Archbishop Vincenzo Paglia. / Daniel Ibanez/CNA
Rome Newsroom, Aug 29, 2022 / 06:49 am (CNA).
The Pontifical Academy for Life on Monday clarified remarks of the Academy’s president on Italian television that the law legalizing abortion in Italy was a “pillar of society”.
Archbishop Vincenzo Paglia had been taken out of context, a spokesperson said in a statement sent to CNA on request.
“The intention of this statement was not to make a value judgment about the law, but to state that it is practically impossible to abolish Law 194, since it is now a structural part of the relevant legislation,” Fabrizio Mastrofini explained.
“So there is much to say about the quality of the ‘pillar.’”
In his interview with Italian state television Rai Tre, Paglia said, “I believe that at this point Law 194 is a pillar of our society.”
Italy’s “Law 194,” established in 1978, made abortion legal for any reason within the first 90 days of pregnancy, and afterward for specific reasons with a physician’s referral.
Paglia said on Italian television: “In my opinion, and I have written as much, I would like to see more emphasis on the part that is hardly spoken of, namely the right to motherhood, to see our country grow, in the face of the drama of a generational imbalance that is quite dramatic.”
The prelate added he would “exhort to look with trust upon a country that wishes to live in liberty, development, and progress, and I think that the crisis in natality is a problem on which we have unfortunately not reflected and it is already late.”
Paglia’s words sparked strong criticism, with one Italian commentator writing in La Nuova Bussola Quotidiana: “We have hit rock bottom. We are at a point of no return, at ground zero of morality, faith, reasonableness and consistency. We have the president of an academy founded to protect life protecting a law that destroys life.”
One pro-life spokesman also criticized Paglia’s choice of words.
“We do not understand how a law that suppresses defenseless and innocent human lives can be a ‘pillar’ of society,” Jacob Coghe of Pro Vita & Famiglia said.
The Pontifical Academy for Life’s spokesman called some of the reactions to Paglia’s remarks “more than specious, even insulting.” Mastrofini also said the word “pillar” had been taken out of context.
“Archbishop Paglia, in the same interview, strongly emphasized the urgent need to promote the part of the law that is concerned with the protection and promotion of motherhood,” the academy’s statement continued.
“That then the law can, indeed must, be improved in the direction of more comprehensive protection of the unborn child is more than desirable, taking care to avoid the risk of aggravating the situation, as has unfortunately happened in some cases.”
In the past, the academy’s statement said, Paglia had spoken “about the protection and promotion of life at all stages of development (from conception to death) and in all situations,” such as “children, women, prisoners, people sentenced to death, migrants, the elderly.”
In late June, the academy’s official Twitter account began promoting a Vatican-published book synthesizing a 2021 seminar on ethics, in which a participant discussed “the possible legitimacy of contraception in certain cases.”
The pontifical academy said in an Aug. 8 press release that the seminar discussed “all the issues related to the ethics of life … including contraception and sexual matrimonial morality.” Euthanasia was also a topic of the seminar.
Some of the promotional posts for the seminar and subsequent book received pushback in media reports and from Catholic Twitter users who said they presented wrong or confusing information about the Church’s teachings.
The Pontifical Academy for Life was founded by Pope St. John Paul II and professor Jerome Lejeune in 1994. Pope Francis named Archbishop Paglia president of the academy in 2016. The institution is dedicated to promoting the Church’s consistent life ethic.
In November 2016, the academy came under controversy after Paglia removed a requirement that academy members sign a statement promising to defend life in conformity with the Church’s magisterium.
Since abortion’s legalization in Italy, it is estimated more than 6 million children have been aborted.