Recent remarks from the president of the Vatican’s Pontifical Academy for Life indicate that the Catholic Church continues to pivot away from defending the most vulnerable in their earliest and latest stages of existence.
Cardinal Vincenzo Paglia told an Italian journalism conference April 21 that for the sake of preserving the common societal good, the church would accept laws supporting assisted suicide.
“It cannot be excluded that in our society, a legal mediation is practicable that allows assisted suicide,” said Paglia, alluding to a judgement in 2019 from Italy’s Constitutional Court outlining limited conditions for assisted suicide. Patients must be “kept alive by life-sustaining treatments and suffering from an irreversible pathology, a source of physical or psychological suffering that he considers intolerable, but fully capable of making free and informed decisions,” it states.
The cardinal then referenced a bill the Italian Parliament is considering to expand those conditions.
“The bill approved by the Chamber of Deputies basically went along these lines,” Paglia said. “Personally, I would not practice assisting suicide, but I understand that legal mediation can constitute the greatest common good concretely possible in the conditions in which we find ourselves.”
One week before Paglia’s remarks, the Netherlands announced it approved euthanasia for children younger than 12.
Paglia’s comments drew immediate criticism. The John Paul II Academy for Human Life and the Family, which has no connection to the Vatican, demanded his resignation. Damian Thompson, who covers the Catholic Church for The Spectator in Britain, referred to the cardinal’s previous remarks on abortion in this scathing tweet:
“This Pontifical Academy of Death strikes again. It doesn’t matter what clarifications Paglia issues; the fact that he says this stuff openly illustrates the theological chaos of the Bergoglio pontificate.”
As FrontPage Magazine reported in September, Paglia stated that the church would not oppose Italy’s Law 194, which legalized abortions in the first trimester and permits them afterward only if the mother’s life is in danger or if the fetus shows “serious abnormalities or malformations,” the law states.
Tommaso Scandroglio, reporter for the Catholic newspaper La Nuova Bussola Quotidiana, perfectly described the impact: “It is as if the president of the Jewish Anti-Defamation League is declaring himself in favor of the Holocaust.”
Paglia’s remarks on assisted suicide not only contradict Catholic teaching but also Pope Francis’ public statements. The church’s catechism calls euthanasia “murder.”
“Thus an act or omission which, of itself or by intention, causes death in order to eliminate suffering constitutes a murder gravely contrary to the dignity of the human person and to the respect due to the living God, his Creator,” the catechism elaborates. “The error of judgment into which one can fall in good faith does not change the nature of this murderous act, which must always be forbidden and excluded.”
The catechism also precludes assisted suicide, even if a patient requests it.
“Even if death is thought imminent, the ordinary care owed to a sick person cannot be legitimately interrupted,” it says. “The use of painkillers to alleviate the sufferings of the dying, even at the risk of shortening their days, can be morally in conformity with human dignity if death is not willed as either an end or a means, but only foreseen and tolerated as inevitable Palliative care is a special form of disinterested charity. As such it should be encouraged.”
In a general audience 15 months before Paglia’s remarks on assisted suicide, Francis said the following:
“We must accompany people towards death, but not provoke death or facilitate any form of suicide. Remember that the right to care and treatment for all must always be prioritized, so that the weakest, particularly the elderly and the sick, are never rejected. Life is a right, not death, which must be welcomed, not administered.”
So why does Paglia still have his position?
Francis is applying the tactics of Fabian socialists to ignite the doctrinal change he desires. Francis’ public support for historic teaching mollifies inattentive Catholics. But his unwillingness to discipline favored subordinates who state diametrically opposed positions reveals his true intentions.
Indeed, those subordinates are the tools Francis uses to expedite his desired changes.
Take abortion, as FrontPage Magazine has reported in depth. On the one hand, Francis equated procuring an abortion to “hiring a hitman,” the catechism describes abortion as a “moral evil,” and canon law demands Catholics who persist “in manifest grave sin are not to be admitted to holy communion…without previous sacramental confession.”
Nevertheless, the Vatican’s official newspaper, L’Osservatore Romano, offered a tepid response to the Supreme Court’s reversal of Roe v. Wade in June. An editorial defined the issue as “a question of developing political choices that promote conditions … in favor of life” by “ensuring adequate sexual education, guaranteeing health care accessible to all and preparing legislative measures … overcoming existing inequalities.”
More importantly, the head of the Vatican’s highest theological body dissuaded American bishops in 2021 from withholding communion from Catholic politicians who support abortion. Those politicians include two of Francis’ favorites: Joe Biden, the virtual president, and Rep. Nancy Pelosi, the former House speaker. Both support Francis’ primary focus on environmental sustainability and economic redistribution.
“It would be misleading to give the impression that abortion and euthanasia alone constitute the only grave matters of Catholic moral and social teaching that demand the fullest level of accountability on the part of Catholics,” wrote Cardinal Luis Ladaria, the prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.
Like Paglia, Ladaria retains his position. So does Bologna Cardinal Matteo Zuppi, considered a possible papal successor, who called Law 194 “an important secular solution, so much so, I think, that nobody intends to call it into question.”
Take gender ideology, as FrontPage Magazine also reported in depth. Though Francis has called it “ideological colonization,” and Ladaria’s body denied German bishops in 2021 the authority to bless same-sex unions, Francis endorses three subordinates who support them: the Rev. James Martin, San Diego Cardinal Robert McElroy and Luxembourg Cardinal Jean-Claude Hollerich.
Martin, one of Francis’ communications advisors, uses his various platforms to promote gender ideology, including transgender surgery for children. McElroy called for “radical inclusion” of all LGBTQ Catholics, regardless of whether they repent from homosexual sex, which both the catechism and the Bible call immoral.
Hollerich, whom Francis appointed to his circle of closest advisors in March, even said he rejects church teaching on homosexuality. Martin, a fellow Jesuit, went so far as to question “whether the biblical judgement is correct.”
All three men’s positions reflect a trending view among Francis’ acolytes in Catholic leadership: Moral doctrine depends on human consensus, not divine revelation, as Paglia stated at the journalism conference.
“The Catholic Church does not have a package of ready-to-wear, ready-made truths, as if it were a distributor of pills of truth,” he said. “Theological thought evolves in history, in dialogue with the Magisterium and with the experience of the People of God in a dynamic of mutual enrichment.
“The Church’s intervention and witness, inasmuch as she too participates in public, intellectual, political and juridical debate, is situated on the level of culture and dialogue between consciences. The contribution of Christians is given within the different cultures, neither above – as if they possessed a truth given a priori – nor below – as if believers were bearers of a respectable opinion, but detached from history. Between believers and non-believers, there is a relationship of mutual learning.”
A professor of moral theology at St. Joseph’s Seminary in Yonkers, N.Y., the Rev. Thomas Berg, strongly disagrees.
“That’s a sad caricature of how we come to know moral truth. Missing words from Paglia’s remarks: Jesus, Gospel, grace, intrinsic evil,” Berg tweeted before issuing his ultimate rebuke to Paglia:
“His idiotic remarks serve zero purpose in the cause of defending the dignity of human life and overcoming throw-away culture.”
Yet those remarks serve a fundamental purpose in Francis’ cause of remolding the Catholic Church into an ally of secularist, materialist, globalist utopians.