Pope Francis appoints pro-abortion economist to Pontifical Academy for Life

Mariana Mazzucato Mariana Mazzucato | Photo by David Levenson/Getty Images

One of the newest members of the Pontifical Academy for Life appointed by Pope Francis is an outspoken advocate of abortion rights, having recently shared her opposition to the overturning of Roe v. Wade on Twitter.

Italian-American economist Mariana Mazzucato, known for her work promoting the public sector’s role in encouraging innovation, was among seven academics appointed by the pope on Oct. 15 to serve five-year terms with the academy.

In his 2020 book “Let Us Dream: The Path to a Better Future,” Pope Francis described Mazzucato’s work as “thinking that is not ideological, which moves beyond the polarization of free market capitalism and state socialism, and which has at its heart a concern that all of humanity have access to land, lodging, and labor.”

The website Catholic Culture published on Tuesday links to recent social media posts shared by Mazzucato in which she tweeted and retweeted pro-abortion statements concerning the  Supreme Court’s decision to return abortion law to the states. 

In response to a Twitter post that featured commentary deploring the overturning of Roe v. Wade, Mazzucato tweeted, “So good!”

The post included a video of commentator Ana Kasparian condemning Christians for pushing their own views on non-Christians.

“These comments might be strong but it’s how I genuinely feel. I don’t care that you’re a Christian. I don’t care what the Bible says. Like, I feel like it’s a clown show, like sitting here trying to decipher what your little mythical book has to say about these very real political issues, right,” Kasparian said.

‘Shocking and scandalous’

Robert P. George, professor of jurisprudence at Princeton University, a Catholic and outspoken advocate for the right to life, told CNA that he is disturbed by the news of the appointment.

“The Pontifical Academy for Life exists to advance the Church’s mission to foster respect for the profound, inherent, and equal dignity of each and every member of the human family, beginning with the precious child in the womb. Either one believes in this mission or one does not. If one does not, then why would one wish to be part of the Pontifical Academy?” George asked.

“And why would someone with appointment authority appoint someone to the academy? I can think of no explanation that is not shocking and scandalous,” George told CNA.

Catholic Culture shared Mazzucato’s other tweets and retweets from that time period:

  • On June 23, she retweeted a tweet by Robert Reich: “So states can decide you must carry a fetus but not whether you can carry a concealed gun?”

  • On June 24, she retweeted a tweet by Nicola Sturgeon: “One of the darkest days for women’s rights in my lifetime. Obviously the immediate consequences will be suffered by women in the US—but this will embolden anti-abortion & anti-women forces in other countries too. Solidarity doesn’t feel enough right now—but it is necessary.”

  • On June 24, she retweeted a tweet by Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus: “Safe #abortion is health care. It saves lives. Restricting it drives women and girls towards unsafe abortions, resulting in complications, even death. The evidence is irrefutable.”

  • On June 25, she tweeted, “Excellent @ewarren” in reaction to comments about abortion made by pro-abortion Sen. Elizabeth Warren.

  • On July 2, she retweeted a tweet by Bloomberg Quicktake: “‘Safe abortion is health care. It saves lives.’ Earlier this week, WHO’s @DrTedros blasted the Supreme Court’s decision to end the constitutional right to an abortion as a ‘setback’ for the decades-long trend toward safer access.”

  • On July 3, she retweeted a tweet by Robert Reich: “Call me a radical lefty, but I think it should be easier to get a life-saving abortion than an assault rifle.”

Pro-life pledge removed

The Pontifical Academy for Life was formed by St. John Paul II in 1994 with a pro-life mission to “study, information, and formation on the principal problems of biomedicine and of law, relative to the promotion and defense of life, above all in the direct relation that they have with Christian morality and the directives of the Church’s Magisterium.”

The academy’s first president, Venerable Jérôme Lejeune, established bylaws requiring members of the academy to sign a declaration stating, “before God and men we bear witness that for us every human being is a person” and that “from the moment the embryo is formed until death it is the same human being which grows to maturity and dies.” 

More in Vatican

In 2016, however, with the appointment of Archbishop Vincenzo Paglia as president of the Pontifical Academy for Life, Pope Francis approved new statutes that eliminated the requirement that members declare themselves “pro-life.”

However, the academy’s new statutes still require members to conform with Church teaching.

The statutes also say members, or academicians, appointed by the pope, can be of any religion, though they should “promote and defend the principles regarding the value of life and dignity of the human person, interpreted in a way that conforms to the Magisterium of the Church.”

An academician can have his or her membership revoked, the statutes say, “in the case of a public and deliberate action or statement manifestly contrary to said principles, or seriously offensive to the dignity and credibility of the Catholic Church and the Academy itself.”

However, in 2017 a pro-abortion theologian, Nigel Biggar, was appointed to the academy. An Anglican professor of moral and pastoral theology at the University of Oxford, he supported legalized abortion up to 18 weeks and had expressed qualified support for euthanasia, the National Catholic Register reported.

In 2021, in an address to the Pontifical Academy for Life, Pope Francis affirmed the academy’s pro-life mission. The Holy Father said that the institution’s purpose was to “help today’s men and women to rediscover ‘the primacy of the right to life from conception to its natural end.’”

Confusion over contraception

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The institution received negative publicity in June over the publication of a book that appeared to condone contraception in certain cases.

At least one member of the Pontifical Academy for Life distanced herself from the book, “Theological Ethics of Life: Scripture, Tradition, Practical Challenges.

“The book is not an official statement but the seminar records in which 20 people made their personal statements. Many members didn't know about it and are astonished,” Spain-based bioethicist Elena Postigo shared on Twitter.

Other new members

The other new members of the academy are Archbishop Carlos Castillo Mattasoglio of Lima, Peru; Federico de Montalvo Jääskeläinen, expert in constitutional law, human rights, civil liberties, and medical law and bioethics from Spain; Saad al-Din Mosaad Helaly, professor of Islamic jurisprudence at Al-Azhar University in Egypt; Dr. John N. Nkengasong, U.S. global AIDS coordinator and special representative for global health diplomacy at the U.S. Department of State; Dr. Jean-Marie Okwo-Bele, public health expert from Congo; and Sheila Dinotshe Tlou, expert on HIV/AIDS and women’s health from Botswana.

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