April 7-9, 2000
volume 11, no. 70
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NEWS & VIEWS     Acknowledgments
Articles provided through Catholic World News and Church News at Noticias Eclesiales and International Dossiers, Daily Dispatches and Features at ZENIT International News Agency. CWN, NE and ZENIT are not affiliated with the Daily CATHOLIC but provide this service via e-mail to the Daily CATHOLIC Monday through Friday.

Dioceses Move Away from State Consultation Centers

    BERLIN, APR 6 ( By the end of this year, Catholic Consultation Centers will no longer issue certificates to pregnant women in difficulties. Bishop Karl Lehmann of Mainz, president of the German Episcopal Conference, has communicated this decision, which was already announced at the end of last year, in response to an express Papal request.

    Until reunification of East and West Germany, abortion was illegal in West Germany but legal in the East. A compromise law was made to support the clause of the West German Constitution affirming the right to life and the practice in the formerly communist East. Women in difficulty wanting an abortion were required to visit consultation centers, which would explain alternatives to abortion and issue a certificate of counseling. While abortion remains technically illegal, it is not punished if the woman has a certificate of counseling.

    The Catholic Church had opened many consultation centers in keeping with the system described, but questions arose about whether it was morally licit to issue a certificate that for all practical purposes, had become a "ticket" to abort. The German Episcopate requested the Holy Father's advice. After various suggestions of issuing certificates that stated "Not valid for abortion," John Paul II responded by saying that the Bishops should avoid any action that would cloud the Church's unconditional position in favor of life, including the controversial certificates.

    Between now and the end of the year, "the Episcopal Conference will present a concrete proposal to continue helping women in difficulty, but without issuing the certificate," Bishop Lehmann said. The German bishops have resolved their differences on this issue and are fully united and in agreement on the need to start on a clean slate, with no further involvement with the certificates.

    The departure from the system of certification will vary from diocese to diocese. The dioceses of Bavaria will leave the system in December, as will the diocese of Speyer; Dresden is scheduled to leave it on June 1, 2001. The Catholic consultation centers in Paderborn discontinued the certificates at the beginning of this year, and the diocese of Fulda has not granted them for years.

    This unanimous decision by the German Bishops must now resolve another problem: without the certificate, the conditions foreseen in the law for public recognition of the consultation centers, including public funding, will no longer exist. Speyer was the first to experience this. Based on the Bishop's decision to stop issuing certificates, regional authorities have withdrawn public funds from the consultation center.

    It is also unknown how the centers will get into contact with women in difficulties. In the previous system, 80% of the women who came had been referred to Catholic consultation centers by the gynecologists of the Social Security system. According to Bishop Lehmann, "now we must find new ways. It would certainly be a sign of insufficiency if we could only get in contact with pregnant women in crisis through the public health system." ZE00040606


April 7-9, 2000
volume 11, no. 70

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