Saint Auguste Chapdelaine by Ermes Dovico

A group of Catholic intellectuals against PAL on abortion

A group of Catholic intellectuals complain that the Pontifical Academy for Life uses ambiguous language in its criticism of the new Italian guidelines on day hospital abortion and altogether omits condemnation of abortion.

Life and Bioethics 10_09_2020 Italiano Español

On August 12th 2020 the Italian Ministry of Health, ostensibly in response to the so called Covid-19.1 “pandemic”, issued the Guidelines for the Voluntary Termination of Pregnancy Using Mifepristone and Prostaglandin, which allowed for the administration of chemical abortifacient to pregnant women up to the 9th week of pregnancy and at Day Hospitals, so that women are to be sent home to suffer the painful and dangerous process of expelling their dead baby. There was a reaction of some Catholics reported also in Avvenire, the newspaper of the Italian Conference of Bishops (according to ABC News), criticizing the increased risk for the woman’s health implied in these new directives. In this context, on August 14th the Pontifical Academy for Life issued a Note concerning those Guidelines. To that Note a group of Catholic thinkers and Scholars now replied through a document that La Nuova Bussola Quotidiana is publishing today (here the integral text).

The authors of the document find some positive aspect in the Pav Note, but they also point out that there “are several reasons why those with upright moral standards should be saddened and seriously dissatisfied with this document.” Those reasons are the following:

1. The PAL is ambiguously stating that Law 194 (1978) is the framework which we all have to confront or bear in mind (“tutti dobbiamo misurarci”), and even is – because of the part thereof that mentions a support to pregnant mothers in difficult situations – the common ground on which a “shared civilization” could be built by those who defend life and those who support a supposed right to abort the unborn babies. Now obviously the Law is the legal framework that we have to bear in mind, but the ambiguous Italian expression  “con cui tutti dobbiamo misurarci”, “with which we have to measure ourselves”) suggests that Law 194 is an inevitable status quo than cannot possibly be criticized or altered: and, in fact, the Note does not in any way criticize or propose any change to the law itself. Indeed, the Note limits itself to call for “a full respect of its [the Law’s] provisions” (“il richiamo alla 194 e al pieno rispetto di quanto in essa previsto”).

But obviously a Law which removed the obstacles for the killing of innumerable innocent human beings is not a status quo that can possibly be accepted or tolerated without criticism. So, says the new document by Catholic intellectuals, “[the said law 194] is not the measure with which we all are measured, and, therefore, it cannot provide the basis for what the PAL calls ‘an idea of a shared civilization’ (“un’idea di civiltà condivisa”). There is a Divine Measure which truly measures us all. And it is a Measure that not only condemns all the crimes allowed by this unjust law, but also rules out the kind of obsequiously mild criticism thereof now offered by the Pontifical Academy.”

2. A statement reported in L’Avvenire (according to ABC News) criticized the increased risk for women that these new directives imply and the PAL, instead of supporting the author, criticized her, although mildly.

3. If the PAL Note at least mentioned the increased risk for mothers implied in the directives, on the other hand it failed to even mention the extension of the time in which chemical abortifacients may now be administered to pregnant women, that of course will increase the number of innocent babies being killed. This the authors find an extremely grave omission in a document issued by an Academy connected to the Holy See and founded by John Paul II and Jerome Lejeune. It is as if the increase in the possibilities of killing babies were non-existent in considering the moral standing of the Ministry’s new directives.

4. Another grave point is that the PAL speaks on occasion of abortion as “an event that is undergone more than chosen” by the woman or the couple, due to economic reasons. In doing this, the PAL is using a language that sounds merciful but really implies a significant disregard of human responsibility and dignity. As if human beings could not behave morally and avoid mortal sin (a homicide in this case), with God’s grace, in spite of adverse circumstances.

5. The last point criticized is that the PAL adopts a euphemistic language that can cause confusion among the faithful. Some examples are: (a) “interruption of pregnancy”, instead of “abortion”; (b) the PAL never, in its whole Note mentions the gravity of the sin of abortion.

The document ends with a very interesting reflection inspired in St. Augustine’s City of God: the last fifty years should have taught Christians that Jacques Maritain’s dream of a new “secular Christendom” that could peacefully collaborate with the world, was nothing but a dangerous illusion. Original sin and the power of Satan was gravely disregarded in Maritain’s calculations. Actually, the “collaboration” of Catholics and the world since the 60s has brought us to this bankruptcy of civilization where telling the truth about the most fundamental features of God’s creation (including, for example, the distinction between men and women, or the due respect for the dignity of all human beings) is considered more and more as a crime.

* Members of the Advisory Board of the John Paul II Academy for Life and the Family