Zablocki [a Catholic] of the House International Relations Committee and his assistant, John H. Sullivan [a Catholic], when attacking me and A.I.D.’s population program; and Congressman Zablocki insistently demanded of A.I.D. administrators that they “fire Dr. Ravenholt.”

A determined attempt at my removal was made by then deputy adminis­trator John H. Murphy [a Catholic] and others during 1975, when they created a task force for the purpose of reorganizing and thereby decapitating the Office of Population, but this action was abandoned after six months when committee chairmen Senator Hubert Humphrey, Senator Daniel Inouye, and Congressman Otto Passman all registered strong support for me.

But following the election of President Jimmy Carter in November 1976, a much more thoroughly programmed action aimed at my removal was launched and implemented approximately as follows:

Shortly after the election, John H. Sullivan, former staff assistant to Con­gressman Zablocki and staff consultant to the House International Relations Committee, moved into A.I.D. where he had a strong hand in the selection and appointment of staff by the Carter Administration.

The position of administrator of A.I.D. was initially proferred to Father Theodore Hesburgh [a Catholic], president of Notre Dame University, and when he turned it down it was given to John J. Gilligan [a Catholic], graduate of Notre Dame and former governor of Ohio.

While considering the appointment of Jack Sullivan as assistant adminis­trator of the Population and Humanitarian Assistance Bureau (which would have made him my immediate superior), it was recognized that such place­ment would make the religious [Catholic] connection of “Right to Life”—Zablocki, Gilligan, Sullivan—exit Ravenholt too obvious; and so instead Jack Sullivan became assistant administrator of the Asia Bureau and Sander Levin, defeated candidate for governor of Michigan, was chosen as assistant administrator of the Population and Humanitarian Assistance Bureau.

Repeatedly during January and February 1977, when interviewing candi­dates for key positions in the Bureau of Population and Humanitarian Assist­ance, Jack Sullivan made it clear that they would not be seriously considered for such positions because they were “too close to Ravenholt.” But in Sander Levin he found someone well suited by need and temperament for the task at hand.

Motivations are often complex: Jack Sullivan, despite a positive interest in population and development assistance, has during many years manifested a particular aversion to the most effective means of fertility control and has strongly criticized A.I.D.’s population program for its emphasis on contracep­ive services.

During 1973, he was a leader in the development of the Helms (anti-abor­tion) Amendment to the Foreign Assistance Act, and throughout the last decade he has worked to diminish emphasis on contraceptive services in population assistance programs.

The main mechanism invoked for the latter objective has been to press for “integration” of family-planning programs into health programs—deliber­ately ignoring the fact that virtually all A.I.D.-assisted family-planning pro­grams always have been, as a first order of business, integrated with existing rudimentary health structures and programs. But by the shiboleth “integra­tion,” Jack Sullivan and other adversaries of forthright contraceptive service programs have sought to divert funds and to prevent the rapid extension of contraceptive services beyond the reach of existing health programs to entire populations by the mechanism of village and household distribution of contraceptives—a key initiative of the Office of Population during the seventies.

That the “integration” of family planning and health programs as proposed by Congressman Zablocki and Jack Sullivan was aimed at weaken­ing rather than strengthening A.I.D.’s family-planning program was clearly stated by Mr. Zablocki during hearings of the House International Relations Committee on July 18, 1975:

Our purpose in combining the two is that more of this money, or as much as possible, be used for health programs rather than for contraceptives.

If, as proposed by Congressman Zablocki, Jack Sullivan, and other adver­saries of family-planning programs, contraception services must be limited to those “integrated” with broad gauge health clinics and services, then contra­ceptives would not become available to the rural masses of much of Asia and Africa during the twentieth century.

Not only did Congressman Zablocki clearly state his antipathy to contra­ceptives and family planning during the hearings on July 18, 1975, but he also discussed my removal with Randy Engel, executive director, U.S. Coalition for Life, as follows:

Mr. Zablocki: “I am sure you will agree that Dr. Ravenholt is the wrong person to administer this particular program.”

