The Catholic Church has been one of the leading advocates for the rights of unborn babies in the world.
This week, however, many are questioning Pope Francis’s decision to name Nigel Biggar, a philosopher who supports abortion, to the Pontifical Academy for Life. Biggar was one of 45 ordinary members appointed to the pro-life academy this month, according to a Vatican announcement.
The Pontifical Academy for Life promotes protections for human life at all stages and supports research on moral and bioethical issues. It is influential world-wide in promoting Catholic teachings on abortion, euthanasia, embryonic stem cell research and other issues involving life and family.
Biggar, a professor of theology at the University of Oxford in the United Kingdom, has made past statements in support of abortion and possibly even limited euthanasia, The National Catholic Register reports.
During a conversation with pro-abortion, pro-infanticide Professor Peter Singer, Biggar once said he thinks abortions should be legal up to 18 weeks after an unborn baby’s conception, The Catholic Herald reports.
“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,” Biggar said in 2011.
He continued: “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.”
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NCR reports more:
[Former founding academy member Christine] Vollmer called his appointment “scandalous” while Professor Luke Gormally, a British former academy member, told the Register the appointment was “shocking.” He also claimed that Biggar has no moral objection in principle to euthanizing some people, based on what he wrote in his 2004 book “Aiming to Kill: The Ethics of Suicide and Euthanasia,” although he opposes the legalization of euthanasia largely on pragmatic grounds.
In a September 2006 review of the book for the Dominican periodical New Blackfriars, author David Jones wrote: “Biggar finds the distinction of ‘biological’ human life and ‘biographical’ human life both logically defensible and morally relevant. If someone’s brain is irreparably damaged so that he or she cannot think, then according to Biggar we should conclude that he or she is no longer a human ‘person’ and no longer part of the human community. Biggar even describes such individuals as ‘irretrievably inaccessible to human care’ so that it means nothing to protect them from being killed nor therefore (and this is my deduction) to visit, clothe or feed them.”
Biggar’s appointment more than likely will resurrect questions about the pope’s commitment to protecting life, especially unborn babies. When Pope Francis first was elected, many mainstream media outlets speculated that he may soften the church’s stance on abortion.
However, Pope Francis consistently has opposed abortion and urged society to protect human lives, both born an unborn.
The pontiff has clearly stated that the Catholic Church will not compromise its pro-life position. In 2013, the Vatican released the text of Evangelii Gaudium (“The Joy of the Gospel”), an Apostolic Exhortation by Pope Francis that specifically addresses pro-life and pro-family issues. The text of the message makes it clear that the Catholic Church cannot and will not compromise on its pro-life teachings on abortion.
Other actions also have pointed to the pope’s strong position on the life issues. A few weeks after he was elected, he stunned the world when he made a personal phone call to a woman who was pregnant out of wedlock and encouraged her to reject abortion and see her child as “a gift from God.”
Before speaking to the United States Congress in 2015, Pope Francis also said his primary reason for visiting the U.S. was to speak up for human life.
“I appreciate the unfailing commitment of the Church in America to the cause of life and that of the family, which is the primary reason for my present visit,” he told U.S. Catholic bishops.