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June 20, 2017 (LifeSiteNews) – A pro-contraception priest who headed a committee that supported euthanasia by starvation and a professor who participated in the pro-gay 2015 “shadow synod” are amongst the newest members of the Pontifical Academy for Life. These two join a third who has argued that abortion should be permitted until “18 weeks after conception.”

The priest is Father Maurizio Chiodi, a theologian from the Northern Italian Theological Faculty of Milan. The professor is Anne-Marie Pelletier.

Rorate Caeli uncovered and translated the euthanasia advocacy of the committee led by Fr. Chiodi. It was for the Italian Jesuit magazine Aggiornamenti Sociali. The group advocated for the “right” of patients to create advanced healthcare directives that specify they should be withheld food and water. 

The Catholic Church teaches that it's morally permissible to refuse extraordinary medical treatment, but it is never licit to starve or dehydrate patients to death. Food and water can never be deemed extraordinary care. 

“The administration of food and water even by artificial means is, in principle, an ordinary and proportionate means of preserving life,” according to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) in guidelines approved by Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI. “It is therefore obligatory to the extent to which, and for as long as, it is shown to accomplish its proper finality, which is the hydration and nourishment of the patient. In this way suffering and death by starvation and dehydration are prevented.”

“A patient in a 'permanent vegetative state' is a person with fundamental human dignity and must, therefore, receive ordinary and proportionate care which includes, in principle, the administration of water and food even by artificial means,” the guidelines stated.

The Pontifical Academy for Life released a document in 2000 under Pope St. John Paul II that taught that nutrition and hydration are “ordinary care.”

The ethics study group “joined Italian euthanasia activists in supporting a bill that would legalize physician-assisted suicide and/or euthanasia in certain cases,” Rorate reported. “The bill has already been approved by the House and is now before the Italian Senate.”

The study group argued that food and water aren't essential “treatments” for a patient and therefore should be able to be withheld.

It wrote, in part: 

2. … A democratic state is made up of citizens committed to respecting the different ethics, world views and religions, in a context of mutual inclusion and sincere hospitality without trying to impose itself on others….. 

5. A controversial issue concerns artificial nutrition and hydration (ANH), which the draft of the law includes among the treatments that can be refused in an AHD [advance healthcare directive] or advance planning. In Catholic thought it is often stated that these means are always obligatory; in reality, ANH [artificial nutrition and hydration]​ is a medical and technical intervention and as such does not avoid the judgment of proportionality. Nor can it be excluded that sometimes it is no longer able to achieve the purpose of providing nourishment to the patient or the alleviation of suffering. The former case can occur in the illness of terminal cancer; the second [can occur] in a vegetative state which is extended indefinitely, if the patient has previously stated that this prospect is unacceptable. Since it can not be ruled out that in cases like these, ANH [artificial nutrition and hydration] ​becomes a disproportionate treatment, its inclusion among the refusable treatments is correct.”

Fr. Chiodi also rejects the Church's teaching on contraception. He argues that it could be “moral” for a couple to use artificial contraception, because “it is not the method [of preventing pregnancy] itself that determines the morality, but the conscience of the spouses, their sense of responsibility, their genuine willingness to open themselves to life.”

One former pro-life academy member said that St. John Paul II would be “spinning in his grave” over the problematic new appointees. 

“The latest news about various appointments to the Pontifical Academy for Life saddens me immensely,” Judie Brown, President of the American Life League and a former Academy member, told LifeSiteNews. “I believe it is safe to say that surely St. John Paul II is spinning in his grave. The Academy is no longer comprised of staunch defenders of Church teaching and vulnerable human persons.” 

New appointee part of pro-gay 'shadow synod'

Newly appointed Academy member Anne-Marie Pelletier participated in the pro-gay 2015 “shadow synod” in the leadup to the Synod of the Family. The “shadow synod” of 2015 was a confidential meeting of theologians, bishops, and media representatives in which they discussed how they might sway the synods on the family to embrace same-sex unions and other innovations that aren't aligned with Catholic morality. 

Cardinal Reinhard Marx, one of the pope's close advisors who supports Communion for the divorced and remarried in defiance of Catholic teaching, attended the meetings. At least nine other bishops also attended. 

Pelletier, who was a speaker at the meeting, called it a “real sign of the times.” She also said the “Church needs to enter into 'a dynamic of mutual listening,' in which the magisterium continues to guide consciences,” adding that it can “only effectively do so if it 'echoes the words of the baptized,'” the National Catholic Register reported at the time

Pelletier's presentation focused on the permissiveness of divorce. She argued that the Church should look to ordinary Catholics for guidance on the issue, and that divorce and remarriage could be permissible in certain circumstances.

“The Catholic moral teaching – up into the Catechism of the Catholic Church – has interpreted the 6th Commandment expansively, and in such a way that any sexual intercourse outside of a validly contracted marriage is judged as being licentious,” she said. “But this is a rather rigid interpretation.”

Michael Hichborn, President of the Lepanto Institute, said that Pelletier's statements against Catholic teaching on sexual morality should have “automatically disqualified” from being selected.  

“The purpose of the Pontifical Academy for Life is to foster a Culture of Life in full respect of the Church's Magisterium,” Hichborn told LifeSiteNews. “Pelletier displayed a willingness to skulk about in secret meetings designed to undermine Church teaching in 2015, and this should have automatically disqualified her for membership.”

“By appointing people who are not committed pro-lifers in full communion with the Magisterium, the Pontifical Academy for Life is at risk of becoming another version of the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences, which is already stacked with population control enthusiasts and committed Marxists,” he continued.

The Pontifical Academy for Life is “now at risk of being undermined from the inside,” he warned, but pro-life Catholics shouldn't lose hope.

“As faithful Catholics, we must not lose heart, though,” said Hichborn. “Just as fever and nausea are signs of illness in the body, sweating and vomiting are the body's way of expelling toxins. What we are experiencing, as the Mystical Body of Christ, is an illness, and Pelletier's appointment is just another symptom of that. But our Lord promised that those who seek to compromise through lukewarm attitudes will be vomited from His mouth. In the meantime, we pray, testify to the Truth, and stand firm against errors of our day.”

Earlier this week Archbishop Vincenzo Paglia, the head of the Vatican’s Pontifical Academy for Life, doubled down in defending newly appointed member Nigel Biggar, who has argued that abortion should be legal until “18 weeks after conception.”

Paglia called Catholics “foolish” for thinking Biggar’s appointment signaled that the Academy was no longer fully committed to defending life at every stage, according to an interview with Vatican Insider