(the daily newspaper of the Italian Bishops’ Conference)
Care for Families - No purges at the John Paul II Pontifical Institute
by: Luciano Moia, Tuesday, July 30, 2019
No purges, no wanting to erase what was built by Pope Wojtyla, no strategy for sidelining moral theology and replacing it with a confused postmodernist sociology. The back and forth of rumors these days on social media and some other outlets—no matter how specious or how illinformed!—have tried to paint the renewal of the Pontifical Theological Institute “John Paul II,” (which was called for by Pope Francis in his Motu Proprio Summa Familiae Cura) as a strategy for watering down highly specialized family studies. How much is true in this story line? Nothing at all. Most of the teachers who were already on the faculty of the predecessor institution will be with the new one. As required by the new Charter, letters were sent out some days ago announcing— as set forth in the Motu Proprio—the dissolution of the predecessor institution and therefore, in accordance with canon law, the expiry of its faculty appointments. And now corresponding letters of appointment are being sent to almost all the same faculty members.
Likewise, new members will be added. The only two cases of the non-renewal of full professors could not have been handled otherwise. The first concerned Father José Noriega Bastos who, as superior general of the Religious Institute “Discípulos de los Corazones de Jesús y María,” cannot be at the same time the holder of a Chair in a Pontifical institution. The provisions of Veritatis Gaudium (n. 29) and Canon 152 of the Code of Canon Law are clear on this point. A bishop, a superior general, and even a parish priest, cannot be full professors while holding those offices. This was the reason for the non-renewal of Father Noriega. The second case concerned Father Livio Melina, one of the founders of Communion and Liberation in the Veneto Region, the former President of the John Paul IIInstitute and Professor of Fundamental Moral Theology. His non-renewal results from the fact that that Chair has been divided into two new Chairs, one dealing with the Moral Theology of Marriage and the Family, and one dealing with the Theological Ethics of Life, as the “John Paul II” Institute explained in its Press Release. Thus, Moral Theologyis in the curriculum of the Institute, but it is Moral Theology “of Marriage and the Family,” just as what is studied will no longer be generic Sacramental Theology but rather Sacramental Theology of Marriage and the Family. And all the new course offerings, consistent with the fact that the new Institute, unlike its predecessor, is empowered to grant its own academic degrees, will be designed to illuminate “...the events of history, [through which] the Church can...be guided to a
more profound understanding of the inexhaustible mysteryof marriage and the family,...” as St. John Paul II wrote in Familiaris Consortio (Art. 4). And, with respect to St. John Paul II and the Chair named after him, there will be no “firing” of Professor Stanislaw Grygiel, who was first a student of the Polish Pope, and then his friend and advisor. Notwithstanding his 85 years, and precisely because of the historical memory he represents, he will continue to hold the Chair named after Karol Wojtyla. As provided in the new Institute’s Charter, the choice of faculty pursuant to open competitions (apart from the special circumstances of the first appointments), will make it possible for the Institute to find teachers of the highest quality. Likewise, the rumors about students not being able to finish their studies are entirely misleading. Article 89 of the Charter provides that all students “enrolled in the Institute's courses of study, may, as allowed by the Charter and Bylaws, choose to continue the training provided therein, or proceed with the transition to the new order.” So, here too, much ado about nothing!
But, does this description of a reorganization that is very normal from a canonical and academic perspective tell the whole story about the changes in the John Paul II Institute?
Probably not. No one can forget that during the intense period of the two Family Synods, and in the months following the publication of Amoris laetitia, some of the senior representatives of the Institute as well as some professors, were extremely active, in publications, declarations, and speeches at congresses and conferences, in efforts to minimize the importance of the new directions called for by Pope Francis. So much exaggerated criticism of the work of the two Synods, and of the Post-synodal Exhortation! Attacks that were all the more regrettable because they came from deep within the institution that was supposed to represent, in the world of specialized training, one of prime movers of renewal, not a sort of fifth column. If someone boasts the title of “Pontifical,” and accepts the honors and responsibilities that go with it—as well as the salary—shouldn’t that person behave in a manner consistent with that choice? But on this point both Archbishop Vincenzo Paglia, the Grand Chancellor of the “John Paul II,” and its President, Monsignor Pierangelo Sequeri, prefer to ignore personal polemics and instead concentrate on the continuity of the inspiration that expands the horizon of research in order to give new life to the family and to its mission and vocation in today's world.