DAILY CATHOLIC    FRI-SAT-SUN     September 24-26, 1999     vol. 10, no. 182

from a CATHOLIC perspective

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Bishops To Decide Tomorrow by Unanimity

        FULDA, SEP 22 (ZENIT).- The Vatican's response to the German Bishops, on the much debated question of participation of Catholic family consultation centers in the German system that plans to decriminalize abortion, was made public this morning.

        As stated in the letter, it is a reply to the Bishops' request to overcome the tensions and uncertainties that the Church has experienced in connection with this thorny problem. German law considers abortion an illegal practice but, in certain circumstances and by complying with prescribed conditions, it could be decriminalized. One of these conditions is that the pregnant woman attend an interview in one of the public consultation centers directed by voluntary associations, whose concern is to save the life of the unborn.

        The Catholic and Lutheran Churches -- both the two largest denominations and also the largest employers in the country -- decided to participate in this system in order to save as many lives as possible. But the way the system works allows that the certificate (confirming that the consultation has taken place) becomes the instrument of abortion. It is a very complex moral situation. For a long time, the Catholic Church in Germany debated between the desire to help as many women as possible and the consequences implied in granting the certificate.

        Those in favor of participating in the government program fear that many Catholic consultation centers would be forced to close because of lack of federal funding if they do not comply with the national norm of awarding a document that certifies the actual consultation. Others in favor contend that women will not come to centers that do not issue a certificate and, as a result, lives that could have been saved through counseling would be lost.

        On the other hand, those against participating in the program ask: "Can the Catholic Church allow that a document prepared by its institutions be used to carry out abortions, even though the document itself states explicitly that this it not the intention?" They assert that the whole issue of a coherent church witness in defense of life from the moment of conception is at stake.

        The Bishops have asked the Pope for advice on several occasions; the Holy Father consistently stressed the need to offer transparent and totally coherent testimony in defense of life. In June, at John Paul II's explicit request, the German Bishops added the phrase "cannot be used for carrying out an abortion," to the certificate's text.

        But the Bishops' measure has been distorted by the system. In fact, the newly published Vatican letter states, the government has ignored this note and continues to use the Catholic certificates for the authorization of abortions.

        If the certificate continues to serve for access to abortion, the reproach leveled by many over the past few weeks would be substantiated; that is, the Church would be making a merely theoretical affirmation with no real effects, the letter states, which the Bishops received confidentially last Monday.

        The consequence is logical: "If, in fact, government authority ignores the above-mentioned note, it is not possible to understand how the Church can remain in the consultation required by the law." Because of this, "the eventual certificate will serve only and exclusively to document the direction in the service of life of the ecclesial consultation center, and to guarantee the attribution of the promised aid."

        The letter states that the Bishops themselves will decide the "specific solution." At present, the German Bishops are meeting in General Assembly to make the decision. The Pope has asked them "repeatedly" to decide "by unanimity according to these indications." The final answer should be known by this Friday. ZE99092203

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.

September 24-26, 1999       volume 10, no. 182


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