Rorate Caeli

Vatican versus Vatican: will the "Real Vatican" stand up, please?
Abortifacient in 2000 and 2008, "example to be followed" in 2013

Could it be another instance of "real" versus "virtual"?

If so, first the REAL VATICAN:


As is commonly known, the so-called morning-after pill recently went on sale in Italian pharmacies. It is a well-known chemical product (of the hormonal type) which has frequently - even in the past week - been presented by many in the field and by the mass media as a mere contraceptive or, more precisely, as an "emergency contraceptive", which can be used within a short time after a presumably fertile act of sexual intercourse, should one wish to prevent the continuation of an unwanted pregnancy. The inevitable critical reactions of those who have raised serious doubts about how this product works, namely, that its action is not merely "contraceptive" but "abortifacient", have received the very hasty reply that such concerns appear unfounded, since the morning-after pill has an "anti-implantation" effect, thus implicitly suggesting a clear distinction between abortion and interception (preventing the implantation of the fertilized ovum, i.e., the embryo, in the uterine wall).
Considering that the use of this product concerns fundamental human goods and values, to the point of involving the origins of human life itself, the Pontifical Academy for Life feels the pressing duty and definite need to offer some clarifications and considerations on the subject, reaffirming moreover already well-known ethical positions supported by precise scientific data and reinforced by Catholic doctrine.
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1. The morning-after pill is a hormone-based preparation (it can contain oestrogens, oestrogen/progestogens or only progestogens) which, within and no later than 72 hours after a presumably fertile act of sexual intercourse, has a predominantly "anti-implantation" function, i.e., it prevents a possible fertilized ovum (which is a human embryo), by now in the blastocyst stage of its development (fifth to sixth day after fertilization), from being implanted in the uterine wall by a process of altering the wall itself.

The final result will thus be the expulsion and loss of this embryo.

Only if this pill were to be taken several days before the moment of ovulation could it sometimes act to prevent the latter (in this case it would function as a typical "contraceptive").

However, the woman who uses this kind of pill does so in the fear that she may be in her fertile period and therefore intends to cause the expulsion of a possible new conceptus; above all, it would be unrealistic to think that a woman, finding herself in the situation of wanting to use an emergency contraceptive, would be able to know exactly and opportunely her current state of fertility.

2. The decision to use the term "fertilized ovum" to indicate the earliest phases of embryonic development can in no way lead to an artificial value distinction between different moments in the development of the same human individual. In other words, if it can be useful, for reasons of scientific description, to distinguish with conventional terms (fertilized ovum, embryo, fetus, etc.) different moments in a single growth process, it can never be legitimate to decide arbitrarily that the human individual has greater or lesser value (with the resulting variation in the duty to protect it) according to its stage of development.

3. It is clear, therefore, that the proven "anti-implantation" action of themorning-after pill is really nothing other than a chemically induced abortion. It is neither intellectually consistent nor scientifically justifiable to say that we are not dealing with the same thing.

Moreover, it seems sufficiently clear that those who ask for or offer this pill are seeking the direct termination of a possible pregnancy already in progress, just as in the case of abortion. Pregnancy, in fact, begins with fertilization and not with the implantation of the blastocyst in the uterine wall, which is what is being implicitly suggested.

4. Consequently, from the ethical standpoint the same absolute unlawfulness of abortifacient procedures also applies to distributing, prescribing and taking the morning-after pill. All who, whether sharing the intention or not, directly co-operate with this procedure are also morally responsible for it.

5. A further consideration should be made regarding the use of themorning-after pill in relation to the application of [Italian] Law 194/78, which in Italy regulates the conditions and procedures for the voluntary termination of pregnancy.

Saying that the pill is an "anti-implantation" product, instead of using the more transparent term "abortifacient", makes it possible to avoid all the obligatory procedures required by Law 194 in order to terminate a pregnancy (prior interview, verification of pregnancy, determination of growth stage, time for reflection, etc.), by practising a form of abortion that is completely hidden and cannot be recorded by any institution. All this seems, then, to be in direct contradiction to the correct application of Law 194, itself debatable.

6. In the end, since these procedures are becoming more widespread, we strongly urge everyone who works in this sector to make a firm objection of moral conscience, which will bear courageous and practical witness to the inalienable value of human life, especially in view of the new hiddenforms of aggression against the weakest and most defenceless individuals, as is the case with a human embryo.

Vatican City, 31 October 2000.

Five years ago Bishop -- now Cardinal -- Elio Sgreccia (Vice President of the Pontifical Academy for Life from 1996 to 2005 and President from 2005 to 2008) declared that the "morning-after pill" cannot be used even in cases of rape. As reported at that time by LifeSite News (Head of Pontifical Academy for Life Reconfirms Morning After Pill Cannot be Used Even in Cases of Rape): asked Bishop Sgreccia if there was an exception in cases of rape. The President of the Pontifical Academy for Life replied, "No. It is not able to prevent the rape. But it is able to eliminate the embryo.  It is thus the second negative intervention on the woman (the first being the rape itself).


German bishops’ decision on morning-after pill is an example to be followed:
Vatican Insider interviews the President of the Pontifical Academy for Life. He defends the German Catholic Church saying: Catholic hospitals have been handing out contraceptive pills to rape victims for 50 years

...The President of the Pontifical Academy for Life, Mgr. Ignacio Carrasco de Paula, spoke to Vatican Insider about this at the end of the Academy’s plenary assembly.

Critics say this type of medication can cause an abortion, albeit unintentionally, and that this is not a risk we can afford to take. What are your thoughts on this?

The Church needs to shape people’s consciences. What Church teaching says in this case is: in cases of rape all possible action must be taken to prevent a pregnancy but not to interrupt it. Whether a given medicine is classed as a contraceptive or abortion-inducing medication, is up to doctors and scientists, not the Church.

Bp. Carrasco: your own Pontifical Academy, 13 years ago and as is well known, made clear that the "morning-after pill" is abortifacient. Being abortive (preventing, among other things, the implantation of a newly-formed human being) is one of its stated goals. It not only may be abortive - as a flight of stairs may provoke abortions if a pregnant woman accidentally falls off it -, it has among its objectives not only preventing a future fertilization but preventing the implantation of an already formed human being.

Once again, the enemies of life, the promoters of the culture of death, use extreme cases to make the Church seem fickle and unprincipled in the defense of life. And once again, with malice or naïveté, Church officials fall for it. And once again the media takes the hit: the Bishop says that, "journalistic language is different from theological or clinical language. The 'morning-after pill' is a journalistic, not a medical term"; when the Pontifical Academy itself, in its document, does not have any problem in using the popular name of the pill.

[P.S. - Augustinus] Unfortunately this is not the first time that Msgr. Carrasco has acted questionably in his capacity as President of the Pontifical Academy for Life, a post he has held since 2010 after the "promotion" of his predecessor Abp. Salvatore Fisichella in the aftermath of the Olinda and Recife Abortion case. It was under Carrasco's leadership that, almost exactly a year ago, the Academy held a conference with speakers who openly spoke in favor of IVF. (Cf. Trouble in Vatican: Pontifical Academy members upset with ethics deficit at infertility conferenceVatican’s Pontifical Academy for Life is in ‘great danger,’ warns eminent member in open letterControversies prompt call for resignation at Vatican's pro-life academyVatican board courts controversy with neutral scientists.) During last year's controversies Msgr. Carrasco received the backing of another influential figure in the Roman Curia -- Cardinal Ravasi, who denounced the "opponents of dialogue" as fundamentalists.