Archive for the ‘abortion’ Category

Where Irreligious Trends Lead After Decades

By Edward Pentin

ROME, JAN. 12, 2012 (Zenit.org).- To see how disturbing a secularist and increasingly irreligious society can become, one need only look to Sweden.

Abortion has been free on demand and available without parental consent in the country since 1975, resulting in the Nordic nation having the highest teenage abortion rate in Europe (22.5 per 1,000 girls aged 15-19 in 2009).

Swedish law does not in any way recognize the right to conscientious objection for health care workers (last year, the Swedish parliament overwhelmingly passed an order instructing Swedish politicians to fight against the rights of doctors to refuse to participate in abortion).

Meanwhile, sex education is graphic and compulsory, beginning at the age of six, and children from kindergarten age are taught cross-dressing and that whatever feels good sexually is OK. The age of consent is 15.

“We have so many violations of human dignity on so many levels, and so many problems when it comes to social engineering,” explained Johan Lundell, secretary-general of the Swedish pro-life group Ja till Livet. “This has been going on for the past 70 years.”

Lundell was a guest of ours recently at the Dignitatis Humanae Institute (Institute for Human Dignity) where he laid out a catalogue of offenses against human dignity in Swedish society. “We have the highest teenage abortion rate in Europe. Why? Because we say abortion is a human right, it doesn’t kill anything, just takes away a pregnancy,” he said. “And after 20 years of this, young people don’t care any more. Why should they? For 10 to 15 years no one has even said abortion should be legal but rare.”

Its sex education program, seen by some social liberals as groundbreaking but others as far too explicit, has been given by some as the principal reason for a low teenage pregnancy rate. But the high number of abortions among that age group are rarely discussed, nor are the figures disclosed. “No one talks about child abortions,” said Lundell. “They’re ashamed of them. Yet we’re the only country in Europe where there’s abortion on demand, there are no formal procedures, no parental consent, no informed consent.”

Nor are the number of rapes in Sweden widely known or advertised. Yet according to Lundell, over the past 50 years — during this era of loose sexual mores — they have risen by “1,000 percent.”

Lundell further noted that all other countries want to reduce the number of abortions, yet despite having 550 different government departments in Sweden, none has a mission to lower the number of terminations. “Children can see this is wrong, parents can see it’s wrong, and as a society we don’t want it and yet no one talks about it,” Lundell added. “It’s absurd.”

He said that Sweden should “definitely” be taken as a warning to other countries pursuing secularist, socially liberal policies “because then you can see what the agenda is for people, and how the European Union and the United Nations are copying these Scandinavian ideas.”

Returning to the subject of sex education, Lundell said Swedes generally don’t bother any more trying to argue that homosexuality is genetic– a common argument used to promote the same-sex agenda — because the movement is now so fully accepted that it no longer needs this argument as a support. “In sex education books, they don’t talk about someone being heterosexual or homosexual — there are no such things because for them everyone is homosexual,” he said.

Lundell referred to a brochure for children published by same-sex associations, and printed with the help of financing by the state. “They write positively about all kinds of sexuality, every kind, even the most depraved sexual acts, and it goes into all schools,” he explained. “The information is put on Web sites, and school children are told about the Web sites so they can see it.” Teachers, he said, are encouraged to ask students “What turns you on?” yet Lundell pointed out that if the chief executive of a company asked that at a business meeting, he’d be fired. “It would be sexual harassment,” he said. “And yet you train people to do this to children?”

Some parents have made formal complaints, branding it as carnal knowledge, too candid for the classroom and labeling the lessons as “vulgar” and “too advanced.” But the majority acquiesce to the curriculum, while the option to homeschool children is almost forbidden.

Yet to many outsiders, Sweden’s popular image is of a fair, ordered, just and harmonious society — the model example of a functioning welfare state. In many cases this is true if one looks at infant mortality rates, life expectancy, standard of health care and access to education. The level of poverty is also relatively low.

