Tuesday, June 09, 2009

The Recife Affair

From CFNews gives a long commentary on the affair from Mgr Schoonans., here. He discusses the multiple inaccuracies of the article by Archbishop Rino Fisichella in the Osservatore Romano of the 15th of March, which it shares with other attacks on the local ordinary who reminded the abortionists that, under canon law, they were excommunicated latae sententiae (ie without him having to do anything). Mgr Schoonans also reports that Mgr Lombardi, the Vatican press officer, appeared to try to re-interpret remarks of the Holy Father to make them compatible with support for the Recife abortion (which he falsely suggested was an example of 'indirect' abortion: medical treatment such as chemotherapy not aiming at the death of the unborn child, which brings it about).

The most worrying thing here is the impression of divisionsn and open dissent at the highest reaches of the Vatican.

Here is an extract.

3. Divisions in the Church

1. According to RF, the attitude of Archbishop Cardoso undermines the credibility of the Church. But the Church and its pastors do not deserve to be credible unless they proclaim the truth. The Gospel does not recommend that we please men, it calls us to be faithful to the message which it is our mission to announce. As regards abortion, the Church's doctrine is expounded with clarity in major documents such as Gaudium et spes (1965), para. 51 § 3 ; cf. para. 27 § 3 ; Code of Canon Law (1983), para. 1398 ; 1314; 1323 s. ; Donum vitae (1987), para. 3 ; Evangelium vitae (1995), para. 62 ; Catechism of the Catholic Church (1997), para. 2271, 2322.

RF's article was published in the French edition of the Osservatore Romano on 17 March. It is astonishing that it fails to echo the statements of His Eminence, Cardinal Re, Prefect of the Sacred Congregation for Bishops, published in La Stampa on 7 March. Could RF have been unaware of this statement when he signed his article? In this statement, Cardinal Re declares, with regard to the double abortion performed at Recife: " it is a crime in the eyes of God. The excommunication of the person performing the abortion is just". On 14 March, Dom Cardoso, Archbishop of Olinda and Recife, received a letter of praise from that same Cardinal. The Church's position is also reaffirmed by Father Gianfranco Grieco, Head of the Pontifical Council for the Family, in La Stampa of 7 March.

2. The Osservatore Romano is the unofficial mouthpiece of the Vatican. It publishes pontifical texts. It also publishes articles at the request of certain dicasteries. It also publishes texts proposed by authors considered to be knowledgeable about and respecting of the Church's doctrine. This prestigious publication is particularly necessary at a time when the media pronounce with assurance on any issue. As Molière wrote, " People of quality know everything without ever having learned anything. " (Les précieuses ridicules, scene 10). With some notable exceptions, adherence to an elementary code of ethics, for example, checking the sources on which relies, does not appear to be a priority. In the case under examination, those in charge of the Osservatore Romano let through a text containing serious inaccuracies and omissions and biased in every sense of the word. To cap it all, instead of putting a stop to the circulation of this article in foreign languages, the publication's Director arranged for the text to be circulated in different languages. The Vatican's mouthpiece is therefore seriously adding to a muddying of the waters in as far as it is failing to comply with its mandate as a faithful mouthpiece, palming off on its readers products which are doctrinally dubious.

3. On 20 March, a few days after the appearance of RF's article, while meeting the authorities in Luanda, Benedict XVI made reference to the abortion. The Pope regrets that the abortion is being presented as a matter of maternal health. Let us quote the strong words pronounced by the Pope:

"How bitter the irony of those who promote abortion as a form of maternal healthcare! How disconcerting the claim that the termination of life is a matter of reproductive health!" (Osservatore Romano, French edition, 31 March 2009, pages 4 and 15).

Whence immediate protests from certain journalists, whose reasoning can be summarised as follows: " Abortion is a matter of reproductive health. Yet the Pope is against abortion. Therefore he is opposed to reproductive health, which must include therapeutic abortion." According to this sophistic argument, the premature twins constitute a serious danger to the young Carmen and are themselves in danger, and so it is necessary to go ahead with the abortion.

The next day, in Luanda, Father Federico Lombardi S.J., Head of the Vatican's Press Office, felt obliged, even authorised, to blunt the authority of the Pope's statement, quoted above. The statement did not relate to therapeutic abortion, as understood by the ideologists of reproductive health and safe motherhood. In a context in which he is commenting on the Pope's words, Fr Lombardi goes so far as to affirm, incautiously, that the Catholic Church has " always allowed indirect abortion ", when treatment given to a pregnant woman in order to save her life "results in the death of the foetus " (Cathobel, 23 March). The double abortion performed on Carmen would be therapeutic and would thus, in the twisted logic of the Reverend Father, escape the sanction of Canon Law. It would not be condemned by the Pope who moreover - it is added- said nothing, in Africa, on the events in Recife. It is therefore difficult for Father Lombardi to have avoided compromising the Holy Father by creating the impression that the Pope did not condemn the double abortion in Recife, on the grounds that this double abortion was therapeutic! It follows that the Pope would have implicitly disagreed with Archbishop Cardoso!

Admittedly, Father Lombardi asserted, in Luanda, that he did not have all the necessary information regarding the Recife case. However, his statement poses a fundamental problem. Is it normal for a journalist, even a highflyer, to set himself up as an authorised interpreter of what the Pope has just said, especially if his interpretation has the effect of blunting the edge of the Holy Father's statements? It would doubtless be necessary to clarify the levels of expertise and authority. Should the Pope's words be so obscure as to need deciphering by an unofficial media magisteriium?

4. Serious grounds for concern have emerged in circles close to the Pontifical Academy for Life and the Pontifical Council for the Family:

a. Incomprehension and sadness on the part of a considerable number of Christians, engaged for several years in multiple pro-life programmes encouraged by the Church. A feeling, often well-founded, of having been " abandoned " by their pastor.

b. Perplexity and shame on the part of many members of the Pontifical Academy for Life, who are wondering how such a faux pas could have occurred, and what action will be taken.

c. Discredit affecting the President of the Pontifical Academy for Life, who has undermined his own moral, theological and scientific authority. Loss of confidence in the President and disillusionment. Many members of the Pontifical Academy for Life fear that RF's statements will compromise them at rank and file level. There will be a down-sizing in aid of all kinds earmarked for the activities of the Pontifical Academy for Life.

d. Fears of a weakening of the Pontifical Academy for Life: its members will be less motivated and will become divided among themselves. There is already talk of only convening members of the Academy every two years. But where is this decision coming from, if confirmed? Is it, as rumoured in certain circles, the prelude to the burial of the Pontifical Academy for Life, at a time when the attacks on life are incessantly multiplying ?

5. In his Letter to the Archbishops of the World, dated 10 March 2009, the Holy Father, quoting the letter to the Galatians (5, 13-15), wrote: "If you bite and devour one another, be warned: you will destroy one another " Referring to the question of Archbishops following the lead of Archbishop Lefebvre, this quotation also deserves to be repeated in relation to the scandal of Notre Dame University and the harrowing story of Carmen and her twins.

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Pope Leo XIII's Prayer to St Michael

Holy Michael, Archangel, defend us in the day of battle. Be our safeguard against the wickedness and snares of the devil. May God rebuke him, we humbly pray, and do thou, Prince of the Heavenly Host, by the power of God, thrust down to Hell Satan, and all wicked spirits who wander through the world for the ruin of souls. Amen