A statement written and released this week by members of the Pontifical Academy for Life against the actions of their president has not reached the Holy Father or the secretary of state, Vatican spokesman, Fr. Federico Lombardi said on Friday. He also expressed his misgivings that such a document would be in circulation at all.
According to Vatican Radio, Fr. Lombardi responded to journalists' questions on Friday about the nature of a statement from members of the Pontifical Academy for Life (PAV) outlining their criticism of the body's president, Archbishop Rino Fisichella.
The statement, bearing the signatures of five academy members, describes a lack of confidence in the archbishop as president of the Academy for Life and expresses their hope that "the Holy Father will recognize the need to provide him with an occupation better suited to his abilities. "
The statement refers particularly to the damaging effects of Archbishop Fisichella's response to the abortion of the twins of a nine-year old girl in Recife, Brazil last spring. They pointed to the ineffectiveness of his clarification in "dispelling the false understanding of the Church’s teaching about direct abortion conveyed by the 15 March 2009 article."
This article, written by the archbishop, seemed to condone "therapeutic abortions" in certain cases.
In response to requests for clarification from members of the PAV, first directly to Archbishop Fisichella and then, after he rejected the request for a formal explanation, to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, a "Clarification" was released. The Clarification said that Archbishop Fisichella's words were subjected to "exploitation and manipulation" to make it seem like he had accepted the doctors' decision to abort the twins.
At that point, the issue seemed to have been resolved.
One of the five signatories of the statement, Christine de Marcellus de Vollmer, told CNA on Thursday that Archbishop Fisichella caused a flare up in tensions with his opening remarks at the recently concluded plenary assembly of the Academy.
On the first day of the plenary, Feb. 11, Archbishop Fisichella blasted members of the Academy who had asked for a clarification and described the action as "malice," "spite," and as rooted in "a desire to cause a situation of conflict."
According to the statement from the five PAV members, the archbishop's remarks "had the effect of confirming in the minds of many Academicians the impression that we are being led by an ecclesiastic who does not understand what absolute respect for innocent human lives entails."
The signatories called this "an absurd state of affairs in a Pontifical Academy for Life but one which can be rectified only by those who are responsible for his appointment as President."
Vatican Radio reported Fr. Lombardi as declaring that this issue has not reached the Pope or his secretary of state Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, who are responsible for deciding the archbishop's fate.
The director of Vatican Radio and the Holy See's Press Office called into question the reasons for circulating such a document at all and pointed out that the Belgian priest and academic, Msgr. Michel Schooyans, whose name appears as one of the five signatories, was not even present at the PAV's plenary meeting from Feb. 11-13, which would have been the place to bring up a problem of this nature.
CNA spoke by telephone with Fr. Graham Bell from the Pontifical Academy for Life on Friday morning about the assembly. He informed CNA that the addresses from the plenary would not be released because they were "closed meetings."