“It’s long been said that if it is not possible to bring about a socialist world in Sweden, then it’s not possible anywhere,” said Lundell. “That’s why some have tried to make it into a socialist paradise. But unlike in, say, Italy or Greece, in Sweden it’s not about the socialism of finances but rather the socialism of families — social engineering, which has been much more visible here than in southern Europe.”

Per Bylund, a Swedish fellow at the Von Mises Institute, once described the all encompassing power of the state thus: “A significant difference between my generation and the preceding one is that most of us were not raised by our parents at all. We were raised by the authorities in state daycare centers from the time of infancy; then pushed on to public schools, public high schools, and public universities; and later to employment in the public sector and more education via the powerful labor unions and their educational associations. The state is ever-present and is to many the only means of survival — and its welfare benefits the only possible way to gain independence.”

Yet this social engineering has had dire consequences. Few European countries have witnessed such a rapid decline in the institution of marriage, nor such an expeditious rise in abortion. During the 1950s and first half of the 1960s, the marriage rate in Sweden was historically at its peak. Suddenly, the rate started dropping so quickly that it saw a decrease of about 50% in less than 10 years. No other country experienced such a rapid change.

Between 2000 and 2010, when the rest of Europe was showing signs of a reduction in annual abortion rates, the Swedish government says the rate increased from 30,980 to 37,693. The proportion of repeat abortions rose from 38.1% to 40.4% — the highest level ever — while the number of women having at least four previous abortions increased from 521 to approximately 750.

With the exception of a few stalwart campaigners such as Lundell, most Swedish Christians — and particularly Christian politicians — remain silent in the face of the countless social violations against human dignity. Little resistance is also given to attacks on religious freedom for Christians, with priority increasingly being given to Sharia law.

Judging by the figures, it could almost be said the faith has packed up altogether. At the end of 2009, 71.3% of Swedes belonged to the Lutheran Church of Sweden — a number that has been decreasing by about one percentage point a year for the last two decades. Of them, only around 2% regularly attend Sunday services. Indeed, some studies have found Swedes to be one of the least religious people in the world and a country with one of the highest numbers of atheists. According to different studies carried out in the early 2000s, between 46% and 85% of Swedes do not believe in God.

Lundell said that although small, the Catholic Church has a good bishop and is helped by immigrants from Poland and Latin America. But Catholics are generally seen as outsiders with little influence and they are wary of overtly campaigning or being seen as “too tough,” he said. Even Pentecostals are reticent to raise objections. “They are probably the only Pentecostal church in the world that doesn’t,” he added.

But despite all this, Lundell, whose organization is attracting a growing number of young people, remains hopeful — and he remains ultimately loyal to his home country. “I’m so proud of Sweden I can’t imagine moving away,” he said. “But I am ashamed of the politics when it comes to the family, sexual politics and restrictions on freedom of religion.”

“Whole parts of society aren’t Sweden any more,” he added. “So we will fight, and we will do so with more eagerness than ever.”

Edward Pentin is a freelance journalist and Communications Director at the Dignitatis Humanae Institute. He can be reached at epentin@zenit.org.

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How Science Should be Used to Stem the Tide

By Arland K. Nichols

WASHINGTON, D.C., JAN. 18, 2012 (Zenit.org).- Recent controversies in the United States surrounding the “morning after pill” point to international trends making such potentially abortifacient drugs increasingly accessible to men and women of all ages. While the Catholic Church’s consistent teaching about the intrinsic evil of contraception (cf. Humanae vitae) seems to be increasingly validated by the sciences as a destructive social and physical phenomenon in society, many still have the mistaken impression that it is to be avoided only for “religious” reasons. In fact, what we are seeing is widespread acceptance of drugs that not only prevent pregnancy, but actually cause abortions, making their labeling as “contraceptives” somewhat misleading.

In the late 1990s the Rockefeller Foundation formed the International Consortium for Emergency Contraception (ICEC), whose charter was to spread the use of “emergency contraception” throughout the world.[1] Among the original member organizations are International Planned Parenthood Federation, Population Council, and Population Services International, and their initial campaign targeted nations long in the crosshairs of “population control” organizations: Sri Lanka, Kenya, Mexico and Indonesia.

