A shocking new piece of information comes to us from Germany, from the website Katholisches.info, which is principally run by the well-informed Vatican expert and loyal Catholic layman, Giuseppe Nardi. He reported on 18 November that Pope Francis has decided to re-write the statutes of the Pontifical Academy for Life in a way which essentially re-makes this organization.
Relying on a 5 November 2016 report published by the German branch of Vatican Radio, called Radio Vatikan, Nardi has published the new statutes of the Academy. Archbishop Vincenzo Paglia was appointed as the new head of this Dicastery in August of 2016, which in itself signaled a change of direction for the Academy. Now, as Nardi reports, with these new statutes, all current members will be removed and a new set of up to seventy members will be installed.
As the new statutes say, these new members will be appointed independently of religious orientation. From the revised statutes (from the section “Directions and Norms for Members”):
Academicians are selected, without any religious discrimination, from among well-known ecclesiastical, religious and lay persons of various nationalities, who are expert in the disciplines pertaining to human life… [my emphasis]
The new rules set forth that the members will be re-affirmed every five years which means that the life-long members of the Academy will need to be re-affirmed. The new rules will go into effect on 1 January 2017. As Nardi puts it: the new rules mean three things: “the purge of all members of the Academy, the elimination of the [Jerome] Lejeune Oath [similar to the Hippocratic Oath], and the exclusion of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.” An oath to defend the dignity of a person “from conception until (natural) death” is, according to Nardi, no longer to be required of members.
Nardi explains further that with the end of the year 2016, all members of the Academy will lose their office, even if they had been originally called to office for a lifetime. On 1 January, 2017, Pope Francis is fully free to name a complete new set of names for the Academy. With it, there will be a breach of the continuity which was essential for the Academy since its foundation.
Important in this context is that several members of the Pontifical Academy for Life have been strong defenders of Catholic Doctrine in the face of the liberal revolution sweeping the Church. No less prominent a Catholic figure than Professor Josef Seifert — who has written one of the most compelling rebukes of the post-synodal exhortation Amoris Laetita — has himself been a member of this papal institution, and will now most probably be replaced by more liberal leaning members.