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Empowering you to build a pro-life, pro-family world.

Empowering you to build a pro-life, pro-family world.

Empowering you to build a pro-life, pro-family world.

Why the Pontifical Academy for Life Must Be Unapologetically Pro-Life

An Anglican ethicist who believes abortion should be legal up to 18 weeks of pregnancy has been appointed to the Pontifical Academy for Life (PAV) by Pope Francis. Many pro-life activists are very unhappy with the appointment.

Austen Ivereigh has argued that such concerns are fundamentally ideological, rather than moral. The appointment of Rev. Nigel Biggar to the Vatican’s pro-life Academy, says Ivereigh, represents the end of an excessive and harmful “ideological purity” that infected the Academy under Pope Saint John Paul II and Benedict XVI.

Biggar’s appointment will allow the Academy to be “in dialogue” with those who share some, but not all, of its values, “in order to build pro-life consensus, wherever possible, across the religious divides.”

While at face value this sounds like an admirable goal, several former members of the PAV disagree. They believe Biggar’s appointment fundamentally alters, and undermines, the nature and purpose of the Academy as originally envisioned by St. John Paul.

An analogy might be useful to illustrate why pro-lifers are upset.

Let’s say the Pontifical Academy for the Social Sciences (PASS) granted membership to a non-Catholic scholar and physician who agreed with the Church on questions of immigration, but also argued that slavery is acceptable in certain cases, and has even publicly spoken out suggesting it could be legal in those cases. Should the scholar retain his membership in the academy? If not, why not?

Were the person to retain his membership, we would see outrage from Catholics of all stripes, as well as the mainstream media. And rightly so. Catholics, and the media, rightly expect the highest ethical standard from the Catholic Church. To honor a pro-slavery advocate with an appointment to a pontifical academy would clearly violate that standard, sowing doubt about the Church’s commitment to opposing slavery, and thereby causing scandal.

The Catholic Church rightly believes that abortion – the intentional killing of an innocent human being – deserves the same absolute prohibition and lack of moral compromise as applies to the issue of slavery.

Pointing out, as some defenders of Biggar’s appointment to the PAV have, that Biggar only approves of abortion up to 18 weeks is hardly comforting. Just as we would never accept such a defense of a thinker who only defends slavery in certain cases, neither should we accept a defense of one who only supports killing unborn babies in certain cases. Such is the gravity of the matter at stake.

Ivereigh quotes from an article which Biggar wrote explaining how his faith inspired him to advocate for further restrictions on abortion than currently exist in UK law. While some of the passages do indicate areas of agreement, and while it is encouraging that Biggar wishes to extend some further protections to unborn babies, we also find two sentences that are particularly revealing:

[A]s an “Augustinian Christian” [Biggar] says he “may have to admit that it is not clear at what point a developing human being becomes a person deserving of the civil right not to be harmed under normal circumstances.”

Far better, he says, ‘that we admit the uncertainty that attends the status of the fetus than that we pretend that it is not an important consideration at all.’

Ivereigh concludes his quoting of Biggar’s article: “With all due respect to some of our Catholic bioethicists, it seems to me that this kind of reasoning from Christian principles has been all too lacking in some of our pro-life witness.”

But Biggar’s reasoning in this case is not in any way from Christian principles. It’s not even reasoning from scientific principles, which the academy exists to discuss, since it amounts to a rejection of the scientific fact presented in every embryology textbook: From the moment of conception/fertilization a new member of the human species is present. Christian reasoning adds to this scientific fact the truth of the inestimable value of every human person, made in the image of God, who may not be killed for any reason.

Claiming that there is any uncertainty attending the “status” of the fetus is not the “kind of reasoning from Christian principles” that the pro-life movement or the PAV have been lacking. On the contrary, it is precisely the kind of anti-life reasoning that the PAV was created by Pope St. John Paul II to oppose.

