ROME (ChurchMilitant.com) - A writer for the Italian bishops says there is not a major shake-up happening at the John Paul II Institute, while a former professor claims the institute's very identity is at stake.
A July 31 article in Avvenire, the newspaper for the Italian bishops' conference, pushed back against "rumors these days on social media" about major changes coming to the Pontifical John Paul II Institute for Marriage and Family Science.
The article's author, Luciano Moia, claimed that social media comments and news reports have greatly exaggerated the overhaul underway. It stated, "The back and forth of rumors these days on social media and some other outlets — no matter how specious or ill-informed! — have tried to paint the renewal of the pontifical institute ... as a strategy for watering down highly specialized family studies."
Moia commented, "How much is true in this story line? Nothing at all."
Two of the institute's professors are known to have been dismissed recently — Fr. José Noriega and Msgr. Livio Melina. The latter recently spoke out about his dismissal and blasted Moia's take on the controversy.
In an Aug. 3 interview with Italian publication La Verità (translated into English by LifeSiteNews), Msgr. Melina rejected Moia's claim that institute faculty were being disobedient to the Pope.
Moia had charged that those at the institute who raised concerns about the Synods on the Family and Amoris Laetitia were being disobedient to the Pope. He asked rhetorically, "If someone boasts the title of 'Pontifical,' and accepts the honors and responsibilities that go with it — as well as the salary — shouldn't that person behave in a manner consistent with that choice?"
Monsignor Melina replied to Moia's accusation, "Moia thinks that we are forcing the text of Amoris Laetitia in order to adapt it to the rest of the magisterium. What Moia does not explain to us is the way in which he must force (or correct?) the rest of the papal magisterium in order to adapt it to his reading of Amoris Laetitia."
The monsignor compared Pope Francis' controversial document to a "chapter" and the entire magisterium to a "book."
In the case of Amoris Laetitia, many people have taken the path of interpreting it as if it "surpassed" or even "corrected" other magisterial texts, such as Familiaris Consortio, the Catechism of the Catholic Church or Sacramentum Caritatis. They read the chapter and forget the book where the chapter is inserted.
Regarding the shake-up at the institute, Msgr. Melina remarked, "What has been done at the institute with various professors is a conviction without a trial, starting with the suspicions sown over the years by people like Moia."
He next noted that theological dissidents are typically punished "after a regular trial," while certain professors at the John Paul II Institute "have been deprived of our professorship without any possibility of defending ourselves, without us even having heard (Kafka comes to mind) what we are really accused of."
According to reports, Msgr. Melina met with Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI privately on Aug. 2.
Referring to the accusation that institute faculty have been "correcting the Pope" and rejecting Amoris Laetitia, Msgr. Melina remarked, "The newspaper Avvenire had the merit of highlighting the real reasons for our dismissal, which had not been communicated to us, and thus unmasked the maneuver that is to be carried out at the institute founded by St. John Paul II."
The monsignor continued:
This is why the defense of the John Paul II Institute touches everyone, and the fate of the institute is decisive for the Church. If the decisions taken by Abp. [Vincenzo] Paglia are not revoked, then what they are saying is: "The interpretation of the magisterium of Pope Francis in continuity with the previous magisterium is intolerable in the Church."
Archbishop Paglia is grand chancellor of the John Paul II Institute. He has overseen the ongoing overhaul, along with the institute's president, Msgr. Pierangelo Sequeri.
Paglia and Sequeri have drawn up new statutes for the John Paul II Institute as a consequence of Pope Francis' September 2017 apostolic letter Summa Familiae Cura. In that document, Francis essentially ended the existing institute and established a new one, altering its official mission and updating its full name. That letter also gave the institute the ability to confer academic degrees by its own power, rather than through the Pontifical Lateran University in which the institute is situated.
The release of Summa Familiae Cura came on Sept. 8, 2017, just two days after the Sept. 6 death of Cdl. Carlo Caffarra. Then-Msgr. Caffarra was president of the John Paul II Institute during its founding in the early 1980s.
Cardinal Caffarra was one of the four cardinals who signed the dubia, the theological questions presented to Pope Francis that were released to the public in November 2016.