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A papal commission reconsidering Humanae Vitae? No, but...

By Phil Lawler ( bio - articles - email ) | Jun 23, 2017

The good news is that, contrary to a widespread rumor, Pope Francis has not ordered a commission to reconsider the teaching of Humanae Vitae in the light of Amoris Laetitia.

The bad news is that the commission exists. Call it a “study group” if you prefer, but there is a scholarly panel, working under the auspices of a pontifical institute, preparing a reappraisal of Humanae Vitae.

Msgr. Gilfredo Marengo, who chairs the group, told the Catholic News Agency that “the issue of a conciliation between Amoris Laetitia and Humanae Vitae is not on the agenda.” Less reassuringly, he said that he was not interested in finding “answers to useless questions,” and he favored “decentralization of doctrinal issues.”

Msgr. Marengo’s commission is sponsored by the Pontifical Institute John Paul II for Studies on Studies on Marriage and Family, which—as its name suggests—was established as a bulwark of support for the great Polish Pontiff’s groundbreaking work on human sexuality and the “theology of the body.” But the John Paul Institute has been gutted and remodeled under Pope Francis, as has its parent institution, the Pontifical Academy for Life.

Archbishop Vincenzo Paglia, the president of the Pontifical Academy for Life, told Andrea Gagliarducci that “we should look positively on all those initiatives, such as that of Professor Marengo of the John Paul II Institute, which aim at studying and deepening [Humanae Vitae] in view of the 50th anniversary of its publication.” But we could have relied on the “old” John Paul II Institute to produce a solid defense of the central argument of Humanae Vitae. We can’t expect the same today.

Archbishop Paglia assured Gagliarducci that “there is no pontifical commission called to re-read or to re-interpret Humanae Vitae.” OK, Pope Francis didn’t appoint the commission. He didn’t need to. By appointing Archbishop Paglia, and appointing the new members of the Pontifical Academy for Life, he ensured that these institutions would take a new direction.

Or put it this way: Pope Francis didn’t appoint the commission that is now studying Humanae Vitae. But that commission wouldn’t exist within the Vatican if it didn’t have the Pope’s implicit approval.

Phil Lawler has been a Catholic journalist for more than 30 years. He has edited several Catholic magazines and written eight books. Founder of Catholic World News, he is the news director and lead analyst at CatholicCulture.org. See full bio.

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