Today, 28 October, an encouraging piece of news comes to us. At the Conference on Humanae Vitae which takes place in Rome, at the Pontifical University St. Thomas Aquinas, and which was organized by the lay organization Voice of the Family, Professor Josef Seifert – a former member of the recently reformed Pontifical Academy for Life (PAL) – presented the newly founded John Paul II Academy for Human Life and the Family (JAHLF). Seifert is the President of this new lay institution which has been established independently of the Church’s structures. The new Academy aims at continuing the good aspects of the work which was once done by the now-changed Pontifical Academy for Life, as well as by the newly-reformed John Paul II Institute for Studies on Marriage and the Family.
This new Academy will work for the defense and the further study of the Church’s traditional moral teaching concerning such important matters as contraception, abortion, family and marriage. It thus comes to us as a new voice at a time where – in Sister Lucia’s words – “the final battle between the Lord and the reign of Satan will be about marriage and the family.”
Several members of the Board of the new Academy are loyal and charitable critics of Pope Francis, such as: Professor Josef Seifert himself; Professor Roberto de Mattei; and Professor Claudio Pierantoni. Additionally, several members of the Academy are former members of the Pontifical Academy for Life which has been so gravely changed by Pope Francis: next to Professor Seifert, there is Judie Brown (president of the American Life League), Dr. Thomas Ward (founder of the U.K.’s National Association of Catholic Families), Mercedes Wilson, (president of Family of the Americas); Christine Vollmer (president of the Latin American Alliance for the Family); Dr. Philippe Schepens (General Secretary of the World Federation of Doctors Who Respect Human Life); and Professor Luke Gormally (a former research professor at Ave Maria School of Law). Some of these loyal defenders of life are, in fact, founding members of the PAL, which was founded in 1994. Additional members of the new Academy are Professor Carlos A. Casanova (Universidad Santo Tomás de Chile) and John-Henry Westen (LifeSiteNews).
In his introduction to this new Academy at today’s Humanae Vitae Conference, Professor Seifert said :
In October 2017, a new JOHN PAUL II ACADEMY FOR HUMAN LIFE AND THE FAMILY (JAHLF) has been set up to serve the same goals as the original Pontifical Academy for Life, founded 1994 by Pope St. John-Paul II for the interdisciplinary study and defense of human life in all its stages. [footnote: By the motu proprio Vitae Mysterium on February 11, 1994.] Already in 1981, Pope John Paul II had founded a Pontifical Institute of Marriage and Family, to study the cradle of human life: marriage and the family. JAHLF will take up the study both of human life and of marriage and the human family.
It has been founded by a few former members of the Pontifical Academy for Life (PAV) including a former Professor of the Pontifical John Paul II Institute for Marriage and Family.
In additional comments, Professor Seifert points out that, ever since the publication of the papal document Humanae Vitae in 1968, there have been many Catholic moral theologians working at putting a doubt to the question as to whether acts such as abortion, contraception, or homosexuality are any more to be called “intrinsically evil acts,” which are wrong under all circumstances. As Seifert explains:
Between Humanae Vitae and Veritatis Splendor many, indeed a majority of moral theologians, have promoted this so-called ethical proportionalism that may justify any actions if the sum-total of goods that follow from them seem a lesser evil than any alternative course of actions.
Professor Seifert makes it very clear that the new Life and Family Academy will not accept these false moral theories. He states, as follows:
Thus, against all social or historical pressures of the spirit of our time that wants us to water down or to deny entirely the truth that there intrinsically evil acts, we in JAHLF never want to give in to such pressure and false teachings. Also we know that we should take into account in our words and writings the changed moral taste of our time, in order to reach those who live in error, but we know even more certainly that we must never compromise the truth by adapting our moral judgments to the ethical opinions dominant today, if these are false. Rather we should do everything in our power that a society that deviates most grievously from the eternal moral truth adapts itself to truth. For us, taking into account the change of social climate in which we live can only mean that we must seek new ways to make men understand and live the same old, nay eternal truths that can never change. We must adapt people to the truth, not the truth to people.
Moreover, Professor Seifert gives us even more encouraging words concerning this new voice and witness of truth when he says:
Our task in this Academy is exactly this: rejecting any of the horrible evils and errors which shape modern society and have even entered the doors of the sanctuary of the Church, by the clear exposition of, and by living, the truth about human life and the family. This entails also calling abortion murder and not interruption or termination of pregnancy, abstaining from dishonest names that obscure the truth. [emphasis added]
While thus becoming a witness for the goodness and defense of life, marriage and the family, the new Academy also points to the importance of considering each of these aspects in light of eternal life. Professor Seifert says:
The JOHN-PAUL II ACADEMY FOR HUMAN LIFE AND FAMILY likewise does not restrict its understanding of human life to mere biological human life. It recognizes and affirms the reality of the soul of man that stands at the origin of human life. Therefore, JAHLF also occupies itself, quite generally speaking, with the metaphysical and anthropological foundations of ethical truth. [emphasis added]
As Seifert explains, the new Academy will “likewise explore the ultimate value of human life residing in eternal life” and it will thus counter a materialist world-view which merely discusses these matters on natural terms. Yet, when we consider sinful acts – such as divorce and abortion – as mere natural evils, we omit that these acts also threaten the life of sanctifying grace in our souls, thus endangering the salvation of souls. As the Austrian philosopher puts it, while considering
the relation of human life to God and eternal life, and their link to ethical questions such as euthanasia, infertility treatment, artificial insemination, etc., this Academy will in like manner address those moral dimensions of human and medical action that can only be understood when relating human life, moral life, and eternal life to God. [emphasis added]
The President of the new academy highlights that non-Catholic experts may also be invited as members, but that the foundation has to be the Catholic moral teaching based on Revelation, as well as the natural law which is recognizable by natural reasoning. Topics will also include the brain death debate, the moral and spiritual dimension of palliative and hospice care for the dying, and “those ways of caring for the old, the sick, and the dying that are linked to religious dimensions of the moral life revealed through Christ, especially in the beatitudes of the Sermon on the Mount and the sacraments.”
Let us thus welcome with joy this new voice of Moral Truth as presented at today’s Humanae Vitae Conference, as graciously permitted by Voice of the Family. Let us end here with the final words of Professor Josef Seifert’s longer presentation of the new Academy:
The Academy’s aim is to clarify, to teach, and to spread that part of the truth about man and about God that serves human life and the natural family, and, through serving these, serve and glorifies God.
Dr. Maike Hickson, born and raised in Germany, studied History and French Literature at the University of Hannover and lived for several years in Switzerland where she wrote her doctoral dissertation. She is married to Dr. Robert Hickson, and they have been blessed with two beautiful children. She is a happy housewife who likes to write articles when time permits.
Her articles have appeared in American and European journals such as Catholicism.org, LifeSiteNews, The Wanderer, Culture Wars, Catholic Family News, Christian Order, Apropos, and Zeit-Fragen.