Tuesday February 23, 2010
Vatican Archbishop, Spokesman Come Out Swinging against Pro-Life Critics
By Hilary White, Rome correspondent
ROME, February 16, 2010 (LifeSiteNews.com) – Archbishop Rino Fisichella, the head of the Vatican’s Pontifical Academy for Life (PAV), has told the Associated Press that he has no intention of stepping down after five senior members of the Academy issued a statement last week expressing their loss of confidence in his leadership.
“I won’t respond to these people. Too much space already has been given to them,” Fisichella told AP.
Fisichella’s response follows comments late last week from Fr. Frederico Lombardi, the head of the Holy See Press Office and a subordinate of the cardinal Secretary of State Tarcisio Bertone, who told media that the statement has not been received by either the pope or Bertone. Lombardi, who has gone on record supporting Fisichella, told the Catholic News Agency that issuing the statement to the press was an “astonishing” move.
The author of the statement, Luke Gormally, an Ordinary Member of the Academy and the former director of the Linacre Centre for Healthcare Ethics in London, told LSN that he did not intend to pursue the matter any further.
Gormally told LSN, “Certainly, for the immediate future I have no further action in mind.”
The five signatories to the statement say they believe that Archbishop Fisichella’s speech at the Academy’s plenary meeting made it clear that he does not grasp the meaning of the Catholic Church’s absolute prohibition on the killing of unborn children.
His speech, they said, “had the effect of confirming in the minds of many academicians the impression that we are being led by an ecclesiastic who does not understand what absolute respect for innocent human lives entails.” They called this an “absurd” situation.
Fisichella, they said, maintained that the article he wrote last year, which appeared to condone the abortion of the twin children of a nine-year-old rape victim in Brazil, had been “vindicated” by a clarification issued in July 2009 by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF). Fisichella wrote in his article, published in the Vatican’s newspaper L’Osservatore Romano, that the doctors who aborted the twins did not deserve excommunication and accused the pro-life local bishop of Recife, Brazil, Jose Cardoso Sobrinho, of acting hastily and failing to meet the pastoral needs of the girl.
“There are others who merit excommunication and our pardon, not those who have allowed you to live and have helped you to regain hope and trust,” he wrote.
These assertions were roundly refuted at the time by a statement from the Brazilian diocese detailing the assistance that the girl and her family had been receiving from the local priest and the diocese before she was spirited away by a pro-abortion group for the abortion. This response was never given space in either the secular press or in L’Osservatore Romano and no official response to it was ever publicly made by any office of the Vatican, although Bishop Cardoso was later honoured for his actions by the pro-life group Human Life International.
Gormally told LSN today that his statement had originally been meant only as his own response to LSN’s request for information on the outcome of the PAV plenary meeting, but that later other members expressed an interest in signing. The group later released it to other news outlets.
He said he is “content” with the situation as it is and said that the statement has achieved what it set out to do by clarifying for the public what he believes the true situation is with the Academy. The statement said that within the Vatican Curia, it is “widely perceived” that Fisichella is an “inappropriate” president of the Academy.
Gormally told AP that an article by Catholic News Service, in which Fisichella had declared that there was “harmony” at the PAV plenary meeting, had been a work of deliberate “disinformation.” The statement, he said, had corrected this situation.
On Friday, February 19, Vatican Spokesman Fr. Frederico Lombardi said the statement by the five PAV members “was received neither by the Holy Father, nor by the cardinal Secretary of State, who would seem to be the natural recipients,” nor, he said, had it been presented at the plenary assembly of the Pontifical Academy for Life, “which would have been the natural place to address the matter.”
“It’s a bit strange that persons who are members of an academy address a request of this kind without addressing it to the competent authorities. It’s astounding and seems incorrect that such a document should be given public circulation,” Lombardi said.
However, Fr. Lombardi himself has had a hand in the growth of the controversy surrounding the PAV and Archbishop Fisichella’s article.
On March 21 2009, just days after Fisichella’s article was published, Fr. Lombardi, while accompanying the pope on a visit to Africa, told media that in his speech to Angolan dignitaries Benedict XVI had in no way intended to condemn “therapeutic abortion.” In his speech, Pope Benedict had observed, “How bitter the irony of those who promote abortion as a form of maternal healthcare!”
Lombardi, aware of the growing scandal surrounding Fisichella’s statements, hastened to assure journalists that the comments had nothing to do with the Brazilian case, and openly endorsed Fisichella’s assertions.
He said, “In this regard the considerations of Archbishop Rino Fisichella apply, when he lamented in L’Osservatore Romano the hasty declaration of excommunication by the archbishop of Recife. No extreme case should obscure the true meaning of the remarks by the Holy Father, who was referring to something quite different … The Pope absolutely was not talking about therapeutic abortion, and did not say that this must always be rejected.”
Fr. Lombardi later declined LSN’s direct request for a clarification of his remarks.
Read LSN’s extensive coverage of this affair here.