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Conscience Magazine

Pope Francis and the Inquisition in Catholic Higher Education

February 19, 2014

Your article, “Pope’s World Youth Day Message, Different in Tone, Not Substance,” (Vol. XXXIV, No. 3) has it right about the pope. If Pope Francis were committed to a change in substance, he might start by addressing how the Vatican has silenced academic researchers in order to inhibit debate about reforms regarding abortion or same-sex marriage proposed in Argentina and beyond. Many researchers in Argentina have not dared to go public on these issues for fear of reprisals.

In other parts of Latin America, academics had no choice but to go public. For example, Professor Deborah Diniz brought a case against Brasilia’s Catholic University for her unlawful dismissal after presenting her research on abortion ethics and policy. Unfortunately, the case was dismissed on procedural grounds. Professor Diniz, who now teaches at the University of Brasilia, has been designated a persecuted scientist by the Science and Human Rights Program of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

A task ahead for Pope Francis, a Jesuit, is to take steps, such as acknowledging the denial of Professor Diniz’s academic freedom, to ensure that the Vatican supports and facilitates traditions of academic inquiry. Without such liberties, no civilization is free of its inquisitional tendencies.

Professor Emerita, Faculty of Law, University of Toronto
Toronto, Canada