Pontifical Academy for Life
The Pontifical Academy for Life or Pontificia Accademia Pro Vita is a Pontifical Academy of the Roman Catholic Church dedicated to promoting the Church's consistent life ethic. It also does related research on bioethics and Catholic moral theology.
Founded in 1994, the Academy is dedicated to "study, information and formation on the principal problems of biomedicine and of law, relative to the promotion and defense of life, above all in the direct relation that they have with Christian morality and the directives of the Church's Magisterium".
Though the Academy is considered an autonomous entity, it is linked to the Pontifical Council for Pastoral Assistance to Health Care Workers and various other dicasteries of the Roman Curia.
The Academy members are named by the Pope. They are selected to represent different branches of biomedical sciences and ethics which are closely linked with problems concerning the promotion and defense of life. There are also ad honorem members and corresponding members who work in the Academy's institutes and centers of study.
The Academy is responsible for the development and promotion of many of the Catholic teachings on questions of medical ethics including procreation, IVF, gene therapy, euthanasia and abortion. It was also responsible for forming, in part, the Church's response to sexual abuse allegations.
On 14 February 2010, Pope Benedict XVI addressed members of the Academy to encourage them in their mission. He reiterated Catholic opposition to legislation relating to biomedical or ethical issues that is adopted without moral considerations.
In February 2012, the Academy presented a one-day workshop on moral responses to infertility, specifically the need for the scientific community to prevent infertility and develop ethical alternatives to in vitro fertilization. Academy member Josef Seifert, an Austrian philosopher, and several others later complained that the meeting included speakers who did not oppose in vitro fertilization and objected to including supporters of embryonic stem cell research to participate in a Vatican-sponsored conference on stem cell research. Cardinal Gianfranco Ravasi, head of the Pontifical Council for Culture, defended dialogue with scientists who did not share the Church's views on moral issues, while Michel Schooyans, an Academy member, said such dialogue under Vatican auspices was "compromising the Vatican" and likely to confuse the faithful.
In 2020, the Academy hosted a workshop "Roboethics: Humans, Machines and Health" that accommodated scientists and church representatives. They discussed moral issues related to the rapid development of AI and robotics, a set of values to be established around these new technologies, their role in the life of society, and the rights that should be given to humans and new forms of autonomous technology. Participants agreed on the importance of technical research and scheduled another AI-focused meeting for the next year.
New statutes and members, 2016
On 18 October 2016, Pope Francis approved new statutes for the Academy, which ended the life terms of all its 172 current members. The statutes were made public on 5 November and scheduled to take effect on 1 January 2017. The new statutes dropped a statement Academy members had been required to sign, promising to defend life in accordance with Church teaching, though they required members to "promote and defend the principles regarding the value of life and the dignity of the human person interpreted in conformity with the Magisterium of the Church". They also established that members would be selected "without any religious discrimination" and that members would be appointed to five-year renewable terms rather than for life.
On 13 June 2017, Pope Francis appointed 45 ordinary members from 27 countries; thirteen were reappointments. A minority were Catholic clergy. Their five-year terms can be renewed until the mandatory retirement age of 80. Included were an Argentine rabbi and an Anglican priest. Academy president Vincenzo Paglia said that the inclusion of non-Catholics, "either belonging to other religions or nonbelievers", was meant to demonstrate that "the protection and promotion of human life knows no divisions and can be assured only through common endeavor". Five past leaders of the academy were also named honorary members. The members included such prominent "champions of the pro-life cause" as the American Carl A. Anderson, Supreme Knight of the Knights of Columbus, and Cardinal Willem Eijk, Archbishop of Utrecht. The new member whose views were most at odds with Church teaching was Nigel Biggar of the University of Oxford who, though an opponent of assisted suicide legislation, once suggested abortion might be licit during the first eighteen weeks of a pregnancy. Some of those not reappointed had been among the more vocal critics of Paglia or known for their "combative tone", including Michel Schooyans, professor emeritus at the Catholic University of Louvain, and Luke Gormally, a former research professor at Ave Maria School of Law.
Presidents of the Academy
- Jérôme Lejeune (1994)
- Juan de Dios Vial Correa (1994–2004)
- Elio Sgreccia (3 January 2005 – 17 June 2008)
- Salvatore Fisichella (17 June 2008 – 30 June 2010)
- Ignacio Carrasco de Paula (30 June 2010 – 15 August 2016)
- Vincenzo Paglia (15 August 2016 – present)
- Richard Doerflinger
- Wim Eijk
- John Finnis
- Anthony Fisher
- Michel Schooyans
- Robert Spaemann
- Lord Nicholas Windsor
Former members include:
- Agni Vlavianos Arvanitis (13 July 1996 – 13 July 2011)
- John Irving Fleming (13 July 1996 – 13 July 2016)
- "PONTIFICAL ACADEMIES FOR SCIENCE, SOCIAL SCIENCES, LIFE". Retrieved 10 July 2012.
- Academia Vita – Publications Archived 27 September 2009 at the Wayback Machine
- "Papal address to the Pontifical Academy of Life". Zenit News Agency. 14 February 2010. Archived from the original on 9 October 2011.
- Kerr, David (23 February 2012). "Vatican workshop focuses on ethical treatment of infertility". Catholic New Agency. Retrieved 15 June 2017.
- Kerr, David (27 February 2012). "Bioethicist welcomes Pope's call for ethical infertility treatments". Catholic New Agency. Retrieved 15 June 2017.
- Allen Jr., John L. (30 May 2012). "Vatican academy mulls how pro-life is pro-life enough". National Catholic Reporter. Retrieved 15 June 2017.
- Glatz, Carol (5 November 2012). "Well-formed faith makes dialogue with opponents easier, cardinal says". Catholic News Service. Retrieved 15 June 2017.
- Copestake, Jen (24 March 2019). "Pope Francis and the future of robots". BBC News. Retrieved 2 March 2020.
- "Statute of the Pontifical Academy for Life, 05.11.2016" (Press release). Holy See Press Office. 5 November 2016. Retrieved 15 June 2017.
- "Pope Francis overhauls the Vatican's pro-life beachhead". CRUX. 13 June 2017. Retrieved 15 June 2017.
- Wooden, Cindy (7 November 2016). "Pope Issues New Statutes for Pontifical Academy for Life". Boston Pilot. Catholic News Service. Retrieved 15 June 2017.
- Arocho Esteves, Ernesto (13 June 2017). "Pope names members for renewed Pontifical Academy for Life". National Catholic Reporter. Catholic News Service. Retrieved 15 June 2017.
- "Philosopher who backs legal abortion appointed to Vatican pro-life academy". Catholic Herald. 13 June 2017. Retrieved 15 June 2017.
- Pontifical Academy for Life:About us, retrieved 6 February 2017
- Pontifical Academy for Life:About us: Former members Archived 31 July 2017 at the Wayback Machine, retrieved 23 February 2017