BRAZIL, January 20, 2011 (LifeSiteNews.com) - A scientist recently appointed to the Vatican’s prestigious Pontifical Academy of Sciences has confirmed in an interview that he supports the legalization of abortion and civil unions for homosexuals, as LifeSiteNews.com and other websites had reported earlier this month.

Dr. Miguel Nicolelis, a Brazilian neuroscientist who teaches at Duke University, complained that the websites “are hitting the same key: the Pope named a person for the Academy who defends the decriminalization of abortion and civil unions between people of the same sex, which is the pure truth.”

“I wasn’t abducted by any alien, nor did they put a microchip in my brain to make me say what I said,” Nicolelis added, laughing. The statements were made to the Brasilian online publication Vi o Mundo (I Saw the World), the same publication that had published the original comments that sparked the controversy.

The interview follows an article on the controversy by Vi o Mundo, which displayed an image of LSN’s original article on Nicolelis, as well as the blog post by the traditional Catholic blog Rorate Caeli, which first published the quotes by Nicolelis in English, and a reposting of the LSN piece in Portuguese on the blog of Brazilian pro-life activist Julio Severo.  The article calls them “sites of the American extreme-right.”

In addition, in comments attributed to Nicolelis on the blog of the prominent Brazilian journalist Luis Nassif, the scientist affirms that he is “atheist, pro-legalization of abortion,” and “pro-civil-unions for homosexuals.”

Are human life and family issues relevant to the Academy?

Nicolelis claimed in the Vi o Mundo interview that his personal political opinions and beliefs are irrelevant to his appointment.

“I never hid [the fact] that I don’t participate in the Catholic Church nor have a religious belief,” said Nicolelis. “What the staff of those sites does not understand is that if the Vatican had seen my ideological, political, and religious concepts as an obstacle, they wouldn’t have nominated me.”

“The scientific issue is the decisive parameter, such that no one asked me to take any position contrary to my personal beliefs,” added Nicolelis, noting that Stephen Hawking, who he says shares his views, is also a member of the Academy.

However, Human Life International, the world’s largest pro-life organization, disagrees. The organization’s acting president, Msgr. Ignacio Barreiro, has expressed “shock” that someone who is “on the record criticizing those who want to see abortion outlawed, and explicitly supporting homosexual unions” was appointed to the Academy.

He is joined by Luis Fernando Pérez Bustamante, director of the influential InfoCatolica, a widely-read Mexican Catholic website, who recently stated on his blog, “I can understand that the PAS is not shut to non-Catholics. But I cannot accept that people who are instruments of the culture of death are permitted to be members.”

He added, “I do not believe that being a good scientist is sufficient to belong to that Pontifical Academy. It should be established that the candidates have a minimum of ethical and moral agreement with the Church.”

Article 5 of the Academy’s constitution says that “candidates for a seat in the Academy are chosen by the Academy on the basis of their eminent original scientific studies and their acknowledged moral personality,” and adds that the choice is made “without any ethnic or religious discrimination.”

Contact information:

Pontifical Academy of Sciences
Casina Pio IV, V-00120 Vatican City
Tel. +39 06 69883195 - Fax +39 06 69885218
Email: academy.sciences@acdscience.va

Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith
William Cardinal Levada, Prefect
Piazza del S. Uffizio, 11, 00193 Roma, Italy
Fax: 06.69.88.34.09
E-mail: cdf@cfaith.va

Pope Benedict XVI
benedictxvi@vatican.va