Archbishop Paglia, president of the Pontifical Academy for Life, caused a stir by referring to Italy's 1978 abortion law as a pillar of the legal system.
While the issue of abortion rights is agitating Italian society in the run-up to the September 25 elections, comments by Archbishop Vincenzo Paglia calling Law 194 on abortion a “pillar” of the Italian legal system have created controversy.
But according to his spokesman, this word used by the president of the Pontifical Academy for Life is being taken out of context.
In a statement published on August 29, 2022, the spokesman reiterated Archbishop Paglia’s commitment to life at all its stages.
“I think that Law 194 is now a pillar of our social life,” said Archbishop Paglia on the television set of Rai 3 on August 26, telling the journalist that the law decriminalizing abortion, enacted in 1978, was “absolutely not” under discussion.
His words provoked an outcry from some Catholics.
But according to his spokesman, Fabrizio Mastrofini, the archbishop was not making a “value judgement” on the law.
Instead, he was acknowledging that “it is practically impossible to abolish Law 194 as a structural element of the legislation in this area.”
A poplar referendum upheld the law in 1981, but after the US Supreme Court has overturned its own abortion law this summer, some Italian Catholics were more prone to take issue with the archbishop’s estimation.
During his interview, Archbishop Paglia highlighted a part of the law that, according to him, had not been implemented, namely “the right to maternity.”
He pointed to the crisis of births in Italy, “a problem that we have not thought about – and it is already late.”
Pope Francis has often spoken about this issue – Italy’s demographic winter – encouraging the country to heed the warnings of scientists about birthrates that are below replacement level.
A defender of life
Archbishop Paglia’s spokesman added that it is “more than desirable” that the law be “improved in the direction of a better defense of the unborn child.”
On the Peninsula, debate was stirred by an article in the Guardian alleging a strategy by the Fratelli d’Italia political party – especially in the Marche – to reduce access to abortion.
Still defending Archbishop Paglia, the spokesman cited the 77-year-old archbishop’s “numerous interventions” on “the defense and promotion of life at all ages (from conception to death) and in all situations.”
He also recalls that on May 29, the president of the Academy blessed a sculpture of the pregnant Virgin Mary, in an initiative promoted by the Movement for Life.
This is not the first time that the positions of the Academy for Life in the Italian political context have triggered controversy. At the beginning of this year, the leaders of the academy caused commotion by saying that it was possible to consider an “imperfect” law that would regulate assisted suicide in order to “prevent even worse abuses.”