Marengo, ‘Humanae vitae’ scholar, appointed JPII Institute VP

Vatican City, Oct 30, 2019 / 11:25 am (CNA).- The theologian who chaired a 2017 Vatican study group on Humanae vitae has been appointed the vice president of Rome’s Pontifical John Paul II Institute.

Fr. Gilfredo Marengo, a professor at the institute, chaired a group of academics who reviewed the historical archives connected to Humanae vitae before its 50th anniversary in 2018.

In May 2018, Marengo told CNA that “Humanae vitae is an authoritative document of the Catholic Church, and it is part of the tradition. We are called to welcome it as it is, and to apply it with an intelligent pastoral plan.”

Although some media figures had speculated that his study group was tasked with “updating” Humanae vitae, Marengo dismissed that idea.

Despite being “the most discussed encyclical in the last 50 years,” there is “no need to update it,” the priest told CNA.

Lamenting “polarization” in the Church surrounding Humanae vitae, which teaches that artificial contraception of the marital act is a moral evil, the priest said addressing division “cannot be solved by imagining a new doctrine or a new pastoral activity, but by going beyond the polarization,” though he did not elaborate on what it would mean to “go beyond” polarization over the document’s teaching.

Marengo was himself a student of the John Paul II Institute, and in 1989 earned one of the very first doctorates granted by the school, writing a dissertation under the guidance of now-Cardinal Angelo Scola, emeritus archbishop of Milan. He has taught at the John Paul II Institute since that time.

The priest has called for conversation between theologians with differing views on Pope Francis’ 2015 apostolic exhortation Amoris laetitia, while his own viewpoint on the exhortation is entirely clear.

The priest told CNA in 2017 that “theological and pastoral reflection have still a long way to go in order to gain a proper and fruitful understanding of both Paul VI’s and Pope Francis’ texts.”

Also in 2017, Marengo wrote “whenever the Christian community falls into the error of proposing models of life derived from excessively abstract and artificially constructed theological ideals, it conceives its pastoral action as the schematic application of a doctrinal paradigm,” while calling for an effort to read Amoris laetitia in continuity with the Church’s doctrinal teachings.

Marengo’s appointment comes after months of controversy at the John Paul II Institute, founded by the former pope in 1983.

Controversy began when new statutes, or governing documents, were issued for the institute in July.

The new statutes were issued in response to a 2017 announcement by the pope that he would legally refound the institute to broaden its curriculum, from a focus on the theology of marriage and the family to an approach that will also include the study of the family from the perspective of the social sciences.

After the new statutes, students, alumni, and faculty raised concerns about the role of faculty members in the institute’s new governing structure, about the reduction of theology courses and the elimination of some theology disciplines, and about the dismissal of some faculty members, especially Fr. José Noriega and Msgr. Livio Melina.

Many faculty members said the statutes did not fairly represent the pope’s vision for refounding the institute.

In July, outgoing vice president Fr. Jose Granados suggested a compromise between the university administrators implementing a restructuring plan at the school, and the faculty members who opposed aspects of it. It is not clear whether discussion between administrators and faculty have continued, or what role Marengo might play in those discussions.


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