Ousted Critic of ‘Amoris Laetitia’ Heads New Pro-Family Group

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by Stephen Wynne  •  ChurchMilitant.com  •  October 30, 2017   

Josef Seifert persists against efforts to "reinterpret" Church doctrine

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ROME (ChurchMilitant.com) - Two months after being sacked by his bishop, Austrian philosopher Josef Seifert has been tapped to head a new pro-family institute.

At a gathering of lay Catholic leaders Saturday, Seifert announced the launch of the John Paul II Academy for Human Life and the Family (JAHLF), an organization devoted to exposing and defeating the moral and theological errors shaping society today.


Its founding comes in the wake of Pope Francis' reconstitution of the John Paul II Institute for Studies on Marriage and Family, which now serves as a theological institute exploring the "lights and shadows" of family life with "realism" and "love."

Operating independent of ecclesiastical structures, the new academy will dedicate itself to advancing the Culture of Life through study and promotion of Church teaching on contraception, abortion, marriage and family.

Saturday's conference, "Humanae Vitae at 50: Setting the Context," was convened to defend Church teaching as enunciated in Pope Paul VI's 1968 encyclical and counter any attempt at reinterpreting it to permit contraception.

In his conference address, Seifert underscored the need for the new academy by reiterating the importance of Catholic doctrine on human dignity, sexuality and life:

Fifty years ago the Catholic Church reaffirmed ... one of its most controversial moral teachings, against which not only critics of the Church but many Catholic theologians raised objections and continue to do so: namely that any form of contraception that separates the conjugal act from conception is intrinsically and gravely morally wrong, a mortal sin.

The Church, Seifert noted, insists that the inherent truths of Humanae Vitae are knowable not merely by faith but by exercise of human reason. They exist as "part of the natural law" and are "founded on the deep and inseparable bond between the unitive and procreative meaning of the conjugal act."

But today, he lamented, "the teachings contained in Humanae Vitae have been strongly attacked and are seldom followed, even by Roman Catholic Christians."

Many couples, he observed, "have no understanding of why a moral difference should exist between natural regulation of conception, based on periodic abstinence, which the Church allows and contraception, which it forbids, such that the one would be intrinsically gravely morally wrong while the other would not per se be morally objectionable."

The end result of the contraceptive mindset, Seifert explained, is today's Culture of Death. Presuming "the times of the old rigid moral rules are over," many suggested "we cannot claim anymore that adultery, homosexual relations, contraception, abortion or euthanasia are intrinsically wrong under all circumstances. ... Pope St. John Paul II has condemned this view as a grave error and has defended anew forcefully the 2000 years old teaching of the Gospels and of the tradition of the Church, that there are many intrinsically bad acts such as contraception, abortion or euthanasia."

A former member of the Pontifical Academy of Life, Seifert is a renowned Catholic scholar, distinguished by decades of work in theology and philosophy.

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Abp. Javier Martinez Fernández of Granada

In August, he was dismissed from his position at the International Academy of Philosophy for publicly questioning the content of Pope Francis' apostolic exhortation Amoris Laetitia.

In a 28-page critique, Seifert warned certain passages could be exploited to reinterpret the deposit of faith according to the ever-shifting spirit of the age. A change in moral teaching, he suggested, could be expected to spread outward, infecting and altering other principles, essentially creating a domino effect that would demolish the entire body of Church teaching on sexual morality.

Seifert declared openly that his critique was not an attempt to "attack the Pope, to damage him or to undermine his authority" but to "support him and assist him in teaching the Truth."

But at the end of August, as a direct consequence of his critique, he was fired by Abp. Javier Martínez Fernández of Granada, who claimed Seifert's concerns were a source of confusion to Catholics.

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Stephen Wynne

Stephen Wynne is a staff writer for Church Militant.