ROME – On the same day the Irish people voted to dump a constitutional amendment that protects the right to life of the unborn, in Pope Francis’s native Argentina the Catholic Church used a national holiday to remind politicians that the role of the state is to protect life.
“The first duty of the state is to care for the life of its citizens, particularly the poorest and the weak,” said Cardinal Mario Poli, hand-picked by the Argentine pontiff to replace him as the archbishop of Buenos Aires.
“I quote Pope Francis: ‘Our defense of the innocent unborn, for example, needs to be clear, firm and passionate, for at stake is the dignity of a human life, which is always sacred and demands love for each person, regardless of his or her stage of development,” Poli said in his homily for the annual Te Deum Mass, with President Mauricio Macri seated in the first row.
The quote comes from Francis’s latest apostolic exhortation on holiness, Gaudete et exsultate.
Earlier in the year, Macri decided to allow Argentina’s Congress to debate a proposal to liberalize abortion, and for the first time in 12 years, there’s a possibility that a bill may reach the floor of Argentina’s legislature.
Abortion is forbidden by Argentina’s constitution, which defines life as beginning at the moment of conception. It’s only permitted in cases of rape and health risks to the mother.
A draft currently being debated in the Chamber of Deputies contemplates permitting abortion under any circumstances until week 14 of the pregnancy, and later than that in cases of fetal malformation, rape, or risk to the life of the mother. Those risks would include physical, psychological or social dangers, leading opponents to argue, among other things, that Argentina would be legalizing long-term abortion for virtually any reason.
In addition, a girl over 13 would be able to request an abortion without the authorization of either her parents or the father of the baby.
In his homily, Poli said that “caring for life” is synonymous with wanting to be a nation, adding that in Argentina, which marked the 208th anniversary of its independence revolution on May 25, “No one is left behind, we are all necessary and important, which is why no person can be excluded from the feast of life, even the most humble and forgotten of the interior of the homeland.”
“Equally sacred, however, are the lives of the poor, those already born, the destitute, the abandoned and the underprivileged, the vulnerable, infirm and elderly exposed to covert euthanasia, the victims of human trafficking, new forms of slavery, and every form of rejection,” Poli said, again quoting Francis.
“Honoring the gestures of greatness of the Fathers of the Nation,” he continued, “we say that every life is worth living, and, facing the beautiful and ineffable gift of conception, if the proposal is to choose one or the other [the mother or the child] … we say both should live, [because] for God no one is excluded.”
In the northern state of Salta, Archbishop Mario Cargnello had similar words, but in a more pressing context: the case of a 10-year-old girl who became pregnant after her stepfather raped her, which is currently making national news.
Both the girl and her mother want to see the pregnancy through, and the abuser has been arrested. However, Governor Juan Manuel Urtubey has used the case as a reason to adopt a 2015 national protocol allowing late-term abortion in cases of rape.
In his Te Deum homily, Cargnello asked for the “rapist to be judged and condemned, but not the innocent.”
Urtubey was seated in the first row.
“For a long time, it was said that ethical principles questioned the advancement of science, but today it’s evident that ideologies question scientific evidence,” Cargenello said, referring to techniques such as sonograms revealing the development of a child in the womb.
“The poor are, par excellence, unborn children,” he said, “who ask, ‘Let us live!’ We want to be your voice this morning.”
In this regard, Cargenello argued that decriminalization of abortion “has the flavor of a death sentence for innocents.”
“The child in the womb is not the victimizer of the mother,” Cargenello said. “Can’t this land of freedom and generous welcome all the men of the world who want to inhabit it?”
“Let’s think about how to include children who knock, from the womb, on the door of this earth to say: ‘Welcome me, I am a project from God for you, Argentina’.”
Later in the day, some 20,000 young people in Rosario, who are participating in a second national youth encounter, rallied to call on politicians to protect both the mother and the unborn child.