The Pontifical John Paul II Institute Triggers Controversy

February 03, 2021

The John Paul II Pontifical Theological Institute for Marriage and Family Sciences generated a flurry of controversy in the Italian Catholic blogosphere last week after a strange message posted on its Facebook page defended Joe Biden’s support of legal abortion.

The Institute was the scene of strong unrest following the publication of its new statutes in July 2019. Let us briefly recall this episode. Among the main points which had provoked outrage was the suppression of the teaching of basic moral theology. 

Cardinal Angelo Scola, Archbishop Emeritus of Milan and former Rector of the Pontifical Lateran University, spoke of “torpedoing” the Institute through an academic “purification.”

It appears that the Institute, perceived by Francis as an obstacle to the dissemination of his new conception of marriage expressed in Amoris lætitia, had to be reframed and taken back in hand. Even the conservative conciliar teaching was being swept away in this manner by the forced march imposed by the Pope towards the “irreversible” transformation of the Church that he has in view: an open Church, adapting to the world and to its continual changes.

Are we in front of the results of this policy? The fact is, the Facebook page of the John Paul II Institute reprised an article published on January 20 in the Italian edition of the Huffington Post: “Joe Biden, a Catholic in the White House among the poisons of the American Church.”

One of the academics interviewed, Stefano Ceccanti, professor of public law at Sapienza University and member of the Democratic Party, said, “Biden has a problem with half of the American Catholic Church, the one that has taken shape since the episcopal appointments of the two previous pontificates, on the rhetoric of non-negotiable principles and which, moreover, is opposed to both Biden and Pope Francis, and this is no accident.”

The article added that the election of Biden can be seen as “complementary to the election of Pope Francis.” “There is no doubt that there is harmony between Francis and Biden, and that Biden’s victory can be seen broadly as a victory for Francis.”

The Pontifical Institute Digs in Deeper

Critics were not long in coming. They questioned the praise of Biden, who is a strong supporter of legal abortion, which is contrary to Catholic doctrine.

The answer leaves one speechless: the Pontifical Theological Institute affirms that “defending the right to abortion does not mean defending abortion.” And to drive the point home, it added that “if we are to award Catholic licenses according to political positions, very few politicians would be able to describe themselves as Catholics.” This is the problem ...

The Institute eventually removed the post and the discussion. But that didn’t calm the turmoil, however.

The fact remains that with such principles everything, or nearly everything, is permitted, through the legal system. But what is not moral can in no way receive legal sanction. As St. Thomas Aquinas asserts, an immoral law is not a law. It cannot in any case constrain the conscience. On the contrary, it is impossible to obey such laws without fail.

Finally, those who are moved by this Institute “post” should remember that the example comes from above, and it is very recent. When Pope Francis promotes civil unions of homosexuals while refusing to call them “marriages,” he is doing nothing more than defending a right to homosexuality, while claiming to condemn the sin of sodomy. It’s the same reasoning.