ROME, July 14, 2017 (LifeSiteNews) — A high ranking Vatican archbishop who heads a pro-life Academy as well as a theological institute for marriage and family said that Christian values do not need to be defended because “they defend themselves.”
Archbishop Vincenzo Paglia dismissed concerns that Pope Francis’ controversial reforms of the Pontifical Academy for Life and the Pope John Paul II Institute for Marriage and the Family, which the Archbishop heads, signify any reluctance to fight for Christian values.
“My view is the exact opposite: I am so certain of the power of Christian values that I don’t feel a need to defend them, they defend themselves,” he said in an interview with Alfa y Omega published in English today.
Maria Madise of Voice of the Family called it “outrageous” to hear a high-ranking Vatican prelate with weighty responsibilities downplaying the need to defend Christian values.
“Archbishop Paglia’s view that Christian values do not need defending in today’s society, that they defend themselves, would be a shocking statement from any Catholic. But coming from the head of the Pontifical Academy for Life in the face of an unprecedented degradation of human life, it is outrageous,” she told LifeSiteNews.
Paglia said those who question his commitment to defending life are “losing [their] minds,” and suggested that they themselves do not defend life becasue they are not “opposed to the death penatly” or speak of “gun-related homicides in the United States.”
The Archbishop said that the challenge of preaching in the world of today’s complexities is exasperated by those who “compete with each other to see who is the most faithful to [Catholic] tradition.”
Paglia suggested in the interview that the Church’s teaching on life, marriage, and family prior to Pope Francis was inadequate in dealing with “human life in all its complexity.” He said that the Academy for Life has to “broaden its horizon” and undergo a “reform,” what he called a “widening of perspectives.”
“The Academy, which was focused on bioethical issues, has to broaden its horizons. It has to understand both life itself and the stages of life. The reform means taking the measure of human life in all its complexity, in all its aspects and conditions, in the context of the relationship between man and creation….All this requires a redesign, an [sic] widening of perspectives, more areas of study, a renewal,” he said.
Paglia is the archbishop who was featured in a homoerotic painting he commissioned in his Cathedral and who oversaw the release of a controversial sex-ed program last year during World Youth Day in Poland.
He called the reform currently being implemented by the order of Pope Francis in the institutions he oversees a “new strategy” and an “ambitious project.”
When asked if the “new strategy” involves the Church retreating from the fight for the right to life of the preborn, Paglia responded in the negative. But, he then immediately criticized those who hold “strongly held positions on this question,” saying that they wage what he called “ideological battles.”
Judie Brown, President of American Life League, called Paglia’s “new strategy” an “insult to Christ and His bride, the Church.”
“Today's culture is only lacking one thing: and that is acceptance of the truth that God and His laws are the beacon of light that saves souls,” she told LifeSiteNews. “Catholic teaching is not now, nor has it ever been, nor will it ever be, deficient,” she added.
Brown said that by the Archbishop’s suggestion that the Church’s teaching on life, marriage, and family are somehow now deficient in answering the complexities of today amounts to a betrayal of the Church and the God he claims to serve.
“What Paglia is saying betrays not only Church teaching but is exemplary of the mental picture I have of him spitting in the face of Christ himself. His words are an insult to truth,” she said.
Michael Hichborn, president of the U.S.-based Lepanto Institute criticized Paglia’s “new strategy.”
“The saints throughout history never plotted, planned, or strategized their way to making converts, but simply preached the truth in all places,” he told LifeSiteNews.
“If Archbishop Paglia wants to try something novel, perhaps he should suggest that priests preach from all pulpits throughout the world in no uncertain terms that abortion, contraception, and sodomy are all condemned, and those engaged in these practices are in danger of Hell,” he added.
Hichborn said that the “fastest way to distort a simple Truth is to write all over it.”
“The Church has been consistently clear in Her teachings on human life, sexuality and the family, and anyone saying otherwise either hasn't paid attention or has an agenda to the contrary,” he said.
For his part however, Archbishop Paglia says, “Life in its fullest sense needs an approach that is more articulated than simply repeating a principle that is described as non-negotiable,” he said.
But the Catholic Church has always taught that there are certain non-negotiables that faithful Catholics may never compromise.
In a 2011 address on how Catholics should vote, Pope Benedict called the issues of life, family, and parental rights in education “not negotiable.”
“As far as the Catholic Church is concerned, the principal focus of her interventions in the public arena is the protection and promotion of the dignity of the person, and she is thereby consciously drawing particular attention to principles which are not negotiable,” he said. Benedict specifically mentioned that “protection of life in all its stages, from the first moment of conception until natural death” is the first non-negotiable on the list.
Paglia says however that the Church needs a “greater depth in our defense of life, greater effectiveness, and as many allies as possible.”
“That means a new strategy, one that is much more complex and broad,” he said.
Voice of the Family’s Maria Madise said that Paglia’s responses in the interview give the impression that the Archbishop has no grasp of the Church’s teaching and does not understand the purposes of the institutions he heads.
“Shifting the focus to the development of broad and complex strategies rather than defending ‘non-negotiable principles,’ gives an impression that Paglia does not understand the Catholic Faith nor the purpose of the Academy he heads,” she said.
“At the time when the shepherds refuse to “preach the word: be instant (prepared) in season, out of season: reprove, entreat, rebuke in all patience and doctrine,” inevitably more responsibility falls on lay people. We have the means of prayer and sacrifice, in particular, the Holy Rosary. We should work and pray ceaselessly for the authentic restoration of leadership in the Church that will defend unborn children and their families,” she said.