The campaign has been “successful” as emergency contraception is now available in over 140 countries today.[2] It is available from a pharmacist (which allows for consultation with the patient) without a prescription in 58 nations and enjoys full “over the counter” status in six nations — India, Norway, Netherlands, Sweden, most provinces in Canada, and for women as young as 17 in the United States. The widespread and growing acceptance of emergency contraception is a troubling trend for Catholics that deserves our attention, so in order that our concern may be properly informed, let’s briefly make some distinctions among the drugs in question.

The primary emergency contraception promoted all these years by the ICEC is the synthetic hormone levonorgestrel, which is marketed under numerous names: in English-speaking countries these include Plan B, Next Choice, Levonelle and Pregnon. Levonorgestrel is approved for use up to 72 hours after sexual intercourse, but is commonly used up to five days later to prevent pregnancy. Studies indicate that  levonorgestrel does not kill an embryonic human being who has already implanted in the uterus; nonetheless, it may still act as an abortifacient.  

Levonorgestrel is often confused with what is popularly known as “the abortion pill” or “RU-486.” RU-486 is the synthetic steroid, Mifepristone. Mifepristone (marketed as Mifeprex in the United States) is FDA approved to chemically abort a child who has reached seven weeks of age in the womb. Mifepristone terminates established pregnancies.

Another “emergency contraceptive” was added to the market when the European Medicines Agency approved ulipristal acetate in 2009, while the Federal Drug Administration (FDA) approved its use for the United States in 2010. It is marketed as Ellaone and Ella, respectively, and is available in 30 countries. Its method of action is summarized well by the European Medicines Agency: “Ulipristal acetate prevents progesterone from occupying its receptor … progesterone is blocked, and the proteins necessary to begin and maintain pregnancy are not synthesized.”[3] That is, it can prevent a newly conceived child from implanting, and can disrupt the child that has already implanted, killing him.

Because levonorgestrel is the most common emergency contraceptive, here we will focus on two common and flawed claims that have led to its acceptance in the international community. The first claim is that science has proven that levonorgestrel never causes an early abortion, so a woman may take it without fear of ending the life of her child.

Levonorgestrel primarily functions so as to prevent a woman from ovulating. As has been noted, it does not kill a child that has already implanted. Many studies indicate that Plan B may also have a secondary method of action if a woman ovulates even though she took levonorgestrel.[4] If fertilization occurs (bringing a new human being into existence) following a “breakthrough ovulation” the drug may prevent this embryonic human being from implanting on his mother’s uterus. Patrick Yeung Jr. and his coauthors explain that levonorgestrel “interferes with the normal development and function of the corpus luteum; a dysfunctional corpus luteum then leads to an impaired endometrium [wall of the uterus] that interferes with embryonic implantation.”[5] They argue that “no evidence exists to contradict this interceptive effect” and suggest that “levonorgestrel is estimated to act as an abortifacient 3%-13% of the time” when taken immediately prior to ovulation. This abortion-inducing effect is acknowledged by the FDA, which states that levonorgestrel “is believed to act as an emergency contraceptive principally by preventing ovulation or fertilization. … In addition, it may inhibit implantation (by altering the endometrium).”[6]

The Catholic Church, noting that levonorgestrel may at times act as an abortifacient by preventing the child conceived from implanting in his mother’s womb, says in Dignitas personae that use of such a drug when it prevents implantation “fall[s] within the sin of abortion and [is] gravely immoral” (n. 23).

The second claim that is often used to gain public acceptance of Plan B is that easy access to it will reduce unintended pregnancies and, thus, abortions. For example, Doctor Andre Lalonde of Canada’s Society of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists has stated “[b]etter access and greater knowledge and use of emergency contraception could significantly reduce the incidence of unintended pregnancy in Canada.”[7] This claim was echoed by the Institute of Medicine’s (IOM) recent recommendation that led the United States Department of Health and Human Services to require all insurance plans to cover levonorgestrel free of charge. The IOM stated “that greater use of contraception within the population produces lower unintended pregnancy and abortion rates nationally.”[8] Such assertions are specious, as numerous studies show that greater access to emergency contraception reduces neither unintended pregnancies nor abortion.

