On July 24, 241 students and alumni at the Pontifical John Paul II Institute for Marriage and Family Sciences in Rome signed a letter expressing their frustration over newly approved statutes, saying the new direction will undermine the institute’s identity and curriculum. The letter was previously sent to Archbishop Vincenzo Paglia, the institute’s grand chancellor, and Msgr. Pierangelo Sequeri, its president.
The institute, whose statutes were approved June 19 and published July 18, is accused of carrying out a purge of renowned and long-serving professors, thereby putting in jeopardy the heritage of the institute’s namesake.
The promulgation of the new statutes follows the 2017 apostolic letter Summa Familiae Cura, in which Pope Francis established the dissolution of the John Paul II Institute and the erection of a new institute that would focus on theology to include the “science of the family.” In this interview with the Register, Father José Granados, a priest of the Disciples of the Hearts of Jesus and Mary and a tenured professor of dogmatic theology and vice president of Rome’s John Paul II Institute since 2011, expresses his concern over the institute’s future and discusses the stakes of the preservation of John Paul II’s teachings in today’s society. One of the priests dismissed, Father José Noriega, is the superior general of Father Granados’ order.
The new statutes of the institute are said to weaken John Paul II’s heritage, especially his teachings developed in Veritatis Splendor (1993), which is considered a defense against the pervading relativism in our culture. Do you agree with that?
The new statutes diminish by half the teachings in moral theology. In the 2011 statutes there were three chairs on moral theology (fundamental moral theology, special moral theology, and bioethics). In the 2019 statues the last two remain, with different names (moral theology of love and marriage, theological ethics of life), although the “moral theology of love” will have only half of the credits than most of the other chairs.
The fact that the chair on fundamental moral theology was suppressed is very worrying, for this is the chair that deals with Veritatis Splendor. Questions like “What is flourishing in life?”; “what are the virtues?”; “what is conscience”; “what acts are intrinsically evil?” are raised in this chair. These questions are crucial in order to be able to reflect on the special cases of marriage and the family. Without first reflecting on these questions, we would not understand why, as the pope emeritus says in his “Notes on the Sexual Abuse in the Church,” there are certain actions that can never be ordered towards God [intrinsically evil acts]. This is especially important in the field of sexual morality, as in the defense of life (the application of the Fifth and Sixth Commandments), two matters crucial for the John Paul II Institute. Obviously, this chair is not only about intrinsically evil actions: It teaches, above all, the power of Christ’s grace so that human action can be in pursuit of the good and [this grace can] help us live a great and beautiful life. This dignity of the human being and of his action in the light of Christ was crucial to John Paul II, who was also a moral theologian and put special care that this chair be entrusted to the first president, the late Cardinal [Carlo] Caffarra.
The reason given by the press office of the institute for the suppression of this chair is that fundamental moral theology is taught at the bachelor of sacred theology (STB) level, so students should know it by the time they enter the institute. Now, one should ask this question to the press office of the institute: Why, then, was the chair on theological anthropology not suppressed? Why was a chair on fundamental theology added? Both are subject matters taught at the STB level. Moreover, why have there been no problems in the 38 years of the existence of the chair?
We need to see who they are going to invite now to teach moral theology. But if rumors are confirmed — if professor Maurizio Chiodi (a priest who teaches, in some cases, both the admissibility of contraception and homosexual acts as a “possible good”) is appointed — then it would not only be a question of a weakening, but actually the eradication of John Paul II’s heritage. And this is not because John Paul II’s approach was focused on norms, but because his approach was focused on the dignity of the person, on the sanctity of the person’s body and on the person’s vocation to true love.
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