A pro-life philosopher has been disciplined by a Catholic university because he expressed his opposition to abortion.
Stéphane Mercier, a lecturer in philosophy, has been suspended from teaching at the Catholic University of Louvain (UCL), in Belgium, after distributing a pro-life paper to students for them to think about.
Mercier told the Catholic Herald that he had asked students to “reflect on the arguments by themselves. I said repeatedly that no one should feel forced to agree with me.”
He added that he had only been encouraging the students to consider the issues. “I did my job, and I’m now under a disciplinary procedure which really doesn’t make any sense to me.”
Mercier was suspended after a protest from the feminist campaign group Synergie Wallonie.
The group drew the university’s attention to the written text accompanying Mercier’s lecture. He says he often distributes a text to help students think about the lecture and review their notes. The paper questions the concept of a “right to choose” an abortion.
Mercier told the Catholic Herald that pro-lifers were contending with dark spiritual forces. “The worldly powers that be, and the spiritual powers of darkness, are at war with everything truly Christian. So we’re fighting for life and for the Lord’s commandments against evil powers.”
However, he said, although the situation was “exhausting”, “I’m at peace, because the Lord himself is our strength in the fight. The Holy Virgin crushes the serpent’s head. My fiancée is a strong support.”
He asked for prayers, saying: “I entrust myself to every Catholic’s prayer to stand firm, so that God brings forth supernatural peace to my family and me.”
In the paper which Synergie Wallonie objected to, Mercier argues that the acronym “IVG” (Interruption Volontaire de Grossesse) to describe abortion is comparable to Orwellian “Newspeak”.
Mercier writes: “It is a euphemism that conceals a lie: the truth is that abortion is the murder of a innocent person. And it is a particularly despicable murder, because the innocent in question is defenceless. The murder of an innocent person capable of defending himself is revolting; but to attack someone who does not have the strength or the resources to defend himself is even more dreadful.”
The university decided to investigate. It has not announced its findings, but says on its website that it has begun “disciplinary proceedings”, and has “also decided to suspend the two courses for which Stéphane Mercier is responsible until further notice.”
UCL’s statement added that “in the spirit of the 1990 Act decriminalising abortion,” the university “respects the autonomy of women to make this choice, in the circumstances specified by the legislator.”
Mercier pointed out that Catholic bishops sit on the university’s board. “So how can another delegate from the University say that my pro-life stand is at odds with the values of the university? It doesn’t make any sense.”
He said he had challenged the university authorities on their decision: “I asked what their ‘values’ could be if they don’t include the dignity of human beings, but we’re still waiting for the answer.”
The university has not yet responded to a request for comment.