A 2010 study of eleven randomized control trials by Chelsea Polis of the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health concluded: “Our review suggests that strategies for advance provision of emergency contraception which have been tested to date do not appear to reduce unintended pregnancy at the population level.”[9] Further, a 2007 study published in Obstetrics and Gynecology arrived at the same conclusion: “increased access to emergency contraceptive pills enhances use but has not been shown to reduce unintended pregnancy rates.”[10] And a November 2006 study in the same journal concluded that increased access to emergency contraception “did not show benefit in decreasing pregnancy rates.”[11] Similarly, levonorgestrel does not reduce rates of abortion, as indicated in a 2004 study published in Contraception.[12] In spite of free provision of emergency contraception to 18,000 women, “no impact on abortion rates was measurable. While advanced provision of EC probably prevents some pregnancies for some women some of the time, the strategy did not produce the public health breakthrough hoped for.”

All told, the studies reveal that, contrary to the many “professional and editorial opinions and projections” that emergency contraception reduces unintended pregnancies and abortion, I am unaware of a single population-based study indicating that it is actually effective in doing so.

Yet the international trend toward greater and easier access to levonorgestrel continues, and over time, drugs that are more likely to cause the death of the embryonic human beings (such as “Ella” and “EllaOne”) are likely to replace levonorgestrel. While this article has not focused on the immoral use of contraception within marriage, it has identified the pervasive and life-threatening results of the contraceptive mentality in society. We cannot ignore these troubling trends which are clear manifestations of the culture of death. Our knowledge and principle-based action can stem the tide as seen in Honduras which, in 2009, banned the sale of emergency contraception.

Massive and influential organizations with deep pockets are actively promoting abortion-inducing contraceptives throughout the international community, misleading many who would oppose their use if they were aware of their potential abortifacient effects and non-effectiveness in reducing abortion rates. To date, such organizations have faced little effective opposition. One way for the Catholic pro-life community to stem the tide is to shed light upon the false claims made about emergency contraception. Against those who claim that “science” requires the adoption of ever more life-changing and life-ending medications, we must be ready to reply with the scientific facts that show their claims for what they really are — anti-life.

* * *

Arland K. Nichols is the National Director of HLI America, an educational initiative of Human Life International. His articles may be found at http://www.hliamerica.org.

[1] http://www.cecinfo.org/

[2] http://ec.princeton.edu/questions/dedicated.html

[3] http://www.ema.europa.eu/docs/en_GB/document_library/EPAR_-_Product_Information/human/001027/WC500023670.pdf

[4] The author notes that there are some, including within the Catholic scholarly community, who suggest that an abortifacient effect is extremely unlikely. Perhaps most notable is Rev. Nicanor Pier Giorgio Austriaco, O.P. See “Is Plan B an Abortifacient?,” National Catholic Bioethics Quarterly, (V7 N4), 703-707.

[5] Yeung et al., “Argument Against the Use of Levonorgestrel in Cases of Sexual Assault,” Catholic Health Care Ethics: A Manual for Practitioners, Ed. Edward J.Furton, (Philadelphia: 2009), 144.

[6] http://www.accessdata.fda.gov/drugsatfda_docs/label/2009/021998lbl.pdf

[7] http://www.cwhn.ca/resources/cwhn/ec.html

[8] http://www.iom.edu/Reports/2011/Clinical-Preventive-Services-for-Women-Closing-the-Gaps.aspx

[9] http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/releases/182584.php

[10] http://journals.lww.com/greenjournal/Abstract/2007/01000/Population_Effect_of_Increased_Access_to_Emergency.25.aspx

[11] http://journals.lww.com/greenjournal/Fulltext/2006/11000/Impact_of_Increased_Access_to_Emergency.9.aspx

[12] http://www.cwfa.org/images/content/scotland0905.pdf

By Carl Anderson

NEW HAVEN, Connecticut, MARCH 1, 2010 (Zenit.org).- Having served for nearly a decade as a member of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, I know that there are few subjects as controversial in American society as those issues touching race relations.

