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Father Maurizio ChiodiDiane Montagna / LifeSiteNews

ROME, July 30, 2019 (LifeSiteNews) — An Italian moral theologian who has argued that “responsible parenthood” can obligate a married couple to use artificial birth control has been invited to teach at the newly established John Paul II Institute in Rome, LifeSite has confirmed.

Two informed sources in Rome told LifeSite that Fr. Maurizio Chiodi, a professor of moral theology at the Northern University of Milan and new member of the Pontifical Academy for Life, has been invited to teach at the new institute, but his official appointment is still pending.

News regarding Fr. Chiodi’s potential teaching post at the restyled JPII institute comes in the wake of last week’s “purge” of orthodox professors and respected leaders, including the successor of Cardinal Carlo Caffarra and chair of fundamental moral theology, Msgr. Livio Melina, and the chair of special moral theology, Fr. José Noriega.

The suspension of all professors and dismissal of Msgr. Melina and Fr. Noriega followed the approval of new statutes crafted under the direction of institute chancellor, Archbishop Vincenzo Paglia. These were in response to Pope Francis’s 2017 decree replacing the institute founded by Pope John Paul II with a new institute to carry forward the teaching of Amoris Laetitia.

According to recent reports in Italian media, Fr. Chiodi is seen as a “favorite” for guiding the direction of moral theology at the new institute. He is described as a “disciple” of Cardinal Caffarra’s “old adversary,” German priest Bernard Haering, “the most in vogue moral theologian among progressives after Vatican II.”

Heterodox on Humanae Vitae

In 2018, at a public lecture held at the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome, Fr. Chiodi said that there are “circumstances — I refer to Amoris Laetitia, Chapter 8 — that precisely for the sake of responsibility, require contraception.” 

When “natural methods are impossible or unfeasible, other forms of responsibility need to be found,” argued Fr. Chiodi in his lecture, entitled Re-reading Humanae Vitae (1968) in light of Amoris Laetitia (2016).

In such circumstances, Chiodi said, “an artificial method for the regulation of births could be recognized as an act of responsibility that is carried out, not in order to radically reject the gift of a child, but because in those situations responsibility calls the couple and the family to other forms of welcome and hospitality.”

Fr. Chiodi’s comments came as the Church marked the 50th anniversary of Pope Paul VI’s encyclical Humanae Vitae, which reaffirmed the Church’s ban on contraception. In his encyclical, Paul VI called artificial contraception “intrinsically wrong,” approved natural family planning, and upheld the Church’s teaching on conjugal love and responsible parenthood.

The lecture took place after Pope Francis purged the Pontifical Academy for Life, filling it with new appointees (including Fr. Chiodi), some with dissenting views on Humanae Vitae.

The Italian Fr. James Martin?

More recently, Fr. Chiodi openly expressed heterodox positions on homosexuality, arguing that we need to go beyond “nature” and consider the possibility that homosexual acts can in certain circumstances be morally good. 

In a July 29 interview with Luciano Moia of Avvenire, the official newspaper of the Italian Bishops’ Conference, Fr. Chiodi was asked if he agrees “with those who argue that acts within a homosexual couple should be evaluated on the basis of the spiritual fruits they produce, whether or not they are ordered to build up the good of the person?” 

Initially seeming to suggest that persons with same-sex attraction are called to live in perfect continence, Fr. Chiodi said: “The homosexual person is also called, in his specific way, to follow a path of chaste, virtuous relationships, capable of friendship and brotherhood. No one can escape this commitment, which is born of the gift of God.” 

However, the Italian moral theologian then suggested, on the basis of Amoris Laetitia, that sexual acts within a homosexual relationship can be good, at least in certain circumstances. 

“As Pope Francis recalled, even if regarding another issue — the ‘divorced and remarried’ — it is clear that, within a historical perspective, each person is asked not only what is possible for him, but also what is possible for him in a specific moment of life,” Fr. Chiodi said.

He continued: “It is clear that, within a historical perspective, everyone is asked not only what is possible for them, but also what is possible for them at a given time in their lives. From this point of view, it seems to me that it is difficult — indeed impossible — to give pre-packaged answers, as if all the practical answers could be deduced immediately from an anthropological theory.” 

The new member of the Pontifical Academy for Life then added: “I believe that the relationships of homosexual couples present gaps and undeniable differences that prevent them from being equated with heterosexual couples, annulling their diversity. Nevertheless, the moral task concerns actual possibilities, that is, the possible good, which considers the actual history of a subject.” 

“For this reason,” Fr. Chiodi said further, “I would not exclude that, under certain conditions, a homosexual couple’s relationship is, for that subject, the most fruitful way to live good relationships, considering their symbolic meaning, which is both personal, relational and social. This, for example, happens when the stable relationship is the only way to avoid sexual vagrancy or other forms of humiliating and degrading erotic relationships or when it is help and stimulus to walk on the road to good relationships.”

Fr. Chiodi’s comments have led at least one observer to describe him as the “Italian Fr. James Martin.”

In comments to LifeSite, a theologian observed: “As though the moral life for Christians were only a question of momentary capacity, not a question of being purified by Christ’s grace to do what natural law prompts us to do.”

“The natural law is something that prompts us from within, always as sexuated beings, inclining us towards the good, truth and community… but we can’t do it on our own, our nature is wounded, we need God’s grace,” the theologian said. 

“In the sexual realm,” the theologian further explained, “the natural law inclines both man and woman to love each other faithfully and fruitfully … thus, to regard the homosexual acts — which are intrinsically disordered and structurally unfruitful — as ‘good enough for the moment, without searching the original truth God inscribed in each person (man-woman natural inclination),’ stems from a pure Neo-Pellagianism subjectivist position! It’s an ‘all is up to us’ Theology! We don’t need God who has written the natural law in us and we don’t need Christ to redeem us!”

“Christ becomes irrelevant in such false theology,” they continued. “This theology is not merciful, it is evil, because it denies to these persons who are attracted to the same sex the only real renewal of their hearts which comes from Christ, who makes all things new and helps these persons to convert and discover the truth of God’ original plan on sexuality, where sexual difference is beautiful and intrinsically fruitful!”

In the July 29 interview with Avvenire, Fr. Chiodi also said that theologians “need to rethink” questions on homosexuality already answered by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith in a document signed by then-prefect, Cardinal Josef Ratzinger, and “overcome the temptation to respond by simply invoking human nature as an unchanging reality.” 

In the interview, Fr. Chiodi also rhetorically asked what Sacred Scripture has to say about homosexuality. In response, he said he wished do “limit himself” to Genesis 2:18, on the complementarity of man and woman, but neglected to mention Sodom and Gomorrah (Genesis 18:20-21) or St. Paul (Romans 1:26-28, 1 Cor. 6:9).

In a press release on Monday about the controversy over the reform of the John Paul II Institute, the Institute’s press office stated that they are “always available for clarification and information.” But LifeSite contacted the Institute press office on Monday by email and phone twice regarding Fr. Chiodi’s potential appointment, and we have received no reply. LifeSite also contacted Archbishop Paglia’s Secretary by email on Monday, and we have not received a reply.

RELATED: New Academy for Life member uses Amoris to say some circumstances ‘require’ contraception