Professor: With new president, JPII Institute should be renamed ‘Amoris Laetitia Institute’

Rome’s Pontifical Lateran University, where the John Paul II Pontifical Theological Institute for Marriage and Family Sciences is located Rome’s Pontifical Lateran University, where the John Paul II Pontifical Theological Institute for Marriage and Family Sciences is located | calu777/flickr (CC BY 2.0).

A French professor has suggested that under its new leader, the John Paul II Pontifical Theological Institute for Marriage and Family Sciences in Rome should be renamed the “Amoris Laetitia Institute.”

In anarticlepublished March 16 by noted Vaticanist Sandro Magister in his blog “Settimo Cielo,” Thibaud Collin, a professor of philosophy at the Collège Stanislas de Paris, lamented the appointment of Msgr. Philippe Bordeyne as the institute’s new president.

“In short, the appointment as manager of a figure like Philippe Bordeyne confirms that the John Paul II Institute, in full hemorrhage of students, should for the sake of intellectual honesty change its name. It could be called, for example, the ‘Amoris Laetitia’ Institute,” he wrote.

Bordeyne, rector of the Institut Catholique de Paris since 2011, was confirmed as the institute’s new president with a rescript dated Feb. 22 by Cardinal Giuseppe Versaldi and Archbishop Vincenzo Zani, respectively the prefect and secretary of the Vatican Congregation for Catholic Education. He will officially start his mandate in September.

The 61-year-old French theologian succeeds Msgr. Pierangelo Sequeri, 75, who has reached the end of his five-year mandate.

Under Sequeri, the institution was upgraded to a pontifical theological institute but was the focus of controversy after the curriculum was changed and theologians regarded as more faithful to the teachings of St. John Paul II dismissed.

The institute was founded in 1981 as a center for the study of Christian anthropology and theology, in light of the philosophical ideas expressed in the Polish pope’s work “Love and Responsibility,” and his teaching cycle known as the “Theology of the Body.”

Pope Francis reestablished the institute in 2017, broadening its focus from theology to include “family sciences.”

In his article, Collin argued that Bordeyne’s appointment confirmed a “paradigm shift,” with Pope Paul VI’s 1968 encyclical Humanae vitae no longer serving as the institute’s “touchstone.”

Collin cited a 2015 essay by Bordeyne, which argued that “it would be reasonable to leave the discernment on birth control methods to the wisdom of couples.”

“In this perspective, the Church could admit a plurality of paths for responding to the general call to maintain the openness of sexuality to transcendence and to the gift of life,” Bordeyne wrote.

He continued: “The way of natural methods that involves continence and chastity could be recommended as an evangelical counsel, practiced by Christian couples or not, that requires self-control in periodic abstinence. The other way whose moral legitimacy could be admitted, with the choice entrusted to the wisdom of the spouses, would consist in using non-abortive methods of contraception.”

As president, Bordeyne faces the immediate challenge of completing the institute’s overhaul, as expressed in Pope Francis’s apostolic letter dated Sept. 8, 2017. He must also seek to reverse a downward trend in student enrollment.

The institute has reportedly been forced to cut some courses because they did not attract a minimum number of students. Others are said to have lost 90% of students.

Bordeyne has specialized in moral theology, ecumenism, and the interpretation of the Second Vatican Council. He is the co-publisher and editor of the Bulletin of Moral Theology of Research in Religious Sciences and founder of the collection “Theology at the University.”

He participated as an expert at the 2015 Family Synod in Rome. In 2017, he published the book “Divorcés remariés: ce qui change avec François” (“Divorced and remarried, what changes with Pope Francis”).

In 2018, he published “Portare la legge a compimento. Amoris Laetitia nelle situazioni matrimoniali fragili” (“Bring the law to fruition. Amoris Laetitia in fragile matrimonial situations”) with the Vatican publishing house.

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He is a member of the academic board of the International Academy for Marital Spirituality (INTAMS). The organization dedicated a 2019 issue of its magazine “Marriage, Families & Spirituality” to “The rights of homosexual couples.”

The issue backed same-sex adoption and questioned whether the Church’s condemnation of homosexual relations could be applied to “long-term love relations between people of the same sex.”

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