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Archbishop Vincenzo Paglia, President of the Pontifical Academy for LifeFotos Presidencia El Salvador/Wikimedia Commons

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VATICAN CITY (LifeSiteNews) – The scandal-plagued Pontifical Academy for Life (PAV) has clarified its president Archbishop Vincenzo Paglia’s recent remarks calling Italy’s permissive abortion law “a pillar” of Italian society.

Speaking on Italian state television channel Rai Tre on Friday, Paglia said that Italy’s Law 194, which permits abortion for any reason within the first 90 days of pregnancy and for specified reasons thereafter, has now become “a pillar of our social life,” sparking scandal and outrage among Catholic commentators who understood the remarks as a kind of praise for the 1978 legislation.

READ: Pontifical Academy for Life defends new book supporting contraception: ‘What is dissent today, can change’

Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò castigated the prelate over his comments, suggesting that Paglia’s words, which he said were “scandalous,” “contradict the Gospel and the teaching of the Roman Pontiffs” on the sanctity of life and the false “right to abortion.”

Jacob Coghe of the Italian pro-life organization Pro Vita & Famiglia said that Paglia’s discussion of Law 194 failed to “deny the intrinsic iniquity” of the pro-abortion legislation. “We do not understand how a law that kills harmless and innocent human lives can be a ‘pillar’ of society,” he said.

In response, the PAV released a press statement Monday morning stressing the prelate’s intention to simply express that the law – which paved the way for the murder of over 6 million babies in the country – has become “entrenched in the Italian legal system” rather than to convey “a positive view” of the law.

The pontifical academy instead highlighted Paglia’s later remarks regarding the same law, in which he emphasized the “right to motherhood” and made comments “to counteract the dramatic decline in birth rates and the resulting lack of support for the elderly that the country is experiencing.”

“I would predict an accentuation of that part [of Law 194] that is not being implemented: the right to motherhood, seeing our country grow in the face of a rather dramatic imbalance between generations,” Paglia said. “I would urge us to look with confidence at a country that wants to live in freedom, in development, in progress. I believe that the birth crisis is a problem that we have unfortunately not thought about, and it is already too late … It is part of the lack of vision I mentioned earlier: alongside rights there are duties.”

Later in the interview, which was focused on the upcoming Italian general elections, a video recording posted by La Nuova Bussola Quotidiana shows host Giorgia Rombolà state that Law 194 was “not up for debate,” to which Paglia responded, “No, absolutely not.”

The video published only the brief comments by Paglia and did not provide their context.

The PAV has garnered a reputation for failing to defend important life matters in recent years, with Paglia no longer requiring new academy members sign a statement confirming their union with Church teaching on the defense of life.

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

Paglia also defended the abortion-tainted shots against COVID-19 while denigrating those with objections and even promoting their uptake for children as a way to “protect … the greatest number of people possible.”

Last month, the PAV drew criticism after publishing a book, “Theological Ethics of Life. Scripture, Tradition, Practical Challenges,” which proposes both contraception and artificial insemination as morally acceptable, even though the Magisterium has definitively condemned each practice.

At the release of the book, Paglia claimed that the intention of it is to open “a dialogue between … different opinions, including on controversial topics, offering many points for discussion” and added that “ the perspective [of the book] is that of rendering a service to the Magisterium.”

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