Pope Francis appointed an Anglican minister who argues for abortion and denies the humanity of a fetus to the Pontifical Academy For Life, troubling some Catholics.
Nigel Biggar, Anglican clergyman and professor of pastoral and moral theology at the University of Oxford, joined a group of 50 other appointees to the Academy, which was established by Pope John Paul II in 1994 to promote pro-life research and policy.
Pope Francis made the names of the appointees public Tuesday, according to Lifesite News. Biggar has argued that a human fetus does not have the same claim to human identity that a born human would, and that he would approve of abortion up to 18 weeks after conception.
“It’s not clear that a human foetus is the same kind of thing as an adult or a mature human being, and therefore deserves quite the same treatment,” Biggar said in a 2011 discussion with Peter Singer, professor of bioethics at Princeton University. “It then becomes a question of where we draw the line, and there is no absolutely cogent reason for drawing it in one place over another.”
Biggar later appeared to contradict himself by drawing a line and providing, in his view, a “cogent reason.”
“So I would be inclined to draw the line for abortion at 18 weeks after conception, which is roughly about the earliest time when there is some evidence of brain activity, and therefore of consciousness,” Biggar said.
He also argued during a 2012 address to the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota that “it is not true that all abortion is equivalent to murder.”
Previous members of the Academy have insisted that appointees should be ardent supporters of pro-life policy, according to the National Catholic Register (NCR).
Dr. Thomas Ward, a former member, went so far as to say that members should be “absolutists with proven track records of active defense of all innocent human life,” NRC reported. Other former members criticized Francis’ choice more directly, like professor Luke Gormally, who said Biggar’s appointment was “shocking,” and Christine Vollmer, who called it “scandalous,” as reported by NCR.
Biggar’s appointment is only the latest scandal surrounding the academy, as Francis declared in October of 2016 that now members are not required to sign a pledge to adhere to the Catholic church’s doctrine on abortion. Francis then completely overhauled the Academy, removing all of the members with the intention of appointing new members himself.
Judie Brown, former member of the Academy, noted Fancis’ significant changes to the academy in February, saying “it is one of the most heartbreaking events I have seen in my lifetime. But given the politics of the Vatican, it is not surprising.”
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