ROSARIO, Argentina – Last week the city of Buenos Aires, capital of Argentina, came a step closer to legalizing abortion. The Catholic bishops answered with a statement on the dignity of life, which, they argue, is not against the rights of women but in favor of life.
In the meantime, the bishops of Pope Francis’s native country are also leading a campaign against corruption, which one prelate has described as a virus as lethal as the coronavirus pandemic.
The abortion debate
On Thursday, the Legislature of Buenos Aires approved the adoption of a national protocol for the “voluntary interruption of a pregnancy.” Announced in December by the government of Alberto Fernandez, the protocol has to be adopted by each province and autonomous region.
The protocol lays the steps for terminating a pregnancy in the cases when it’s not criminalized by Argentina’s penal code, which includes pregnancies that are result of rape or when the life of the baby threatens that of the mother.
The latter point has been the cause of much argument, as the concept of risk to the life of the mother is, according to critics, loosely applied and used to justify 88 percent of the abortions in the country. For some, it includes the “physical, psychological and social” health of the mother, and ranges from actually life-threatening medical conditions to a consensual relationship between two adults coming to an end.
In the case of rape, no formal allegation needs to be filed for an abortion to be permitted.
A National Protocol for the Comprehensive Care of People with the Right to Legal Termination of Pregnancy, stipulates that a girl age 13 can have an abortion without the consent of her parents or that of the father of the baby as long as her life is not threatened by the procedure.
The bishops of the Archdiocese of Buenos Aires, including Cardinal Mario Poli, handpicked by Francis as his successor in leading the country’s largest archdiocese, and Bishop Gustavo Carrara, who lives in the slums of the city, amongst the poorest of Argentina’s poor, released a statement titled “Life is always dignified.”
In their statement, the bishops note that the protocol “contradicts the constitutional guarantees in favor of the most unprotected life.”
“We’re not against the rights of women; yes, in favor of life as it arrives, in every circumstance,” they write.
“As the people of Buenos Aires are facing the darkest moment of the pandemic, in the middle of a needed but at the same time long and exhausting quarantine, when the number of infections and deaths startle us every day, the Legislature of the Autonomous City has approved by a majority to adhere to the Legal Termination of Pregnancy, meaning, non-punishable abortion, which is already practiced in much of the country,” they write.
“It pains us and hurts us that, amidst a lethal contagion, where so many sanitary agents and essential servers expose themselves and risk their lives to save that of their brothers, the legislators see fit to go forward with a law that certainly, does not seek to ‘honor life,’” they argue.
Buenos Aires ended on Monday it’s 120-day strict quarantine to enter a “phase two,” with only a handful of activities allowed. In recent weeks, and despite having had the one of the worlds longest quarantines to prevent the spread of coronavirus, the country is seeing a spike in cases, with some 4,000 new positives reported daily.
The virus of corruption
Celebrating his Sunday Mass, Archbishop Carlos Jose Ñáñez, of Cordoba, some 430 miles northwest of Buenos Aires, denounced that in Argentina, for several years now, “We’ve suffered another virus that is as grave if not more so, than coronavirus: the virus of corruption.”
“Corruption calls right what is wrong, and wrong what is right, encouraging those who give in to this vice to act accordingly,” he said. “The prophet Isaiah already denounced this same evil in ancient Israel. Therefore, we are not original!”
“At times it seems that there’s no disposition to fight this virus of corruption. It’s as if blindness or deafness affected us all,” said Ñáñez.
The prelate said that to fight this endemic corruption, “there must be a determined and constant personal reaction: not to compromise with lies, not to make a pact with evil, not to accept the ‘scandals’ of which Jesus speaks. Do not approve of what is wrong, illegal, celebrate in no way the one who acts in this way.”
He made his point by quoting Pope St. John Paul II, who during a visit to Cordoba in 1987 said: “It’s about ‘drowning evil in abundance of good’.”
Ñáñez urged “a determined personal and social will to oppose corruption,” without seeking to take advantage from it. On the contrary, “a common climate must be forged among all that encourages us to live in truth and to practice good, both in small things and in big and important things.”
In his homily, the archbishop also spoke about “social responsibility at the moment of discerning and casting the vote in the elections,” and defined this act as “entirely free and responsible.”
Follow Inés San Martín on Twitter: @inesanma