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The “renewal” of the JPII Institute is a purge—and everyone knows it

It’s tough to say whether the powers at the JPII Institute are trying too hard, or hardly trying.

The Pontifical Lateran University, which houses the Pontifical John Paul II Theological Institute for Marriage and Family Sciences, is pictured in Rome in this Sept. 20, 2013, file photo. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

Massimo Faggioli is right. Francis is Pope now, so Francis gets to call the shots. If Pope Francis wants to recast and retool a Roman institution, and fit it to his purpose, Pope Francis can do it. With the John Paul II Institute for Studies on Marriage and the Family Pontifical John Paul II Theological Institute for Marriage and Family Sciences, Pope Francis has done just that, like it or not.

It is plain to see that the “renewal” of the institute is really a purge. Everyone from every angle of the outside looking in agrees on that, except the people Pope Francis has put in charge of the business. They insist here’s nothing to see here. “[T]he academic project of the new Institute, approved by the Congregation for Catholic Education, is configured as an enlargement of the reflection on the family and not as a substitution of themes and arguments,” assured a press release from the JP II Institute late last month.

That statement couched itself as a response to critics, but was little more than an attempt to get the message back under control. “Such an enlargement,” the statement went on to say, “demonstrating even more the centrality of the family in the Church and in society, confirms and re-launches with new vigor the original and still fecund intuition of St. John Paul II.” Nobody bought it.

For one thing, authorities’ explanations of the major bones of contention simply didn’t pass the smell test.

By way of example, the reasons given for the effective dismissal of two long-serving and highly regarded professors, Msgr. Livio Melina (who served many years as President of the Institute in Rome) and Fr. José Noriega DCJM, were particularly unconvincing. Both were out of a job because the chairs they had heretofore occupied — respectively in fundamental and special moral theology — didn’t make it into the revamped Institute.

At best, that is tantamount to claiming they weren’t fired, because their positions were eliminated. It is typical corporate jargon, like Msgr. Sequeri’s talk of “targeted growth” in the teaching staff and “new tools” for their didactic toolbox, which he offered in a July 19 interview with the Italian bishops’ official newspaper, Avvenire. “Our goals include targeted growth in the number of faculty and new tools for tailoring individual degree programs,” Sequeri explained.

Strengthening the social scientific side of the Institute is fine, but the promise was that the theological focus of the Institute would remain, and the implication was that it would be strengthened alongside the social sciences. “[T]o add something doesn’t mean taking away anything of what was there before,” Msgr. Sequeri told Crux in September 2017, shortly after the announcement of the planned overhaul.

“I’ve committed to working with this car and with these people,” he said, meaning the Institute – which Sequeri had earlier compared to an automobile that is fundamentally sound but in need of major work – its administration and teaching staff. “I’ve said that, it’s a guarantee. I’m working with these people.”

In that same interview, Archbishop Paglia hedged. “[I]f, inside the institute, something isn’t working anymore, if something has become lazy or useless, then it has to be changed, but that’s true of any institution in the world,” Paglia offered. One may call Melina and Noriega many things, but not lazy or useless. So, Paglia clearly couldn’t have been referring to them.

In any case, Profs. Melina and Noriega are out, and the weight of core theology courses in degree programs has been roughly halved.

In Noriega’s case, there was another reason adduced for his exclusion from the new Institute: he could not possibly continue as a stable professor (roughly a tenured professor), since his concurrent position as head of his religious congregation, the Disciples of the Hearts of Jesus and Mary, is incompatible with his job at the Institute.

Leave aside for the moment that the controlling law the JPII Institute’s authorities invoked — Canon 152 of the 1983 Code of Canon Law — deals with offices that are incompatible by their very nature, like prosecutor and defense attorney (which no one man can fairly hold, at least, not in the same case). Noriega has led the DCJM since 2008 — two years after he became a stable professor at the old JPII Institute — and his term as DCJM superior ends in January of the coming year. You do the math.

It’s tough to say whether the powers at the JPII Institute are trying too hard, or hardly trying.

One thing is certain: the powers responsible for this business want it both ways. They want their purge, and they want to be able to claim — with at least a bare minimum of plausibility — that they are not purging the Institute. The proverbial elephant in the room is Pope Francis’s post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation, Amoris laetitia, but that is the subject of another essay.


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About Christopher R. Altieri 111 Articles
Christopher R. Altieri is a journalist, writer, and editor based in Rome, Italy. He spent more than a dozen years on the news desk at Vatican Radio. He holds the PhD from the Pontifical Gregorian University, and is the author of The Soul of a Nation: America as a Tradition of Inquiry and Nationhood.

11 Comments

  1. Pope Francis gets to call the shots, thus we should not be surprised. Let’s remember what happened to Cardinals Burke and Muller, they were previously purged from their positions. Who will be next?

