Archbishop Vincenzo Paglia, president of the Pontifical Council for the Family, enjoys a milkshake at Potbelly Sandwich Shop in Philadelphia, March 9, 2015. / Sarah Webb/CatholicPhilly.com.
Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Oct 19, 2022 / 14:45 pm (CNA).
The Pontifical Academy for Life issued a statement Wednesday defending the recent appointment of an outspoken advocate for abortion rights on the grounds that members are chosen to contribute to “fruitful interdisciplinary, intercultural, and interreligious dialogue.”
An Italian-American economist and professor at University College London, Mariana Mazzucato, was among seven academics appointed by Pope Francis on Oct. 15 to serve five-year terms with the academy.
As CNA reported Oct. 18, on several occasions Mazzucato shared her pro-abortion views on Twitter when Roe v. Wade was overturned by the U.S. Supreme Court.
The statement, from the communications office of the Pontifical Academy for Life, was sent to journalists covering the Vatican.
“Fabrizio Mastrofini, of the Pontifical Academy for Life, asks me to share this message in which he explains the controversy regarding the recent appointments,” it says.
The statement then refers to comments made by Archbishop Vincenzo Paglia, the president and chancellor of the Pontifical Academy for Life, announcing the appointments.
“Consider this phrase above all: ‘it is important that women and men with skills in various disciplines and from different contexts enter the Pontifical Academy for Life, for a constant and fruitful interdisciplinary, intercultural and interreligious dialogue,’” the press release reads.
“This is why among the academics there are also non-Catholic people: two rabbis, a Shinto academician, Muslims, an Anglican theologian. The Pontifical Academy for Life is a study and research body. So the debate and dialogue take place between people of different backgrounds,” the statement continues.
The press release notes that any documents published by the Pontifical Academy for Life go through a vetting process.
“When the Pontifical Academy for Life publishes documents (as in the case of the 5 Notes on Covid-19), then the documents are sent to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith before being published,” it reads.
The statement also explains that Pope Francis nominated the members of the academy, who then made it through the selection process without any red flags being raised.
“All Academics are chosen from among scientists and experts of absolute importance, as Pope Francis reiterated in the Letter ‘Humana Communitas’ of 2019 to the Pontifical Academy for Life. The nominations of the Ordinary Academics are made by the Pope,” the statement reads.
“Therefore, before being nominated, the names proposed or reported go through a procedure that foresees the consultation of the Apostolic Nuncio and the Episcopal Conference of the countries where the Academics live and work. It also happened in this case and there were no problems,” the press release says.
Restructuring at the Pontifical Academy for Life
The Pontifical Academy for Life was formed by St. John Paul II in 1994 with a pro-life mission to “study, information, and formation on the principal problems of biomedicine and of law, relative to the promotion and defense of life, above all in the direct relation that they have with Christian morality and the directives of the Church’s Magisterium.”
The academy’s first president, Venerable Jérôme Lejeune, established bylaws requiring members of the academy to sign a declaration stating, “before God and men we bear witness that for us every human being is a person” and that “from the moment the embryo is formed until death it is the same human being which grows to maturity and dies.”
In 2016, however, with the appointment of Archbishop Paglia as president of the Pontifical Academy for Life, Pope Francis approved new statutes that eliminated the requirement that members declare themselves “pro-life.”
However, the academy’s new statutes still require members to conform with Church teaching.
The statutes also say members, or academicians, appointed by the pope, can be of any religion, though they should “promote and defend the principles regarding the value of life and dignity of the human person, interpreted in a way that conforms to the Magisterium of the Church.”
An academician can have his or her membership revoked, the statutes say, “in the case of a public and deliberate action or statement manifestly contrary to said principles, or seriously offensive to the dignity and credibility of the Catholic Church and the Academy itself.”