The Vatican defended a decision by Pope Francis to appoint an abortion supporter to the Pontifical Academy for Life this week, saying “debate and dialogue … between people of different backgrounds” is important.
In a statement Wednesday, the academy said church authorities reviewed the background of Mariana Mazzucato, a University College London economist who has advocated for abortion repeatedly on Twitter, and found “no problems,” according to the Catholic News Agency.
“All academics are chosen from among scientists and experts of absolute importance, as Pope Francis reiterated in the Letter ‘Humana Communitas’ of 2019 to the Pontifical Academy for Life. The nominations of the Ordinary Academics are made by the Pope,” the academy said.
“Therefore, before being nominated, the names proposed or reported go through a procedure that foresees the consultation of the Apostolic Nuncio and the Episcopal Conference of the countries where the academics live and work. It also happened in this case and there were no problems,” the statement continued.
Pope Francis appointed Mazzucato and six other academics to the academy Oct. 15. Afterward, Catholic Culture found numerous posts on her Twitter page that criticized the U.S. Supreme Court for overturning Roe v. Wade and claimed aborting unborn babies is “health care.”
On June 24, Mazzucato shared a quote from Nicola Sturgeon, who wrote: “One of the darkest days for women’s rights in my lifetime. Obviously the immediate consequences will be suffered by women in the US—but this will embolden anti-abortion & anti-women forces in other countries too.”
That same day, she shared another tweet from Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus that claimed: “Safe #abortion is health care. It saves lives. …”
Mazzucato’s abortion activism immediately raised concerns among Catholics and pro-life advocates.
The Pontifical Academy for Life, created in 1994 by Pope John Paul II, promotes protections for human life at all stages and conducts 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.
However, the Vatican defended Mazzucato, saying she will contribute to “fruitful dialogue” on the life issues.
Quoting Archbishop Vincenzo Paglia, the president and chancellor of the Pontifical Academy for Life, the statement continued: “Consider this phrase above all: ‘it is important that women and men with skills in various disciplines and from different contexts enter the Pontifical Academy for Life, for a constant and fruitful interdisciplinary, intercultural and interreligious dialogue.’”
“This is why among the academics there are also non-Catholic people: two rabbis, a Shinto academician, Muslims, an Anglican theologian. The Pontifical Academy for Life is a study and research body. So the debate and dialogue take place between people of different backgrounds,” the academy stated.
It also said church leaders always review documents from the academy prior to publication.
Mazzucato is not the first abortion supporter whom Pope Francis has appointed to the academy. In 2017, the pope also faced criticism for appointing Nigel Biggar, a professor of theology at the University of Oxford in the United Kingdom, who made statements supporting abortion up to 18 weeks of pregnancy.
Robert P. George, a professor at Princeton University and a Catholic, questioned Mazzucato’s appointment in an interview with CNA, calling it “shocking and scandalous.”
“The Pontifical Academy for Life exists to advance the Church’s mission to foster respect for the profound, inherent and equal dignity of each and every member of the human family, beginning with the precious child in the womb,” George said. “Either one believes in this mission or one does not. If one does not, then why would one wish to be part of the Pontifical Academy?”
“And why would someone with appointment authority appoint someone to the academy? I can think of no explanation that is not shocking and scandalous,” he continued.
Pope Francis repeatedly has condemned the killing of unborn babies in abortions, likening it to hiring a “hitman” to kill a child. However, his actions continue to raise questions.
According to CNA, the pope has made a number of changes to the Pontifical Academy for Life in recent years, including no longer requiring members to sign a declaration that they are pro-life or requiring that they be Christians.
The academy does say members should “promote and defend the principles regarding the value of life and dignity of the human person, interpreted in a way that conforms to the Magisterium of the Church,” and members may be removed if their public actions or statements contradict or offend “the dignity and credibility of the Catholic Church,” according to the report.