  2. The imperial papacy divorced from the perennial Magisterium is fraudulent and it need be called to account. There is a rogue in the driver’s seat of the clown car and reputable people, men and women, had better start calling it out for what it is or they are also responsible for the carnage.
    “Purge” and “eliminate” are in the lexicon of malefactors. The institute is a mere matchbox compared to what the equatorial cartel has in mind for the entire Mystical Body of Christ. Unbelief allows the justification of anything and everything by any means.

  3. A Church that is welcoming towards cultural, social and ecological diversity in order to be able to serve individuals or groups; a creative Church that can accompany its people in the implementation of new responses; a harmonious Church that promotes peace, mercy and communion. The communities ask for appreciation, accompaniment and the promotion of popular piety with which many people express their faith through images, symbols, traditions, rites and other sacraments. It is the manifestation of wisdom and spirituality that constitutes an authentic theology (IL). Cardinal Gerhard Müller decried a turning point for the Church with the Amazonia Synod. “As Dei Verbum states, ‘we now await no further new public revelation’ (4). Holy Scripture and Tradition are the only sources of Revelation”. He as well as eminent Church historian Roberto de Mattei perceive the Instrumentum as a return to Paganism in the guise of a Christian humanism that affirms the natural good of the indigenous Amazonian. Amazonia the prototype of Synodal transformation now occurring in Germany [ironically Today Germany Tomorrow the World]. Cardinal Paglia, Vat SecState Parolin adhere to the New Paradigmatic Church inherent as suggested by Altieri in AL. Amoris’ three Cardinal Virtues Worship of Conscience Discernment of Mitigating Circumstances Overarching Mercy reintroduce a rigid Church to a new emancipated world. Purge they must.

  4. I look forward to the day the Institute is restored to what it was meant to be. To the day it functions as Pope Saint JPII envisioned. This day will come! I just wish, I as a good, faithful, practicing Catholic could do something about what is happening! I will continue to pray as must we all!

    • In the meantime, and that could be awhile, maybe the the vision of the original St. John Paul II Institute could find realization in another school? Maybe the two fired professors could be incorporated there? Students, during this time of purge, might well pick such a school? Maybe there are enough scholars, who are deeply formed by the Faith, to serve admirably in a such a school?

  5. They want their purge, and they want to be able to claim — with at least a bare minimum of plausibility — that they are not purging the Institute. ”

    This is the essence the Vatican II. They want the purge (of Catholicism) but they want to say that its not a purge.

  6. I would not let the former “eminence” Cardinal Bergoglio near my children or family, nor would I entrust them to any person in his circle, no matter how far away they orbit around him. He is a man of the dark…and does not walk in the light.

  7. As one who has loved the Church my entire life I have become increasingly convinced that the current Pope does not. It appears that he has “drunk the Kool-Aid” of the radical left, both inside and outside of the Church. Somehow or another Divine Providence will take care of this situation, but we, the faithful, do not know the time nor the method He will use. All we can do now is pray like everything depends upon God, and hope that the Blessed Virgin prays with us.

    • Totally Agree, Pope Francis is a terrible disappointment. I am so saddened by this. I pray every day that our sweet Virgin Mary will wrap us in her holy mantle of protection…🙏🙏🙏

  8. The one-eyed “new paradigm” calls to mind the earlier cyclops, the heretic Marcion, who on the one hand accepted the gentile-convert, St. Luke, but totally displaced the other gospels from the three Jewish-convert evangelists, as well as any continuity with the (totally rejected) Old Testament.

    In the early centuries, it was the Creed that also protected against the invading mystery religions from the east. (Today read the naturalism of Amazonia from the south, and the tribal/synodal barking of Germania from the lost center.)

    As for the bait-and-switch deconstruction of the John Paul II Institute—-into a secular think tank and Land O’ Lakes lookalike?-—this particular scenario is actually very iconic…It replicates in a matter of only a year or two the erosive solvent of all earthly history. Example: as how over the centuries Hagia Sophia in Constantinople was first occupied and redecorated as a new-paradigm mosque (7th century) and then converted (to abuse a term) into a flat-earth secular museum (1935).

    The early St. Iranaeus is still very up to date:

    “The (heretics) are all later than the bishops, to whom the Apostles have transmitted the Church, and the manifestations of their doctrine are different and produce a veritable cacophony. But the path of those who belong to the Church, dwelling throughout the world and holding firm to the tradition of the Apostles, shows that all have one faith and one kind of organization” (Danielou/Marrou, The Christian Centuries: The First Six Hundred Years, vol. 1, 1964).

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  1. The “renewal” of the JPII Institute is a purge—and everyone knows it -
  2. “Amoris laetitia” is at the center of the controversy over the John Paul II Theological Institute – Catholic World Report
  3. JPII Institute purge a case of Vatican types refusing to be honest, transparent – Catholic World Report
  4. JPII Institute purge a case of Vatican types refusing to be honest, transparent – Catholic World Report - Mama Mary - Our Loving Mother

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