Mr. Engel: “Most certainly.”

Mr. Zablocki: “I would hope we could find a way of removing him.”

Sander Levin, on the other hand, was not personally opposed to birth control nor any of its modalities but had opportunistic need for a new political vehicle and the most likely vehicle in A.I.D. was the powerful population program we had built during more than a decade. Thus, a collu­sion was formed between those who for religious or other ideological reasons resented A.I.D.’s strong focus on contraceptive services and several political appointees whose primary motivation was increased political and fiscal power.

But for the population program to serve as a satisfactory political vehicle for Mr. Levin, I, its director, with whom it was closely identified, would obvi­ously have to be removed, despite my Civil Service status and accomplish­ments.

To this task Sander Levin devoted a considerable portion of his energies. Within a few days of the time he commenced work as assistant administrator (March 18, 1977), it became evident that Mr. Levin had a hidden agenda.

Rather than working closely and cooperatively with me and key Office of Population staff to strengthen the program as previous assistant administra­tors had done, he immediately engaged in a series of actions aimed at building a case against me and sidelining Office of Population leadership of the population program.

To this end he interposed several “special assistants” between his office and the Office of Population and shifted responsibility for certain key program functions from the Office of Population to his office and other Bureau units.

Without pausing to look, listen, and learn despite lack of previous relevant training and experience, Mr. Levin immediately grasped for the controls of the population program, and we were off on a lurching course which severely threatened the integrity and effectiveness of many projects—and programs in various stages of implementation.

The difficult task for me and Office of Population staff was to somehow meld the impulsive directives and actions of an inexperienced but highly assertive new assistant administrator with ongoing program strategies and projects representing investment of tens of millions of dollars, which would be wasted by abrupt change in program direction and configuration.

This task, difficult enough under ordinary circumstances, was made much more difficult by Mr. Levin’s basic adverse motivation and activities aimed at my removal.

Almost immediately following his confirmation by the Congress as assist­ant administrator, May 25, 1977, Sander Levin on June 8, 1977, requested that I vacate my position as director of Office of Population and “move on to another challenge.”

When asked his reasons for this request, he commented that, although I had done outstanding work in building the population program to its current state, our “policies” were different. When asked which policies he was speak­ing of, he avoided specifics but reiterated that it would be timely for me to move on and leave the population program to him.

Again, on July 21 and August 18, 1977, Mr. Levin requested that I resign; and when I brought Mr. Levin’s demands to the attention of adminis­trator Gilligan on August 23, he stated that he supported Mr. Levin.

In August 1977, at the IUSSP Conference in Mexico City, Mr. Levin’s special assistant, Pat Baldi, confided in a contractor that Mr. Levin and com­pany had compiled a “hit list” of key population staff they proposed to remove from their positions, including myself; Dr. Willard Boynton, deputy director; E. Randall Backlund, associate director; Dr. Harald Pedersen, chief, Family Planning Services Division; Dr. Gerald Winfield, chief, Information and Education Division; and Elizabeth MacManus, then deputy assistant ad­ministrator of the Population and Humanitarian Assistance Bureau.

On September 28, Mr. Levin again pressed me to resign; and when after discussion of alternative opportunities, I stated my intention to remain as director of the Office of Population, Mr. Levin lost his cool and stated that he would “destroy” me.

Since then he and others have colluded to scrape together every incident and pseudoincident that could possibly be used for their destructive purpose, including events and communications taken out of context and activities alleged to have occurred before Mr. Levin joined the Agency. This activity gained formal expression in a letter from Mr. Levin to me, dated October 25, 1977, in which he began the wearisome process of trying to create a justifica­tion and mechanism for adverse action against me.

To this effort he and his partners in this destructive enterprise have devoted many months of Agency work time seeking to somehow develop adequate justification along the way for this action clearly decided upon before most of the alleged incidents upon which it is claimed to be based had actually occurred.

