Next head of Pope’s marriage and family institute is pro-contraception
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March 11, 2021 (LifeSiteNews) — A new president has been appointed to the Pontifical John Paul II Theological Institute for Matrimonial and Family Science: Msgr. Philippe Bordeyne, at present rector of Paris’ famed Catholic University, L’Institut catholique de Paris, is a proponent of Amoris Laetitia, a critic of Humanae vitae, and a defender of a more welcoming approach to homosexual couples.
His impact of his nomination was presented in a nutshell in the English version of the unofficial daily of the French episcopate, La Croix International: “Mgr. Philippe Bordeyne has chosen to continue the reform of the institute the late Polish pope established in 1981 to promote traditional marriage and family life.”
“Reform” is the operative word: Over the last years, the John Paul II Institute formerly presided by Cardinal Carlo Caffarra — the now deceased signatory of the Dubia presented to Pope Francis after the publication of Amoris Laetitia — has been targeted by various changes that ranged from a modification of its name and the renovation of its statutes to the sudden suspension of all of its professors in 2019, those most representative of the John Paul II era having been dismissed altogether.
The “coup” against the traditional orientation of the John Paul II Institute was carried out under the direction of the Institute’s present Grand Chancellor, Archbishop Vincenzo Paglia (also known for the homoerotic painting he commissioned for his former cathedral in Terni). The overhaul aims to set aside the metaphysical approach of the original Institute in order to adopt a more practical and sociological point of view, pitting so-called “real issues” against “abstract idealism,” as La Croix put it.
Paglia confirmed the nomination of Msgr. Bordeyne, who specializes in moral theology, on Twitter last Monday. The nomination has yet to be officially proclaimed, but according to the Italian news agency ANSA, a “rescript” was sent on February 22 by Cardinal Giuseppe Versaldi, prefect of the Congregation for Catholic Education, and its secretary Msgr. Vincenzo Zani. They also signed a letter thanking the current president of the Institute, Msgr. Pierangelo Sequeri, 76, and presenting their best wishes to Msgr. Bordeyne.
Besides promoting the vision of Pope Francis on marriage and the Church’s moral teachings, as he has consistently done in his previous appointments, one of Bordeyne’s task will be to stem the Institute’s present decline. According to La Croix International, “Some courses are reported to have lost 90 percent of their students, while others have been cut due to insufficient numbers. Thus, the institute’s biggest challenge is to attract new students and boost enrollment.”
Philippe Bordeyne, 61, is expected to use his managerial skills. Before becoming a priest, he graduated from one of France’s most prestigious institutions of higher education, HEC Paris (Ecole des hautes études commerciales), and went on to teach in Cameroon for two years in a cooperation program. Once ordained, before entering his academic career, Bordeyne was tasked with the accompaniment of catechumens and with marriage preparation in the diocese of Nanterre, near Paris. He was a friend of Juan Carlos Scannone, a Jesuit priest known as an authorized presenter of the theology of Pope Francis (Scannone published a book about Francis’ “theology of the people” shortly before his death in 2019). Together, they penned a book titled, Divorcés remariés: ce qui change avec François (“Divorced and remarried: What has changed with Pope Francis”).
Bordeyne was a prominent character at the second Synod on the Family in 2015: He was appointed at the time by Pope Francis as one of the 23 “experts” who counseled and guided the discussions of the synodal fathers.
Philippe Bordeyne has indicated that he will move to Rome by August 31, several months after the opening of the “Year of Amoris Laetitia” on the feast of Saint Joseph, on March 19. His personal appreciation of that Apostolic Exhortation will certainly impregnate itself in the John Paul II Institute’s curriculum and orientations.
He has been vocal in the French press over the last years, supporting the “discernment” Pope Francis has called for regarding the “reintegration” of divorced and remarried Catholics. On April 9, 2014, Bordeyne told La Vie:
In the case of access to the sacraments for remarried divorcees, [the Pope] takes up the notion of discernment, already known in the Church’s pastoral ministry and already mentioned at the Synod, while specifying it. During the Synod, there was some hesitation about naming this spiritual journey a “penitential path,” for example. The Pope finally spoke of “personal and pastoral discernment” and specified the framework: For the discernment to be well conducted, the faithful must not be alone, whatever their situation, they must be accompanied by pastors or persons assigned to do so. The Pope also specifies what “integration” in the Church means. The discernment carried out must indeed lead to something concrete: to allow the person to find his rightful place in the Church. But this place is not indicated in advance: Access to communion will not necessarily be the appropriate response to the person’s journey and to his or her objective situation. It may be a commitment to the poorest or another ecclesial commitment, such as catechesis.
