Pope Francis talks as he embraces a child during a special audience with members of the "Train of the children" at the Vatican, on June 3, 2017. Photo courtesy of Reuters/Remo Casilli

Pope Francis shakes up Vatican bioethics board

(RNS) Prominent U.S. ethicists are among a number of international experts chosen by Pope Francis for his bioethics advisory board —  a move that might temper the group's conservative views on sexual morality and life issues.

John Haas, president of the National Catholic Bioethics Center in Philadelphia, and Ignatius John Keown, professor of Christian ethics at Washington’s Georgetown University, are among 45 members appointed by the pope to the Pontifical Academy for Life.

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Dr. Kathleen M. Foley, a neurologist in pain and palliative care at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center and a professor of neurology at Cornell University, was appointed to the board. So was Carl Anderson, head of the Knights of Columbus.

Five honorary members were also appointed.

Francis has kept several previous members and added new members.

Carl Anderson, leader of the Knights of Columbus fraternal order and one of the most influential lay Catholics in the church. Photo courtesy of Knights of Columbus

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Anderson, for example, was appointed to the academy by then-Pope John Paul II in 1998. Anderson is the chief executive officer and chairman of the Knights of Columbus, the world’s largest family fraternal organization, and a staunch opponent of abortion.

But some of the academy’s more outspoken members who had protested a 2012 Vatican infertility conference when experts didn’t support church teaching weren’t invited back.

The website Crux reported that among those absent on the task force are Christine de Marcellus Vollmer, president of the Alliance for Family and of the Latin American Alliance for Family; Monsignor Michel Schooyans, a Belgian and professor emeritus of the Catholic University of Louvain; and Luke Gormally, a former research professor at Ave Maria School of Law.

While Francis has upheld church opposition to abortion, his choice of board members may reflect a desire for a less combative tone on the issue.

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Last year, the pope reaffirmed the church’s commitment to defend human life “from conception to natural death,” which usually refers to the church’s opposition to contraception, abortion and euthanasia.

He also condemned what he has described as the “culture of waste” in the medical sector, referring to human embryos, the sick and the elderly as disposable material.


  1. If the pope wants to “temper the group’s conservative views,” then Carl Anderson should not be on that board.

  2. So nothing on the current ethical topic of Chimeras, genetic cross breeding for organ pools, or any other similar topics?

  3. Why worry about that when they oppose more run of the mill stuff like IVF?

  4. McKenna wrote a fairly balanced report. Yes, like his choices for prelates, the pope has “a desire for a less combative tone on the issue.” But not one of the men he has appointed or promoted will, like the pope, support abortion to save the life of the mother nor advocate for full human rights for LGBTQ persons.

  5. Apparently “temper the group’s conservative views on sexual morality and life issues” is some sort of code for “try not to sound too Catholic”.

  6. If Josephine McKenna were doing balanced reporting, we’d have the names of those appointed, those not reappointed, any memberships each group have or had, sans the editorial “temper the group’s conservative views on sexual morality and life issues”.

    Assuming that each and every individual appointed is an actual believing and practicing Catholic, it would be no surprise that “not one of the men he has appointed or promoted will … support abortion to save the life of the mother” nor advocate for treating gender disorders as normative morally.

    Note also the reporting of others’ reporting.

  7. Maybe not for all 45 members, but you can find information on many of them with a simple google search since I know it has been reported elsewhere in greater detail.
    My apologies for not being clear. I was referring to the prelates who the pope has appointed and promoted, not to the new members of his bioethics advisory board.

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