Nonetheless, an article appearing this weekend in the New York Times — titled “To Court Blacks, Foes of Abortion Make Racial Case” — is worth considering.

Without getting into the controversy concerning the well-documented eugenic philosophy of Margaret Sanger (founder of Planned Parenthood), or the debate over whether or not African Americans are actually deliberately targeted by abortion providers today, several disturbing facts remain.

For one, as the New York Times pointed out, black women account for almost 40% of the abortions in the United States, though they make up only 13% of the population.

Regardless of the cause for that high rate, abortion is an especially large-scale tragedy for African Americans. There are no winners in abortion. There are only the dead and the wounded. And all involved need to be embraced with compassion and love.

Those in the black community who are most at risk for abortion must be offered concrete alternatives. Those who have experienced an abortion must be offered the message of healing and hope.

As we try to build a support of compassion, we should also remember Benedict XVI’s last encyclical, “Charity in Truth.” And as part of our charity, we must come to terms with the falsehoods which led millions to accept injustices as social necessities — and resolve to let the truth guide our charity, and let our charity be the spokesman of truth.

Legal limbo

Last month, the United States celebrated Black History Month. Sadly, there are legal parallels between the horrible legacy in the United States of denial of the rights of black people — and their treatment as less than human — and the current legal rights limbo of the unborn in this country.

For one thing, both the unborn and black community have been the victims of terrible jurisprudence. In fact, the Supreme Court decisions that enabled unrestricted access to abortion (Roe v. Wade) and established the segregationist principle of “separate but equal” (Plessy v. Ferguson) were both, as it happens, based on falsehood.

In Plessy v. Ferguson, the majority opinion asserted that segregation could in fact allow for equal treatment of black and white Americans. In the Court’s opinion, black Americans who saw this separation as “a badge of inferior,” created their own reality, not the reality assigned by the law. The Court insisted that any semblance of inferiority was “not by reason of anything found in the act, but solely because the colored race chooses to put that construction upon it.”

But as Justice John Marshal Harlan noted in his dissent in Plessy: “Everyone knows that the statute in question had its origin in the purpose, not so much to exclude white persons from railroad cars occupied by blacks, as to exclude colored people from coaches occupied or assigned to white persons.”

Unhinged

In Roe v. Wade too, a fiction was allowed to become the law of the land. In Roe, the court argued that it could not decide when human life begins.

Everyone, nonetheless knew at the time, and science has only made increasingly clear since then, that the unborn child before birth is precisely that — a child.

What is notable about both Plessy and Roe, is that the majority in each found it necessary to ignore the obvious to rule the way they did. At best, they bought into a lie. And sadly, whatever the motivations of individual judges, the black community targeted by Plessy, has also been affected disproportionately by Roe.

The majority’s decision in Roe could not have had a good outcome under any circumstances, but the current controversy is yet another example of how poorly adjudicated decisions tend to have unintended — and often terrible — consequences beyond those readily realized.

Of course, in the 1950s, many legal experts, law professors and politicians insisted that the segregation allowed by Plessy was “settled law.” Today, “experts” and politicians say the same about the abortion legacy of Roe.

But Plessy was unhinged from reality, and the courage of brave men and women such as Martin Luther King, Jr., and Rosa Parks unsettled this “settled law” and earned the respect of the judgment of history.

Roe too is unhinged from the truth that everyone knows. Needed are more brave men and women willing to stand up and demand that a nation’s law on abortion will never be settled until it is brought into conformity with the truth.

British Parliament Launches Inquiry on Age Limit

By Father John Flynn, LC
ROME, OCT. 22, 2007 (Zenit.org).- A long-running debate over age limits for abortions was renewed last week in England. Current law allows abortions up to the 24th week of pregnancy, but improvements in survival rates for babies born prematurely have led to pressure for the limit to be lowered.

The Abortion Act of 1967 originally set at 28 weeks the legal limit for abortions. Then, in 1990, Parliament agreed to lower the time limit to 24 weeks.

