Rorate Caeli

Vatican II at 50: Cardinal says yes to abortive pill - in his Catholic hospitals no less

The Cardinal-Archbishop of the largest German diocese, and probably the wealthiest in the world, Cologne, gives his OK to the abortive "morning-after pill" after Catholic hospitals correctly applied Catholic doctrine and refused to distribute them. It is all a matter of "ethical counterweight", apparently...

German Cardinal says yes to 'morning-after pill'

Two Catholic hospitals in Cologne declined to give emergency contraceptives to a rape victim. The archbishopric in Cologne has now changed its mind - and has also shown an impressive capacity for contraceptive nuance.

That the Catholic Church intends unequivocally to protect conceived life is nothing new. What has changed is how Cologne Cardinal Joachim Meisner approaches the "morning-after" pill.

Through his spokesman Christoph Heckley, the Cardinal issued a personal explanation on Thursday (31.01.2013) which read: "If, after a rape, a supplement is used with the intend of preventing fertilization, that is in my view justifiable." Heckley reiterated once again, however, that everything which is abortive in nature is not allowed.

Cardinal Meisner's change of heart is the result of consultations with specialists. He now understands that certain forms of the "morning-after" pill prevent conception and are not technically abortive. This suggests that the Cologne church leader previously believed that all kinds of pills which could be taken by a woman after intercourse prevented an already fertilized egg cell from implanting in the uterus.

The morning after

The pill's effect is, in medicinal jargon, "anti-ovulatory." It prevents ovulation and thus the chance that an egg cell will be fertilized, resulting in conception. The active hormonal ingredient, levonorgestrel, is comparable to traditional birth-control pills but is simply taken in higher, post-coital doses.

The morning-after pill has been accompanied by controversy

"The Catholic Church already had a problem with that one," says Antonio Autiero, a professor of moral theology at the University of Münster, in a reference to the traditional pill. "Artificial contraceptives" have been prohibited by the Catholic Church ever since Pope Paul VI published an encyclical, "Humanae Vitae," in 1968. "Nothing has changed doctrinally to this day," Autiero said.

When does life begin?

Yet what happens when ovulation occurs just before unprotected sex and the pill's "anti-ovulation" effect doesn't serve its purpose? Then the pill's "anti-nidative effect" comes into play, preventing the fertilized egg from settling on the surface of the uterus. "Whether the morning-after pill inhibits ovulation or nidation, it still lacks a final safety mechanism. If that's the case then we're heading more toward abortion," Autiero said.

"The doctrinal outlook is very clear in that the fusion of egg and semen cells constitutes life and human dignity. That is why it is seen as a form of abortion when one prevents fertilized egg cells from nidating," Autiero said.

Abortion, or the ending of human life - even a life so tiny - is something with which the church doctrine can find no accord. "There's no room for discussion within Catholic doctrine," Autiero said. The termination of a pregnancy would never be carried out at a Catholic hospital - not even in the first few hours or days of a pregnancy.

Ethical absolutes

Or that is the principle, at least. So are there exceptions? What happens in cases of extreme bodily harm or emotional emergencies, such as when a woman has been raped?
"For the church the answer is clear," Autiero said. "Abortion and contraception are condemnable in and of themselves, and there is no situation where they can be ethically justified."

Antonio Autiero: Nothing has changed doctrinally

This "normative ethic," which allows no exception to the highest principles, has "radicalized" over the years, he said.

Yet in moral theological science there is also an ethical counterweight that "depends on objectives and the context of an action." And this is where, beyond the untouched highest principles, even more questions come into play.

They relate to concrete medicinal and emotional situations, human empathy, companionship, one's own conscience and professional ethics. "Are we a church of ethics or are we a church of compassion?" Autiero asked.

'Deep shame'

The cardinal's new position gives a sense of clarity to the work of Catholic hospital doctors. Previously they had feared that they would be drawn into conflict with their employer.
[Tip for the news: Secretum meum mihi]


  1. "Radicalized?"

    Does he mean absolutely changed upside down on its head?

  2. This cardinal has already created scandal by splitting hairs and thus has already created the slippery slope. This is just one more case of "situation ethics" at work.