Nor are these merely academic differences with little risk of real-world impact. Pro-life scholars and advocates are now familiar with the charge that by uncompromisingly defending the Church’s teachings on life, we are somehow “out of line” with the pontificate of Pope Francis. Judging by the Holy Father’s past statements condemning abortion, he would be offended by the implication that he thinks abortion is anything but a grave evil. Yet, a growing perception that the Holy Father is somehow “softening” the Church’s teachings on life and family issues is increasingly used as a cudgel against those Catholics who are deep in enemy territory: for instance, those who oppose the pro-abortion majority at the United Nations.

Whatever the admirable intentions of the leadership of the PAV, the real-world effect of appointing an abortion supporter is the same as if they had appointed a pro-slavery advocate: the appearance in the public eye that the Church does not take its teaching against abortion as seriously as it once did. This has a direct impact upon pro-life advocates on the ground, who stand exposed to the accusation of being “more Catholic” than the Vatican.

If the Pontifical Academy responsible for upholding this teaching is busying itself building a “consensus” that leaves out the unborn at the earliest stages, what is left of the authority of Catholics who are opposing all abortions?

Those defending Biggar’s appointment have observed that he is better known for his work opposing the legalization of euthanasia, and that it is important for the Catholic Church to be in “dialogue” with thinkers with whom it doesn’t completely see eye-to-eye.

It is good, of course, that Biggar opposes killing the vulnerable when it occurs at the end of life. The Church now asks that he extend the same protection to our brothers and sisters at the beginning of their lives.

It is also good that the Vatican is seeking dialogue with a thinker like Biggar, who by all accounts takes his Christian faith seriously, even if his conclusions about abortion are erroneous. No one has said that such engagement should not occur, only that the terms and setting of such engagement matter.

There are several perfectly acceptable ways to dialogue with those who do not share the Catholic Church’s absolute defense of all human life. Honoring them with membership in the Pontifical Academy dedicated to upholding that teaching is not one of them.

This article was first published on

About Fr. Shenan J. Boquet

Fr. Shenan J. Boquet has served as president of Human Life International since 2011. He was ordained in 1993 as a priest of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Houma-Thibodaux, Louisiana. As HLI’s president, Fr. Boquet collaborates with fellow laborers in the pro-life and family movement in over 80 countries, offering the Sacraments, giving seminars and trainings, appearing on numerous media outlets, and encouraging people of all walks of life to live as faithful advocates for a Culture of Life and Love. He is available for interviews and bookings on behalf of HLI by emailing


  1. Karen Kinney on July 1, 2017 at 4:46 PM

    Please do not allow the killing of babies at any age, life begins at Conception. Man Is Not God.

  2. Dan Kennedy on July 1, 2017 at 4:56 PM


  3. Marty & Diana Kavanaugh on July 1, 2017 at 5:34 PM

    We would never second guess the reasoning of the Holy Father. We have to believe he is being sheltered from the confusion and discord he is promoting among the faithful. We know who is the father of confusion and discord. This we know for sure. We pray daily that the Holy Father’s intentions are pleasing to our Lord.

  4. Mary Brewer on July 1, 2017 at 5:38 PM

    I am completely pro-life. Our Holy Father is infallible on faith and morals. I don’t see him changing the Catholic Church’s teaching on abortion. However, since Mr. Bigger is against euthanasia and assisted suicide, perhaps, by his seat on the council will result in his conversion on abortion. Let’s not criticize but pray.

  5. Jeri Spencer on July 1, 2017 at 5:47 PM

    Please let the sacredness of human life always be a paramount value in the Catholic Church! Lord, help us.

  6. Fr Robert Pearson on July 1, 2017 at 5:50 PM

    I left the Anglican Communion 40 years ago because of just this horrible “right to death”. Seems it followed me. Fr. Robert Pearson

  7. Margaret Chan on July 1, 2017 at 5:57 PM

    I share exactly your same thought! 🙏

  8. Marcia Czarnecki on July 1, 2017 at 6:08 PM

    Thank you, Father, for this article! More Catholics need to know what choices are being made in Rome! I have NEVER prayed harder for the Pope than I do now! Come Holy Spirit!

