In a rare display of diplomatic indecorum, Margaret Archer, the president of the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences, has lashed out at the author of a recent essay, accusing him of hate speech and moral depravity for questioning the Academy’s position on climate change.
Last month, Stefano Gennarini, the director of legal studies at the New York and Washington DC-based Center for Family and Human Rights (C-Fam), published a column about a Vatican-sponsored conference concerning global warming, questioning why vocal proponents of abortion and population control had been invited to offer advice to the Holy See.
Gennarini suggested that inviting UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, Professor Jeffrey Sachs of Columbia University, and former Senator Tim Wirth, all of whom hold moral positions at variance with the Catholic Church, may have been a mistake. He also suggested that the justification given by the Chancellor of the Pontifical Academies sponsoring the workshop was weak at best.
In a personal email to Gennarini, which she immediately published on various websites, Archer blasted him for his “hate message” and accused him of of being so focused on the abortion issue that he was “totally uninterested in vicious practices, such as human trafficking that are an offence to the human dignity and right to life that you purport to defend.”
She also called his position “a travesty of Catholic Social Teaching,” despite the fact that Archer herself has no credentials in the field, having never published anything on Catholic social teaching.
The kerfuffle began last month when Gennarini sent a series of questions about the workshop to the Chancellor of the Pontifical Academies of Science and Social Sciences. In responding, Argentinian Bishop Marcelo Sanchez Sorondo accused skeptics of global warming of being Tea Party flunkies and paid lobbyists of the oil industry. Gennarini published this odd exchange on the website of First Things, a journal of religion and public life, which subsequently drew the ire of Archer.
Margaret Archer, a 72-year-old former sociology lecturer at the University of Warwick, is the second-highest ranking woman in the Vatican. She was personally chosen by Bishop Sanchez Sorondo last year to replace the highly respected Harvard Law Professor Mary Ann Glendon as President of the Academy. Glendon is considered by many to be a pro-life hero and, in a widely publicized move in 2009, turned down the Laetare Medal at the University of Notre Dame, after learning that she would be sharing the stage with President Barack Obama, who supports abortion on demand.
Archer took great offense at Gennarini’s column about his exchange with Bishop Sanchez. In language resembling that used by liberal lobbies, she called it “a hate message” despite the fact that nothing about the piece expressed any sort of animosity toward Sanchez and instead merely questioned the Academy’s move to invite advocates of abortion and population control to speak at a high-profile Vatican event.
Archer, in turn, questioned Gennarini’s credentials while holding up her own. She writes, “We are respected academics who take full responsibility for our actions and have, according to our Statutes, the duty and privilege of advising the Church on matters of Social Doctrine and its application. I am appointed by the Pope and responsible directly to him. I’m afraid that leaves you and your cohort out in the cold.”
Parroting the same charges leveled by Bishop Sanchez Sorondo, she queries, “which lobbyists meet your salary bill?” Without ever answering Gennarini’s central thesis, Archer charges him with having “a minimalistic version of the [Catholic] Creed, consisting of a single item: ‘We believe in the ethical depravity of abortion.’”
In point of fact, the Center for Family and Human Rights that Gennarini represents, whose stated mission is “to defend life and family at international institutions and to publicize the debate,” supports a wide range of activities aimed at promoting human dignity, and Gennarini himself has written on a variety of issues including human development, demographics, marriage and family, and the United Nations.
Curiously, Pope Francis himself has been hammering home the Church’s radically pro-life message in a series of recent statements, calling abortion a “scourge” and likening abortion activists to the Mafia, so Gennarini can find some consolation in the fact that he is in good company in his belief “in the ethical depravity of abortion.”
It is possible that Sanchez and Archer are becoming frustrated that the upcoming Papal encyclical on the environment is still meeting such resistance even before it is released. Breitbart News reported that the document, which climate change believers hope will urge Catholics to accept the theory of anthropogenic global warming and cast the issue in religious terms, may be delayed and will be greatly reduced in scope from what advocates originally hoped.
One can only wonder why Sanchez and Archer have reacted so harshly to an attorney working for a small, UN-accredited NGO.
Follow Austin Ruse on Twitter @austinruse.