  3. Cardinal Meisner is 79 way past the retirement age of 75 so it's his last shot at the Vatican.

  4. Even if it's not abortion, it's still birth control, and neither is permitted!

  5. Spero6:10 PM

    At first I thought he might be working toward something regarding the principle of double effect, or or certain arguments that there can be situations where what looks like an act of contraception is actually not an act of contraception, to which the professor did allude (which is confusing enough), but then I read this line: "They relate to concrete medicinal and emotional situations, human empathy, companionship, one's own conscience and professional ethics. 'Are we a church of ethics or are we a church of compassion?' Autiero asked."

    In other words, at first I thought he might be arguing that the "object" can be something other than it appears. Thus that the action engaged in would not be a true act of contraception(...and against the tendency to rash judgement, I still hope this what the bishop was trying to suggest...). However, after reading the quoted line, it seems that the professor still has in mind many of the same old false arguments (that an evil object can be justified based on circumstances or intent). These arguments have repeatedly and officially condemned, even since Vatican II.

    As to whether we are a Church of ethics or a Church of compassion, why not consult Divine Revelation?
    "He that hath my commandments, and keepeth them; he it is that loveth me."

  6. In dubio, non agitur.

    This man really should be excommunicated immediately. What he is doing is justifying a process whereby Church officials pretend that they are in a state of invincible ignorance in order to enjoy some illusory "freedom" to commit atrocious sins. If the Vatican allows this to pass uncorrected, it will send the US Church a message it is certain to follow, a message sent from Hell itself.

  7. And the Rhin flows and flows and flows and flows...

  8. If this Cardinal is 79, four years after the date on which the Holy See could have relieved him of active duty without scandal, then they share responsibility with him for this teaching. They must like what he says and does, that's why they keep him on the job. I doubt this sort of thing is anything new for him.

  9. Meisner is supposedly a very conservative cardinal, at least that's what I've always heard. The crisis gets worse and the Vatican does nothing.

  10. This one is the same as Carlo María Marini, the apostate Cardinal who was allowed to write and teach heretic doctrine well past his retirement age.

  11. This cannot stand. The Holy Father must intervene - and it is impossible to think he must know about it, speedily enough.

  12. Don M7:51 PM

    House is divided.

  13. Matthew Rose8:30 PM

    Mr. Malcom, with all due respect, do not hold your breath. The man is well past retirement age and yet on he cruises.

    Happy Springtime!

  14. Inquisitor8:36 PM

    'Are we a church of ethics or are we a church of compassion?'

    WARNING! WARNING! Modernism alert!

    Truth does not depend on our feelings. Feelings of sympathy or compassion do not allow us to change or violate divine law.

    "Compassion" that violates God's law is a false compassion that leads to death not love. True compassion is rooted in God's law which is unchanging.

  15. Francis8:40 PM

    Yep, more "springtime" from the totally hip council known as Vatican II.

  16. Inquisitor8:44 PM

    The Holy Father must intervene - and it is impossible to think he must know about it, speedily enough.

    Hopefully the Holy Father gathers all of the facts quickly and intervenes in this matter. After all, it is a matter of life and death for those poor babies who may be killed by this directive.

    Also, if the Vatican does not act soon, it is possible that other "progressive" German dioceses may seize upon the opportunity to spread this evil further.

  17. Fr. Z (not)9:23 PM

    But don't go to an SSPX priest for confession - because it is not valid! Don't mess around when it comes to your soul!

  18. Federline9:28 PM

    Some well-turned doggerel from Long-Skirts could really enlighten us now... Sing, o Long-Skirts, and share with us your insights!

  19. Elmer9:58 PM

    Even if such a peculiarly accurate "prevent conception" pill existed, since such a tool would be by nature a contraceptive, it would be a mortal sin to give it to someone or to use it yourself. Therefore, the Cardinal's argument for providing an ethical loophole stops dead its tracks. And since it is impossible in this scenario to determine whether or not conception has or has not taken place, to provide a pill which would, in effect, either prevent conception or cause an abortion would be like deliberately blowing up a target for no serious reason when you knew there might or might not be a person there. Since in this case it is impossible to resolve the doubt, one may not proceed in blowing up the target. And is it not the case that to counsel someone to receive an abortive procedure is automatic excommunication? Anathema Sit.

