May 7, 2012 (LifeSiteNews.com) - The Vatican’s principal agency for issues related to the sanctity of human life, the Pontifical Academy for Life (PAV), has placed itself in “great danger” by compromising its core values, according to Dr. Josef Seifert, a member of the Academy and founding rector of the International Academy of Philosophy in Liechtenstein.
According to the Catholic news agency ACI Prensa, Seifert has written an open letter to the president of the PAV, Monseignor Ignacio Carrasco de Paula, in response to controversy over the organization’s 18th General Assembly, which featured a discussion over infertility treatments that appeared to endorse technologies that violate Catholic teaching on the sanctity of human life.
As LifeSiteNews reported at that time, the conference included speakers who offered In Vitro Fertilization as an alternative for couples who cannot conceive naturally. In Vitro Fertilization is condemned by the Catholic Church for separating conception from the sexual act, and for the large number of deaths of embryos it entails. Some speakers also reportedly spoke affirmatively regarding the contraceptive pill, which other scientists insist is a cause of cancer and can cause early abortions.
According to ACI Prensa’s Spanish translation of the letter, Seifert writes to Carrasco that his missive “has no intention of offending you in any way,” but is motivated by “a profound feeling of sadness and an enormous concern regarding the great danger that I perceive, which is that the PAV is losing its complete and pure commitment to the truth and its enthusiastic service to the magnificent and irreducible teaching of the Church regarding human life and its complete splendor.”
February 24, the day of the fertility conference, was “possibly the worst day in the history of the PAV,” writes Seifert, who proceeds to give a list of reasons for his view, including the ignoring of ethical concerns, direct contradictions of Catholic teaching, mistreatment of those who criticized the event, the low level of scientific integrity, harm to the PAV’s reputation, and the moral scandal caused by the event.
Concerns similar to Seifert’s were expressed to LifeSiteNews.com (LSN) during the event itself. Thomas Hilgers, Director of the National Center for Women’s Health at the Pope Paul VI Institute for the Study of Human Reproduction told LSN that “[This year’s conference was] a huge disservice to Catholics everywhere for the Pontifical Academy for Life, which is the major Catholic pro-life organization you could say, to come into formal cooperation with a group of people who are diametrically opposed to the Church’s teaching.”
LSN was also told that at a follow-up meeting the next day, several PAV members members expressed their discontent regarding the selection of speakers and the lack of ethical context in the talks. One PAV member called it a “pile-on”. The complaint was made that some members who wanted to express similar comments were not recognized by the PAV leadership.
ACI Prensa is also reporting that PAV member Mercedes Arzú Wilson, president of the Family of the Americas Foundation, is expressing similar concerns about the conference, calling it a “tragic event that is impossible to correct due to the number of participants” and which “left the media in confusion.” She calls on the PAV to “return to its original intention” as an organization.
The current controversy follows the removal of Archbishop Salvatore “Rino” Fisichella from the presidency of the organization in 2009, after he made comments that appeared to defend a direct abortion performed on a young Brazilian girl, and criticized an archbishop who excommunicated the guilty parties. After numerous PAV members expressed their outrage, Fisichella was removed from his position and transferred to the presidency of the Pontifical Council for Promoting the New Evangelization.
Related LifeSiteNews coverage:
Trouble in Vatican: Pontifical Academy members upset with ethics deficit at infertility conference Head of Pontifical Academy for Life Should be Removed: Academy Members Pro-Life Brazilian Archbishop Abandoned by Fellow Bishops, Vatican Official, for Excommunicating Abortionist Doctor