The JPII Institute purge is a sign of weakness, not strength
Catholic Herald, 1 August 2019
Looking ahead to the future and forgetting about the past, Archbishop Paglia makes structural changes at the pontifical institute for marriage and family studies; and not for the better.
It’s the beginning of the end for Amoris Laetitia, the document of Pope Francis on the family which attempted to change the Church’s teaching on admitting people in invalid marriages to Holy Communion. When the end will come is not known, but that it will come is now clear.
Recent structural changes at the pontifical institute for marriage and family studies do not indicate a confidence that the teaching of Amoris Laetitia is true and thus will be found theologically sound. Rather, it will be enforced by diktat, abrogating academic rights in order to ensure conformity to a new orthodoxy. But an orthodoxy that has to be enforced from above, that depends upon power rather than persuasion, will not endure. Bureaucratic manoeuvring can cost professors their jobs, but it cannot establish the truth.
Some history is in order. At the 1980 synod on the family, the synod fathers requested that a research and teaching institute be established to promote the Church’s teaching on marriage and the family. The post-Humanae Vitae crisis had, over a decade, demonstrated the urgent need for such scholarly work to better inform the Church’s pastoral practice. On May 13, 1981, John Paul was to announce the creation of such a pontifical institute at a general audience. He never got the chance due to the assassination attempt that day, and the formal announcement was delayed until October 1981.
The Pontifical John Paul II Institute for Studies on Marriage and the Family was created at the Lateran University, the pope’s own university in Rome. The first head was Carlo (later Cardinal) Caffarra. He was also appointed to the chair of moral theology, signifying the importance of those questions to the Church’s teaching and pastoral practice.
So much in demand was the work of the institute that satellite “sessions” were set up in the United States, Brazil, Benin, Chile, India, Lebanon, Mexico, the Philippines, Spain and Australia (which has now closed). The various programmes have produced a generation of scholars who have revitalised the Church’s practice of marriage preparation, training in chastity and theology of the body. The institutes took their guidance from John Paul’s magisterium, particularly Familiaris Consortio (1981) and Veritatis Splendor (1993).
That was a problem for the twin synods on the family which the Holy Father convened in 2014 and 2015. Therefore Amoris Laetitia (2016) had to misrepresent the teaching of Familiaris Consortio and pretend that Veritatis Splendor did not exist.
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