It was at this same gathering that the academy announced its April 2012 meeting on adult stem cells. Although that conference was later canceled, some members saw the entire incident – including the reasons given for the cancellation – as a betrayal of the pontifical academy's mission.
One letter, sent to a scheduled speaker by the academy's chancellor and officer for studies, stated that the conference was canceled for economic reasons – and not because of the “lobbying activity” of “some pro-life activists” who “do not enjoy any credit” from the pontifical academy.
But a separate letter, signed only by the chancellor, said the meeting's indefinite postponement was due in part to the “threats coming from some persons” using “false and tendentious information” to raise “doubts or even fears” about the conference.
Organizers of the canceled April 2012 conference defended the choice of embryonic research supporters as speakers, saying they were also experts in adult stem cells and would not use the conference to promote views contrary to Catholic moral teaching.
But critics within the academy cited its founding statues, which allow work with “non-Catholic and non-Christian medical experts, so long as they recognize the essential moral foundation of science and medicine in the dignity of man and the inviolability of human life from conception to natural death.”
In his letter to Bishop Carrasco, Prof. Seifert stated his reasons for considering Feb. 24 as the lowest point in the pro-life academy's history.
He corroborated Wilson's account of the discussions about infertility that took place, saying they disregarded ethical norms of the natural law in favor of a supposedly “neutral” viewpoint. Five out of the seven papers delivered, he said, “stood in flat contradiction to Church teaching on morals.”
“The contraceptive pill was praised if taken for a while and introduced as a healthy means for restricting periods of fertility,” Seifert recalled. In vitro fertilization, artificial insemination, and related technologies “were presented as morally acceptable and as major achievements.”
These presentations, he said, were “propaganda for everything the Church condemns in this field,” and they had “no legitimate place in our academy.”
Seifert also accused the academy of dismissing pro-life objections to the canceled stem cell conference as “useless controversies,” and responding with “cynical mockery” to those who raised concerns about the infertility conference.
“Instead of offering refunds to participants who had been gravely misled and wasted their money to attend a Planned Parenthood-like meeting under the auspices of the Pontifical Academy for Life, these unhappy participants were brutally told, if they did not like what they heard, not to return next year.”
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This same attitude, he said, was evident in the tone of the letters that announced the cancellation of the April 2012 stem cell conference.
These factors, Seifert told Bishop Carrasco, made it understandable that some members of the academy should look for signs of repentance – including not only apologies, but possibly resignations as well.
The professor's remarks may soon spark a larger conversation about the academy's direction. In a post-script to the letter, he told Bishop Carrasco he was encouraging “all my fellow members in the academy to let you know to which extent they agree with the contents of this letter.”