Pope Francis has appointed 45 new ordinary members to the Pontifical Academy for Life. The replacement did not take place without controversy, due to inclusion among new members of an Anglican moralist theologian, Nigel Biggar, professor of moral and pastoral theology at Oxford. The day after the appointment, the Catholic Herald recalled a dialogue between Biggar and fellow philosopher, Peter Singer in 2011, during which the new member of the Academy for Life said, “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”.
Vatican Insider has addressed some questions to Archbishop Vincenzo Paglia, who chairs the Academy.
Why was Professor Biggar appointed?
“The nomination of Professor Biggar was directly recommended by the Primate of the Anglican Church, Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, who was recently asked to single out a representative. The controversy was born following the rediscover of a 2011 dialogue between Biggar and Peter Singer’s, who is renown for his permissible views on abortion, in which he says to be inclined to draw the line for abortion at 18 weeks after conception, in terms of – and I quote – “maintaining a strong social commitment to preserving human life in hindered forms, and in terms of not becoming too casual about killing human life”. This is certainly not my personal position, and much less the Academy. It should be added, however, that Biggar, whom we have contacted these days, has published nothing on the subject of abortion – Biggar’s academic focus is rather on end-of-life matters, “where he has a position that coincides with Catholicism – Biggar also assured that He does not intend to enter into the debate on this issue in the future.”
Did you know about that dialogue with Singer?
“No, I had no knowledge of that phrase said in an interview of 2011. But I would like to repeat that Biggar has never written anything on the subject of abortion.”
Does the refusal of abortion, at any stage of pregnancy, remain unchanged?
This article continues at [Vatican Insider] Paglia: “Our No to abortion is at all stages”