Surely this violates, usual federal merit system standards of fairness and provides no sound basis for this adverse action.

Nowhere has Mr. Levin or Mr. Nooter contested the fact that the popu­lation program, which I have directed virtually since its inception, is actually the Agency’s strongest program and clearly the dominant program in the international population program assistance field. And despite their consider­able animus they make no allegations of mismanagement or malfeasance by me or my staff during the many months we programmed $1.3 billion of population funds.

Rather, by their assertions and allegations of minor misstatements and policy differences, they have attempted to create a case for adverse action, ignoring the fact that even under such duress Office of Population staff and I have continued to implement the Agency’s strongest program. Indicative of the specific perversity of their adverse actions is the fact that they have moved to decapitate the strongest program under their general aegis, not the weaker programs which have been operating unsatisfactorily for years.

Surely it would be unrealistic to expect that any creative and massive global program in a new and sensitive field such as population program assist­ance could be driven rapidly over A.I.D.’s rocky bureaucratic terrain without a few protests from some persons whose turf or equanimity was somehow disturbed by this extraordinary activity.

To propose, as Mr. Levin has, that I should be removed from my position as director of A.I.D.’s population program mainly because adversary forces have criticized me, especially as crucial actions were taken to make voluntary sterilization services more fully available in the developing world, is analogous to General Halleck requesting that General Grant be removed from his command of the Union Army during the Civil War because Confederate leaders and sympathizers bitterly complained about his attacks on Richmond.

During the last two years, while primarily aiming to remove me as direc­tor of the Office of Population, Mr. Levin has taken many ancillary actions which have weakened A.I.D.’s established population program leadership: by removing Elizabeth MacManus as his deputy, by supporting dispersal of responsibility for bilateral programs to the Geographic Bureaus, by supporting transfer of certain population monies and responsibilities to the Bureau for Program and Policy Coordination, by reduction in Office of Population staff, and by removal of Randall Backlund from his position as associate director for Operations in the Office of Population—a position he had exercised with outstanding distinction for a decade.

These have been three wearisome years for Office of Population staff. If they had been less experienced and less dedicated the program would have foundered. But it is a tribute to their experience, tenacity, and skill that they have steadfastly continued to implement the program despite extensive harassment from Mr. Levin’s office, and the program has continued to move forward with considerable though diminishing strength despite the many administrative distractions and obstacles. But the program could be moving far better, especially in Africa and the Middle East, if Mr. Levin and others were providing solid support rather than discombobulation.

In accord with his vow to “destroy” me, Mr. Levin has since then (September 28, 1977) taken the following actions to limit my operating freedom and to sully my reputation:

  • He interposed another bureaucratic layer above me consisting of Dr. Stephen Joseph, deputy assistant administrator, and staff who have repeatedly taken flagrantly destructive actions to disrupt my leadership of the population program.
  • While urging improved coordination with other organizations, Sander Levin and Steve Joseph have blocked my participation in numerous working population conferences of the United Nations, the World Health Organiza­tion, the International Planned Parenthood Federation, the Department of State, and other federal agencies and in hearings before several committees of the U.S. Congress.
  • In January 1978, Mr. Levin ordered destruction of 55,000 copies of an important Population Report on “Oral Contraceptive Use and Circulatory Disease Mortality,” the preparation of which I had directed and coauthored. This destructive action was taken without consultation with me and despite Mr. Levin’s lack of relevant technical training. Whether he took this action for political reasons or because he resented my thus communicating with pro­fessional colleagues is uncertain. But his impulsive and ill-considered action wasted considerable funds and blocked our communicating new and valuable data to family-planning colleagues at the time most needed. The accuracy of our observations and conclusions was affirmed by the findings of independent investigators published more than a year later.
  • Despite my earnest and repeated pleas that for the good of the program and Agency we settle our differences and combine our strength to move the population program forward, Mr. Levin each time refused and continued on his course aimed at my removal.
  • He specifically and repeatedly directed that I not communicate with the administrator of A.I.D., despite it being my fundamental right to do so; and thus limited my capacity to defend against his inaccurate assertions and allegations.
  • In May 1979, he denied me official travel to participate in the Fourth International Conference of the Association for Voluntary Sterilization in Korea, which congregated 462 family-planning leaders from eighty-six coun­tries in Seoul. To fulfill my professional commitment as a keynote speaker, it was necessary for me to use a week of annual leave and $2,000 of my personal resources.

