(LifeSiteNews) — The official news website of the Catholic Church in Germany has published an opinion piece in which the author argues for a ban on peaceful protest and prayer rallies in front of pro-abortion counseling centers.
Gabriele Höfling, a journalist working for katholisch.de, wrote an opinion piece published February 23 entitled “Protests in front of places of pregnancy conflict counseling are unchristian.” She specifically criticized the “40 Days for Life” campaign, in which Christian groups pray in front of pro-abortion pregnancy counseling centers.
“Under the motto ‘40 Days for Life’, Christian groups protest twice a year in front of pregnancy counseling centers – including ‘Pro Familia’ in Frankfurt.”
“Pro Familia” is the German branch of the International Planned Parenthood Federation, the largest abortion provider in the world.
Höfling claimed that “such forms of protest,” i.e., praying in front of pro-abortion pregnancy centers, “do a disservice to the cause of protecting life.”
“Interfering in the privacy of others who are in a concrete personal conflict is encroaching and undignified,” she said. “If a woman has to sidle past demonstrators on her way to pregnancy conflict counseling, and in the worst case is even approached by them, that is running the gauntlet.”
Responding to these accusations, the founder of “40 Days for Life,” David Bereit, told LifeSiteNews that he was “deeply troubled” by the article published on katholisch.de.
“40 Days for Life campaigns focus on prayer and fasting, recognizing that, ‘with God, all things are possible,’ including changed hearts and minds,” Bereit said. “The peaceful 40 Days for Life prayer vigils bring Christ to the streets outside abortion centers — places of hopelessness and despair — following the guidance of Christ in Matthew 18:20, ‘For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.’”
Höfling furthermore claimed that “[n]o one in doubt can be persuaded in this way to joyfully say ‘yes’ to an unborn baby despite difficulties.”
This claim is verifiably false, as many pregnant women have chosen not to abort their unborn baby after talking to pro-lifers praying outside abortion mills or pregnancy centers. Last year, one woman in Florida chose life after she viewed a sonogram image of her baby at the 40 Days for Life vigil. Overall, 40 Days for Life reported 228 babies saved during their last fall campaign.
Bereit himself responded to Höfling’s claim by saying, “Nothing could be further from the truth.”
“The spiritual foundation of 40 Days for Life, along with the compassionate assistance offered to pregnant women in a time of need, has thus far resulted in 22,855 mothers changing their minds and choosing life for their children,” the 40 Days for Life founder told LifeSiteNews.
“It’s clear to see why more than one million Christians have participated in 40 Days for Life around the world, and why it has drawn overwhelming support from the Catholic Church globally, including endorsements by the Vatican,” he continued.
But Höfling does not approve of the methods employed by pro-lifers. “It is part of the Christian understanding to meet the desperate and weak with love for one’s neighbor,” the katholisch.de journalist stated. “That’s what rallies like ‘40 Days for Life’ lack. The end does not justify all means.”
“In the political world, there have already been calls for a new legal regulation at the federal level to combat such protests by anti-abortion activists directly in front of counseling centers,” Höfling said.
“I would be in favor of that,” she concluded.
Bereit called on katholisch.de to retract the scandalous article. “[A]nd I invite Höfling to come experience a 40 Days for Life campaign firsthand, and actively participate in ‘meeting the desperate and weak with love for one’s neighbor,’ rather than joining her voice to those who exploit the desperate and weak to profit from abortion,” he stated.
Katholisch.de is the official news outlet of the Catholic Church in Germany and is owned by the “The Association of the Dioceses of Germany,” which is itself headed by the president of the German bishops’ conference.
Similar to the majority of German bishops, the site is known for its heterodoxy. In November 2022, the site published an interview with a German priest and psychologist who spoke positively about the “relieving effect” of pornography for a celibate clergy.