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Head of Vatican pro-life academy defends appointment of Nigel Biggar

Archbishop Vincenzo Paglia (CNS)

Archbishop Vincenzo Paglia, the head of the Pontifical Council for Life, has defended the appointment of Nigel Biggar, an Anglican philosopher who has supported abortion up to 18 weeks.

In an interview with La Stampa, Archbishop Paglia said that he had not been aware of Biggar’s views at the time of the appointment. He also revealed that Biggar had been recommended for the academy by the Anglican Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby.

In 2011, Biggar told Standpoint magazine: “I would be inclined to draw the line for abortion at 18 weeks after conception, which is roughly about the earliest time when there is some evidence of brain activity, and therefore of consciousness. In terms of maintaining a strong social commitment to preserving human life in hindered forms, and in terms of not becoming too casual about killing human life, we need to draw the line much more conservatively.”

Biggar also said: “It’s not clear that a human foetus is the same kind of thing as an adult or a mature human being, and therefore deserves quite the same treatment. It then becomes a question of where we draw the line, and there is no absolutely cogent reason for drawing it in one place over another.”

Archbishop Paglia said that Biggar’s view was “certainly not my personal position, and much less the Academy.” He pointed out that Biggar has not published articles arguing his view on abortion, nor does he intend to. Biggar’s academic focus is rather on end-of-life matters, “where he has a position that coincides with Catholicism,” Archbishop Paglia said.

The archbishop told La Stampa that the Academy’s opposition to abortion would never change.

One other new appointee, Rabbi Professor Avraham Sternberg, has also supported abortion in some cases.