    Marcia Czarnecki, OCDS

    • Lisa Unsell on July 2, 2017 at 4:37 PM


  9. Jean Crocco on July 1, 2017 at 6:36 PM

    There is nothing worse than being “deep in enemy territory” and feeling cut off from the rest of the troops. I pray for you and HLI nightly. Thank you for your unwavering witness.

  10. Frances M. Holmes on July 1, 2017 at 8:10 PM

    Thank you for your vigilance and for your firm defense of life. Unfortunately, we do judge people by the company they keep. Recent visitors to the Vatican have been: Pro population destruction Paul Erlich who spoke proudly and openly about his vasectomy; self proclaimed feminist, socialist and atheist, Naomi Klein, who is co founded the failed Wall Street Occupier group and promotes global redistribution of wealth; and atheist Hans Joachim Schulenberger whose wish would be to reduce Earth’s population by 6 billion to have a far cleaner Mother Earth

  11. Patti and Jeff Champion on July 1, 2017 at 9:18 PM

    Oh no!! This is the first I have heard of this! My husband and I are shocked about this…surely this is wrong! Is it a misprint? Please let it be a misprint!!

    “An Anglican ethicist who believes abortion should be legal up to 18 weeks of pregnancy has been appointed to the Pontifical Academy for Life (PAV) by Pope Francis. Many pro-life activists are very unhappy with the appointment.”
    Unhappy? try ENRAGED!!!
    So we are now saying that the baby is not a baby until he/she is 18 weeks old? The Catholic Church believes has always believed that a baby is a baby at the exact moment of conception! Has this suddenly changed?

    “The appointment of Rev. Nigel Biggar to the Vatican’s pro-life Academy, says Ivereigh, represents the end of an excessive and harmful “ideological purity” that infected the Academy under Pope Saint John Paul II and Benedict XVI.”
    “Excessive and ideological purity?” What? Dear Lord, help us!!
    It’s not about ideology…it’s about the cold, calculated murder of an innocent baby!!
    Heaven, help us!

    Thank you, Fr. Boquet, for sharing this. We all need to pray harder than ever for enlightenment for ALL! We ALL need to be asking “WHAT WOULD JESUS DO?”…”WOULD JESUS APPOINT THIS PERSON?”.

    • Prolifemama on July 3, 2017 at 4:27 PM

      Dearest “Champions of Life” — I am reminded of the old story about two hunters in the woods. The second one had forgotten his bright orange jacket, but instead of going back to camp to get it, he figured his partner knew he was there and he’d be safe. Then they were separated by two bucks. As each trailed his quarry, it occurred to the jacketless hunter that while he could see his partner clearly, his partner was not able to see HIM.
      When discussing the morning’s events by the fire that night, the second hunter thanked the first one for not taking a shot that would have landed him his prize. His friend said “No thanks necessary. I always give human life the benefit of the doubt.”

      And a very good question – What would Jesus Do? No doubt but that He would gently show the sinner his or her sinfulness, then encourage them to turn from it, and cling to God.

  12. Donna barnard on July 1, 2017 at 11:17 PM

    Thank you fr bouquet for keeping us informed. You can be address of our prayers on this grave issue!!! God bless you for your devotion to pro life. Donna barnard

  13. Marie on July 2, 2017 at 10:36 AM

    I agree 100%!

  14. Marie on July 2, 2017 at 10:42 AM

    I am deeply disturbed that anyone who does not hold human life a sacred from the instant of conception could be appointed to such a position! What on Earth is going on! I hate abortion with a passion,it is evil in one of it’s purest forms.Please God the influence of properly pro-life members of this group will cause him to have a change of heart and mind.

    • Prolifemama on July 3, 2017 at 4:29 PM

      Dearest Marie – Rather than asking what on earth is going on, perhaps we should wonder what is going on in Hell…!

