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Vatican pro-life academy head defends appointment of abortion supporter

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University of Oxford Professor Nigel Biggar was appointed to the Academy by Pope Francis.

ROME, Italy, June 16, 2017 (LifeSiteNews) — The head of the Vatican’s Pontifical Academy for Life defended Pope Francis' appointment of a new Academy member who is pro-abortion and has expressed qualified support for euthanasia. Archbishop Vincenzo Paglia has, moreover, accused Catholic media of “sensationalism” for highlighting the pro-abortion pick.

When a Twitter user pointed out to Paglia that English Catholic media outlets were focusing on the pro-abortion appointee, he suggested Catholic media was falling victim to “sensationalism.” 

“[W]e pray that Catholics and Catholic media not fall victim to sensationalism,” he tweeted. “Love for life must mean love for each other.”

Earlier this week, LifeSiteNews and others reported that among the 45 new members the Pope appointed to the Academy was an Anglican minister who has argued that abortion should be legal until “18 weeks after conception.”

READ: Pope Francis appoints abortion supporter to Vatican pro-life academy

University of Oxford Professor Nigel Biggar, who was appointed to the Academy for a five-year term, stated in a 2011 dialogue with pro-infanticide ethicist Peter Singer that a preborn baby is “not … the same kind of thing as an adult or a mature human being” and therefore does not deserve “quite the same treatment.”

“I would be inclined to draw the line for abortion at 18 weeks after conception, which is roughly about the earliest time when there is some evidence of brain activity, and therefore of consciousness,” he said as reported by Standpoint magazine.

Then, one year later, when he was the keynote speaker for an event at the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota, he said "it is not true that all abortion is equivalent to murder."

When LifeSiteNews asked Biggar if his appointment to the Academy indicated that the Church under Francis is shifting gears on abortion, he said that as someone who is not Roman Catholic, he did not think it appropriate to comment on the Church's position.

"I am very sorry to disappoint you, but the issue of abortion is one on which I have views, but it is not one that I have thought about for a very long time," he said. 

"I believe that the reason for my recent appointment lies in my sustained work on the issues of voluntary euthanasia and assisted suicide. On those issues, my conclusions are consonant with the Church's," he added.

But Biggar’s position on euthanasia is not, in fact, consonant with Catholic teaching. 

In a review of Biggar's 2004 book titled Aiming to Kill: The Ethics of Suicide and Euthanasia, reviewer David Jones wrote for the periodical New Blackfriars that Biggar would allow some people to be euthanized who were so damaged that they could be excluded from being called “human.”  

“If someone’s brain is irreparably damaged so that he or she cannot think, then according to Biggar we should conclude that he or she is no longer a human ‘person’ and no longer part of the human community. Biggar even describes such individuals as ‘irretrievably inaccessible to human care’ so that it means nothing to protect them from being killed nor therefore (and this is my deduction) to visit, clothe or feed them,” wrote Jones. 

Christopher Ferrara, author and head of the American Catholic Lawyer’s Association, said an appointment of a pro-abortion member to the Vatican’s highest pro-life institution means that Pope Francis, “as incredible as it may seem, is programmatically committed to accommodating … the toleration of abortion in the life of the Church.”

“[He has] demolished John Paul II’s Pontifical Academy for Life by sacking every one of its members and having its new president, the ‘pro-gay’ Archbishop Vincenzo Paglia (of obscene mural fame), draw up new statutes for the Academy,” he wrote, adding: “Bear in mind that Pope [Francis] has abolished the pro-life oath formerly taken by members of the Academy.”

Former Academy member Judie Brown, president of American Life League, said the Academy under Pope Francis’ leadership has lost its way. 

“Pope Francis has created a revised version of the sainted Pope John Paul II’s vision that is not only scary, but also in many ways ugly to behold,” she wrote.  

While there are many positive appointments to the Academy, such as Cardinal Willem Eijk, Georgetown ethicist John Keown, and Knights of Columbus Supreme Knight Carl Anderson, there are many former members, high-caliber pro-lifers, who were not invited back. Many of these were specifically chosen by Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI for their pro-life-and-family credentials as well as their fidelity to Catholic teaching. 

READ: Pope Francis guts Vatican pro-life academy of members chosen by St. John Paul II

Some of those not invited back include Australian philosopher John Finnis, German philosopher Robert Spaemann, Professor Luke Gormally of England, and Austrian Professor Josef Maria Seifert. Many of those not invited back had previously been openly critical of the direction the Academy was being pushed in recent years. 

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