Vatican Official Criticises Pro-Life Groups


Archbishop Vincenzo Paglia, President of the Pontifical Academy for Life has outlined a new vision for the Academy, which was recently restructured by Pope Francis. He criticised groups that oppose abortion without also devoting attention to issues such as the environment and the death penalty, and questioned the effectiveness of organizations that may be “stuck in a fortress raising the flags of a few principles.”


In an interview with Austen Ivereigh for Crux, Archbishop Paglia brushed aside criticism that the Pontifical Academy has downgraded its commitment to the pro-life struggle, explaining that the institution will now pursue a more diverse agenda. He spoke about a commitment to the environment, observing that in the Book of Genesis, God gives Adam and Eve a mandate to care for his Creation.


“We have now the urgent task of broadening our vision,” the archbishop said.


According to Ivereigh, the Academy, created in 1994 by St Pope John Paul II to research and study bioethical issues was characterised by a “narrow focus and endless squabbling between members” before it was reformed by Pope Francis. This “meant that the [Academy] for many years epitomized the ‘self-referential’ Church, creating a culture of ideological purity, even fanaticism, that was both unattractive and ineffective at influencing the wider world.”


Now, says Paglia, the Academy aims to be missionary in outlook, seeking to tackle what he calls “the great frontiers of life” in collaboration with believers of other churches and faiths as well as non-believers. “I can’t be pro-life if I pollute the atmosphere,” he says. “I can’t be pro-life and throw away the elderly. I can’t be pro-life and engage in the kind of genetic modification that is against the dignity of life. I can’t be pro-life and create a daughter in a test tube.”


What the Academy feels called to work on, Paglia says, is the great theme linking environment and generation. Paglia wants the Church to speak about such matters attractively, showing the integral inter-connectedness of life ethics - not just speaking out against what oppresses life, but pointing to what is beautiful.


The Academy is planning a major conference in October on the theme of “accompanying life in the technological era.” It will also be tackling an issue that the Charlie Gard case has highlighted: End-of-life care. Together with institutions in Italy and elsewhere, Paglia has brought together religious leaders to sign an agreement on the importance of palliative care, which is the subject of a major meeting in January 2018.


The Academy wishes that such efforts should be the fruit of as broad a consensus as possible: hence the inclusion of two Jews, a Muslim, an Anglican and more than one nonbeliever in the Academy’s new line-up of members. Paglia says they have chosen people who are all “lovers of life” even if they might not be on exactly the same page as the vast majority of the 50-odd members, many of whom, including household pro-life Catholic names, are reconfirmations rather than appointments.


What the non-Catholics bring, explains PAV’s president, is credibility: The Academy is firstly an academic institution committed to scientific accuracy, and its statements are far more likely to influence the wider scientific community if they are the fruit of a consensus between believers and non-believers. “It’s a strategic position,” says Paglia, “which obviously requires us to put diverse forces into play.”

CWN. July 19. Crux. July 19.

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