The Openly Contested Pontifical Academy for Life

Source: FSSPX News

The second International Conference on Bioethics was held in Rome on May 17 and 18, 2024. On this occasion, one of the speakers expressed strong criticism of the Pontifical Academy for Life due to repeated positions moving away from the traditional morality of the Church.

On May 17 and 18, 45 Catholic speakers from sixteen countries from all over the world gathered to discuss the latest advances in bioethics.

400 people from 19 countries participated in the 2nd International Congress of the Jérôme Lejeune International Chair of Bioethics, on the theme “Jérôme Lejeune and the challenges of bioethics in the 21st century,” as reported by the Jérôme Lejeune Foundation. Abortion, end of life, CRISPR/Cas9, human genome editing, three-parent embryo, and inter-species chimeras were all up for discussion.

The American jurist and researcher in bioethics Orlando Carter Snead, of Notre Dame University in South Bend, Indiana, denounced the “expressive individualism” by which “a human person has dignity today only through depending on his ability to design and carry out personal projects.”

A less technical intervention nevertheless caused a sensation: that of George Weigel, author of John Paul II:Witness to Hope, one of the official biographies of the Polish pope. In his conference entitled “John Paul II and Jérôme Lejeune: Two Lives in the Service of Life,” the American writer and researcher discussed the past of the Pontifical Academy for Life and the John Paul II Institute of studies on marriage and family.

“For decades, the Academy and the John Paul II Institute did creative, innovative work in developing a Catholic moral theology and pastoral practice capable of meeting the challenge of the 21st century assaults on the dignity and sanctity of life, and did so in ways that called the various expressions of the culture of death to conversion,” he recalled, according to CNA.

“Yet now, the Academy has published a book with the ironic title, The Joy of Life, authored by theologians who can only be described honestly as dissenting from the authoritative teaching of Evangelium vitae. This book not only weakens the Catholic case for a culture of life that rejects the grave crimes against life . . .It does so in terms of anti-biblical and anti-metaphysical anthropology that would have been completely foreign, indeed abhorren, to both Jérôme Lejeune and John Paul II,” he said, according to CNA.

And George Weigel concludes that "the Pontifical Academy for Life betrays its founding president, Dr. Lejeune. . . . And that is why we must hope that the deconstruction of the Pontifical Academy for Life. . . is halted, and then reversed in the years ahead,” still according to CNA. 

On February 9, 2024, the Vatican Publishing House did indeed publish The Joy of Life, a work which, according to the daily La Repubblica, cited by CNA, contains “reflections on the challenges of contemporary theological ethics” . . . and “outlines important openings on controversial topics such as contraception, medically assisted procreation, and assisted suicide.” 

In 2017, the statutes of the Academy for Life began to be revised at the request of Pope Francis. This is what followed: appointment of professors committed to progressive ideas, reduction of moral theology and the study of the Catholic magisterium, and a preeminent place given to anthropology. These accusations have been made frequently since 2020.

But the president of the Academy since 2016, Vincenzo Paglia, is supported by the Pope, and has always covered for his collaborators, despite their missteps and their opposition to Catholic doctrine.