  20. NewCristero10:11 PM

    I'm sure the Obama Administration is going to use this as a lever to justify compelling Catholic institutions to go along with the more spiritually poisonous aspects of the Administration's Health Care Mandate.

    Lucifer is smiling, Our Lady is weeping.

  21. "The pill's effect is, in medicinal jargon, 'anti-ovulatory.' It prevents ovulation and thus the chance that an egg cell will be fertilized, resulting in conception. The active hormonal ingredient, levonorgestrel, is comparable to traditional birth-control pills but is simply taken in higher, post-coital doses."

    The problem here is that if a woman is fertile and has ovulated, it only takes a few seconds for sperm to reach the ovum and a conception to occur. If a rape has taken place in such circumstances, then the "morning after pill" is an abortifacient, because it would not prevent ovulation (which has already occurred), but rather would prevent the nascent human being from implanting in the lining of his mother's uterus.

    If, however, the woman is infertile (whether because she as at an infertile time of her monthly cycle, or because she suffers from barrenness), then the "morning after pill" is useless and giving it to such a rape victim is a waste of time and money.

    So, if the morning after pill ever works, it is because it causes the death of nascent human life. It can only be classified as an abortifacient poison, and therefore no Catholic hospital or physician may ever prescribe it.

  22. Outrageous statements from high-ranking prelates must not be allowed to divert belief in our Holy Catholic Faith from reality :

    Firstly, Our Lord Jesus came on earth to save souls. Secondly, the first duty of the Church is that of saving souls.

    An action which detracts from this sublime mission is to be ignored, perhaps condemned. The laity share this mandate with the priesthood and religious, in every action we undertake.

    As for this Joachim Cardinal Joachim Meisner, please excuse me for saying it, but Your Eminence, if you truly doubt when Life starts, just ask any young man going out on a Friday or Saturday night (with certain objects in his pocket - excuse me for that) when life begins ? It begins at the beginning, where else ?

  23. Brian3:36 AM

    Assuming that "Cardinal" Meisner does not repent, there is only one man alive who is able to reverse this life-threating sophistry from the culture of death. I pray that he does so.

  24. Excuse me people, I strongly disagree. As far as I know the aforementioned pill is antiovulatory and not abortifacient. I am not a doctor and if there are any who can address this question and explain to everybody the matter I would be pleased to hear from them. That pill has nothing to do with abortion and in case that a woman had been raped, the case scenario mentioned by the cardinal, it has nothing do with the sin of contraception. Contraception is to prevent the generation of life in order to enjoy sexual activity. This is not the case. The cardinal is perfectly right and he is saying nothing against the doctrine if the Church

  25. Bootach5:02 AM

    The debate here should be about the facts: is the pill in question abortifacient or not? Contra what many have said, moral theologians have always maintained that women many flush semen after being raped, in other circumstances considered to be contraceptive in intent. In the case of rape this is permitted because it is like unto repelling an agressor. But as soon as fertilization happens, the story is different.

    One thing is clear, contra what has been said: IN PRINCIPLE the victims of rape can avail themselves of any contraceptive methods as long as this does not result in termination of an already existing new life. The question is whether any sure medicine actually exists.

  26. Common Sense10:11 AM

    It is heart-breaking to hear about these atrocious crimes, whomever the victims are. But life is life, and does begin at conception, otherwise life wouldn't be there, would it? What the vicims of this horrendous crime need is all the support possible in the mentally wrecking conditions they suffer. It is sad and mind-boggling how Catholics and Christians in general accept the fact that they are being ruled by the alien satanic cabal, which sets the legal system. With the ever-increasing loss of faith and erosion of morals, brutal maltreatment of one person against the other becomes the norm.

  27. J.G.Ratkaj11:31 AM

    The cardinl of Cologne is regarde as one of the most "conservative" members of the germanic prelature with best contacts to the roman curia.

  28. Bill Phelan11:54 AM

    Would the Church be any different today if there had been NO Pope for the last fifty years? The SSPX, the FSSP and the Institute of Christ the King (and others) would have come into existence and they would have carried the Ancient Faith and ALL Its teachings into the future. Roberto DeMattei in his book says the only significant Popes in the 20th century in terms of orthodoxy were St. Pius X and Pius XII.

