Pontifical Academy for Life


Leslie Palma-Simoncek


The members of the Vatican’s Pontifical Academy for Life form an impressive who’s who of international advocates for life. Now, another high-caliber name has been added to that list: Father Frank Pavone.


The Academy has about 160 members from around the world who are charged with studying ethical and moral issues surrounding the sanctity of life from an interdisciplinary perspective and informing the Church, the scientific and health care communities, the media and society at large of its findings and conclusions.


The Academy said Father Pavone has been named to the committee because of the work he has been doing, and the reputation he has built for Priests for Life, since 1993.


The Academy was founded in 1994 by Pope John Paul II and is composed of 70 “ordinary” members and a similar number of “corresponding” members. Members become “honorary” when they reach the age of 80.


American members include Maria Mercedes Wilson, president of the Family of the Americas Foundation; John Haas, president of the National Catholic Bioethics Center in Philadelphia; and Dr. Thomas Hilgers, who developed NaPro reproductive technology to assist women with fertility issues without compromising church teachings.


Father Pavone’s fellow corresponding members include Mother Agnes Mary Donovan of the Sisters of Life; Father Kevin Fitzgerald, a Jesuit who holds doctoral degrees in molecular genetics and bioethics and is a professor at Georgetown University; Dr. Alan Shewmon, a pediatric neurologist; Dr. Joanne Angelo, a psychiatrist who is involved with Project Rachel, a post-abortion ministry; Judie Brown of the American Life League; Frances Xavier Hogan, a Boston lawyer and pro-life advocate with the organization Women Affirming Life, and Carl Albert Anderson, CEO and chairman of the board of the Knights of Columbus.


Ms. Hogan, who has served since 1996 and whose current appointment runs through 2015,  said she attends the Academy’s annual General Assembly in Rome every February, where both ordinary and corresponding members are invited to present papers and have them included in the Academy’s official documents. Corresponding members generally use their time to update their colleagues on issues of importance in their home regions. Ms. Hogan has presented on end-of-life issues, emergency contraception and gay marriage in Massachusetts.


The General Assembly meets in an auditorium built during the tenure of Pope Paul VI. Simultaneous translations are available in several languages. The meetings tend to be lengthy and the subject matter theologically dense but fascinating, Ms. Hogan said.

But the best part, she said, is the ample opportunities at shared meals and in between meetings for informal networking with like-minded people from all over the world.


“I thoroughly enjoy those conversations,” she said.


Ms. Hogan said she was “thrilled” to hear of Father Pavone’s appointment to the Academy.


The Academy has pledged to work in collaboration with Priests for Life, and said Father Pavone’s nomination to the Academy was, by extension, an invitation for staffers and pastoral associates to get involved with the Academy’s work.