The Pope above all asks pastors to welcome the persons involved, to be sensitive to their sorrows, their sufferings, their need for integration into the Church. The final objective is that the faithful may find peace. The pope does not indicate a general process but gives a framework by drawing inspiration from the practice of discernment in the Church and by giving it the seal of his authority.
Some years later, Bordeyne was interviewed about Amoris Laetitia by Father Thomas Rosica, the now disgraced CEO of Salt and Light TV. Summing up his attitude to moral teaching, Bordeyne said: “The moral theologian is first and foremost a tinkerer” who looks at personal situations rather than moral ideals. What was the “new point” made by chapter 8 of Amoris Laetitia about the divorced and remarried, particularly those who have children with their new partner, Rosica asked. Bordeyne answered:
We cannot ask people to achieve the impossible. We cannot ask people to separate, since that would be a new fault: We will be asking them to build the future with God. And so we ask them to evaluate the quality of their new union.
The “discernment” that could lead these people to be readmitted to the sacraments of penance and Holy Communion, he added, should not take place just after remarriage, he said, crediting Pope Francis with this wise disposition: only “when things have been settled in time.”
“People can have regrets” about divorce and remarriage, he said:
The realism of Francis, the realism of the Christian, is to look at what God is doing in our lives so that, while the irreversible exists, we can still continue to move forward. … The Pope says that in the personal and pastoral discernment of these people, they must first look at what they are doing today to respond to God’s calls. Not the impossible calls of God! Not to calls of God to remain faithful to the first union: It was dead for twenty years! But to God’s calls today.
Yes, the future president of what was once the John Paul II Institute for Marriage and Family is in substance saying that an indissoluble marriage can be held to be dead, and that the call of God to be faithful to one’s irreversible commitment, in His name, to one’s legitimate spouse, either does not exist or should not be listened to at some point.
Bordeyne also told Rosica that he particularly appreciated the fact that Amoris Laetitia (paragraphs 36 and 37) “brings the theme of conscience together with that of personal limits,” in other words: Our conscience tells us what we are capable of at a certain point of our lives, taking our weaknesses into account. This sounds dangerously like situation ethics.
The Pope even mentions the possibility of sacramental reinstatement, not for marriage, which is not repeatable, but for penance and for the Eucharist, in certain cases. The criterion he gives is double: On the one hand growth, that is to say that the persons are really in the process of accepting God’s grace, of being converted, are on the path of growth, and while they are on the path of growth — they are animated by God’s mercy — they are on the other hand so miserable, they suffer so much, that this path of growth risks being broken because the Church does not dare to provide the support of the sacraments. I think that these will be quite rare cases … I think that looking positively at all the amount of love that there is in one’s life and making it a reason for integration in the Church, is already a lot …
Why did Pope Francis not give a clear answer on the issue of Communion for (civilly) remarried divorcees, Rosica asked. Bordeyne answered:
I think he was clear, but he was as clear as one can be when giving a path for discernment in particular situations. If he had spoken a general word, I think he would not have been faithful to the tradition of the Church. And in fact, Amoris Laetitia is not the sacramental discipline of our Orthodox brothers. [The Pope] said more than the synod, but so that his words would be a guide in a process of discernment.
Philippe Bordeyne’s vision of the family also deserves a mention. In an interview with La Croix in April 2016, as quoted by the conservative Catholic website “Riposte catholique,” he described the Pope’s vision of the family as follows:
His insistence on the social character of the person strikes me. Traditionally, the Church presents the family as “the foundational cell of society,” a rather abstract formula. Pope Francis, on the other hand, shows concretely how it is a microcosm where each person learns about life in society: Through the tenderness of the mother, through the magnanimity of the father … His expressions speak for themselves: “The mother who protects the child with affection and compassion, … helps him to experience the world.” Society needs the family — which does not stop at the petty bourgeois triangle of a father, mother, and children — because it is the place where each individual grows as a person in relationship. To despise different families would also be to despise this work of socialization.
The expression “different families” in France evokes non-traditional marital unions: blended families, as well as cohabiting and same-sex couples with children.
