By Hilary White

ROME, February 9, 2010 ( – The Catholic Church is suffering from one of the modern world’s most dangerous philosophical errors – that of false compassion, says Michel Schooyans, one of Europe’s leading philosophical minds.

In a new essay, Schooyans writes that the corruption of compassion has created a climate in which it is anathema to condemn the killing of children by abortion and, more recently, by post-natal infanticide. It also has led, he says, to the abolition of the traditional definition of marriage; the spread of AIDS through the “safe sex” doctrine; and a resurgence of the deadly eugenics policies of the early 20th century. (Read the complete essay here)

“Pseudo-compassion,” Schooyans writes, “leads to heresy and division within the Church, because it incites the faithful to deviate from a non-negotiable element of the doctrine of the Church: the duty to respect innocent life.

“Pseudo-compassion reinforces the movement towards the ‘tyranny of relativism’, observable in some pastors and/or theologians.”

The news media, in accordance with the abortion industry’s propaganda, says Schooyans, invariably invoke compassion when they depict abortion as necessary for the woman, and even for the child.

“If, before birth, a child is declared as suffering from a serious malformation, it will be asserted that, if the pregnancy is allowed to continue, the child will have a life which will not be worth living; abortion will then be recommended out of compassion, out of pity.” Ultimately, he writes, “The child will be killed out of compassion.”

This false compassion, he says, is invoked on behalf of parents wanting to abort children who would become a “burden,” and on behalf of society in general, which, it is said, should not be saddled with “unwanted” handicapped children “whose maintenance is costly, yet futile.”

Mgr. Michel Schooyans is professor emeritus of the Catholic University of Louvain and a leading specialist in anthropology, political philosophy, bioethics, and demographics. As a life member of the Pontifical Academy for Life (PAV), Schooyans was among the loudest voices calling for the retraction of an article by PAV head Archbishop Salvatore Fisichella issued last year that appeared to condone the abortion of twin babies in Recife, Brazil, on the grounds of compassion.

Schooyans’ latest essay, “The Pitfalls of Compassion,” is aimed at Fisichella’s article, which was published in the Vatican newspaper L’Osservatore Romano, reportedly at the request of the Vatican’s Secretary of State, and which blasted the action of Brazilian Archbishop José Cardoso Sobrinho, who had publicly warned a group of doctors that they faced automatic excommunication for aborting the Brazilian twins. 

In his article, Fisichella defended the doctors who committed the abortion on the grounds of compassion. “Choices like this,” he wrote, “albeit with different cases, are repeated every day in the intensive care units and in the conscience of the medical doctor who finds himself alone in the act of having to decide what is best to do.”

“No-one, however, arrives at a decision of this nature in a careless way. It is unjust and offensive even to think about this possibility,” wrote the archbishop.

Schooyans answers Fisichella specifically, saying that this false sense of compassion “can also be extended to the abortionist doctors.”

“To carry out an abortion is for them – it is said – a ‘decision difficult to take’ and an act they perform purely in obedience to their conscience. We must therefore sympathise with doctors who, for example, ‘for the good’ of the child or its mother, take the ‘courageous’ decision to go ahead with an abortion. Far from blaming such people, we should support them psychologically and morally, grant them appropriate legal protection.”

Schooyans illustrates the threat this “bogus compassion” poses to human life by recounting several cases in which has been used to justify killing. One of these cases took place in Liège, Belgium in which a mother was acquitted, to the applause of the crowd, of murdering her disabled child. This attitude, he goes on to say, “brings to mind the Recife case” in which, “instead of expressing compassion for the young and innocent victims, ‘compassion’ is extended to those who have inflicted immense harm on these victims” – the abortionists.

The scandal that has come to be known as the “Recife Affair” was resolved only after months of requests to Archbishop Fisichella by the world’s pro-life leadership that his article be corrected or retracted. These requests were ignored until finally a group of PAV members met directly with Pope Benedict XVI asking that the matter be addressed. Shortly after that meeting, L’Osservatore Romano published an extensive clarification by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith reiterating in the strongest terms the Catholic Church’s absolute condemnation of abortion.

Some members of the PAV have written to LSN expressing their grave concerns that the leadership of the Academy has caused “a climate of unease.” Archbishop Fisichella continues to refuse to retract or correct any of his statements but nevertheless remains in place as the organization’s president. A closed-door session for members of the PAV is to be held this week amid speculation that its future is in question after the scandal. 

Schooyans closes with a speculation on the possible consequences for clergy who indulge in “pseudo-compassion” in cases that involve abortion. Given the requirement by Canon Law that Communion is to be refused to a layperson who supports abortion, even on “compassionate” grounds, he asks, “Does the Code of Canon Law impose suspension measures, on the twofold grounds of scandal and heresy, on clergy who publicly express pseudo-compassion for abortionists?”

Read the full text of Michel Schooyans’s article “The Pitfalls of Compassion”


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