In these and other ways, as many colleagues can testify, Mr. Levin has worked for three years to denigrate my accomplishments and reputation and to remove me as director of the Office of Population.

Instead of dedicating his energies to those tasks which are the natural function of an assistant administrator, Mr. Levin has assiduously worked to usurp my role as director of the Office of Population—with unfortunate results both for the population program and the Bureau for which he is responsible.

On February 28, 1979, after two years of harassment, and misusing a pro­vision of the Civil Service Reform Act which went into effect in January 1979, Mr. Levin formally proposed that I be demoted.

I appealed this proposed action to the then acting administrator, Robert Nooter, during several months without much hope of success because, by his own statement, Mr. Nooter had been a biased participant in this action since at least April 1977. Finally, on July 2, 1979, Mr. Nooter issued the above letter (deleted as noted on page 116].

Reflections and Conclusions

In the social and bureaucratic fields, as in the physical, action begets reaction and it is difficult if not impossible to take powerful and effective program action without polarizing reactive forces among those whose status or aspira­tions are somehow negatively altered or threatened by the actions taken.

This has been especially true in the population field where reactionary elements of certain religious and educational disciplines [namely, the Catholic Church] have long opposed direct action toward solution of prob­lems of excess fertility and population growth by means of fertility control service programs.

Adversary forces are not much troubled as long as population and family planning activists devote their energies to peripheral and rhetorical exercises. But if one firmly grasps the nettle of decisive action to make the most effec­tive means of fertility control fully and readily available to entire populations, then one becomes the lightning rod for adversary wrath.

An interesting footnote to this: In 1982, it seems that the Roman Catholic Church rewarded Sander Levin for his “assistance” in ful­filling the Church’s agenda to remove Ravenholt by providing their “support” in his bid to become the congressman from the seventeenth district of the state of Michigan. Four-term Congressman William Brodhead, a Catholic, pro-abortion, and pro-international population assistance, in a surprise move, decided not to run again, although he was only forty years old, competent, and had a bright future ahead. With Catholic hierarchy support, Sander Levin beat Republican candidate Gerald Rosen by a margin of 66 percent to 32 percent in the 1982 general election.[1]

Dr. Ravenholt continues to work for the government today, but in cancer research. There were many other Catholics involved in Ravenholt’s dismissal from the Office of Population. He only identified the most visible ones in his memo. Many held postgraduate degrees. Some were physicians. They viciously and without just cause attacked him. I myself have heard them do so. Not all were Catholic. Among them were Protestants and Jews as well, some of whom looked for personal gain through “cooperation.” We will return to this topic later. Most important is the fact that the U.S. National Security Council had already determined that world population growth is a serious threat to our national security and all of the actors Ravenholt names knew this well.

No doubt this memo fell into the hands of at least a few members of the press, but they remained silent. Ravenholt considered forcing the issue: that the Catholic hierarchy was behind his demise into public view. However, some “friends” strongly discouraged him from doing so, saying that he could not possibly win. He was thus effectively coopted into silence. However, there was certainly no guarantee that the press would do anything with the story. Consider the following:

In the June 3, 1983, issue of Science, an article appeared entitled “Universities Find Funding Shortcut,” written by staff writer Colin Norman and summarized below:

The Speaker of the House, Thomas P. (Tip) O’Neill, Jr., [a Roman Catholic] received a call recently from his archbishop, Humberto Cardinal Medeiros of Boston. As a result. Catholic University in Washington, D.C., may soon get a new $13.9 mil­lion research facility, courtesy of the Department of Energy (DOE).

