Featured Image
St. Peter's Basilica, Vatican City Steve Jalsevac / LifeSiteNews
Dorothy Cummings McLean Dorothy Cummings McLean Follow Dorothy

News,

American Catholic Philosophical Association protests JPII Institute gutting

Dorothy Cummings McLean Dorothy Cummings McLean Follow Dorothy

HOUSTON, Texas, September 26, 2019 (LifeSiteNews) ― An American scholarly association has written to the leaders of the John Paul II Pontifical Theological Institute for Marriage and Family Sciences in Rome to express concern about changes to the foundation. 

The Executive Council of the American Catholic Philosophical Association (ACPA) wrote to Archbishop Vincenzo Paglia, the Institute’s chancellor, and Monsignor Pierangelo Sequeiri, its president, to ask that the original mission of the Institute be restored and that faculty members who have been “excluded” by the new statutes handed down this June be reinstated. 

The full text of their letter is below.

“We ask that the mission of the John Paul II Institute as originally constituted be reinstated and that the faculty members whose contributions have been excluded by the new statutes be restored to their positions in the Institute,” the ACPA officials wrote. 

“Only these measures are consistent with the canons of academic freedom and the very great need for the contribution of the Pontifical John Paul II Institute to the intellectual life of the Church.”

This summer the faculty members and students of the John Paul II Institute were shocked when two tenured professors were dismissed and the program of study and courses offered to students for the 2019-2020 term were suddenly withdrawn. Six other faculty members were  dismissed soon after. These changes occurred because of new statues, which were approved by the Congregation for Catholic Education before the faculty could read them.  

“These changes in the curriculum and faculty have been made in apparent disregard of the due process,” the elected representatives of the ACPA wrote. 

“Observance in full of previously instituted procedures is part of what defines any academic institution as free in the pursuit of its mission,” they continued.  

“Without collegiality in this consultation and the involvement of governing boards and long-term faculty, the university or institute can no longer claim the imprimatur of seeking the truth.”

The ACPA officials argued that the original mission of the Institute, which arose from St. John Paul II’s own pastoral work with married couples, is still relevant to marriage and families today. They also pointed out that this focus made the Institute unique. Meanwhile, many Catholic universities already study the social sciences added by the new statutes and use their “insights” in the Church’s mission of pastoral care. 

The “voice of wisdom speaking freely from within the Church’s tradition” at the John Paul II Institute is now “threatened” by this summer’s changes, the ACPA charges, particularly the dismissal of long-term faculty. The lack of due process, exemplified in the firings, has shocked the academic world and brought the Institute and its affiliates into disrepute.  

“The Institute and its branches around the world have worked assiduously to gain civil accreditation in their regions,” the ACPA officials wrote.  

“The academic integrity, high level of research, and the freedom to teach required for accreditation have been damaged by the absence of transparency, collegiality, and actual involvement of the Institute itself in the proposed changes.”

The letter was signed by Jean De Groot and Michael Pakaluk of the Catholic University of America; Thomas A. Cavanaugh of the University of San Francisco; Steven J. Jensen, Stephen Striby, and Thomas M. Osborne, Jr. of the University of St. Thomas in Houston; Joshua P. Hochschild of Mount Saint Mary’s University; Heidi M. Giebel and Timothy Pawl of the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul; Christopher Tollefsen of the University of South Carolina; Fr. Joseph W. Koterski of Fordham University; Fr. Arthur Madigan of Boston College; Marie I. George of St. John’s University, New York; Jonathan J. Sanford of the University of Dallas; and Daniel D. De Haan of Oxford University.    

They were not the first overseas scholars to protest. In August nearly 200 professors and others affiliated with universities around the world signed an open letter to Paglia and Sequeri protesting the dismissal of two senior faculty members. 

Originally called the Pontifical Institute for Studies on Marriage and Family, the John Paul II Institute was founded in 1982 by St. John Paul II. It was renamed and repurposed by Pope Francis in 2017.  

**

September 17, 2019

His Excellency Archbishop Vincenzo Paglia Grand Chancellor
Reverend Monsignor Pierangelo Sequeri President

Pontificio Istituto Teologico Giovanni Paolo II per le Scienze del Matrimonio e della Famiglia Piazza San Giovanni in Laterano, 4
00120 Città del Vaticano

Dear Archbishop Paglia and Monsignor Sequeri,

We write to you as elected members of the Executive Council and Executive Committee of the American Catholic Philosophical Association to express our deep concern about the changes of course, curriculum, and faculty at the Pontifical John Paul II Institute for Marriage and Family in Rome, changes initiated by and taking place under the auspices of the new chief officers of the Institute. These changes in the curriculum and faculty have been made in apparent disregard of the due process essential to the integrity of academic institutions.

