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Rainer Maria Cardinal WoelkiDW News / Youtube screen grab

January 9, 2020 (LifeSiteNews) – Rainer Maria Cardinal Woelki has forcefully defended an advertising ban on abortions in Germany. The ban, while still in effect, has recently been relaxed by the German government.

“We are called not to advertise for killing! We have to advertise for life,” the Archbishop of Cologne stated in a homily on Saturday, December 28, 2019. 

At the same time, he criticized a new policy going into effect in 2021. From next year onward, statutory health insurance companies in Germany are required in certain cases to pay for prenatal blood work looking for genetic disorders like down syndrome in the unborn child.

On December 28, the Catholic Church celebrates the feast of the Holy Innocents, going back to the children murdered by King Herod after the birth of Jesus Christ. According to the Gospel of Matthew, Herod had all children under two years of age in Bethlehem and its surroundings murdered, because he felt his power being challenged by Jesus Christ, “the king of the Jews.” Cardinal Woelki dedicated his sermon at the end of last year to pro-life issues.

The archbishop of Cologne referred to a court decision of December 2019, which stated that the advertising ban on abortions, which was relaxed in March 2019, was contradictory. The new law allows “doctors, hospitals and institutions” to make known publicly that they perform abortions, as well as pointing their patients to government-sanctioned informational materials on abortion. 

Cardinal Woelki explained that now, “information about terminations of pregnancy is legal, but not information about the methods.”

Woelki pointed out that many people in Germany are not aware any longer that abortion is still illegal in that country. The law, said the archbishop, only allows for certain exceptions. In those cases, having an abortion will not be punished by law.

As a matter of fact, paragraph 219 of the German penal code not only forbids advertising for abortions, but makes it mandatory for a pregnant woman to consult with doctors or counselors before deciding to go forward with an abortion. This consultation, according to that law, has to serve “the protection of unborn life.” Paragraph 219 also states that “the unborn in each stage of the pregnancy has his or her own right to life.”

A further relaxation of the advertising ban on abortions would amount to “a further playing down of practicing terminations of pregnancy,” Cardinal Woelki told the faithful gathered in Cologne Cathedral. He exclaimed, “Advertising for abortions, dear sisters and brothers, is advertising for a statutory offense! And that is criminal!”

It would be a further break in a dam to have another relaxation of the advertising ban, according to Woelki: “We are called not to advertising for killing! We have to advertise for life! Nobody, dear sisters, dear brothers, nobody has the right to have at one’s command human life, not even in the first 12 weeks.”

Turning his attention to what is known as non-invasive prenatal testing, Cardinal Woelki clarified that in 2021, statutory health insurance companies will only be covering the costs of the blood work in specific cases, namely after a consultation between doctor and patient, as well as “in connection with particular risks and to clarify abnormalities.” Nevertheless, the archbishop emphasized, “we all know what the result of that blood work is going to be: a positive result will mean a no to life in most cases for children with Down syndrome.”

In Germany, most people have insurance through the statutory health insurance system. While almost 9 million residents are privately insured, the vast majority (more than 73 million) is insured by companies that are a part of statutory health insurance. The premium for this kind of insurance amounts to a little over 15 percent of a person’s income. However, almost half of that is covered by the employer, and the employee can still choose between many companies. Statutory health insurance in Germany always includes vision and dental, and there is no extra fee for children.

Woelki went on talking about the fact that prenatal blood work usually has only one goal, namely “the prevention of a life with a disability.” This is true, the archbishop of Cologne explained, not only of the unborn life before birth. Rather, he said, the spread of non-invasive prenatal testing would lead to “a continuously increasing discrimination of human beings with a disability – as if progress in medicine could determine the form for a life worth living, and a life unworthy to live.”

According to Cardinal Woelki, Christians are called to fight against abortions being considered “the new normal of a liberal, humane and enlightened society” in Germany. He explained – while not explicitly referring to natural law – that the position of pro-lifers is not a specifically Catholic teaching, but universal.

Woelki thanked all pro-lifers for their work, whether it be praying and sacrificing, or political involvement, or something else: “God is a friend of life. Let us all be, with him, as human being during Christmas, friends of life.”

Among the German bishops, Cardinal Woelki is considered to be one of the more faithful ones. In March 2018, he and several other bishops, mostly from Bavaria, had sent a letter to Pope Francis, criticizing and asking for clarification on a document published by the German Bishops’ Conference, which allowed protestant spouses of Catholics to receive Holy Communion in individual cases. Nevertheless, Woelki appears to be in favor of parish priests making a pastoral decision to admit protestant spouses of Catholics to Holy Communion.

Rainer Maria Woelki was born and raised in the archdiocese of Cologne. He was ordained to the priesthood in 1985. In 2003, he became an auxiliary bishop for his diocese, before Pope Benedict XVI called him to Berlin in 2011. A year later, Pope Benedict made him a cardinal. However, he was the head of the archdiocese of the German capital for only three years. In 2014, Pope Francis moved Cardinal Woelki to Cologne. He replaced Joachim Cardinal Meisner, one of the four cardinals signing the Dubia in 2016, which asked Pope Francis for clarification on controversies regarding his post-synodal apostolic exhortation Amoris laetitia. The Dubia have never been answered.