John Paul II Institute: When Nomination Rhymes With Normalization

March 22, 2021
Mgr Philippe Bordeyne

The appointment of the current rector of the Catholic Institute of Paris as the future president of the John Paul II Pontifical Theological Institute completes the overhaul of a body that is now supposed to spread the vision of marriage and the family elaborated in the apostolic exhortation Amoris laetitia.

In Rome, there is a saying that a harsh winter can sometimes lead to short circuits: thus, it is not through the Press Room of the Holy See, but by the Italian news agency Ansa that the name of the future President of the John Paul II Pontifical Theological Institute was brought to the attention of the public on March 8, 2021.

The confirmation was quick to come through the Twitter account of the Pontifical Academy for Life. Its president, Bishop Vincenzo Paglia, a figurehead of progressivism, is also Grand Chancellor of the John Paul II Institute. That same day, he addressed a message of welcome to Msgr. Philippe Bordeyne – Msgr. does not mean episcopate here, but is an honorary title.

A 61-year-old French priest, Msgr. Bordeyne graduated from HEC, London Business School, and New York University before entering theological studies and being ordained a priest in 1988.

In 2011, he was appointed rector of the Catholic Institute of Paris (ICP) by Cardinal André Vingt-Trois, a position he should hold until August 31, 2021, before joining the Eternal City in the following September.

Msgr. Bordeyne's choice is in line with the overhaul of the John Paul II Institute desired by Pope Francis in the wake of the 2015 Synod on the Family.

At that time, the Argentine pontiff perceived that the Pontifical Institute dedicated to the theology of the Polish Pope—whom he nevertheless “canonized”—constituted an obstacle to the dissemination of his new conception of marriage, expressed by the apostolic exhortation Amoris laetitia, from which a “renewed” Church is supposed to be born, capable of adapting to the world and to its perpetual evolution.

At the end of July 2019, new statutes were imposed on the Institute, and in the process, the ax fell on the heads of the faculty: exit the “theology of the body” of John Paul II, which was already more than questionable.

And replaced by an approach to morality based on the social sciences, which as everyone knows are contingent sciences, totally flexible with regard to situations until now have been considered as irregular, like “divorced and remarried” couples.

The choice of Msgr. Bordeyne is in line with this logic: an appointed expert at the 2015 synod on the family, the current rector of the ICP advocates, in line with the current Roman pontiff, “the broad view of families in their diversity,” as he explained in 2017 at the microphone of Radio Notre-Dame.

The future president of the John Paul II Institute, who envisaged this unprecedented access in the practice of the Church, then specified, “the door can open towards access to the sacraments (“remarried divorcees’), in discretion, during a pilgrimage, or the celebration of a family event ”.

The time for normalization has therefore sounded for the Pontifical Institute of Theology, but it is not without consequences: some courses have lost 90% of their students, while others have been purely and simply abolished, for lack of registrations.

Amoris Laetitia's ambiguities do not seem to be successful among a young generation, more in search of values ​​and sound principles than their elders: in this context, it is not certain that Msgr. Bordeyne's talents as a manager are enough to turn the tide.