Commentary by Matthew Cullinan Hoffman
BRAZIL, March 20, 2008 (LifeSiteNews.com) – During the past month, the nation of Brazil has experienced a seemingly miraculous transformation.
The Catholic hierarchy in Brazil has long been famous for its laxity regarding human life issues, and its disproportionate emphasis on economic issues that seems to equate Catholicism with socialist politics.
The bishops have even maintained a loose but very real relationship with “Catholics for the Right to Decide”, which is the South American version of “Catholics for a Free Choice”, a phony “Catholic” pro-abortion group designed to confuse the faithful about the Church’s teachings on the sanctity of human life.
Until recently, the Catholic leadership seemed to be “hiding in the upper room” with regard to abortion and other human life issues, shamefully avoiding the topic and even colluding with the “culture of death”.
However, in the last month they have suddenly appeared to the masses, boldly proclaiming the Church’s Gospel of Life. Their former timidity has been replaced by an aggressive, almost provocative stance towards the ideologies that underlie the death cult of abortion. Although it may be too early to tell, it appears that a “pro-life Pentecost” is occurring among the bishops of Brazil, and the strategies they are employing are a lesson to the whole Catholic world.
The bishops’ conversion seems to have begun after the inauspicious start of this year’s “Fraternity Campaign”, a project undertaken by the Catholic Church in Brazil each year to promote a different teaching or theme.
Although this year’s theme is “Fraternity and the Defense of Life”, the campaign ran into trouble when a group of priests issued a documentary associated with it that gave sympathetic coverage to “Catholics for the Right to Decide.”
Catholics protested, and the eminent philosophy professor Olavo de Carvalho wrote an opinion article for Brazilian newspapers pointing out the Catholic hierarchy’s long association with pro-abortion causes. The CD of the documentary was removed from circulation and the offending video clip was removed from the reissued version, but no explanation or apology was given. It seemed that nothing had really changed.
But with the official launch of the Campaign in early February, it was obvious that something had happened to the bishops in the interim. They did not, as might be expected, give a feeble announcement of the Campaign’s theme. Rather, they held a national press conference that clearly denounced abortion, euthanasia, and embryonic stem cell research, in what only can be called “fighting language.”
The General Secretary of the National Conference of Brazilian Bishops, Dimas Lara Barbosa, led the opening ceremonies, and proceeded to state that the purpose was not merely to stop new anti-life legislation, but to eliminate all exceptions in Brazil’s penal code regarding abortion.
He said the bishops in the following months would “confront” politicians and pro-abortion organizations for “manipulating information” to promote their cause, and would work to educate the public about the dangers of legislation to legalize abortion, euthanasia, and embryonic stem cell research.
Following the announcement, the bishops held a pro-life conference in Aparecida, home of Brazil’s most important shrine, and issued a thundering declaration in defense of human life, denouncing pro-abortion groups as tools of a new kind of imperialism that seeks to impose a racist population-control agenda on the “third world”.
“We denounce the implantation of a culture of death that destroys the sense of life, of ethical values, and natural rights from which all human laws are derived,” the conference declared.
“We denounce the attempt to decriminalize and legalize abortion in Latin America. We denounce the fraud in the scientific field, the manipulation of language and the government authorizations that permit the production and distribution in our countries of pharmaceuticals, poisons to kill human beings, from the first hours of life, as occurs with the morning after pill and the inter-uterine device, IUD.”
“We denounce the government programs to liberalize abortion in an indirect way, such as the technical standards of the Ministry of Health that authorize abortion based on the mere declaration of the interested party.”
In addition to speaking clearly and boldly about the horror of abortion and other offenses against human life, the bishops are doing what pro-lifers have long hoped that bishops will someday do worldwide: they are using their authority to issue informational materials on abortion to every parish in the country for distribution to the laity.
The Archbishop of Rio de Janeiro has gone further. He has ordered more than enough fetal models for every parish, and priests are displaying them in the centers of their churches, explaining to the faithful that human life begins at fertilization, and that abortion terminates that life.
At least one parish in the city is actually showing videos of abortions in closed door meetings, with chilling commentary about the details of the procedure. Brazilian lay Catholics, many of whom have little acquaintance with abortion, are horrified by what they see, and are inspired to act against abortion. There is little doubt that the pro-abortion politicians in Brazil’s executive, legislative, and judicial branches are also horrified, for very different reasons.
What effect would such an approach have if all of the Catholic bishops of the world were to imitate the Brazilian bishops, and declare war on abortion, euthanasia, and other offenses against human life? Sadly, the answer must remain a speculative one, because we have perhaps never seen such a concerted, sustained campaign against the “culture of death” in any nation, on the part of Catholic clergy.
However, there can be little doubt that even in a country like the United States, whose population is only 25% Catholic, such a campaign would have a large impact. If this “sleeping giant” were to awaken, galvanized by clear preaching and educational campaigns that clearly reveal the crime of abortion, how could any political party stand against it?
It is clear to this author that before such a transformation can occur, it must first occur in the hearts and minds of the clergy. They must first experience their own Pro-Life Pentecost. And for that, we must continue to pray.
Related LifeSiteNews Coverage:
Catholic Diocese Shows Horrors of Abortions to Faithful, Displays Fetal Models in Parishes
Declaration of Aparecida in Defense of Life, February 10, 2008
The War Continues: Brazil Catholic Bishops Take Pro-Life Battle to the United Nations, and International Foundations
Brazilian Bishops Launch Major National Campaign Against Abortion, Euthanasia, and Embryonic Stem Cell Research
Brazil Bishop: Excommunication for those who Use or Distribute Morning After Pill
Brazil’s Catholics for a Free Choice Housed in Building owned by Catholic Religious Order