The Church is coming to know more and more about why Pope Francis’ ongoing renovation of the Pontifical John Paul II Theological Institute
for Matrimonial and Family Science in Rome was necessary.

The latest reason to surface?

1.5 million euros in losses and courses “with 19 students and 40 professors”, according to Vatican insiders.

Driving the news

Spanish website Vida Nueva spoke to the insiders, who explained the story behind the reforms at the John Paul II Institute that began in 2016, when the Pope named Vincenzo Paglia as Grand Chancellor and Pierangelo Sequeri as President.

Both Summa familiae cura, Francis’ 2017 motu proprio establishing the new Institute, and the Institute’s new statutes, published in July this year, have raised the ire of conservatives who are concerned that Francis is dismantling the legacy of his Polish predecessor.


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Go deeper

But Vida Nueva‘s sources explained that Francis’ renovation “was not about reforming the Institute, but about extinguishing the one that existed and erecting a new one”.

The insiders said that Francis was determined that the “original intuition” of John Paul II be preserved: that is, “devotion to the family, but now with a theological addition and with the contribution of the human sciences”.

Vida Nueva‘s sources rejected the conservative complaint that the renovation was carried out without dialogue.

They explained that Paglia and Sequeri consulted Institute satellite centres at every step throughout the process.

The insiders also dismissed the accusation that the reforms meant a “purge” of Institute professors.

10 of the former 12 Institute Chairs continue at the new Institute, they said.

Only two professors – Livio Melina and José Noriega – have not been renewed.

In Melina’s case, because his Chair of Fundamental Moral Theology no longer exists in the new Institute, even if Fundamental Moral Theology continues to be taught.

In Noriega’s case, his being also the Superior General of the Congregation of the Disciples of the Hearts of Jesus and Mary made him incompatible for the role.

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Why it matters

“It’s not true that 45 professors have been fired”, the Vatican insiders told Vida Nueva.

“In the end it’s a matter of basic economics”, the sources explained.

“And although it was not an economic issue, because the Institute is backed by the Holy See, the course began with 1.5 million euros in losses and seeing how to fit 45 teachers for 60 students.

“There was a diploma that had 19 students and 40 professors, and in some cases, the degree offered had neither canonical nor civil value. What is supposed to be done about that?”, the insiders denounced.

Around Novena:

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For the record

“They accuse the new Institute of suppressing internal democracy. On the contrary, it has begun to democratise.

“For example, we have created an assembly of all the professors, where everyone is entitled to propose courses and propose who teaches what.

“The former Institute was an institution that, fundamentally, depended on a single person.

“But the new one is the result of a very considered juridical and academic restructuring well-adapted to the current times”, Vida Nueva‘s sources underlined.

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PhD in ancient Jewish/Christian history and philosophy. University ethics lecturer with 4 years' experience in religion journalism.