Pope Francis has appointed 50 academics as new members of the Pontifical Academy for Life last month. One of the appointees to the Vatican's pro-life academy is Nigel Biggar, a philosopher who supports abortion and believes it is morally acceptable to abort a person.
Bigger is among the 45 ordinary members chosen to serve a five-year term at the institution. Academy president Archbishop Vincenzo Paglia said the appointees represent the institution's "deep and wise vision in the service of human life, especially life that is weakest and most defenseless."
But Bigger's inclusion in the appointments is causing concern considering the professor of moral and pastoral theology at the University of Oxford has supported legalized abortion and expressed qualified support for euthanasia in his 2004 book "Aiming to Kill: The Ethics of Suicide and Euthanasia."
"[It] is not true that all abortion is equivalent to murder," Bigger said in a 2012 speech delivered at Mayo Clinic in Minnesota. The Catholic Church has upheld that a person is formed at conception and therefore defends the value of human life from "womb to tomb."
While Bigger supports abortion, he believes a line should be drawn conservatively so that people won't become too casual about killing human life. Which is why he supported legalized abortion only up to 18 weeks of conception which he is the earliest time when there is some evidence of brain activity.
But Bigger is convinced his background is precisely the reason why he was picked. "I believe that the reason for my recent appointment lies in my sustained work on the issues of voluntary euthanasia and assisted suicide. On those issues my conclusions are consonant with the Church's," the Anglican professor said.
There have been concerns about the academy's direction after a requirement for new members to sign "a declaration of fidelity to the Church's pro-life teachings" was removed in its statutes in November 2016. St. John Paul II and Prof. Jerome Lejeune founded the Pontifical Academy in 1994 to promote the Church's consistent life ethic.