An inquiry into the age limits commenced Oct. 15 by the House of Commons committee on science and technology. The committee Web page noted that the terms of reference for the inquiry do not include the ethical or moral questions related to the debate, but will concentrate on scientific and medical evidence about fetal viability.

One of those backing a reduction in the age limit is obstetrician Stuart Campbell, reported the Telegraph newspaper on Oct. 15. Campbell pioneered three-dimensional scans of fetuses sucking their thumbs and walking in the womb.

Campbell used to perform abortions at 20 weeks, the Telegraph reported. “I feel pretty appalled at the idea that we abort normal babies and most of them are born alive and most of them are allowed to die,” he said during a BBC radio program.

The committee’s Web site contains several hundred pages of evidence submitted to the inquiry.

A submission from the Department of Health to the committee provided information about abortions in England and Wales. In 2006, there were 193,700 abortions. Of these, 89% were carried out at under 13 weeks of pregnancy.

Out of the total number, 2,948 abortions were performed at 20 weeks and over. Of these, 1,262 were performed at 22 weeks and over, and 136 at 24 weeks and over.

Christian opposition

The Christian Medical Fellowship, an interdenominational Christian organization with more than 4,500 British doctor members, is in favor of a reduction. In its submission to the committee, it outlined a number of concerns related to abortion.

For a start, it argued that maternal mortality after abortion is higher than currently recognized. Moreover, the fellowship noted, strong evidence exists that induced abortion increases risk of premature birth in subsequent pregnancies. Such premature births not only cause neonatal mortality and ongoing disability, but also imply significant economic costs.

There is overwhelming recent evidence that abortion causes significant rates of serious mental health problems, the submission continued. Several studies have demonstrated higher levels of depression, suicidal tendencies, and problems with drug and alcohol use among women who have undergone abortion.

The fellowship also called for Parliament to reconsider the norms for abortions for reasons of fetal abnormality. The upper limit for abortion for disabled babies should not be higher than that for able-bodied babies.

Handicapped

The question of disabled babies being aborted was also raised by the London-based Lejeune Clinic for Children With Down Syndrome. In its submission to the parliamentary committee they said that in 2005 alone, 429 abortions were carried out on babies with Down syndrome. The law sets no time limits for abortions on babies that are held to be disabled.

The clinic also commented that after Down syndrome is detected, some women feel pressured to abort their babies. As well, very few women are offered information on help available to raise a child with the chromosomal disorder.

The submission argued that most children with Down syndrome are happy, sociable and enjoy friendships. Around 80% attend mainstream primary school, either full or part time, and nearly all integrate in a loving fashion into their families. Behavioral problems can occur, but this can be helped, the clinic pointed out.

In its conclusions, the clinic argued: “It is hard to see how the majority of children with Down syndrome fulfill the criteria for abortion on the ground of serious untreatable disability.” In fact, the majority suffer from only moderate learning difficulties and treatable physical health problems.

A written submission to the parliamentary committee was also made by the Pro-life Alliance (PLA). It started by noting its objection to any form of intentional abortion, at whatever age limit of the fetus.

Benefit of the doubt

Nevertheless, within the context of the current debate the PLA observed, “At the very least one would expect consensus in the country against the abortion of a viable baby, with the benefit of the doubt always on the side of the baby.”

Another pro-life group, also opposed to any form of abortion, which made a submission was the nonprofit organization Comment on Reproductive Ethics (CORE). Opinions over abortion vary widely, it observed, but there is common concern over the rising abortion rates in Britain.

The CORE submission also called for greater transparency about abortions. Currently 97% of all abortions are justified under Ground C of the Abortion Act, which groups together both the medical or psychological health of the mother as a justification. It would be much better, CORE argued, for the two to be separated as they are quite diverse conditions.

It also called for greater transparency for abortions performed on the grounds of fetal abnormality. The submission mentioned the 2001 case of a baby aborted at 7 months for cleft palate, which caused a major public reaction.

After the outcry over this case the government’s statistics became notably less specific in identifying details of the abnormalities for which abortions have been performed.

