VATICAN CITY — The Pontifical Academy for Life has appointed to its list of full members a highly influential atheist economist who supports legalized abortion and whose views on the economy have in part been praised by Pope Francis.
Mariana Mazzucato, who teaches the Economics of Innovation and Public Value at University College London and is a member of the World Economic Forum, was appointed on Saturday by Archbishop Vincenzo Paglia, president of the academy, and Msgr. Renzo Pegoraro, its chancellor.
Mazzucato is one of 14 new ordinary members appointed to the academy. Others include Congolese-born Jean Marie Okwo-Bele, former director of the department of Immunization, Vaccines and Biologicals of the World Health Organization (2004-2017) and now director on the board of trustees of the International Vaccine Institute; Muslim Mosaad Helaly Saad Al-Din, professor of Islamic jurisprudence at Al-Azhar University; and professor Roberto Dell’Oro, formerly a corresponding academician who serves as director of the Bioethics Institute at Loyola Marymount University.
The pontifical academy under Archbishop Paglia has drawn controversy before for its choice of members. In 2017, it appointed a pro-abortion theologian to its ranks, along with choosing for the first time non-Catholic members.
Best known in her field for advocating more extensive state involvement with the private sector to drive innovation, Mazzucato is reportedly “admired by Bill Gates,” widely consulted by governments worldwide, and has sought to “save capitalism” by trying, among other approaches, to make it more socially inclusive.
She has also made no secret of her sympathies for a right to abortion. In June, after the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe .v Wade, Mazzucato tweeted “so good!” in response to a rant by liberal commentator Ana Kasparian, who derided Christians for “dictating” how she should live her life when it comes to abortion and contraception.
In 2016, Mazzucato tweeted, “As an atheist, never thought I would love a Pope this much. What a star!” in reference to two comments the Pope had made — when he suggested Donald Trump was not a Christian in 2016, and his speech a year earlier at the U.N. when he criticized the global banking system, warned about climate change and defended a “right to environment.”
In the U.S., Mazzucato is reportedly consulted by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., and Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., while in Europe her approach to public policy serves as the foundation of the European Union’s €100 billion ($98 billion) research and innovation program.
Between 2015 and 2016, Mazzucato was a member of the British Labour Party’s Economic Advisory Committee, convened by Labour’s hard-left leaders at the time, Jeremy Corbyn and John McDonnell. In 2017, she also advised the U.K.’s Conservative government on industrial policy, including putting the U.K. at the forefront of the AI and data revolution.
In 2013, she wrote her first book, The Entrepreneurial State: Debunking Public vs. Private Sector Myths, in which she championed the role of state funding in biotech, pharmaceuticals and clean technology. She has also worked with NASA in providing an analysis on the emerging ‘economy’ in space.
In March 2020, as the COVID-19 emergency was just beginning in the West, Pope Francis praised Mazzucato for her 2018 book The Value of Everything: Making and Taking in the Global Economy, in which the economist calls on wealth creators to re-prioritize “value” over “price.” The Pope said he believed her vision for the economy “can help to think about the future.”
In response, Mazzucato tweeted that she was “deeply honored” that the Pope had read her book and that “he agrees” that the future “must see this re-prioritization.”
The Vatican has tapped Mazzucato before: Last year, she was among the speakers at a conference hosted by the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences that proposed universal basic income, green politics and “zero-COVID” as viable policies. The speakers, many of whose views were diametrically opposed to Catholic Church teaching, discussed how denying the “very existence” of the COVID-19 virus and the “disastrous consequences” that followed could set a similar precedent for an “exacerbated climate breakdown, the migration crisis, the lack of intergenerational solidarity and intensified competitiveness over shrinking resources.”
Mazzucato, who is chairwoman of the World Health Organization’s Council on the Economics of Health for All and a former member of the World Economic Forum’s Global Agenda Council on the Economics of Innovation, spoke on the topic: “What responsibility do political leaders have for healing ‘patient’ Europe?”
The Italian-American economist has close ties to the World Economic Forum, an international non-governmental and lobbying organization funded by many of the world’s wealthiest companies and which holds an annual meeting with politicians and other influential decision-makers in Davos, Switzerland.
In a recent interview which forms part of a new book by forum founder Klaus Schwab, Mazzucato believes the public sector has a bigger role to play in working with the private sector to address many of the issues facing society — a view contrary to many free-market advocates who argue for less government interference.
The Register asked the academy for comment on the appointment given Mazzucato’s views but it had not responded by press time.
Mazzucato’s appointment comes ahead of the academy’s next assembly, set for Feb. 20-22, 2023, on the theme “Converging on the Person: Emerging Technologies for the Common Good.”
The academy said the topic is of “great relevance” given the way the world is “profoundly changing before our eyes, a world where ethical reflection that speaks to women and men in search of meaning and hope for their lives is more necessary than ever.”
Said Archbishop Paglia and Msgr. Pegoraro, “In this sense, it is important that the Pontifical Academy for Life include women and men with expertise in various disciplines and from different backgrounds, for a constant and fruitful interdisciplinary, intercultural and interreligious dialogue.”
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