Pope Francis recently named six new members to the Pontifical Academy for Life for five-year terms, including five who oppose the Catholic Church’s teaching on abortion and contraception: economist Mariana Mazzucato, former Botswana health minister Sheila Dinotshe Tlou, Monsignor Phillipe Bordeyne, Father Humberto Miguel Yáñez, and bioethics professor Roberto Dell’Oro Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles.
Pope John Paul II founded the Academy in 1994 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 first chair of the Academy was the pro-life geneticist Jerome Lejeune.
The Academy originally had rules requiring members to affirm that “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.” Pope Francis dropped these rules in 2016, with new statutes requiring only that members 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.”
Mazzucato is a pro-abortion atheist about whom Pope Francis called a “fresh breath of humanity.” For the past three years, Mazzucato has been advising the Pope on matters related to Covid. Archbishop Vincenzo Paglia, president of the Pontifical Academy for Life, defended Mazzucato saying her tweets were “pro-choice” not “pro-abortion.” She advises a number of pro-abortion politicians in the U.S. including Senator Bernie Sanders (Indepenent, Vermont) and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D, NY). She tweeted opposition to the Dobbs decision, overturning Roe v. Wade, after it was leaked. On the day of her appointment to the Academy, Mazzucato retweeted a United Nations tweet proclaiming “safe abortion is health care.”
Dell’Oro has also been critical of the Supreme Court’s Dobbs decision. In October, Dell’Oro gave a lecture on the decision and said the majority of justices erred in siding against “a woman’s claim to autonomy” in favour “a state’s right to determine the future of her pregnancy.” He claimed, “To impose a choice on women over matters that belong to their most intimate sphere threatens to compromise their integrity, bodily and otherwise, as persons.” He described the post-Roe legal environment as “totalitarian.”
Msgr. Philippe Bordeyne, rector of the Catholic Institute of Paris and president of the John Paul II Institute for Marriage and Family Sciences, has been a critic of Humanae Vitae, Pope Paul VI’s encyclical on birth control. He says his comments have been taken out of context but has reiterated his belief that the Catholic Church in matters of marriage should compromise to reach those Catholics who are not following its moral instruction.
Fr. Humberto Miguel Yáñez, a fellow Argentinian Jesuit who is the director of the department of moral theology at the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome, has promoted the use of artificial contraception among married couples.
Dinotshe Tlou is co-chair of the Global HIV Prevention Coalition, and in that role, among others, she supports all manner of artificial birth control, and tweeted after her appointment that children and teens should not need parental approval to access birth control. She is also on the oversight committee providing strategic and technical guidance for SEMA Reproductive Health, which seeks to enlarge the market for “sexual and reproductive health products” including contraceptives, medicine to treat pregnancy complications, and, according to the group’s website, “supplies for safe abortion and post-abortion care.” SEMA Reproductive Health states on their website that these products are “critical to saving lives and advancing gender equality.”
On social media, Dinotshe Tlou talks about and links to stories about “unsafe abortion” which is often a pro-abortion tactic to promote legal abortion. The Catholic News Agency “sought comment and clarification from Tlou about her abortion views but she declined to comment until after February 2023” – after the next meeting of the Pontifical Academy for Life.
In response to the controversial appointments, the Pontifical Academy for Life issued a statement Oct. 19 describing itself as “a study and research body” whose “debate and dialogue take place between people of different backgrounds.”
The National Catholic Register reported, “The Pope’s appointments, announced Oct. 15, have caused consternation among moral theologians, lawyers, and Catholic doctors who have firmly reproved the choices as antithetical to the academy’s primary purpose.”
José María Simón Castellví, president emeritus of the International Federation of Catholic Medical Associations, called the appointments “just the opposite of what John Paul II wanted” when he founded the Academy. He explained: “He created the Pontifical Academy for Life in order to study in depth ways to defend human life and its transmission from conception to natural death.”
Fr. George Woodall, a moral theologian and former coordinating secretary at the Pontifical Academy for Life, said that the appointments “provoked anxiety and dismay” because the Catholic Church’s teaching against abortion and contraception “seem to be in danger of being undermined by these appointments.”