Swedish diocese, Vatican-backed charity tied to pro-abortion groups
STOCKHOLM, Sweden, December 18, 2018 (LifeSiteNews) – The Swedish branch of the Vatican’s top social justice body and Sweden’s Catholic diocese are affiliated with pro-abortion and pro-contraception organizations, a new report from the Lepanto Institute says.
After the Lepanto Institute report became public, the Diocese of Stockholm said it would have to withdraw its participation in the Swedish Mission Council (SMR) if the group doesn’t withdraw its pro-abortion position.
SMR is an “umbrella organization for churches and development organizations” that works to “promote sustainable development and justice on all levels.” But it also actively promotes abortion and contraception, stating such in its gender equality policy.
Members of SMR are required to embrace SMR’s core values and support its mission, according to the group’s membership page, and all members must pay a membership fee – thus fund what SMR stands for.
Caritas Sweden is listed as a member on the membership page. Caritas Sweden is the Swedish arm of Caritas Internationalis, which is the Vatican-run confederation of Catholic international aid and development agencies.
The Lepanto Institute had reached out to both the diocese and Caritas Sweden after hearing from a supporter about affiliations between the two and the SMR.
The Lepanto Institute heard back from Henrik Alberius, OP, president of Caritas Sweden, who curiously spoke in the email as though he was representing the diocese, and said the diocese was a member of SMR but that Caritas Sweden was not.
The Diocese of Stockholm has a pastoral letter from 2017 on its website that says abortion and euthanasia can never be justified or defended, but as the Lepanto report noted, Catholic teaching prohibits taking part in, promoting, or funding abortion.
Additionally, while Alberius, a Dominican priest, said Caritas Sweden is not an SMR member, Alberius sits on the board for SMR, Lepanto found, evidenced by a screenshot from the SMR website of its board membership as of May 2017.
Michael Hichborn, President of the Lepanto Institute, did not hear back from Alberius and the Diocese of Stockholm after submitting an inquiry about Alberius’s position on the SMR board.
Upon conducting further research into Caritas Sweden’s affiliations, Hichborn learned that Caritas Sweden is also a member of the Platform for International Cooperation on Undocumented Migrants (PICUM).
PICUM published a report in 2016 on “The Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights of Undocumented Migrants” that called for reform of legislation and policies that deny or limit access to abortion and contraception for migrants, and also held a “roundtable on sexual and reproductive rights with the Center for Reproductive Rights and the International Planned Parenthood European Network … ”
Also as of the publishing of PICUM’s 2016 annual report, George Joseph, director of Migration for Caritas Sweden, served on PICUM’s executive committee.
Will Caritas Sweden president step down from pro-abortion group’s board?
Hichborn was disturbed by Alberius’ denial that Caritas Sweden is a member of SMR at the same time Alberius is identified as sitting on the SMR board. The collaboration between Caritas Sweden and PICUM raises questions as well, he said.
“I find it deeply concerning that Fr. Henrik Alberius, president of Caritas Sweden, claimed that his organization was not a member of SMR while he is currently listed on the board of directors,” he told LifeSiteNews. “Since Cardinal Arborelius is poised to potentially withdraw from SMR, we wonder if Fr. Alberius is prepared to do the same.”
“Even more,” Hichborn said, “we wonder what action, if any, Caritas Sweden will be taking with regard to PICUM. It seems to me that Cardinal Arborelius needs to have a serious conversation with Fr. Alberius.”
The Diocese of Stockholm published a statement on its website saying it would have to pull out as a member of the Swedish Mission Council (SMR) if the SMR did not withdraw its pro-abortion position after the December 10 Lepanto Institute report uncovered the diocese’s affiliation with the group.
“It has attracted considerable attention both in Sweden and abroad that the Swedish Mission Council has expressed its opinion that it is positive for abortion, despite the fact that several of the organizations belonging to SMR are against abortion,” the diocese said in the statement. “From the Catholic side, we have contact with others with the same view as we have asked for a meeting with the SMR management to address this issue.”
“Our hope is that, from the SMR, it should be prepared to withdraw its basic position in favor of abortion. Unless we are of the Catholic Church, of course, we have to leave the SMR.”
The diocese went on to say that it had “avoided official discussion on this subject because we had hoped for a solution behind the scenes.”
Hichborn was pleased to hear that the Stockholm diocese said it would leave the SMR, but he remains concerned given the diocese’s response to his inquiry.
“While I am encouraged by Cardinal Arborelius’ statement that the Diocese of Stockholm is prepared to withdraw from SMR if it does not reverse its support for abortion and contraception,” Hichborn told LifeSiteNews, “I am left wondering why neither he nor his staff returned any of the multiple emails we sent asking for comment or clarification.”
“It seems that the pressure of concerned Catholics in Sweden was sufficient to instigate official action on this front,” he said, “and we hope these good Catholics will keep up the pressure in order to bring about a swift resolution."
Hichborn continues to encourage Catholics in Sweden to communicate their concerns to both the Diocese of Stockholm and Caritas Sweden.
"We have received word from a number of faithful Catholics in Sweden indicating that they are going to withhold funding as long as the diocese and Caritas are partnering with pro-abortion organizations,” he said. “While maintaining this approach, it is vitally important for the faithful to also pray for their Cardinal and for Our Lady to guide him and the Church in Sweden."
Contact information for the Diocese of Stockholm:
Götgatan 68, 118 26 Stockholm
Box 4114, 102 62 Stockholm
Phone: +468 – 462 66 00
Phone hours: 09.30 – 12.00
Opening hours: 09.00-12.00, 13.00-16.00
Contact information for Caritas Sweden:
John Paul II’s Pastoral Centre
Brunnsgränd 4, 111 30 Stockholm, Sweden