DAILY CATHOLIC    FRI-SAT-SUN     September 17-19, 1999     vol. 10, no. 177

NEWS & VIEWS
from a CATHOLIC perspective

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NEW VATICAN INSTRUCTIONS COMING FOR GERMAN BISHOPS

        VATICAN (CWNews.com) The Vatican will soon issue new instructions to the German bishops regarding pre-abortion counseling. That announcement was issued from Rome on September 16, after several leaders of the German hierarchy spent a day in consultation with Vatican officials.

        Cardinals Joachim Meisner of Cologne, Georg Sterzinsky of Berlin, and Friedrich Wetter of Munich-- along with Bishop Karl Lehmann, the president of the German episcopal conference-- spent the day in meetings with several Vatican officials: Cardinal Josef Ratzinger and Archbishop Tarcisio Bertone at the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, and Cardinal Angelo Sodano and Archbishop Paolo Sardi at the Secretariat of State. The product of their meetings will be a new document, to be released by Archbishop Lehman at a meeting of the German bishops.

        The meetings in Rome were designed to resolve a longstanding controversy within the German Church over the involvement of Church-related counseling centers in the process that can lead to legal abortion. Under German law, a woman who seeks an abortion must produce a certificate testifying that she has visited a government-approved counseling center to discuss her pregnancy. Since many such counseling centers are Church- affiliated, these Catholic centers were put in the morally questionable position of furnishing one of the requirements for legal abortion.

        Finding themselves unable to resolve that moral dilemma by themselves, the German bishops have repeatedly sought guidance from the Holy See. In 1995, Pope John Paul II advised them that while the Church centers should continue to provide counseling services, they should do so in a way that could not supply a justification for abortion. Last year, when the German bishops found themselves again deadlocked over the question of how to fulfill that mandate, the Holy Father wrote new instructions, saying that the centers should not dispense a certificate that could be used for access to abortion. Finally, in June of this year, the Pope suggested the issuing of certificates which explicitly state that they cannot be used for the purpose of obtaining an abortion.

        Controversy within the German Church has continued, however, with some leading Catholics arguing that if the certificates are not legally valid, women who are considering abortion will not visit the Catholic centers, and thus the Church-sponsored counselors will lose an opportunity to dissuade them from abortion. There has also been some debate over the question of whether the certificates issued by Church agencies might still be used for access to abortion, in spite of the language proposed by the Pope.


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September 17-19, 1999       volume 10, no. 177
NEWS & VIEWS

DAILY CATHOLIC

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