ROME, Italy, February 12, 2021 ―Pope Francis has appointed four new ordinary members to the Pontifical Academy for life this Friday, at least three of whom raise serious questions as to the future development of the institution created by Pope John Paul II in 1993 for the implementation of Evangelium vitae and the culture of life. Active in the fields of bioethics and moral theology, artificial intelligence and robotics as well as public health and vaccines, the four nominees have clearly been chosen with an eye on contemporary issues ranging from birth control and gender ideology to the “fourth industrial revolution” and the response to the COVID-19 crisis.
Sister Margarita Bofarull i Buñuel, of the Society of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, a medical doctor and surgeon, teaches moral theology at the Faculty of theology of Catalunya (north-east of Spain) and in the Universidad Centroamericana “José Simeón Cañas” in El Salvador. She is also president of the Instituto Borja de Bioética of the Ramon Llull University in Barcelona – of which more later.
She was already a corresponding member, as was the second nominee to full membership, Paola Benanti, an Italian religious of the Third Order Regular of the Franciscans, specializing in moral theology, bioethics and neurotechnologies. He teaches at the Gregorian University in Rome.
Professor Gualtiero Walter Ricciardi directs the Department of Sciences of Women’s, Children’s, and Public Health at the Catholic University of the Sacred Heart, in Italy, but he was also a prominent scientific counsellor of the Italian government at the height of the COVID-19 crisis in the spring of 2020, and Italy’s representative on the Executive Committee of the World Health Organization (WHO). In April, he made headlines in Italy because of an aggressive tweet against Donald Trump, illustrated by a video showing a number of people punching a puppet of the then U.S. president.
Lastly, Professor Maria Chiara Carrozza is a professor of Industrial Engineering at Biorobotics Institute at the Normal School of Pisa, in Italy. She is especially active in the field of rehabilitation robotics for amputees, wearable exoskeletons and “human-machine symbiosis.” She is also a politician, a member of the center-left Democratic Party (affiliated with the European Socialist Party at the European Parliament); she was the minister for instruction, universities and research in the Letta government in 2013-2014.
Archbishop Vincenzo Paglia (who features in a homoerotic mural painting he commissioned for his cathedral in Terni), the controversial president of the Pontifical Academy for Life appointed in 2017, and its chancellor, Msgr. Renzo Pegoraro, issued the following statement for the occasion:
The new appointments of four Ordinary Academicians represent an important event for the entire Pontifical Academy for Life. Our commitment deepens, following the guidelines indicated by Pope Francis in the speeches he addressed to the Pontifical Academy for Life in recent years and in the definition of the ‘strategic’ objectives of work and study, contained in the 2019 Letter Humana Communitas.
“With Prof. Margarita Bofarull, former Correspondent Academician, reflection in the fields of moral theology and bioethics is strengthened. With Prof. Father Paolo Benanti, former Correspondent Academician and now Ordinary Academician, and with Prof. Maria Chiara Carrozza, the Academy acquires new skills on the topics of technologies and their implications in the ethical and health fields. With the appointment of Prof. Walter Ricciardi, the Pontifical Academy for Life is preparing itself for the next Assembly on the theme of public health in a global perspective in September. That is a topic of great importance both at a social and health level, and for that inescapable ethical reflection in the face of a world changed by Covid19, of women and men in search of meaning and hope for their lives.
On behalf of all the Academicians, we express heartfelt thanks to Pope Francis for the attention with which he looks at our work. And we reaffirm the commitment to bring that gospel-based prophetic inspiration and vocation to our world, in order to show the way for a new time.
The operative words are “public health in a global perspective.” One of the main features of the COVID-19 crisis has shown itself to be a push for global governance regarding health issues, with a largely similar approach in managing the Wuhan virus: lockdowns, obstruction to early treatment in many developed countries and focus on innovating genetically manipulated and manipulating mRNA “vaccines” – a focus which is problematic even apart from the point of view of patient safety because of the involvement of abortion-tainted fetal cells in their development or testing.
Gualtiero Walter Riccialdi stands out in this field for having said during the first months of the COVID-19 crisis that the only way out was “the vaccine,” with lockdowns and social distancing being presented as necessary as long as the Italian population would not have widely received the shot.
It was Riccialdi who went on record on the public television station RAI Uno on March 8th of last year, in his capacity of Italian representative at the WHO and ministerial advisor, as the man who asked for public Masses to be banned throughout the country. He stated: “Religious ceremonies of any kind cannot be held.” The Italian Bishops’ Conference willingly submitted to the rule, adding even more suffering during the lockdown that lasted into May, with funerals banned even in the regions where COVID was practically absent.
