Pro-life leaders say Vatican’s new department ‘demotes’ life and family
ROME, October 23, 2015 (LifeSiteNews) – Pope Francis has combined the Vatican’s existing departments, or dicasteries, for life, the family, and the laity into one, a move which two prominent Catholic pro-life leaders decry as a “demotion” for life and family issues.
Pope Francis said in statement released yesterday, “I have decided to establish a new Dicastery with competency for Laity, Family and Life, that will replace the Pontifical Council for the Laity and the Pontifical Council for the Family.” He later added the Pontifical Academy for Life in the new dicastery. It follows recommendations of a relatively new Council of Cardinals Francis created to streamline the Vatican.
John Smeaton, head of the London-based Society for the Protection of the Unborn Child (SPUC) and co-founder of Voice on the Family, who is in Rome for the Synod on the Family, described the move as “a particular incident in a world war.”
Smeaton went on to warn LifeSiteNews, “There is a world war on the sanctity of life and on the family being waged by the most powerful politicians and organizations in the world.” What is more, “A small but highly influential group at the highest level in the Catholic Church structure appears to be dismantling the edifice of institutions and teachings which defend the family and defend life. It seems to be all too likely that the reduction of three dicasteries to one is in one way or another connected to the bigger program I have described.”
One lay leader took a perspective, however, arguing that the reorganization is a positive step towards a more efficient operation. “You have to look at it in that context,” Henry Capello, president of Caritas in Veritas International, an alliance of Catholic youth evangelization groups, told LifeSiteNews.
For example, the existing pontifical councils for justice and peace, migrants and Cor Unum are expected to be combined in one. Capello said that the dicasteries for the laity and the family had overlapping functions. Their combination into a single unit would fill “a need to be more co-ordinated,” and save money through downsizing of administration. “I have high expectations,” said Capello.
Steven Mosher, president of the Population Research Institute, an organization based in Virginia devoted to opposing population control programs, echoed Smeaton’s concerns however.
“This is a demotion,” Mosher, a social scientist and adult convert to Catholicism, told LifeSiteNews. “I know bureaucracies and how they work and therefore I have to see this as a move in the wrong direction. It is one step down in the hierarchy for life and family, a reduction of their influence by two thirds.”
Mosher explained that under the previous structure the heads of the dicasteries on life or the family would have had “direct access to the Holy Father.” But now those focusing on these issues would have access only to a director who split his interests three ways.
Meanwhile, the Vatican has created new secretariats for “the Economy” and “Communications.” Commented Mosher, “This reflects directly what is seen as important and what is not.”
Holy See press officer Fr. Federico Lombardi offered another perspective, stating “the council [of cardinals] also plans to give more specific attention to issues relating to the laity, so that this dimension of the life of the Church is properly and effectively recognized and followed by the governance of the Church.”