Defending life

A petition for changes in the abortion law also came from Scotland, in the form of an article published in the Scotsman newspaper July 6 by Cardinal Keith O’Brien, archbishop of Saint Andrews and Edinburgh. The Catholic leader called on Prime Minister Gordon Brown to review the law and thus ensure greater respect for human life.

The Scotsman reported that the latest data show that 13,081 abortions were carried out in Scotland in 2006, compared with 12,603 the year before — the fourth consecutive annual increase.

“Abortion is neither political nor medical, though clearly it has implications in these spheres,” the cardinal stated. “It is about morality and the destruction of human life.”

Cardinal O’Brien praised Brown for being “a man of principle and deeply held moral convictions,” and noted his efforts to reduce poverty in developing nations. He then called on the prime minister to support human life for those who are unborn.
“What exists in the womb is not ‘a potential human being,’ but rather ‘a human being with potential,'” the cardinal argued.

Not a right

Benedict XVI also had strong words to say recently on protecting unborn life. During his trip to Austria, he addressed the members of government and diplomatic corps Sept. 7.

During his speech, given in the reception hall of Vienna’s Hofburg Palace, the Pontiff recalled that Europe is the place where the notion of human rights was first formulated.

“The fundamental human right, the presupposition of every other right, is the right to life itself,” the Pope pointed out. “Abortion, consequently, cannot be a human right — it is the very opposite.”

Benedict XVI acknowledged the difficulties women experience in going ahead with difficult pregnancies, but at the same time, expressed his concern for the unborn children who have no voice.

He called upon political leaders to help bring about a society that welcomes children and encourages young married couples to start new families. Doing so, the Pope added, requires creating “a climate of joy and confidence in life, a climate in which children are not seen as a burden, but rather as a gift for all.” A gift unfortunately too often rejected by society today.



Interview With Mark Miravalle

ROME, SEPT. 25, 2007 (Zenit.org).- Violations of human rights and religious freedom continue to be widespread in China, says the author of a book on the Asian country.

Mark Miravalle, a professor of theology and Mariology at the Franciscan University of Steubenville, traveled to China last summer and saw firsthand the daily struggles of the people and the faithful in the country.

In this interview with ZENIT, he talks about his book “The Seven Sorrows of China” (Queenship Publications), and some of the testimonies from underground Church clergy, religious and laity, as well as a confidential interview with an underground bishop.

Q: What led you to visit China and write this book on the situation there?

Miravalle: I went to China with the sole intention of helping friends there who were taking in terminally ill abandoned orphans and caring for them in a Mother Teresa-type manner.

Each day instead brought with it an encounter with the horrific violations of human dignity and religious freedom that have been significantly neglected in the secular media’s recent portrayal of a “new democratic and open” China. I found the opposite to be the case.

Women are being forced to have abortions by the population police in every province. Bishops and priests who refuse to cooperate with the government-run Chinese patriotic church are oftentimes hounded down, arrested, imprisoned and sometimes tortured.

Underground seminaries are at times no more than an abandoned building without electricity or heat. Religious and human-rights violations are ubiquitous.

Q: What are the seven sorrows of China that you refer to in the title of your book?

Miravalle: The seven sorrows represent seven categories or concrete cases of oppression presently being experienced by the Chinese people. For example, one sorrow conveys the account of a woman I met in a secret refugee house for pregnant women who wanted to have their babies in spite of government prohibitions. She had to flee the house in her hospital gown and rush into a taxi held by a Catholic religious sister in order to save her baby from abortion.

Another sorrow refers to an underground bishop who risked his life to give an interview so that the West could know the real story about religious persecution in China. Still another sorrow tells of a small Catholic village that, through Catholic solidarity Chinese-style, are having large families and public Catholic liturgies in spite of the one-child policy and government opposition to unsanctioned public religious gatherings.

Love of our Blessed Mother was so frequently referred to by members of the underground Church. I could not help but think of how her heart, pierced seven times historically because of the innocent suffering of her divine Son, continues to be pierced mystically as she observes the unjust suffering of the noble Chinese people. She sees Jesus in each innocent Chinese person tortured, abused, aborted. So should we.

