The Dispatch: More from CWR...

JPII Institute purge a case of Vatican types refusing to be honest, transparent

What should have been a reasonably straightforward reorganization has become a protracted struggle. It didn’t have to be this way.

It is fair to say the suppression-and-reconstitution of the John Paul II Institute for Studies on Marriage and the Family, as the Pontifical John Paul II Theological Institute for Marriage and Family Sciences has received more media attention and press scrutiny than the authors of the business expected, and of a less favorable character than they likely desired.

That is largely their own fault.

The high and heavy-handedness with which those, who have conducted the work of re-founding the John Paul II Institute for Studies on Marriage and the Family as the Pontifical John Paul II Theological Institute for Marriage and Family Sciences, is perhaps the most galling thing about the business. There were better, smarter, less messy ways to do what they have done.

Parts One and Two of this series treated in some detail the doings at, around, and over the Institute, paying special attention to the vicissitudes of two long-serving and highly regarded professors: Msgr. Livio Melina and Fr. José Noriega DCJM, whose presence was a fixture for many years at the old Institute, and for whom students and teachers alike continue to nurture affection. Melina also served as President of the Institute’s principal seat in Rome, from 2006 to the old Institute’s suppression in 2017.

The professors found themselves without their former positions in the new institute — the architects of the new Institute had eliminated their former roles — and in fact, the professors found themselves without any stable position at all within it. To hear the responsible authorities tell it, the matter was strictly business: the men were not fired — technically true — their positions were eliminated (and Noriega, who had four months to go as Superior of his religious congregation, alas, was therefore legally estopped — they claimed — from taking on a stable professorship, even though he had held both positions peacefully for several years).

Archbishop Vincenzo Paglia — the Grand Chancellor of the new JPII Institute, and under Francis, chiefly responsible for the overhaul — might have created two distinguished chairs in fundamental and special moral theology for Msgr. Melina and Fr. Noriega, with rights to run a few doctoral seminars and direct a few dissertations.

Profs. Melina and Noriega could have taken any such or similar offer, or left it.

Taking it, they would have been retreating from leadership roles in administration and allowing the ascendant powers to clip their wings, but they would have continued to do their research work and kept forming the minds of their students, even if they should have been no longer shaping the institution as before. Sometimes, things happen. Rejecting it, Melina and Noriega would have been ceding the ground entirely.

Either way, Archbishop Paglia would have accomplished his takeover, and either preserved a veneer of continuity or staked out the ground on which to build a case for a claim of reasonable accommodation in good faith, should it have come to it.

Instead, the new powers conducted a ham-fisted purge, and flatly denied it. When they got called on it, they offered a series of explanations, not one of which passed muster. They promised they would be available to answer questions, and then said they’re not yet ready to respond to queries. That has not stopped the flow of social media sniping and hit pieces from soi-disant defenders of Pope Francis.

Though the business is badly done, the real driver of this story-that-never-should-have-been-a-story is, in large part, the refusal of the Vatican types tasked with doing the thing to admit they’re doing what they are plainly doing and in fact have largely done already. If they had, they would have faced a couple of bad days in the press, with some questions about the nature of the changes and the need for them, and maybe a few op/ed pieces that could have been spun as sour grapes.

That ship has sailed. What should have been a reasonably straightforward reorganization has become a protracted struggle. It didn’t have to be this way.


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About Christopher R. Altieri 110 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.

20 Comments

  1. When your character is intrinsically disordered your actions will be intrinsically disordered, there is no escaping that fact without the overwhelming grace of God which we all need!

    • Can a person’s character be “intrinsically disordered”? If it were so, then one would NEVER be able to change one’s character, or be converted to God, etc., as it is intrinsic to one’s nature! Character is what we make or break, throughout our life.

  2. As a struggling to remain Catholic and age 69, I am totally shocked at the direction and wrong path the Catholic Church under the current power of the Vatican has taken. Sanctioning things that were not sanctioned before the 1960s has resulted in the pedophilia, breakdown of the once beautiful Latin Mass, too much liberalism, stupidly not allowing priests to marry which they did do as the original 12 disciples and up to the 2nd Council of Trent, and the obvious greedy power play of corrupt leadership from the Vatican down through so many Catholic dioceses. For example why wasn’t the Governor of New York not held responsible and subsequently punished by the NY Cardinal and the Vatican for the bill he passed on late term abortions? Plus to make matters worse, Gov Cuomo is Catholic! As for the 2 professors being side-swiped by the JP11 Council, just further shame. The Catholic Church is in crisis and Satan’s evil is very noticeable since a Pope Leo in the 1870s was warned that Satan would destroy the Catholic Church in 100 plus years. Power, greed, corruption in God’s true church…very scary and disturbing to say the least.

    • To embraced the lies & deceptions spread by church critics & enemies that all the evil in Church was cause by Vatican II is much greater evil, why?
      Criticizing Vatican II Council whom the Light of the Holy Spirit guided is a “blasphemy” against the Holy Spirit.
      Vatican II Council Doctrines are centered on the New Evangelization anchored on the Infinite Mercy of God.
      The forces of darkness that infiltrated the Church is only allowed by God for Church purification. Read CCC675

      • “Criticizing Vatican II Council whom the Light of the Holy Spirit guided is a “blasphemy” against the Holy Spirit.”

        Well, that’s a new one for me. Any criticism at all? Huh.

  3. “His Excellency” Paglia and his tribe of feline viceroys are complete frauds, as is their boss, McCarrick’s “friend” the former “eminence” Jorge Bergoglio.

    That they would lie and abuse people is simply part of the “lifestyle” they have indulged themselves in for 50+ years.

