More than 150 students have signed a letter protesting against sweeping changes to the John Paul II Institute in Rome. The institute, founded to study issues around the family, bioethics and moral theology, is being reformed under new statues, which the leaders say follow Pope Francis’s reform plans.
The students expressed concern that two professors, Mgr Livio Melina and Fr José Noriega, are being removed, and that the curriculum is being overhauled.
What the critics said
The students said that the new programme of studies would mean the end of the institute’s identity, and make it too secular in its focus.
A faculty member told the Catholic News Agency that the reforms would give almost all power over new appointments to the chancellor, Archbishop Vincenzo Paglia. The faculty had previously had a major role in hiring decisions, in order to preserve the continuity of the institute’s identity.
At Catholic World Report, George Weigel said that “ruthless men” were attacking St John Paul’s legacy: “They have now abandoned argument and resorted to thuggery and brute force in order to win what they had failed to win by scholarly debate and persuasion.” It showed, Weigel wrote, the power of a “cabal of ambitious (and, frankly, not-so-bright) clerics”.
What the institute said
Archbishop Paglia tweeted that “To provide context for discussion of the recent positive and carefully thought-out developments reflected in the charter and bylaws”, one needed to look at Pope Francis’s decisions relating to the institute. The Pope had effectively “dissolved” the institute and created a new one, Archbishop Paglia said, “while at the same time expanding and by no means abandoning the mission of its predecessor”.
In a statement, the institute said that the coverage had been “distorted” and “biased”. The reforms would be an “enlargement” of the programme, the institute said. It added that Mgr Melina was no longer present because there was no longer a “chair of fundamental moral theology that he has occupied until today”. (Christopher Altieri, page 10, and Fr Raymond de Souza, page 19)
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