DAILY CATHOLIC MONDAY June 21, 1999 vol. 10, no. 119
NEWS & VIEWS
STERN PAPAL LETTER ON ABORTION TO GERMAN BISHOPS
Vatican Spokesman States It Will Be Made Public Soon
VATICAN CITY, JUN 18 (ZENIT).- The German newspaper "Frankfurter Allgemeine" and public radio station "WDR" have published extracts of a stern letter in which the Pope orders the German bishops to decree an end to the service of public advisers who help women who want an abortion. "It is right to put an end to complicity in the granting of licenses to kill," Archbishop Johannes Dyba of Fulda said.
The revelations have elicited an immediate reaction from political quarters. Social Democrat Wolfgang Thierse, president of the Bundestag, criticized the Pope's decision and expressed the implicit hope that the bishops will have the courage to disobey.
This is not the first time John Paul II has expressed strong criticism of German legislation on abortion. The interruption of pregnancy is free and unrestricted in Germany during the first three months, but the woman who wants to abort must consult a visit a pregnancy consultation center, that is, a place with social workers, psychologists, doctors and religious experts, where the woman is offered material and social aid to raise and educate the child, should she decide to carry the pregnancy to term.
After the woman has received advice from this center, she receives a certificate, which she must present to the doctor should she decide to abort her child. Some Catholics have argued that if the Church does not provide these certificates, the women will not come to the Church for counseling. The Pope, however, pointed out last year that the certificate had become a virtual ticket to an abortion, and so it is not morally acceptable to give this certification.
Of the 1,700 such consultation centers in Germany, 270 are organized by the Catholic Church and 126 by the social service for Catholic women. On Monday and Tuesday the German Episcopal Conference will be faced with a difficult choice: if it decides to follow the papal directive and abandon collaboration with the authorities in the consultation centers, almost a quarter of the centers nationwide will close and the implementation of the federal law will be problematic if not impossible in part of the national territory. The decision weighs on the shoulders of Bishop Karl Lehmann, president of the Episcopal Conference, who to date has tried to defend the law.
Joaquin Navarro-Valls, director of the Holy See's Press Hall, stated:
"In regard to press releases on a letter from the Holy Father to the
German bishops, regarding the existence of Catholic family consultation
centers in the state system, I confirm that John Paul II has written the
German Episcopate a letter on this matter. The content will be made
public in the near future by the bishops of Germany."
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NEWS & VIEWS