VATICAN CITY (CNS): Especially at a time of financial crisis, when life-giving initiatives are hurting for money, it appears strange for a government to expand public funding for abortion, the head of the Pontifical Academy for Life said.
Archbishop Rino Fisichella, the academy’s head, said Pope Benedict XVI’s encyclical “Caritas in Veritate” (“Charity in Truth”) tried to explain to people how welcoming, defending and protecting human life at every stage was an essential part of promoting real development for individuals and communities.
The archbishop was interviewed on July 22 by Vatican Radio before speaking at a conference in Rome dedicated to the encyclical, which was released on July 7.
In the encyclical, he said, Pope Benedict looks at development not simply as “a process that must be undertaken to liberate man from hunger, poverty, sickness or illiteracy, but he enlarges the horizon, saying that true and authentic development requires progress for the whole person, even at a time of crisis like ours”.
Archbishop Fisichella said people should not be surprised the Pope talks about abortion, euthanasia or embryonic stem-cell research in an encyclical examining the economy.
“We should not forget that around these areas there are huge investments, both private and public,” he said.
“For example, it seems that in the United States there could be a further increase in public funding for abortion,” he said, apparently referring to a provision in President Barack Obama’s 2010 budget that would permit taxpayer funding of abortions in the District of Columbia.
At a time of economic crisis, he asked, shouldn’t resources be used “to promote life in every area and not to increase a culture of death”?
Asked about Pope Benedict’s meeting on July 10 with Mr Obama, Archbishop Fisichella said he believed the two had an opportunity to discuss very important themes, including those related to protecting human life and freedom.
“At this time, especially in the United States,” he said, there was a debate over the obligation to respect the freedom of conscience of medical personnel who opposed abortion. Their right not to participate in the procedure often was “suspended or impeded,” he said.
According to a Vatican statement, the right of conscientious objection was one of the themes the Pope and Mr Obama discussed during their meeting.
Before travelling to Rome, Mr Obama told a group of religion writers that he expected an ongoing review of conscience clause regulations would result in a continuation of protections that have long existed.