Observance in full of previously instituted procedures is part of what defines any academic institution as free in the pursuit of its mission. Without collegiality in this consultation and the involvement of governing boards and long-term faculty, the university or institute can no longer claim the imprimatur of seeking the truth. Just this loss of credibility now threatens the John Paul II Institute for Marriage and Family.

The mission of the Institute came out of Pope John Paul II’s own pastoral work with married couples as a priest in Poland and reflects the formation needs of married persons seeking to live with the mind of the Church in our time. While the reason given for changes at the John Paul II Institute is to update its course of studies, in fact its mission as envisioned by St. John Paul II continues to be relevant to the fostering of family life amid the pressures on marriage and family in the twenty-first century. We are especially mindful of the fact that there is no other Catholic institution of higher learning in the world that has the focus the John Paul II Institute for Marriage and Family has had.

In contrast, there are many Catholic institutions of higher learning that foster the social sciences and advance the insights of these disciplines in relation to the Church’s mission of loving pastoral care for all people in their personal lives as sexual and communal beings. In the United States, Catholic universities contribute richly to the full range of humanistic and social science studies undertaken also in secular universities. The John Paul II Institute contributes its own voice, resonant with the Church’s long tradition of wisdom about marriage, to the on-going discussion among experts of good faith working in all these disciplines.

Now this voice of wisdom speaking freely from within the Church’s tradition is threatened by recent changes in the Institute, especially the dismissal of long-term faculty. We realize that the justification for these changes is that the Institute has been re-established with new statutes. For the reasons given at the beginning of this letter, this re-establishment presents the appearance of a lack of academic due process.

The Institute and its branches around the world have worked assiduously to gain civil accreditation in their regions. The academic integrity, high level of research, and the freedom to teach required for accreditation have been damaged by the absence of transparency, collegiality, and actual involvement of the Institute itself in the proposed changes.

We ask that the mission of the John Paul II Institute as originally constituted be reinstated and that the faculty members whose contributions have been excluded by the new statutes be restored to their positions in the Institute. Only these measures are consistent with the canons of academic freedom and the very great need for the contribution of the Pontifical John Paul II Institute to the intellectual life of the Church.

Yours in Christ,

Signatories from the Executive Committee and Executive Council of the American Catholic Philosophical Association:

Jean De Groot, PhD
President, American Catholic Philosophical Association Ordinary Professor
School of Philosophy
The Catholic University of America

Thomas A. Cavanaugh, PhD
Vice President, American Catholic Philosophical Association Professor of Philosophy
University of San Francisco

Steven J. Jensen, PhD
Treasurer, American Catholic Philosophical Association Director, Center for Thomistic Studies
Bishop Wendelin J. Nold Chair in Graduate Philosophy University of St. Thomas, Houston

Stephen Striby, PhD
Secretary, American Catholic Philosophical Association
Editor, Proceedings of the American Catholic Philosophical Association
Department of Philosophy University of St. Thomas, Houston

Joshua P. Hochschild, PhD
Vice President-Elect, American Catholic Philosophical Association Monsignor Robert R. Kline Professor of Philosophy
Mount St. Mary’s University

Heidi M. Giebel, PhD Professor of Philosophy
Managing Editor, American Catholic Philosophical Quarterly
University of St. Thomas, St. Paul

Christopher Tollefsen, PhD Chair, Department of Philosophy
College of Arts and Sciences Distinguished Professor of Philosophy University of South Carolina

Rev. Joseph W. Koterski, S.J., PhD Professor of Philosophy
Fordham University

Rev. Arthur Madigan, S.J., PhD Professor of Philosophy
Boston College

Marie I. George, PhD Professor of Philosophy St. John’s University, NY

Jonathan J. Sanford, PhD
University Provost and Professor of Philosophy University of Dallas

Thomas M. Osborne Jr., PhD Professor, Center for Thomistic Studies Chair, Department of Philosophy University of St. Thomas,Houston

Daniel D. De Haan, PhD Research Fellow
Ian Ramsey Centre for Science and Religion Faculty of Theology and Religion University ofOxford

Timothy Pawl, PhD Professor of Philosophy
University of St. Thomas, St. Paul

Michael Pakaluk, PhD
Ordinary Professor of Ethics and Social Philosophy Busch School of Business
The Catholic University of America

*The above endorse the contents of this letter as individuals, without any implication or preclusion of broader support from their university communities.

CC: Cardinal Giuseppe Versaldi, Prefect, Congregation for Catholic Education Archbishop Angelo Vincenzo Zani, Secretary, Congregation for Catholic Education

Mr. Victor Soldevilla, General Secretary, Pontificio Istituto Teologico Giovanni Paolo II per le Scienze del Matrimonio e della Famiglia

FREE pro-life and pro-family news.

Stay up-to-date on the issues you care about the most. Sign up today!

Select Your Edition:

You can make a difference!

Can you donate today?


Share this article