The Italian monthly 30 Giorni published an article purportedly by His Eminence Georges Card. Cottier, 87, the former papal theologian under the late Pope John Paul II.
In 2005 Card. Cottier retired at the age of 83.
Was Fr. Wojciech Giertych, the current papal theologian, otherwise engaged?
I’m just askin’…
The Italian language piece under Card. Cottier’s name is entitled "La politica, la morale e il peccato originale: I discorsi del presidente Usa Barack Obama alla University of Notre Dame e all’Università islamica Al-Azhar del Cairo si possono utilmente confrontare con elementi della fede e della dottrina sociale cristiana" [Politics, morality and original sin: the discourses of the US President Barak Obama at the University of Notre Dame and at the Islamic University Al-Azhar of Cairo can be usefully compared with elements of the faith and social doctrine of the Church.].
Mr. John Allen, the nearly ubiquitous former Rome correspondent for the ultra-lefty NCR posted a good precis and some comments in his Friday piece relevant to the article under Card. Cottier’s name. If you don’t read Italian you might start with Allen’s piece.
Keep in mind: some in the Secretariat of State really wanted to have this meeting with President Obama. They too hope to promote "common ground". The timing and content of this 30 Giorni article were tailored for Pres. Obama’s Rome visit. Consider: it is not written by a current member of the papal household, but Card. Cottier was once a member. 30 Giorni is not a Vatican sanctioned publication, but it was sure to be picked up by the Catholic Press in the United States and it is very visible in Italy. The article could be issued with effect, bearing as it does a noticeable name, appearing in a noticeable journal. It can if necessary also be denied by the Holy See as representing the the Holy See’s interests.
There are a lot of claims in the Cottier article I could debate, but there is one central claim at issue between us.
The writer of Card. Cottier’s article argues that the Church should trust that President Obama is sincere in wanting to reduce the number of women seeking abortions, and that on this point the Church shares a “common ground” with the President.
But there is an abundance of convincing evidence that the President was insincere in his statement to this effect at Notre Dame.
I reject as naïve the idea that there can be “common ground” between Pres. Obama and the Catholic Church where abortion is concerned.
The writer of Card. Cottier’s article says (with my translation and my emphases),
“C’è chi, come noi, considera l’aborto un intrinsece malum; ci sono quelli che lo accettano, e addirittura alcuni che lo rivendicano come un diritto. Il presidente non prende mai quest’ultima posizione. Al contrario, mi sembra che dia dei suggerimenti positivi – lo ha sottolineato anche L’Osservatore Romano del 19 maggio –, proponendo pure in questo caso la ricerca di un terreno comune. [There are those who consider, as we do, abortion to be an intrinsece malum; there are those who accept that, and some – really – who claim it as a right. The President never takes this last position. On the contrary, it seems to me that he gives positive suggestions – which also the 19 May L’Osservatore Romano underscored – , proposing even in this case the search for common ground.]
“Il terreno comune che lui propone è questo: lavorare tutti insieme per ridurre il numero delle donne che cercano di abortire. E aggiunge che ogni regolamentazione legale di questa materia deve garantire in maniera assoluta l’obiezione di coscienza per gli operatori sanitari che non vogliono dare la propria assistenza a pratiche abortive. Le sue parole vanno nella direzione di diminuire il male. Il governo e lo Stato devono fare di tutto affinché il numero di aborti sia il minore possibile. È certo soltanto un minimum, ma è un minimum prezioso.” [The common ground he proposes is this: to work everyone together to reduce the number of women who seek to abort. And he adds that every legal regulation of this matter must guarantee in an absolte manner conscientious objection for health workers who do not want to give their own assistance to abortive practices. His words tend in the direction of diminishing the evil. The government and the State must do everything so that the number of abortions be as small as possible There is certainly only a mininum, but it is a precious mininum.]
First of all, Card. Cottier is flat out wrong in stating that Obama does not support abortion as a right.
Claims such as this raise the suspicion that the writer of Card. Cottier’s article is either disingenuous or poorly informed. This sort of statement makes the Vatican, by implication, seem amateurish.
Pres. Obama has frequently stated that he wants to defend the right of women to procure an abortion.
