Catholic Culture Resources
Catholic Culture Resources

Does Archbishop Paglia illustrate the “lessness” of Francis?

By Dr. Jeff Mirus ( bio - articles - email ) | Apr 25, 2023

Archbishop Vincenzo Paglia is clearly one of the worst of those bishops who are so highly favored by Pope Francis, and his continued favor amply demonstrates what we can only call the Pope’s “lessness”—that is, either “recklessness” or “fecklessness”. It would require supernatural insight to speak of “faithlessness”, but it does not take a supernatural observer to see the damage that is being done.

Now Archbishop Paglia, who was installed as the president of the Pontifical Academy for Life by Pope Francis in 2016, has made news again by asserting that the Church might accept the decriminalization of assisted suicide. This in itself is mostly confusing, since the Church is rarely in a position to accept or reject a civil law. Admittedly, even “approving” of the decriminalization of suicide is a strange litmus test, because one always wonders about the point of threatening a potential suicide with the full majesty of the law. But of course Archbishop Paglia had already indicated that he would be willing to “hold the hand” of someone who was in the process of committing suicide, in effect supporting and comforting them in the commission of a very grave evil. And, again of course, assisted suicide is murder.

I am commenting here on our news story, Vatican archbishop open to decriminalization of assisted suicide, which includes significant quoted gibberish.

This does not mean that Archbishop Paglia has never been able to say anything good. Back in 2013, when I was still a naïve babe-in-the-woods, I commended Paglia for favoring subsidiarity as President of the Pontifical Council for the Family.

Downhill from there

At the time, I was not aware of then Bishop Paglia’s commission in 2007 to an Argentinian homosexual for a homoerotic mural in his cathedral in Terni-Narni-Amelia, featuring a depiction of Paglia himself in the naked embrace of another man. Since that time, however, Paglia has been appointed by Pope Francis as both President of the Pontifical Academy for Life and Chancellor of the Pontifical Institute for Studies on Marriage and Family (since refounded by Pope Francis with a “broader” mission as the John Paul II Pontifical Theological Institute for Marriage and Family Sciences). By then, however, we had become painfully aware of Paglia’s shortcomings.

Phil Lawler sounded the Paglia alarm bells in 2016 by raising the following question: Is the Vatican, under Pope Francis, moving away from teachings of John Paul II on life and marriage? Phil followed this in 2019 with Understanding an ideological purge at the Vatican. And in 2020, Phil noticed A shocking Vatican perspective on the pandemic.

For my part, still following Paglia in 2017, I added Quick Hits: News that demands comment on matters of life and death, and I wrote again in 2020, when I realized how weak Paglia was on the question of abortion: Archbishop Paglia buries the abortion issue…again.

Indeed, using his pre-eminent position for speaking on life issues, the archbishop has done untold damage while continuing to enjoy pontifical favor. Last year, Fr. Jerry Pokorsky decided to make the fault lines even clearer by drawing attention to Paglia’s generalized blather about a “paradigm shift” in moral theology—seeming to call the Church’s understanding of the natural law into continuous question, including the problem with homosexuality. See both Déjà vu All Over Again and Going the Wrong Way with Studied Ambiguity.

In late 2022, Phil Lawler added to the dossier with Now the Pontifical Academy for Life adopts ‘pro-choice’ rhetoric and A hostile takeover of the Pontifical Academy for Life.

Do not pass GO

This brings us back to the latest issue, the one with which I began: The predictable gibberish about assisted suicide. At every stage, Paglia (much like Pope Francis) will speak in a manner which the dominant secular culture finds to be “open” and “compassionate” but which mysteriously lacks precision. Like Pope Francis himself, Paglia not only avoids the “hard sayings” of the Gospel to which so many are unwilling to listen but also repeatedly handles the truth so carelessly that we must suppose fecklessness and recklessness in order to avoid the conclusion of faithlessness. In this Paglia rather resembles the two Francis-appointees with the highest profiles in our own country: Cardinals Blaise Cupich in Chicago and Robert McElroy in San Diego.

Thus are Catholics who try to strengthen the Church continually frustrated, not only when they seek to restore her doctrinal and moral commitment to Christ but even when they desire simply to make progress in their own union with God. They must continually ask themselves whether the Faith is not the Faith at all. They must continually wonder why, after all these centuries, it is now perfectly acceptable for Catholics to ignore or explain away the dangers posed by the world, the flesh and the devil. They must assume that the right way to evangelize is to paste a Christian veneer over whatever the world wants to hear at each particular moment.

So I ask: Is the key to religion the creation of a moral vacuum? Is the Catholic faith reducible to good feelings? Is obscuring the truth the way to virtue? May we sin happily as long as, by common agreement, we no longer call it sin? In a world in which obfuscation is not only a staple of education but the very key to happiness, the words “recklessness and fecklessness” may be—at least sometimes—damning with faint praise.

Jeffrey Mirus holds a Ph.D. in intellectual history from Princeton University. A co-founder of Christendom College, he also pioneered Catholic Internet services. He is the founder of Trinity Communications and See full bio.

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  • Posted by: CorneliusG - Apr. 28, 2023 6:48 PM ET USA

    It doesn't require "supernatural insight" to declare faithlessness. When it walks like a duck, quacks like a duck, etc., and has done so for a decade or more, only a benighted fool would not call it a duck.

  • Posted by: esalex947010 - Apr. 26, 2023 2:30 PM ET USA

    For whatever reason men who are hostile to the success of the divinely appointed mission of the Catholic Church have been permitted to inhabit her higher clerical ranks. It is reminiscent of another group of high-ranking priests and the decisions they made around the year 33 AD. That aside Catholic teaching is still Catholic teaching whatever our dimwit Cardinals proclaim. It makes no difference and it is no excuse for not following what the Church has always and very much still teaches.

  • Posted by: Retired01 - Apr. 25, 2023 7:07 PM ET USA

    In our own country we can also add to cardinals Cupich and McElroy cardinals Tobin and Gregory. We can also recall Pope Francis praising Fr. Martin and that "valiant woman," Sr. Gramick of New Ways Ministry.