Q: What about the fact that Beijing has been awarded the 2008 Olympics? Isn’t the Chinese government trying to convince the West that it is more open and democratic?

Miravalle: This is precisely the question I asked the underground bishop I was able to interview.

We met secretly in an impoverished family dwelling near his cathedral, as he had numerous police watching the cathedral. His answer was, “The Chinese government is like the fox that goes up to the chicken and says, ‘Happy New Year,’ and then devours the chicken. We are not free to practice our Catholic faith. I have been imprisoned for a total of 20 years, where I have experienced hard labor, and witnessed the torture and killing of priests and laity.”

When I suggested that perhaps it would be imprudent to include the reference to 20 years in prison for fear that it would break his anonymity, he said there would be no problem including this fact since all underground bishops have spent approximately 20 years in prison for refusing to compromise their Catholic faith and their loyalty to the Holy Father.

Q: Did the underground bishop have any comment on Benedict XVI’s recent letter to the Church in China?

Miravalle: Yes, the bishop had received a copy of the letter just a few days before our interview. The Chinese government blocked all Web sites, including the Vatican Web site, that posted the Holy Father’s letter, but the underground Church has its information networks.

The bishop praised Benedict XVI’s letter for its wisdom and prudence. In fact, my interview with the bishop was interrupted 10 minutes after it began, because regional police came to the cathedral searching for the bishop. The people at the house were afraid they were taking the bishop back to prison.

A half-hour later, the bishop returned to our clandestine meeting place, and told me the police had come to warn him not to say anything publicly about the Pope’s letter. The bishop then smiled and commented how the inevitable could not be stopped.

Q: What about the government’s one-child policy? How is this being enforced?

Miravalle: I received testimonies from women who had gone to the hospital nine months pregnant and in labor, but without the government’s certificate allowing for birth. After consultation with the population police, a doctor or nurse would re-enter the room with a needle and inject a substance into the abdomen of the woman, which would instantaneously kill the unborn child.

Other married couples would return home from the hospital with their second child and find their home burned to the ground. Still others would be forced to pay high fines or return to homes where everything was removed, including windows and doors, except for the kitchen table.

Does this sound like a new, democratic, religion-respecting government? What if any of our Western families received this type of treatment for trying to bring a beautiful new baby into the world?

Just last week, another underground bishop died in prison and his body was cremated six hours later in the middle of the night. Was there something to hide? What if this happened to one of our bishops in the West?

Q: Did you see any signs of hope for the Church in China during your visit?

Miravalle: Yes. In a few remarkable villages within provinces known for their heroic stands of faith and martyrdom for our Catholic faith under untold persecution, many families had multiple children and public Masses and Marian processions.

I flew to one particular village and interviewed the parish priest, asking how this was possible in light of Beijing’s one-child policy. He answered, “Here, we are united. The priests would die for the bishop, and people would die and have died for their bishop and priests, and the bishop is completely loyal to the Holy Father. We are so united that they would have to wipe us all out, and they will not do that now.”

I asked the parish priest and religious sister translating for us, what makes this village different. They responded: “We rely on the Eucharist, Our Lady, and the blood and prayers of the martyrs before us. Here we are Catholic. If you do not follow the Holy Father, then you are not Catholic.”

Q: What can the Church in the West do to help the Church in China?

Miravalle: Our hearts should feel pierced as we hear of the daily plight of our Chinese Catholic brothers and sisters. This should lead to committed daily prayer for the Church and the people of China.

I also asked the underground bishop this question. He said, “Pray, pray for the Chinese Church. Finances can help, but most of all, pray.”

The bishop added that Communism is not the only evil facing his people.

He shared: “In the last few years, my people are being affected with a secular, worldly idea of happiness, that they can find their ultimate happiness in this life. They have lost their desire for prayer and sacrifice. This is an even greater danger than the Communist government.”

The bishop then exhorted, “Pray to Our Lady, Maria! She is the remedy for the situation in China. It is like the battle in the Book of Revelation, between the woman and the dragon. It is first a spiritual, cosmic battle. Pray to Our Lady for China.”