Report: Vatican board asked to resign over conference

The members said the Pontifical Academy of Life's Feb. 24 conference on diagnosing and treating infertility was a "Planned Parenthood-like meeting" that caused great scandal. They were upset because it was a Vatican meeting open to the public yet "consisted in promoting uncritically what the church teaches to be intrinsically bad."

Church teaching opposes in vitro fertilization because it separates conception from intercourse between husband and wife, and often results in the destruction of embryos. The Vatican also opposes artificial contraception, holding that life begins at conception.

Josef Seifert, an academy member who is rector of the International Academy of Philosophy in Liechtenstein, wrote a letter May 4 to Carrasco suggesting that the Pontifical Academy's board resign. He cited the "enormous concern" of several members that the academy was "losing its full and pure commitment to the truth and its enthusiastic service to the unreduced magnificent church teaching on human life in its whole splendor."

The Rev. Scott Borgman, the academy's coordinating secretary, said the academy was aware of the concerns reflected in Seifert's letter and was working to move forward. The academy is made up of its Vatican-based secretariat and a membership of Catholic medical doctors, philosophers, clergy and bioethicists from across the globe.

It was founded by Pope John Paul II in 1994 to promote and defend human life and it serves as a key bioethical advisory board for the Vatican. Christine de Vollmer, a founding member of the academy and president of the Latin American Alliance for the Family, said many academy members say the academy's current leadership isn't acting in line with what John Paul envisaged.

In March, it hastily canceled a stem cell research conference whose speakers included scientists whose work involves human embryonic stem cells, which is opposed by the church. The academy said too few sponsors and participants had signed up to take part.