Last week in this space, I expressed my dismay at the news that Pope Francis had appointed a pro-abortion scholar to the Pontifical Academy for Life (PAL)— and Archbishop Vincenzio Paglia, the president of the PAL, had compounded the problem by adopting the rhetoric of the abortion lobby and insisting that his new colleague was not “pro-abortion” but merely “pro-choice.”
Then we learned that another newly appointed member of the PAL had indulged in pro-abortion sloganeering, saying that the Supreme Court’s Dobbs decision, which overturned Roe v. Wade, “undermines basic requirements of tolerance toward the pluralism of moral perspectives within society.”
So there were two avowed proponents of legal abortion among the 14 new members of the PAL. But there was more bad news to come.
This week brings the discovery that two more new PAL members have been heavily involved in promoting contraception. While neither has made explicit public statements in favor of abortion (as far as I know), one works for a group that furnishes “supplies for safe abortion and post-abortion care,” while the other came highly recommended by Planned Parenthood. So I feel quite safe in saying that neither would fit comfortably into the pro-life camp.
Defending the appointments, Archbishop Paglia said that all members of the PAL are “scientists and experts of absolute importance,” and in the vetting process that produced the latest appointments, “there were no problems.” Members of the PAL need not share the Catholic faith, he reminded us, because the purpose of the Academy is to engage in “a constant and fruitful interdisciplinary, intercultural, and interreligious dialogue.”
Even after he gave the Academy a new orientation in 2016, Pope Francis retained the requirement that members be chosen on the basis of not only their professional qualifications but also “their proven commitment to the promotion and protection of human life.” Back in 2016 it was (barely) possible to argue that the defense of human life required a broader perspective, including economic and social issues as well as the basic insistence on the commandment, “Thou shalt not kill.” But if proponents of abortion are now included in this “big tent,” it is utterly preposterous to claim that the PAL members are working for “the promotion and protection of human life.”
At this point it is abundantly clear that under the leadership of Archbishop Paglia, the PAL is no longer the institution that was established by Pope St. John Paul II to defend the dignity of human life. This is not an extension of the original mission envisioned by a saintly Pontiff. This is a hostile takeover.
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