A faculty member at the Institute expressed concern to CNA that the new statutes concentrate the hiring of faculty and development of curriculum in the chancellor’s office, now occupied by Paglia.
The faculty member said that tenured professors will no longer be involved in the search for new faculty members, and will only be able to stop a new hire with a two-thirds majority vote. This, the professor said, will be “practically impossible” because of faculty appointment recently made at the institute.
The professor said that when the Pontifical John Paul II Institute was founded, it had been especially important to then-Pope John Paul II that tenured professors consent to new faculty appointments, “to secure the continuity of the Institute’s identity.”
“With this new process, the continuity of the identity of the Institute is dead,” the professor told CNA.
The professor also confirmed that the Institute’s faculty chair of moral theology will be eliminated, an idea he called “inconceivable.”
He also said that the new process for hiring faculty is a break with ordinary academic practices.
“I don't remember any academic precedent that has ever eliminated chairs and tenures by arguing that the current Institute is a totally new organization and that therefore the previous professors with tenure have no rights: this is simply a juridical scam. And the juridical scam is being used against the two experts of morals: (Monsignor Livio) Melina and (Father Jose) Noriega.”
Melina and Noriega will not return to teach at the John Paul II Institute next year. Technically, because all professors will be given new contracts under the new statutes of the Institute, they were not fired; instead, their contracts have not been renewed.
They will, reportedly, be able to continue working with students completing dissertations under their direction.
At the time changes to the Institute were announced in 2017, Paglia said that faculty would not be cut, but rather expanded, bringing in new professors and experts to discuss themes relevant to the “sciences of marriage and family.”
But Italian Catholic news agency La Nuova Bussola Quotidiana reported this week that all faculty members in Rome were recently informed that, because of the new statutes, professors would be suspended until they could be evaluated in light of the Institute’s needs, and possibly reassigned to teach new courses in the fall.
Melina, who was reportedly informed that he will not continue at the institute, earned in 1985 the first doctoral degree given by the Institute, and served as its long-time president.
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His dismissal, and that of Noriega, came as a shock to many at the Institute.
“All these decisions about curricula and personnel have been made during the summer, without the input of a single faculty member,” one professor told CNA.
Among new faculty members appointed to teach at the university is Fr. Maurizio Chiodi, who argued in 2018 that the use of artificial contraception could, in some cases, “be recognized as an act of responsibility that is carried out, not in order to radically reject the gift of a child but because in those situations, responsibility calls the couple and the family to other forms of welcome and hospitality.”
The letter sent by the students raised particular concern about the reported elimination of the Institute’s chair of moral theology.
“At the center of our concern regarding the identity of the Institute is the suppression of the chair of fundamental moral theology. We know how important that study of human action was for Pope John Paul II, to the point of entrusting the (moral theology) chair precisely to the first president, Cardinal Carlo Caffarra," their letter said.
After voicing objection to the reported dismissal of Molina and Noriega, the students’ letter said that the Institute seems to be remaking itself in a way that models a secularized approach to studying the family.
The letter asked: “Why continue to study at the John Paul II Institute if it does not seem to propose anything different from what we can find among the curricula of secular universities, usually in more attractive and effective ways?"