  29. We should think twice before reproaching Cdl. Meisner.

    Reading the reports on German-language website on gets the impression that the Cardinal had clearly said that the abortifacient drugs are forbidden in all situations. Yet he believes, after consulting experts, that certain drugs selectively prevent fertilization without harming the already fertilized egg. If this is not true then His Eminence who is not a biochemist or physician apparently has consulted the wrong people.

    The problem is that his words will be used by the media to claim that the Church says the pill is OK now. Given that many liberal Catholics in Germany hate this rather conservative prelate it would not surprise me if he has been perfidiously set up.

  30. To clarify:

    A woman who has been the victim of rape can, morally, prevent conception.

    Prevent. I repeat, prevent. Yes, she can; because the immorality of contraception relates to marital acts, and rape is not a marital act.

    This does mean she can get an abortion, even by chemical means.

    But please don't get mixed up on the question of conception-prevention being immoral for a rape victim. The Church's constant teaching about openness to life was not intended for this situation.

  31. Cardinal Meisner should give the exact reference of the expert advice. If he has some kind of confirmation of what untill now was no evident for science about post-pill, and for that was impossible to discard reasonable an abortive effect, he must give that evidence to the Church and make it public for the moralists. If not, it is only a big mistake what he did hiding it on an "expert advice".

  32. Lynda4:31 PM

    I understand the pill works both ways, depending on whether ovulation had already occurred prior to its being taken; if so, it will act to prevent the embryo implanting in the womb five to eight days after conception.

  33. Oops--please forgive an omitted "not" in my prior comment, to wit:

    This does not mean she can get an abortion, even by chemical means.

  34. There is no such magical morning-after pill that merely prevents conception without potentially being plainly abortive - in any number of ways. The pro-life movement has fought hard, for instance, to preserve the rights of conscientious objection in the distribution of the morning-after pill. So let us please avoid games of casuistry here: they are unacceptable in this blog. Leave such comments for the pseudo-Catholic newspapers, and do not post them here. Future comments of this tenor will be deleted.

  35. As I stated elsewhere on this site - very confusing times in fact!

  36. Bootach9:48 PM

    New Catholic,
    While I agree that it is very likely that no such magic pill exists, there are non-medicinal yet contraceptive means (details unnecessary) that rape victims *can* avail themselves of. It is important to say this in response to those on this blog who have said that contraception even in the case of rape is not permitted. Medical contraception is only prohibited in this case because no purely contraceptive medicine yet exists -- all are, to my knowledge, likely to be abortifacient.

    As evidence of what must be corrected, here are some quotes from previous commenters:

    "Even if it's not abortion, it's still birth control, and neither is permitted!"

    "Even if such a peculiarly accurate "prevent conception" pill existed, since such a tool would be by nature a contraceptive, it would be a mortal sin to give it to someone or to use it yourself."

    Neither of these claims are true, as Fr Fox has rightly pointed out.

  37. Bootach,

    But this post IS about the abortifacient pill. That is the point. It is not about other (for instance) methods that are not always potentially abortive. And that is why further discussion here is irrelevant. Specific details of exceptions are not to be discussed here, but personally with a trustworthy priest.

    Please, do not insist.


  38. Graeme taylor11:06 PM

    Killing a child in the womb, is killing a child in the womb, no if's no buts.
    This Cardinal should be told to retract this non-sense.
    Shepherds indeed!

  39. Miles Dei said...

    "And the Rhin flows and flows and flows and flows..."


    In the land
    Of Deutsch and Vaters
    Races Rhine's
    All mastering waters.

    No other creed
    Or freemasonry
    Hate like the Vaters
    Of Germany.

    One, two, three
    Four have spoke
    Meisner, Muller,

    Meisner "OK's"
    Lehmann's for all
    Muller won't wait
    Koch wails at the wall.

    An Alter Christus
    Is for sinner and virgin -
    But Rhine's vineyard reds
    Let deviance burgeon.

    They will like you to death
    With all their red fibre
    And help drown your soul
    So you can't reach the Tibre...

    Where in the land
    Of Deutschland's waters -
    It’s time to dam
    Rhine's polluted Vaters!

