Social “Science” at the JPII Institute
The Catholic world was surprised – though not entirely so – last week when the previously announced “refounding” of the John Paul II Institute on Marriage and the Family resulted in the firing of two prominent longtime professors and the “suspension” – for the time being, we may hope – of all faculty. All this in service of what was reported as Pope Francis’ intention to “broaden its academic curriculum, from a focus on the theology of marriage and the family to an approach that will also include the study of the family from the perspective of the social sciences.”
We’ve encountered this “social science” approach repeatedly in recent years: in the Working Documents of the two Synods on the Family, the Synod on Youth, and now the Synod on the Amazon. Third-order sociological analysis was prominent, while there was a relative lack of the distinctive elements that the Church brings to the world – systematic theology, authoritative moral reflection, and long experience of all things human.
In the latest episode, the intentions are clearer than ever. Msgr. Livio Melina (professor of moral theology and president of the Institute for over a decade) was fired – the official explanation: the chair in moral theology was being eliminated. That elimination already speaks volumes, as does the lame, circular explanation: his chair was being eliminated so there was no further need for him at the Institute.