In a highly unusual move, the House voted on May 12 to remove $5 million from the budget of the National Center for Advanced Materials (NCAM) at the Lawrence Berkeley Labora­tory and directed that the money be spent instead on a vitreous state research lab at Catholic U. The vote, which came as an amendment to a DOE authorization bill, was the result of an impressive lobbying campaign by some of the nation’s bishops.

Catholic was not the only university to indulge in some suc­cessful pork barrel politics. Columbia University also raided DOE’s authorization bill for a $5 million downpayment on a $32 million chemistry building. In this case, the House decreed that the funds be taken out of a variety of basic research programs in DOE.

What makes both these moves unusual is that neither facility has been reviewed by DOE or by the House Committee on Sci­ence and Technology, which authorizes DOE’s budget. The proposals bypassed the usual peer review and authorization pro­cess and were sent straight to the House floor, where they arrived with a good deal of political momentum.

The proposals “came out of left field,” says one DOE official, who complains that the department had no chance to determine whether they should have a high priority claim on the federal budget. “I would have no way of knowing whether these pro­posals are more meritorious than others,” he said. “This could be a very bad precedent. . . .”

Help was sought from Catholic U.’s board of trustees [by Catholic University president, Father William Byron]. Cardinal Medeiros, who recently left the board, contacted O’Neill, and Archbishop Philip Hannan of New Orleans contacted Repre­sentative Lindy Boggs (D-Louisiana) [a Catholic], who occupies a key spot on the appropriations subcommittee that deals with DOE’s research budget.

O’Neill sent a letter, dated April 28, to Science and Tech­nology Committee chairman Don Fuqua (D-Florida), saying he hoped Fuqua could find some money in the authorization bill for the facility. Representative Norman Mineta (D-Califomia) agreed to sponsor an amendment on the floor diverting money from NCAM. When the vote came up, House Majority Leader James Wright, Jr. (D-Texas), spoke in favor of the amendment, and, according to one aide, “Members were notified it was the Speaker’s amendment.” It was approved by 261 votes to 113. Opposition was led by Representative James Sensenbrenner (R-Wisconsin). According to an aide, he got a call shortly before the vote from Archbishop Rembert Weakland of Milwaukee.

The Columbia University proposal did not have any divine connections. . . .

Representative Charles Rangel (D-New York) [a Catholic], whose district included Columbia, was approached [probably to lay a smoke screen to mask otherwise obvious Catholic corrup­tion] in late April and he agreed to sponsor an amendment to the DOE bill. . . . The amendment was passed by 215 votes to 150. [Note: Material in brackets is that of this author.]

What makes this article so incredible is that no mention of this act of corruption ever appeared, to my knowledge, in any newspaper or newsmagazine or on television or radio. That it did not appear else­where shows the considerable power of censorship held by the Catholic hierarchy over the U.S. news media. The skill with which this act of corruption was executed by the nation’s top bishops suggests that such acts are frequent occurrences in America. This act also reveals the contempt the Catholic hierarchy has for American democracy.

Furthermore, despite the disclosure in Science of this act of corrup­tion, the bill was passed, an indication of the impunity with which the Catholic hierarchy acts. It also suggests that this sort of action is frequently undertaken by an experienced hierarchy and is a reminder of its political sophistication.

The implications of this Science article for Ravenholt’s case are considerable. The hierarchy apparently has an iron grip on what is published and broadcast regarding hierarchy activities and are highly effective in their censorship of the press. Whether Ravenholt could have broken their iron grip in order to get his story told is uncertain.