  40. James6:08 AM

    Long-Skirts, this doggerel, as Federline puts it, is too good! You truly are the voice of the people!

  41. ItsASmallWorld10:23 PM

    It can be difficult, if not impossible, to get emergency contraceptive pills (sometimes called “morning after pills” or “day after pills”) at a Catholic hospital in the United States...If you have been raped, however, a Catholic hospital might be able to provide emergency contraceptive pills to help you prevent pregnancy. Directive 36 seems to allow providing emergency contraception to “a female who has been raped to defend herself against a potential conception from the sexual assault . . . if, after appropriate testing there is no indication she is pregnant.” Catholic hospitals interpret the Directives and decide if they can provide emergency contraceptive pills to a woman who has been raped. In one recent survey, roughly one-third of the Catholic hospitals in three states were not complying with state laws that require

    "Massachusetts, California, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, South Carolina and Washington already require hospitals to dispense it."

    " has learned that some Catholic hospitals in Massachusetts, Colorado, New York, California, Washington [in addition to WI & CT] also offer so-called ‘emergency contraception’ to some rape victims."

    Morning after pill: Massachusetts:
    Morning after pill: Connecticut

    Wisconsin - interesting chart of contraception given out by Catholic hospitals:

  42. +ABraveNewWorld10:30 PM

    1994 Peoria:
    "The real issue here is whether Catholic hospitals can be autonomous and act on their religious convictions," Rohlfs said. "We cannot assist a woman in having an abortion." If a woman impregnated by a violent non-consensual attack seeks church guidance about an abortion, Rohlfs said, "we have to say there are now two innocent victims, herself and the baby."

    2008: "But polls show that 75 to 90 percent of Catholics don't accept the current teaching." The best estimates we have is 80 percent," said Monsignor Steven Rohlfs, formally with the Diocese of Peoria, now rector at Mount St. Mary's Seminary in Emmitsburg, Md. "Most people don't even understand the church's teachings on it anymore. They've never been educated in it. They think it's like fish on Friday - they think it's some disciplinary law like taking holy water when you come into church. But it's much more profound than that."

    Comment to article: "One has to read between the lines and know our local politics to really understand what is happening in Peoria regarding Catholics and contraception. What has happened is quite complex and not transparent. OSF hired Catholic ethicist Joseph Piccione in the early 90s to work with the Catholic Diocese of Peoria to find an ethical loophole which would allow OSF to be in the contraceptive business. Monsignor Steven Rohlfs and Bishop John Myers were important players in the discussions. Mr. Piccione and the Catholic Diocese were able to establish a policy which would allow OSF physicians to write for contraceptives ('limited private practice'). At the same time, as documented in Mr. Panettas article, OSF HealthPlans provided a wide array of oral contraceptives and sterilization methods. These policies were implemented, as explained to me by Mr. Piccione, using ethical firewalls to separate the evil act (contraception) from OSF. The limited private practice and third party payers described in the articles provide the firewalls. Unfortunately, these Peoria policies and practices are in opposition to the fundamental teachings of Humanae Vitae causing the anxiety at OSF. The bottom line: Peoria needs a Catholic hospital. John A. Carroll, MD

    I met with Monsignor Rohlfs (also the child abuse enforcer for diocese & now rector of Mount St Mary’s seminary) and Patricia Gibson on February 19, 2003, two weeks after Haitian Hearts meeting with Bishop Jenky… Both Rohlfs and Gibson said that they would go to the media and come out against Haitian Hearts if I filed a petition for a tribunal court against OSF... I already knew the Diocese of Peoria had helped and sanctioned OSF's oral contraceptive policy, OSF-HealthPlans oral contraceptive and sterilization policies with OSF Corporate Ethicist Joe Piccione a decade before, policies which permit OSF to cooperate in the provision of artificial birth control, an action that clearly contradicts church teachings. Why? Because of money. OSF is afraid they would lose patients and important preferred provider agreements if they don't help provide artificial birth control...
    Through dubious loopholes,
    protocols were established which allow OSF employed physicians, in OSF offices, to prescribe oral contraceptives. Also, OSF HealthPlans website lists an entire array of contraceptives available in their drug formulary.


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