He campaigned on that position. He made sure everyone understood his differences with his Republican opponent, John McCain, on the matter.
Pres. Obama’s position on abortion as a woman’s right is still proudly posted on his website. Let’s quote directly from Pres. Obama’s website:
“Support Reproductive Choice
“President Obama has been a consistent champion of reproductive choice and believes in preserving women’s rights under Roe v. Wade. At the same time, he respects those who disagree with him. The President believes we must all come together to help reduce unintended pregnancies and the need for abortion.”
So, let’s be clear.
Pres. Obama does in fact support the right to abortion. Abortion is, in fact, "a need".
As for his stated goal to reduce the number of abortions, or, to put it another way, to reduce the number of women seeking abortion (which he also refers to as reducing the need [sic] for abortion), this claim too is a charade.
While Pres. Obama was – addiritura – being awarded an honorary doctor of laws degree from Notre Dame, his administration was – and still is – doing everything it can to extend access to abortion, not only to women in the US, but, by means of the UN, to women throughout the world.
It is either disingenuous or amateurish to take the President at his word on this promise without checking the facts.
The writer of this 30 Giorni piece could have asked more information from Archbishop Rino Fisichella, President of the Pontifical Academy for Life, who knows very well the Obama administration’s track record on the abortion issue.
He could have checked with the Catholic Family and Human Rights Institute (www. c-fam.org) which does yeoman’s work at tracking and reporting how the abortion issue is dealt with at the UN.
He could have asked Priests for Life, or even Tom Grenchik, the Executive Director of the Secretariat of Pro-Life Activities at the USCCB (see his informative posting, “Reducing Abortions by Promoting Abortions?”).
He could have asked any one of the 80+ American bishops who publicly protested the decision by Notre Dame University to bestow and honor Pres. Obama.
But the voice you should really have heard, Your Eminence, is that of Pope Benedict XVI.
During his address to the UN General Assembly on 18 April 2008, Pope Benedict warned that there would be dire consequences for humanity if the 1948 UN Declaration on Human Rights were to be amended in such a way as to recognize the addition of pseudo-rights, such as “women’s reproductive rights”, as fundamental human rights.
“The founding of the United Nations, we all know, coincided with earth-shaking upheavals that humanity suffered when the reference to the meaning of transcendence and natural reason was abandoned, and in consequence, freedom and human dignity were grossly violated. When this happens, it threatens the objective foundations of the values inspiring and governing the international order and it undermines the cogent and inviolable principles formulated and consolidated by the United Nations. In the face of new and insistent challenges, it would be a mistake to fall back on a pragmatic approach, limited to determining ‘common ground’, minimal in content and weak in its effect”.
“Common ground” and “pragmatism” can seem such positive, inviting concepts in political (or religious) discourse.
Yet, as Pope Benedict reminds us, these terms can also conceal morally destructive compromises, as those which the Church experienced prior to, during and after the Second World War, when it searched for ways to coooperate with totalitarian fascist States without compromising its own ethics. As a consequence, the Church did not always allow its opposition to the immoral policies of totalitarian regimes to take the form of explicit political opposition to these policies.
The Church today still lives with this memory that continues to taint its reputation as a result of those compromises.
Like his predecessor Servant of God John Paul II, Pope Benedict is determined not to repeat that history. For this reason, in his UN address Benedict raised the specter of that earlier tragedy as a premonition of the sort of consequences to come from the moral compromises that should be avoided in our times.
I believe that the Pope is signaling that it will be difficult, if not impossible, for the Catholic Church to collaborate with the UN if and when utilitarian ethics and anti-religious world views lead the organization to a complete repudiation of natural law ethics, as it is now headed.
As the author of Card. Cottier’s article admits, appeals to Pope Paul VI’s encyclical letter Ecclesiam Suam or to the Second Vatican Council’s decree Dignitatis Humanae must not be allowed to obscure the Catholic Church’s opposition to intrinsic moral evils such as abortion.
But neither should such appeals be allowed to provide cover for an American President determined to make the practice of abortion more, not less, available to women throughout the world.
UPDATE 6 July 1405 GMT:
The English version of the Cottier piece is available on the site of 30 Days.