  15. Racosta on July 2, 2017 at 7:46 PM

    Sadly, I see the Church inching on to the acceptance of abortion in certain cases, just as now adultery is accepted in certain cases. We are in the slippery slope of situation ethics.

  16. Barbara Spencer on July 2, 2017 at 7:48 PM

    Who is this Biggar guy and how did he get to be on the Academy? Are there so few pro-life Catholics around they had to choose an Anglican, one who supports abortion and has no idea when a baby becomes a person? And how does he feel about contraception? It’s hard not to question the true intentions of the Pontifical Academy. Hold onto your seatbelts, folks, because I fear we’re in for quite a ride. Pray the Rosary!

  17. Anthony on July 3, 2017 at 4:19 AM

    Its inevitable! Its only getting “Biggar”. 6 protestant ‘ministers’ in ’67 are pictured with Pope Paul 6 conspiring to makeup the ‘new mass’ with all its falsehoods. ‘Catholics’ have ‘officialy’ aborted the canonized Latin Mass, now they’re okay with ‘officially’ aborting little defenceless babies. Our Lady Of La Salette warned us “Rome will lose the Faith and become the seat of the Antichrist.” “One day through the Rosary and the Scapular I will redeem the world.” Mass? ‘Francis’ has his eyes on luring and shutting down what’s remaining of the Traditionalist’s Latin Mass.Those ‘voices crying out in the wilderness’ in the ’60’s were told to ‘obey’ or go away. ‘Cry babies.’ Indeed. Intention. No more Silent Scream. Pray for the Pope, ‘for crying out loud’.

  18. CeCe on July 3, 2017 at 10:33 AM

    Dear Father,
    My Rosary and Scapular are for you and the guidence of the Holy Spirit from today on. What can stop this scary and other “reported” happenings in Rome but what our Blessed Virgin Mary told us at Fatima and other unofficial appearances. It’s going as predicted in the Bible and the Holy Mother Church. Thank God our dear Mother allowed by Heaven to come save us with the Rosary and the Scapular (when we aren’t at Daily Holy Mass) is close as these two weapons. I’ve talked and no one listens but a few like you. I love you for your love of truth and words to encourage the faithful.

  19. Diane Caldera on July 3, 2017 at 12:02 PM

    A genetically-unique human being is created at conception. Each boy or girl/son or daughter is defined male or female by his or her human DNA set at conception. This is settled science so much that businesses are set up to exploit it: “The X and Y Chromosomes Determine Your Sex,” .

    Thank you Fr. Boquet for your push-back on what inevitably must be pushed back.

  20. Prolifemama on July 3, 2017 at 4:14 PM

    Dearest Fr. Pearson – I am so glad to meet you! Do I understand from your comment that you are now a Catholic? Whether yes or no, with your courageous prolife commitment – you are welcomed here wholeheartedly, with great joy and thanksgiving!

    The Church has consistently taught that abortion is a grave evil. Once science caught up with Her in the form of ultrasound images and similar breakthroughs in studies of fetal life that underscore our preborn humanity while we grew safely within our mothers, the Church continues to proclaim abortion to be murder. Christ is the Church, and He will never change. He was, from the moment the Holy Spirit overshadowed Mary, conceived as a human being within His mother’s womb.

    Fuzzyheaded thinking comes not from God, nor from His Church, but from the Deceiver. Be of good cheer and steady heart. I will keep you in my prayers.

    ” But courage, child: we are all between the paws of the true Aslan.” C.S.Lewis

  21. Prolifemama on July 3, 2017 at 4:40 PM

    Dear Racosta – Acceptance of abortion by many of the hierarchy of the Church is a blood-red stain on Her purity (even more now, thanks to Francis’ appointments and dismissals).
    We can storm heaven for Francis, and the souls of the wayward, and pray to his humble namesake, the Povorello of Assisi, to soften his son’s heart, dispel his arrogance, and enlighten his mind, and to show us our own failings. In Jesus’ name, we humbly pray!

  22. TxGirlbyGodsGrace on July 4, 2017 at 2:14 AM


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