In a letter to the editor, Professor Joseph Harry found occasion Oct. 13 to criticize the Papal encyclical “The Splendor of Truth.” As a graduate student and a Roman Catholic, I feel compelled to respond to his misstatements.

He contends that “the question is raised as to whether there is a place for Catholic views, or even religion in general, within a university?” Just asking this question shows an incomplete knowledge of history. The first Universities were begun by the Roman Catholic Church. The search for truth and knowledge is central to Catholic doctrine, as it is in most religions. To say that religion exists to “foreclose thought” is to show a complete ignorance of the role of religion in history.

Second, Professor Harry’s letter showed a misunderstanding of the purpose of the encyclical. An encyclical is intended to guide the moral choices of members of the religion. Just like a sermon delivered by a minister on Sunday, an encyclical tries to explain the reasons behind the church’s viewpoints on an issue.

A document like this is NOT intended to stifle free thought or debate. Professor Harry’s statement that “This statement says that persons should learn the official positions of the Church, and only those positions” is completely FALSE. What this encyclical is ordering is for the bishops to ensure that only official church teaching is taught as official church teaching. The encyclical is aimed at the practices of some local parishes who alter church doctrine on their own in order for it to be more “politically correct.”

The Catholic Church strives to be universal. This requires an agreement on doctrine.

It is possible that some of the activities that the Catholic Church holds as sinful aren’t sins. However, no one can logically claim that God will judge everyone by his own individual code. If something is sinful in God’s eye, it is sinful for everyone.

As long as I claim to be Catholic, I subscribe to a set of doctrines. I trust in my priests and other Catholic leaders to teach me that doctrine accurately. If my priest teaches me something as church doctrine which is not doctrine, or worse yet goes directly against doctrine, my priest is guilty of misleading me and infringing on my right to freely choose.

Pope John Paul II has told his bishops repeatedly to pay closer attention to church doctrine. Some, unfortunately, have disobeyed his commands. This encyclical is a strong reminder to those people who promised to teach church doctrine accurately of that duty. It is NOT an attempt to stifle thought or debate.

The fact that Catholic teaching happens to go against your personal beliefs is not a reason to try to exclude it from being heard. By claiming that it has no place in a university, Professor Harry is guilty of the very crime that he accuses the Church of committing.

His letter shows a great degree of ignorance of history and religious fact. Ignorance of this sort is exactly what leads to intolerance, bigotry, and persecution.

Alan MacNeill

Graduate Student

Political Science