People are asking me what I think…

about the appointment of Nigel Biggar to the Pontifical Academy for Life.

It’s a question that, for many of my readers, has the quality of a moral litmus test (I get a lot of those from combox Inquisitors).  The “correct” answer, of course, is “I STRONGLY DENOUNCE THIS MONSTROUS ACT AND BELIEVE AND PROFESS THAT THIS IS THE TRUE SIGN THAT FRANCIS IS ANTICHRIST AND THAT THE THREE DAYS OF DARKNESS ARE NEARLY UPON US!!!”

But the truth is that I know very little about the Pontifical Academy for Life, what its job is supposed to be, who Biggar is, what his views are (beyond his remark about legalizing abortion up to the 18th week), who the guy who appointed him is, nor what his purpose was in appointing him.  Until I know any of that, it’s hard for me to have any hard and fast views.

Why?  Well, because of several things.  First, because Abp. Vincenzo Paglia, who appointed Biggar, also appointed Carl Anderson, Supreme Knight of the Knights of Columbus, Dr. John M. Haas, President of the National Catholic Bioethics Center in Philadelphia, and Archbishop Anthony Fisher of Sydney.  Hardly the action of an enemy of the Church’s teaching.

Relatedly, when Paul VI was deliberating the question of artificial contraception, he welcomed the input of a bunch of theologians who advocated it.  This is called “thinking”.

Relatedly, when St. Thomas deliberated every question to ever bother his head, he entertained every single decent objection to his position and the Church’s teaching he could possibly think of first, the better to have a strong reply.

In short, if the job of the Pontifical Academy is to create an ideological echo chamber in which no idea or prudential judgment unacceptable to Church Militant and Lifesite News is ever so much as heard in order to ensure Unit Cohesion Among the Righteous, then this was a bad appointment.  You may commence panicking about the End of the Church As We Know It.  Just be aware that this sort of Epistemic Closure Bubble, while contributing to a feeling of warmth and safety for American Postmodern Conservative Ideologues, has also slowly suffocated their brains and made them deaf, dumb, and blind to much of reality–including almost all of the Church’s social doctrine, of which they are now mortal enemies.

If, on the other hand, the function of the Pontifical Academy for Life is to engage the arguments of the culture and learn how to think more clearly by hearing what smart people, steeped in the Tradition and with principled prudential judgments have to say, then this appointment may be a very good one.

Or, then again, there may be some other reason for the appointment neither I nor the combox inquisitors have thought of, since we know *nothing* except a sound bite from six years ago.  I wouldn’t know since what I have not seen is an interview with Abp Paglia on his reasons for the appointment.  When and if that emerges, I’ll be happy to read it.  Till then, I recommend delaying the autopsy on the Church and the moral litmus tests.

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