Later, in April, Ricciardi repeated that COVID measures must be implemented in liturgical areas as well as in all others, especially in the hardest hit areas. He stated: “I advise the elderly to continue to follow Mass on TV, to avoid any risk. I repeat: these are universal precautions, which we will have to get used to in all life situations, at least until a vaccine is available: that is 12-18 months. Life is at stake.”
At the time, Italian doctors had been formally instructed not to perform autopsies on COVID-19 victims and treatment was given that actually worsened their condition, until doctors took things into their own hands.
Ricciardi rose to prominence in 2017 as the president of the Italian Superior Health Institute and as an active proponent of the National Plan for Vaccines, playing a leading role in the law which imposed ten compulsory vaccines for newborns.
At the beginning of 2020 – before the COVID-19 pandemic erupted in Italy – the Swiss anti-vaccine association Corvelva published an article underscoring the public health specialist’s “conflicts of interest,” as listed in his personal declaration to the European Commission on March 28, 2013, in view of a European mission.
These include Novartis for the MenB vaccine, GlaxoSmithKline, Pfizer, Sanofi Pasteur for Gardasil (the HPV vaccine), and others, for whom he acted in a consulting and advisory capacity regarding the assessment of the impact of their vaccines on health. It was he, according to the MEP Massimo Baroni, who proposed to create a National Center for the Assessment of Health Technologies in Italy whose objectives, said Baroni, “seem, curiously, to coincide with those of GlaxoSmithKline in the ViHTA program” which that pharmaceutical company funded in Italy.
To put it briefly, a prominent vaccine pusher is now a full member of the Pontifical Academy for Life.
No less controversial is the figure of Sister Margarita Bofarull i Buñuel, as suggested at the beginning of this story.
When she became a corresponding member of the Pontifical Academy for life at the close of 2013, nominated by its then president Msgr. Ignacio Carrasco de Paula, a number of Hispanic pro-lifers pointed out that she was the president of the “pro-abortion, pro-euthanasia and pro-eugenist Instituto Borga de Bioética” founded by the Jesuit Father Francesc Abel i Fabre, who had a formative role for Sister Margarita.
Publications of the Institute available online show that this to be true: its publication Bioètica & Debat, whose editorial board is now headed by Bofarull, includes texts saying that contraception, legal abortion in some cases and morning-after pills that prevent implantation of the human embryo in the womb before it has full human status can be allowed, if only out of empathy for the woman. Surely, some of these were published before Sister Margarita replaced Abel i Fabre (to whom she devoted an admiring biography), but she endorses them all by appearing at the head of the editorial board on the webpage where they are available.
In 2015, Fr. Custodio Ballester of the Catholic blog Adelante la Fé noted that Bofarull has always been careful in her public statements, letting her underlings at the Institute “carry out the task of demolishing Catholic morals.” But Fr. Ballester highlights some quotes that do show what Bofarull thinks, such as her saying: “Abortion is not a woman's right, it is another thing that it should be legally regulated, but not as a right, that is another matter.” The Borja Institute, Fr. Ballester recalled, gave a helping hand to the socialist government when it decided to legalize abortion.
Shortly after her nomination to the PAL, in January 2014, the Spanish “priests for life” had already criticized Bofarull in a statement published by the Germinans Germinabit blog. It recalled that she also had organized a conference on euthanasia for the Saint John of God hospital of Esplugues, Catalunya which had to be transferred to a local hotel because of the outcry against its pro-euthanasia bias.
Fr. Ballester, who authored the statement, quoted at length from the pro-abortion publications of Bioètica & Debat, and also cited Professor Josef Seifert who in 2012, wrote an open letter in which he spoke of his concern at the PAL’s growing lack of commitment to the truth and respect for human life.
Before Sister Margarita’s nomination to the PAL, in April 2013, ACI Prensa (the Hispanic sister agency to Catholic News Agency), published a story criticizing the financial support given to the Borja Institute of which she was already the president, quoting its support for abortion, in particular for victims of rape, and its support for “a possible depenalization of euthanasia” as early as 2005.
Sister Bofarull herself published a book at the Centro Monseñor Romero, El Salvador, in 2014, under the title Una sexualidad liberadora (“A Liberating Sexuality”), co-written with Cristián Barría Iroumé, a medical psychiatrist. The nun devoted her part of the booklet to a biblical view of sexuality, showing that sex can be used by men to dominate women and pleading for a new approach that would not submit one to the other at all.
Her co-author, Barría Iroumé, followed up with a reflection on modern contraception, slamming the traditional approach of Humanae vitae that Catholics, he said, don’t follow anyway. His contribution concluded that Church teachings should evolve in these matters.
It was not Bofarull who made these statements, for sure. But she did accept to “cohabit” with Barría under one title and between the same book covers. It can at least be said that she did not disapprove.