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Pope gives new name, new focus to John Paul II Institute on Marriage and Family

September 19, 2017

With a motu proprio issued on September 19, Pope Francis has closed the Vatican Institute set up by St. John Paul II to study marriage and family life, replacing it with a new Institute with a different name and a different focus.

The papal document, Summa Familiae Cura, formally ends the work that was begun in 1981 as the Pontifical John Paul II Institute for Studies on Marriage and the Family. In its place the motu proprio establishes the Pontifical John Paul II Theological Institute for Marriage and Family Sciences. The new Institute is intended to take a different approach to the study of family life, reflecting the work of the two recent Synod meetings and the Pope’s own apostolic exhortation, Amoris Laetitia.

While praising the vision of his predecessor, Pope Francis says that the revision of the Institute is a response to “the new pastoral challenges to which the Christian community is called to respond.” He writes:

Anthropological-cultural change, that today influences all aspects of life and requires an analytic and diversified approach, does not permit us to limit ourselves to practices in pastoral ministry and mission that reflect forms and models of the past.

In Summa Familiae Cura the Pope returns to the theme that he emphasized in Amoris Laetitia, saying that the Church must respond to the needs of troubled families and couples struggling with their marriages, in a society that no longer supports the Christian understanding of marriage. Pope Francis stressed the need for the Church to incorporate the perspectives of contemporary science in analyzing family life.

Archbishop Vincenzo Paglia, who is the chancellor of the new Institute, told Vatican Radio that a key focus of its work would be “dialogue with all the human sciences, because the family today rediscovers its vocation, not in the abstract.”

Archbishop Paglia said that the new Institute will build in the “great insight” of Pope John Paul II. He argued the Pope Francis has achieved a fuller “realization” of his predecessor’s teaching on marriage, in his own document Amoris Laetitia, which will be the inspiration for the Institute.

The establishment of the new Institute completes a thorough remodeling of the Vatican body that was created by Pope John Paul II and acted as a strong voice for the fulfillment of the Polish Pontiff’s teaching on marriage and family life. Pope Francis had already changed the leadership of the Institute, its statutes, and its members. While the new Institute, renamed and revised, is clearly a change from his predecessor’s vision, Pope Francis wrote that it would be “essential that the original inspiration that gave life to the former Institute for Studies on Marriage and Family continue to bear fruit in the broader field of activity of the new Theological Institute.”

The new Institute, like the old, will work within the Pontifical Lateran University, and in close association with the Congregation for Catholic Education, the Pontifical Academy for Life, and the dicastery for Laity, Family, and Life.

 
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  • Posted by: Dr. Dundon - Sep. 20, 2017 3:25 PM ET USA

    Your author points out that " Pope Francis stressed the need for the Church to incorporate the perspectives of contemporary science in analyzing family life." History of science reveals a disturbing frequency of fraud being passed off as science, e.g. Margaret Mead, Freud, Adler, some economists. We need to distinguish between scientific work and finished science. The new institute should teach a critical history of science. Dr. D.

  • Posted by: dover beachcomber - Sep. 20, 2017 1:41 AM ET USA

    With Francis, it's always the same message: disruption and discontinuity.

  • Posted by: jalsardl5053 - Sep. 20, 2017 12:19 AM ET USA

    It's really tough to be optimistic on this for three reasons. 1) Nothing was broke so don't "fix" it. 2) The (shudder) language used "justifying" the change; 3) the (shudder) emphasis on Amoris Laetitia. Speaking of which, what happened to our 4 stalwarts?

  • Posted by: feedback - Sep. 19, 2017 8:09 PM ET USA

    "The Church [needs] to incorporate the perspectives of contemporary science in analyzing family life." This sounds to me very-very suspicious. I hope, I'm wrong.

  • Posted by: Jerome - Sep. 19, 2017 4:13 PM ET USA

    Ouch. That's harsh. That's all I'm going say. I suppose he is trying to make the church more relevant in the modern world but he is making it less relevant to me.