Obviously, these two corrupt acts are vastly different in import­ance. The Catholic actors fully intended to cripple the AID popula­tion program and everyone agrees that they have. This was their inten­tion despite the fact that this program is of vital national security inter­est. Why would so many university-trained Catholics agree to partici­pate in the corruption of the AID population program despite the obvious security implications as delineated by the National Security Council in two recent reports? Why would some Catholic scientists be responding to the population problem differently from non-Catholics although they are exposed to the same data?

Catholic Higher Education and “Truth” or Intellectual Honesty

Consider the following paragraphs:

It is only when some famous “liberal” like the late Monsignor John A. Ryan of the National Catholic Welfare Conference talks frankly about his past that the non-Catholic can appreciate the nature of Catholic academic freedom. Monsignor Ryan admitted in his autobiography that he resigned from the national board of the American Civil Liberties Union “simply and solely because the organization had gone into the field of academic freedom. I called attention to the absurdity, for example, of my membership in the national committee of an organization which might under­take to defend a professor at a Catholic university who has been discharged for teaching heresy.”[2]

Redden and Ryan in their standard Catholic work for teachers, Freedom Through Education, defines the conception of freedom in unmistakable terms:

“Freedom to worship God implies in its correct meaning and application that every man should acknowledge God as his Cre­ator, submit to His divine rule and will, and, through the proper use of faith and reason embrace the eternal truths which alone insure salvation. This is true freedom. It is opposed to that so-called ‘liberty of conscience’ which a ‘seditious and rebellious mind’ dominated by man’s lower nature and blinded to truth and goodness employs to undermine, overthrow, or destroy the infalli­ble authority of religion to guide and direct all the individual’s conduct in terms of the moral law.”

Under this interpretation of “freedom” no teacher in a Catholic school is free to disagree with the hierarchy on any social [for example, overpopulation] or religious policy that the hierarchy cares to include in its modicum of “eternal truths.” As Father Wilfred M. Mallon, S.J., phrased it in criticizing the American Association of University Professors before the National Catholic Educational Association in 1942 [and later published in the National Catholic Educational Association bulletin]:

“Freedom to teach what is true is without practical applica­bility unless we have a norm. . . . The Catholic college norm must be not only natural knowledge but the deposit of divinely revealed truths immeasurably more certain than any truth arrived at by mere human deduction or experiment because we have for them the guarantee of the infinite knowledge and veracity of God. . . . We reserve the right to dispense with the service of the staff member whose life or utterances on the campus or off of it undermines the purposes for which we exist. … In view of the very nature and fundamental purposes of Catholic education, violations of Catholic doctrine or Catholic moral principles or of the essential proprieties of Catholic life, on the campus or off the campus, render a man unfit for service in a Catholic college.”[3]

It is evident that academic freedom in the Catholic system is free­dom to receive what the hierarchy considers truth.[4]

But the Catholic hierarchy still does not accept either the method or the conclusions of science when the results of scien­tific inquiry conflict with priestly belief and practice, and every Papal endorsement of science is made with this spoken or unspoken reservation. In fact, the mechanism of priestly control over science, and the fundamental theory on which the mecha­nism works, are essentially the same today as they were in the Middle Ages. The technique for disciplining a rebellious scientist has changed; the principle has not.

The theory behind the Church’s control of science is that all truth is divided into two grades, divine and human. Divine truth comes from God via the Roman Catholic Church; human truth comes from finite reason, experience, and observation. Divine truth is per se infallible; human truth is always subject to correc­tion by divine truth. If the two conflict, that conflict ipso facto proves that the supposed human truth is not truth at all but false­hood.[5]

The penalties imposed upon Catholic professors for departure from orthodox dogma almost never reach the level of public revelation because the dissident Catholic has no real forum for the discussion of grievances. College faculties are dominated by priests who are themselves dominated by bishops. Their lines of promotion are all within the hierarchy or the Catholic education­al system. There is no reward for independence and there are very severe penalties for defiance. Priests and religious teachers who leave the Church because of a change of views usually avoid publicity because, as “renegades,” they expose themselves to vindictive reprisals by their former Catholic brethren.[6]




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