Cardinal George Pell's private secretary has told Catholic students they should stand up to lecturers whose views and course content are contrary to the teaching of the Church.
Dr Michael Casey, a sociologist and convenor of the Fellowship of Catholic Scholars Australia, said that students today "find that in many of their classes the views and opinions, or even the content of the course, are opposed to the teachings of the Church".
He made his remarks in an interview for the latest issue of Sentinel, the publication of the Australian Catholic Students Association.
"When a position is taken for granted, as it often is in the academic world, it usually means it has not been deeply thought-out and considered," he said. "This gives people with dissenting views who are willing to think deeply and to reflect carefully an advantage."
But Dr Casey insisted that, as a matter of intellectual integrity, it is important for Catholics to take the views of other people seriously, especially when they disagree with them, and he cautioned against emotive responses.
"You can have an intellectual and academic discussion but what may be really driving a person in this discussion is not the arguments or ideas, but personal burdens and emotions. Sensitivity is required here."
He pointed to the problem of academic assignments, with fears that students may be penalised for taking issue with what has been taught in class.
"It is unethical for academics to penalise students simply because they disagree with a well articulated and well thought-out moral position presented to them," he said.
Dr Casey stressed that students have the right to follow their conscience: "No one should be compelled to go against their conscience to fulfill academic requirements."
With acknowledgement to Sentinel, Issue 2, 2006.