When Paglia unveiled Bordeyne as the new president, he said that the French monsignor’s mission would be to make the institute “even more universal.”
Paglia, president of the Pontifical Academy for Life, said that the institute’s refounding was meant to create a synthesis between the visions of John Paul II and Pope Francis.
“I agreed to leave the ICP a year before the end of my mandate with a spirit of service, to respond to the call of Archbishop Paglia,” Bordeyne told CNA via email, expressing his enthusiasm about the discovery of a “diverse teaching staff, old and new, who agrees with me in recognizing the formidable potential of this teaching and research institution.”
He continued: “I am looking forward to meeting with students from some 30 countries, as well as the vice-presidents of the seven international sections who will participate in our next council in Rome, Oct. 21.”
“I want to be able to develop with them the institute’s resources in terms of research and doctoral education.”
When the seasoned theologian’s appointment was announced, it was criticized in some quarters.
Thibaud Collin, a professor of philosophy at the Collège Stanislas de Paris, argued that Bordeyne’s nomination signaled a decisive abandonment of St. John Paul II’s legacy.
“In short,” he wrote, “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.”
Critics pointed to Bordeyne’s writings. For example, in a reflection published by the French Catholic newspaper La Croix in 2015, he said that, although the encyclical Humanae vitae (on which the Institute’s curriculum is based), only recommends natural methods of fertility control, “it must be recognized, that the distance between the practice of the faithful and the magisterial teaching has widened.”
Questioned about this controversy, Bordeyne told CNA that his thought was misunderstood.
“Do not judge a theologian by taking a sentence out of context. You have to read him,” he said. “Contrary to those who ignored the 50th anniversary [in 2018] of the encyclical Humanae vitae, I devoted two articles to it.”
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In 2017, the theologian also dedicated a book -- Divorcés remariés: ce qui change avec François -- to the sensitive question of the place of remarried divorcees within the Church. He was writing following the highly publicized family synods, in which he participated as an expert in 2015, and the subsequent apostolic exhortation Amoris laetitia.
Bordeyne said that his goal was to “show that Pope Francis’ pastoral approach is based on a moral tradition that is perfectly attested in the Catholic tradition, which is not uniform.”
“John Paul II already had the same courage and theological insight when he provoked the Church to open up a question that had seemed forbidden until then, by affirming in [the 1981 apostolic exhortation] Familiaris consortio that pastors are obliged to make distinctions between the moral situations of divorcees or remarried persons.”
John Paul II’s pontificate, according to Bordeyne, was particularly striking “for the breadth and coherence of his teaching.”
“Starting with Christ, the Redeemer of man -- which is the name of his first encyclical -- the holy pope has shed the light of the Gospel and of living tradition on all human realities,” he said.
Bordeyne praised the Polish pope for grasping the significance for evangelization of the passage to the third millennium by “canonizing a great number of lay people, on all continents, to support the proclamation of the Christian faith in all cultures.”