Regarding Humanae Vitae and the Church’s teaching on contraception, Msgr. Bordeyne has obviously progressive views. Here is one of his presentations of his thoughts on Pope Paul VI’s encyclical, as quoted by La Croix and published on September 15, 2015, by Riposte catholique (this would appear to be a transcription of Bordeyne’s speech at the unannounced shadow council preparing second Synod on the Family in October in Rome, at the Pontifical Gregorian University in May 2015, where he was one of the participants according to the list published by the National Catholic Register — alongside Cardinal Marx, Archbishop Georges Pontier of France, Bishop Franz-Josef Bode, and many others:
The encyclical Humanae Vitae teaches that only natural methods of fertility control are licit. However, it must be recognized that the distance between the practice of the faithful and the magisterial teaching has increased. Is this plain deafness to the calls of the Spirit or the fruit of a work of discernment and responsibility among Christian couples subjected to the pressure of new lifestyles?
Human sciences and the experience of couples teach us that the relationship between desire and pleasure is complex, eminently personal and therefore variable according to each couple, and that it evolves over time within the couple. In view of the imperative moral duty to fight against the temptations of abortion, divorce, and lack of generosity in procreation, it would be reasonable to leave the discernment of birth control methods to the wisdom of couples, emphasizing moral and spiritual education that would allow them to fight more effectively against temptations in an environment that is often hostile to Christian anthropology.
In this perspective, the Church could admit a plurality of paths to respond to the general call to maintain the openness of sexuality to transcendence and the gift of life. When couples “have exercised or are exercising a reasonable and generous paternity” (Yves Congar, 1968) and have discerned before God their duty to space births, a first path consists in limiting conjugal relations to the infertile periods, such as the methods of natural birth control make possible …
The other way, whose moral licitness could be admitted, and the choice entrusted to the wisdom of the spouses, would consist in using non-abortive contraceptive methods. If they decide to introduce this medicine into the intimacy of their sexual life, the spouses would be invited to redouble their mutual love. This is the only way to humanize the use of technology, in the service of a “human ecology of reproduction.”
So, in Bordeyne’s eyes, contraception can not only be regarded as “licit” from a moral point of view, but as a “medicine,” a “technology” that can be “humanized” because Catholic couples should love each other twice as much when using it. This is a contradiction of Church teaching and an inversion of values on a monumental scale.
Speaking of the May 2015 “shadow council,” it also reflected on a new “theology of love” that would open the way to acceptance of homosexual unions. At the time, LifeSite commented that Philippe Bordeyne was a member of a group founded by Cardinal Martini, “INTAMS,” in particular to work in that direction.
Philippe Bordeyne is indeed a member of the academic board of INTAMS, the International Academy for Marital Spirituality, of which Cardinal Danneels was also a prominent member.
Under Bordeyne’s watch as member of the Academic Board, INTAMS published an issue of its journal Marriages, Families and Spirituality in 2019 on the “rights of homosexual couples.” Its reflections were presented last September by the Belgian Catholic monthly Tertio under the title: “Bringing rainbow families out of the shadows” (Tertio’s presentation is available here in English). INTAMS stressed that in former times, children were often confided to abbeys and monasteries to be brought up: They were “households consisting of adults of the same sex … and this practice was warmly endorsed by the church and society.” “Although of course this is very different from lesbian or gay parenting today, it does cast it in a new light,” wrote Tertio.
INTAMS also questioned whether the Church’s condemnation of homosexual acts also applies to “durable loving relationships between members of the same sex,” and explains, like others before it, that biblical texts in fact “refer to homosexual behavior practiced by heterosexuals,” suggesting a shift in the Church’s teachings on marriage from the ability to procreate to stressing lifelong commitment. The idea is to “value families on their inner qualities” and to defend the “dignity” of same-sex couples as well as to protect them from “discrimination.”
While it is true that Bordeyne did not author any of the papers in this issue of Marriages, Families and Spirituality, he apparently sees no problem in associating his name with such an enterprise.
During his previously quoted interview with Fr. Rosica, Bordeyne cautiously addressed the issue of homosexual unions, saying it was a “difficult” question. He claimed that the debate in France about same-sex “marriage,” when the “Manif pour tous” repeatedly put hundreds of thousands of people in the streets to protest against its legalization, was “a difficult time for the Church.”
“There was division in families,” Bordeyne noted, quoting Jesus’ own words: “For I came to set a man at variance against his father, and the daughter against her mother …” But it was not clearly stating the teaching of the Church that can indeed be divisive in our times; for Bordeyne added: “Up to what point can the bishops express a word that will require the faithful to commit themselves, and that will perhaps make them uncomfortable?”