    They are all dry wood ready for burning.

    I teach my children to distrust everything they say and do.

    • Really why dont you read the works of the devil in Revelation12:10. Accusing and slandering is the work of the devils.
      As St.Athanasius said “Where there is slander there is satan”
      Matthew12:38 ponder this verse to save your soul.

      • You mean St. Athanasius who stood up for the truth even when Pope Liberius compromised with the Arians? That St. Athanasius?

  4. As a Journalist immersed [professionally as onlooker] in Vatican politics C Altieri gives a usual in depth analysis of motivations, proposed outcomes. John Paul II Institute politics are essentially what he had already named. A purge. A good journalist’s focus is more on objectivity than speculation and may appear cryptic for those of us who have freedom to offer more personal views. Agreed it’s a purge and with a purpose I am free to speculate that involves a radical Church makeover. Altieri cited Amoris Laetitia as the driving force. Amoris’ three key premises Mitigation, Conscience, Mercy presented as circumstances that Mitigate responsibility of sin, inviolability of Conscience, and subsequent Merciful assessment giving benefit of doubt [discernment] affect all doctrine and provide invitation to a more accepting evangelical posture. Toward all belief systems such as the Animism of the indigenous Amazonian. With the doctrinal hawsers forever [presumably] untied in AL it now comes down to rather than mercy, the naturalistic humanism of the Instrumentum Laboris. Cardinal Gerhard Mueller former CDF prefect is now the apparent major source of contention, “dangerous” as Austen Ivereigh The Great Reformer’s author contends, dangerous to tranquility [let us rather say dangerous to the planned debauchery]. Cardinal Mueller says its not heresy, which must be definitive, obstinate denial of an article of the faith. The Cardinal contends it is Apostasy plain and simple, a planned abandoning of the Gospels piecemeal, step by step intended for the entire Church. Cardinals Brandmueller, Burke comply. With such eminent opposition we must surely be at a crossroads. At least we have men of real faith in Christ waiving demonstratively toward which bend to take.

    • You might want to search the Apostolic Tradition of the Church and CCC85 is a good reference. Cardinal Muller had committed a formal heresy according to Ron Conte’s article as the Cardinal pronounces he will not accept if the Synod or Council and even the Pope if they approved the female ordination to priesthood & deacons. Cardinal Muller according to Ron Conte committed a formal schism by this pronouncement by rejecting the Church Authority. Criticizing the working document of Amazon Synod prematurely lacks prudence on the part of Dissenting Cardinals & Bishops.
      Regarding St.JP2 institute, why the need for removal of the Professors?
      St.Paul letter to Corinthians and Romans has the answer(1Corinthian1:10 .& Romans13:1-2). Any prelates and clergy who is no longer one in mind & heart with the Church more so oppose to the Pope is no longer one with Christ anymore and they will lead all their followers to eternal damnation. If you need a link to this article i will gladly post it.

    • Perhaps it’s Our Lady’s prompting on her Feast Day that I’m compelled to furbish comment on the “key” Amoris premises. Mitigation cannot mean as implied that habitual crime absolves, that the more one masturbates the less evil the masturbation, as if the person who struggles to fall less is more culpable than the former, and at judgment condemned the former saved. Similarly the serial fornicator, adulterer, murderer. John Paul II warned we mustn’t make mitigation a theological category. Inviolability of conscience cannot mean that God is prevented from revealing what must be believed nor can it prevent or neutralize the coercive authority of the Church to impose doctrine or discipline. Conscience, to act with knowledge is not the rule of truth but must be informed to the truth. Discernment cannot arbitrate revealed truth such as the mortal sin of adultery in context of a penitent’s conscience as if the latter is the rule rather than the former. Finally in response to Jong Beware of the Spirit of the Air who already incites error among the faithful (The Apostle in Ephesians).

  5. This recent purge has pushed me back towards the Garrigou-Lagrange variety of Thomism vs the Platonic “Augustinianism” a la Benedict Emeritus (with too few references to Augustine really in Benedict’s countermeasure beyond his thesis?) with plenty enough Augustine still there to go around in St. Thomas along with Aristotle.

    We can wax philosophical about a bunch of Hegelians taking over…when it’s just the Lavender Mafia…a bunch of thugs who can’t control themselves and see no need to…therefore…the “old ways don’t work anymore” and “everything must change.” It’s just Loisy…all of them.

    Yes, Cardinal Mueller is right…plain, planned apostasy.

  6. “the direction and wrong path the Catholic Church under the current power of the Vatican has taken.”

    “stupidly not allowing priests to marry which they did do as the original 12 disciples and up to the 2nd Council of Trent”

    1. Priestly celibacy is not some new policy that “the current power of the Vatican” has created.

    2. There was only one Council of Trent.

    3. The requirement for priests to be celibate has a long, long history; and was applied to all priests of the Latin Rite in the eleventh century, half a millennium before the Council of Trent.

  7. Can a person’s character be “intrinsically disordered”? If it were so, then one would NEVER be able to change one’s character, or be converted to God, etc., as it is intrinsic to one’s nature! Character is what we make or break, throughout our life.

  8. “This recent purge has pushed me back towards the Garrigou-Lagrange variety of Thomism vs the Platonic “Augustinianism” a la Benedict Emeritus (with too few references to Augustine really in Benedict’s countermeasure beyond his thesis?) with plenty enough Augustine still there to go around in St. Thomas along with Aristotle.”

    Wait a minute! Let me walk back my own statement!

    Something out of Augustine’s The City of God Against The Pagans is indeed called for during these times…or Justin Martyr…or The Revelations of St Bridget of Sweden.

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