By Hilary White
ROME, March 4, 2010 (LifeSiteNews.com) – Another senior member of the Pontifical Academy for Life (PAV) has issued an open letter condemning the organization’s president, Archbishop Rino Fisichella, for refusing to retract his article in which he appeared to condone the abortion of the unborn twins of a nine-year-old rape victim in Brazil.
Professor Josef Seifert, a member of the PAV and an eminent professor of philosophy, wrote in response to a request for information from LifeSiteNews.com (LSN), that he is in full agreement with the five signatories of a statement published by LSN February 17. That statement was also supported by Judie Brown, president of American Life League.
“In my view, notwithstanding that a decision is solely in the Pope’s authority, Mons. Fisichella is absolutely unfit for being President of PAV.”
Fisichella’s article, published March 15, 2009 by the Vatican’s newspaper L’Osservatore Romano, asserted, contrary to the teaching of the Church, that the Brazilian doctors who aborted the twins did not merit automatic excommunication. Fisichella said that such cases are “a difficult decision for the doctor and for the moral law itself.”
The only issue, Seifert said, on which he differed from the statement by the five PAV members was their suggestion that Archbishop Fisichella should be employed elsewhere in the Church. Although, he said, Fisichella has “a brilliant mind,” a “superb education,” and an “extraordinary linguistic talent,” his statements opposing the Church on abortion, “would make it impossible to nominate him as bishop of a diocese, let alone of a diocese linked to a Cardinal’s hat and rank.”
“Only an unshakeable and courageous commitment to the full extent of Catholic teaching can qualify a person for such influential and responsible positions for the flock for which Christ has laid down his life.”
Seifert related that while attending the meeting of the PAV in Rome in February, in hope of reaching a solution “in peace and truth,” he had prepared a document restating the teaching of the Church and asked Archbishop Fisichella to sign it together with all the members of the Academy. This document, he hoped, could, “settle all our differences … restore authentic tranquility of order,” and be presented to the pope. The text included a renewal of the oath taken by PAV members to uphold Catholic teaching.
Prof. Seifert told LSN, “I showed this text to Mons. Fisichella before intending to have us distribute it together. He refused.”
In his original article, commissioned by the Vatican’s Secretariat of State, Fisichella implied that the abortion had been a life-saving act of mercy, reiterating the claims made by the pro-abortion Brazilian press that the child-mother’s life was in danger should the pregnancy be allowed to go to term.
Addressing the girl, he wrote, “Others deserve excommunication, not those who have permitted you to live.”
Given Fisichella’s responses to the criticisms by PAV members and his statements to the press, Prof. Seifert said, “It is to be feared that Mons. Fisichella truly remains firmly and immovably with his article’s positions, not even regretting privately” the “tremendously damaging consequences” of its implied justification of abortion.
Seifert, who is the founder and rector of the International Academy of Philosophy in Liechtenstein, analyzed Fisichella’s article again, saying it clearly implies that the abortion “was even a good act under the circumstances.” This view he identified as that of “proportionalism” or “consequentialism,” utilitarian ethical theories opposed to the concept of an objective absolute moral law that underpins Catholic moral theology.
These ideas, he said, “are in full tune” with those Catholic theologians who have dissented from Catholic moral teaching, especially since the general revolt against Pope Paul VI’s anti-contraception encyclical Humanae Vitae in 1968.
Indeed, the L’Osservatore Romano article was eagerly seized upon by the international press, as well as prominent abortion campaigners, as an example the Vatican at its highest levels backing away from its condemnation of abortion in all circumstances. Typical of the many headlines was one by the Washington Post, “Vatican Official Defends Child's Abortion.”
To date, Archbishop Fisichella has not only refused to retract his article, but in his opening address to the PAV members in February, continued to defend it, claiming that a later clarification from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith had completely “vindicated” him. At that meeting, he accused his critics of acting out of “spite” and a desire to “create a situation of conflict.” Fisichella told Catholic News Service on February 12, that the mood of the meeting was “serene and calm,” and attributed the criticisms to attempts at “political exploitation.”
When, following February’s meeting, the five members issued their open letter to LSN suggesting that Fisichella should be removed as president of the PAV, he responded in an article by Associated Press, “I won't respond to these people. Too much space already has been given to them.”
Although Seifert was not among the signatories of the earlier statement, upon reflection, he said, “it seemed to me right and necessary not to remain silent, also towards the Press, about an extremely important doctrinal matter and one that puts many lives of unborn babies and souls in peril and hence is of utmost practical, ethical, and spiritual consequence.”
“The press,” he said, “had been badly misinformed about the meeting of our Assembly. I thought the time for silence was over.”
He decried “what amounted to the bishop’s condoning acts of abortion … thus abandoning his flock and feeding it with pernicious errors rather than with truth.”
He added, “If I were a bishop and had the most brilliant and knowledgeable seminarian of the world asking me to ordain him as a priest after having held similar views about abortion, I would never ordain him to be a priest and if I were to do so, would fear for my eternal salvation.”
Seifert denied that his motives, and those of his fellow PAV members, were spiteful, saying that he prays for Fisichella “daily by name,” and said that the criticisms have been written with “a bleeding heart, not a fanatic interest in battles and in-fights.”
**See the complete text of Professor Seifert's letter to LifeSiteNews**