By John-Henry Westen and Hilary White, Rome Correspondent

VATICAN CITY, July 7, 2009 ( – The Vatican newspaper L'Osservatore Romano has today published a clarification from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) reiterating the Church's stand against abortion.  The clarification notes that it comes after the CDF received communications from political and church leaders expressing concerns about an article published in the same newspaper by the new head of the Pontifical Academy for Life, Archbishop Salvatore (Rino) Fisichella.

The clarification is an impressive compilation of most of the strongest statements of the Church in defense of human life.  It runs though teachings from the Bible, the early Church, Councils and Popes, reaffirming constantly that abortion is absolutely prohibited and an “abominable crime.”

Previously, both the heads of the Vatican's Pontifical Academy for Life and the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) had refused to retract or clarify the assertion by the president of the PAV that doctors who committed an abortion on the twins of a nine year-old rape Brazilian victim were not deserving of excommunication (see below for more coverage on the Brazil case).

The clarification by the CDF, however, goes into the matter at length.  It states that: “The formal cooperation in an abortion constitutes a grave offense. The Church punishes with this crime against human life with the canonical penalty of excommunication.”

The clarification comes only days after a blog post by Italian journalist and Vatican expert Sandro Magister reported that over half of the members of the Pontifical Academy for Life (PAV) had rejected the position of its president on the controversy surrounding the abortion on the nine year-old Brazilian girl.

27 of the 46 members of the PAV wrote to Archbishop Fisichella, asking him to recant the “wrong” position he took in a March 15th article published in the Vatican's newspaper L'Osservatore Romano. Magister reports that Fisichella responded to the April 4th letter by rejecting the request.

Turning to the higher authority, the PAV member signatories made a formal request for a statement clarifying the Church's teaching regarding abortion to William Cardinal Levada, the head of the CDF, and were ignored.

The letter requesting a clarification was reportedly passed on to the head of the Secretariat of State, Tarcisio Cardinal Bertone, “as Fisichella's article had been written at his request.”  Magister noted that the same group has also submitted a dossier on the issue to Pope Benedict XVI who is believed to have ordered Bertone to issue a statement reiterating Catholic doctrine on the sanctity of human life.

See the full English text of the L'Osservatore Romano article 

See related coverage:

L'Osservatore Romano Won't Let me Defend Myself Says Brazil Archbishop  

Brazilian Archbishop Who Announced Excommunication of Abortionists Receives International Pro-Life Award    
International Pro-Abortion Group Conspired With Hospital to Kill Unborn Twins in Famous Brazilian Case –
Part I   Part II   Part III