Vatican Chief Defends Calling Abortion Law ‘Pillar of Society’

Vincenzo Paglia
Marvin RECINOS/AFP via Getty Images

ROME — The president of the Pontifical Academy for Life, Archbishop Vincenzo Paglia, has defended his statement on Italian television that Italy’s 1978 law legalizing abortion is a “pillar of society.”

In an official statement Monday by his spokesman, Fabrizio Mastrofini, the archbishop said that criticisms of his declaration are both “specious” and “offensive” since they take his words out of context and disregard his many statements defending life.

Paglia apparently took particular offense at the news story carried by Breitbart News, the only major news outlet to cover the matter, since the Pontifical Academy’s official Twitter account only tagged two news outlets in its declaration, namely that of Breitbart News Rome Bureau Chief and the BBC.

While the BBC did not, in fact, even report on the archbishop’s statement, a BBC hoax site reprinted the Breitbart report in full, without attribution, making it appear that the BBC had filed a separate article on the story.

In the tweet, the Pontifical Academy urged Breitbart to “please, consider this Statement in your news!”, which we are pleased to do.

August 29 declaration by spokesman for Archbishop Vincenzo Paglia.

Regarding Archbishop Paglia’s claim that criticisms of his statements on Italy’s Law 194 legalizing abortion were taken “out of context,” the Breitbart News story in question was careful not to merely note that the archbishop had called the law a “pillar of society,” but translated his entire statement word for word to allow readers to judge for themselves what he had said.

In the declaration released Monday by his spokesman, Archbishop Paglia said he had not intended to offer “a judgment on the value of the law,” but just the observation that it is practically impossible to abolish it since it is a “structural element of legislation.”

For a Catholic politician to declare Law 194 a “pillar of society” would be problematic; such a statement by a Catholic prelate and the President of the Pontifical Academy for Life is indefensible and flies in the face of Church teaching.

Even if the archbishop had merely stated on television that Law 194 is “settled law” and therefore should not be reexamined, his words would be deeply troubling. Paglia has no problem arguing that the death penalty should be outlawed even in countries where it has long been “settled law.” Why would a law permitting abortion be untouchable when laws permitting capital punishment are fair game?

Indeed, following the June 24 U.S. Supreme Court decision overturning Roe v. Wade, Archbishop Paglia did not congratulate pro-life Americans on this momentous victory for life, but instead took the occasion to urge the passage of more stringent gun laws and combating capital punishment.

“We must fight so that the death penalty is abolished along with abortion,” he said at the time (emphasis added).

Moreover, by any standard of interpretation, a “pillar of society” is much more than just settled law and suggests a foundational role upon which society itself rests.

In a bizarre defense of the archbishop’s words, the spokesman ended his declaration by saying that criticizing Paglia’s weak stance on Italian abortion law overlooks the fact that in late May he took part in a ceremony in which he blessed a statue of Mary with Jesus in her womb.


Please let us know if you're having issues with commenting.