Vatican Archbishop Walks Back Approval of Assisted Suicide

Vincenzo Paglia
Marvin RECINOS/AFP via Getty Images

ROME, Italy — The president of the Pontifical Academy for Life has walked back statements in support of legalized assisted suicide, accusing journalists of having misinterpreted his thought.

The press office of the Pontifical Academy for Life issued a statement Monday in response to “incorrect interpretations” of the thought of Archbishop Vincenzo Paglia, the Academy’s president.

Archbishop Paglia, “in full conformity with the Church’s Magisterium, reaffirms his ‘No’ to euthanasia and assisted suicide,” the statement asserted.

Breitbart News stands by its earlier report, in which it cited verbatim the archbishop’s words: “Personally, I would not practice assisting suicide, but I understand that legal mediation can constitute the greatest common good concretely possible in the conditions in which we find ourselves.”

“In our society, a practicable legal mediation allowing assisted suicide cannot be excluded,” the archbishop affirmed, adding that this mediation must take place under the conditions specified by the Italian Constitutional Court.

These conditions stipulate that to be eligible for assisted suicide, a person must be kept alive by life-sustaining treatments and be suffering from an irreversible pathology, which is a source of physical or psychological suffering that he considers intolerable, and that he must be fully capable of making free and informed decisions.

The archbishop couched his comments in the context of “evolving” moral teaching, seeming to suggest that the Church’s unswerving opposition to assisted suicide is subject to interpretation.

“I would like to point out that the Catholic Church does not have a set of prepackaged prêt-à-porter truths, as if it were a dispenser of truth pills,” the archbishop declared. “Theological thought evolves in history, in dialogue with the Magisterium and with the experience of the people of God (sensus fidei fidelium), in a dynamic of mutual enrichment.”

In its own attempt to justify the archbishop’s statements, the press office of the Pontifical Academy for Life said that Paglia was approving a “legislative initiative” rather than a moral one.

“Any further elaboration is uncalled for,” the statement said, in an apparent effort to end the discussion.

Archbishop Paglia has had to walk back his ambiguous statements with increasing regularity in the face of pushback from the Catholic faithful schooled in the Church’s unconditional pro-life teachings.

Last year, Paglia said that Italy’s 1978 Law legalizing abortion is “a pillar of society” that should not be overturned.

“I believe that at this point the Law 194 is a pillar of our social life,” the archbishop stated.

In the face of a groundswell of opposition, Archbishop Paglia, defended his statement, insisting through his spokesman, Fabrizio Mastrofini, that criticisms of his declaration were both “specious” and “offensive” since they allegedly took his words out of context.

The archbishop apparently took umbrage at the article published by Breitbart News, the only major news outlet to cover the story, since the Pontifical Academy’s official Twitter account only tagged two news outlets in its declaration, namely that of the 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 as if 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!”, a request that Breitbart News gladly accommodated.

In response to claims that Breitbart News had taken Archbishop Paglia’s words on Italy’s Law 194 legalizing abortion “out of context,” Breitbart noted that it had translated the archbishop’s entire statement word for word to allow readers to judge for themselves what he had said.


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