Upon returning from his visit to the Kingdom of Bahrain, Pope Francis announced the appointment of the Italian-American economist Mariana Mazzucato to the Pontifical Academy for Life. This choice raises many questions since the new member holds positions contrary to the Catholic Church’s doctrine on the existence of God and the sanctity of life in the womb.
“A fresh breath of humanity” is how Pope Francis described the appointment of Professor Mariana Mazzucato to the venerable institution of the Pontifical Academy for Life, an institution founded by Pope John Paul II in 1994 whose official mission is to “study, inform, and form,”
the main biomedical and juridical problems related to the promotion and defense of life, especially in the relationship they have with Christian morality and the directives of the Church’s magisterium.
It is no secret that Mariana Mazzucato is openly atheist and in favor of legalizing abortion. On both points, her appointment is therefore in open contradiction with the statutes of the Academy, yet validated by Pope Francis in 2016. Article 1 says that the Academy “has as its end the defence and promotion of human life;” Article 5 specifies that its members “undertake to promote and defend the principles regarding the value of life and the dignity of the human person, interpreted in a way that conforms to the Magisterium of the Church.” The same article also states that membership may be revoked “in the case of a public and deliberate action or statement manifestly contrary to these principles.”
The decision to appoint Mazzucato is his personal responsibility; Pope Francis has been very clear about this. One cannot imagine a more flagrant contradiction between those statutes and the choice of Mariana Mazzucato. Close to the American Democrats, she’s advising Bernie Sanders and Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez, whose Catholic fervour remains to be demonstrated. It is difficult, in these conditions, to understand the meaning of the pontiff’s words, and to grasp what he means by “a fresh breath of humanity.”
But we can try to tease out his intention. Logically, as editorialist Sergio Fontana for Daily Compass points out, “if Mazzucato represents a breath of humanity in the Academy because she is an atheist and pro-abortion, then it means that not being an atheist and being against abortion denotes a lack of humanity.” The Pope’s provocative formula—and he is fond of formulas—would mean that the current members of the Academy are sorely lacking in that famous “humanity,” and that it was necessary to somehow ‘restore the balance.’ If the Mazzucato case becomes a precedent, and this breath of humanity is erected as a cardinal virtue, one can imagine that we will soon have to rejoice in having atheist catechists in the schools—this is sometimes already the case—and (why not?) atheist ministers of religion as well.
The problem goes deeper than this matter of a particular position and person. According to the Catholic faith, humanity is only fully realised in God; that is the whole mystery of the Incarnation. Whatever humanity Professor Mazzucato brings to the Academy while being an atheist, it can only be a truncated and wounded humanity. Why then hold it up as an example, and take it as a compass?
Perhaps the choice for Mazzucato should be seen in the light of Pope Francis’ latest book, I beseech You in the Name of God, published October on 18th in Italy, soon to be published in Spain. In it, Pope Francis makes ten requests of humanity “for a future of hope.” The requests formulated there, one after the other, “in the name of God,” are also framed in his famous ‘breath of humanity’ theme. The pontiff is concerned about the “madness of war,” “attacks on the common home,” “fake news and hate speech,” “gluttony on natural resources.” He also wants to improve the status of women and the growth of poor countries.
There are all honourable concerns, but it’s fair to say that none would not be out of place at the IPCC or the UN. Pronounced from the Holy See, these requests seem a bit incongruous. One will look in vain, in the pontiff’s preoccupations, for mention of the failing churches of the West that are being emptied, sold to real estate developers eager to transform them into trendy lounge bars. His heart doesn’t seem to tighten at the thought of those generations that have grown up without ever having heard the name of Christ, the incarnate God—who is not even mentioned, glossed over by the language belonging to the undifferentiated whole of “religions.” Nor does he seem to be concerned about the immense and eternal task which has been incumbent upon pastors since Christ entrusted them with this mission, infinitely renewed—working tirelessly for the salvation of souls.
By dignifying Professor Mazzucato with membership to his Academy for Life, Pope Francis is acting in a way that is, let us remain measured, unexpected and risky. For it is not at all certain that entrusting responsibility and authority to people who are intimately convinced of the non-existence of God is the best way to help these lost souls meet Him.