Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
August 24, 2009
Development organizations must focus on root causes of abortion
CANADIAN CATHOLIC NEWS
VATICAN CITY - Development organizations should focus on injustices that lead to abortion, says Caritas Internationalis' secretary general Lesley-Anne Knight.
"In the bigger picture of the Church, we've got to start looking with eyes of a little bit more tenderness and compassion on what is really the root cause of all of this," Knight said in an interview at the headquarters of the Holy See's worldwide confederation of charitable and development organizations.
Knight, who is one of the few highly placed women in the Vatican, asked whether the criminalization, demonization and excommunication of those who seek abortion sends the right message.
"Are we about understanding? Do people see that in us, or do they just see this 'No,' the 'anti,' the 'don't.' That's what they see in us at the moment."
Knight mentioned the hurt and anger over the story of a nine-year-old Brazilian girl whose mother and doctor faced excommunication and condemnation after they obtained an abortion for the girl. She had become pregnant after her stepfather raped her.
"Was there any condemnation at the official level of the Church to say 'What is going on in our societies, in our families, in our communities, that a man could have sex like that with a nine-year old?" she asked. "Did anyone condemn that?"
"The root evil is the fact that we have men who think and who do have sex with a nine-year-old," she said. "We have men who rape and abuse women. We have rape and abuse as a weapon of war. What are you doing about that injustice?"
Knight expressed concern about the reputation of the Canadian Catholic Organization for Development and Peace, damaged by online reports some of its non-Catholic overseas partners are working to liberalize abortion laws in their home countries.
CCODP, established by Canada's Catholic bishops more than 40 years ago, is a member of the Caritas federation.
While she said good can come of the controversy as CCODP shores up its Catholic identity, Catholics need to be able to discuss abortion without accusations flying that other Catholics are not Catholic enough or pro-life enough, she said.
The problems faced by Development and Peace come, she said, from "the difficulty of working in the world."
"But it's imperative to work in the world and to be in the world and to understand the world, which doesn't mean you are of the world," she said.
"What do I do as Caritas, a large community-based organization in the slums of Nairobi, when I know how many women are dying from backstreet abortions?" she asked. "Do I pretend it doesn't exist because I don't like abortion, because abortion is a crime against heaven and earth?"
Knight said the focus on criminalization could ghettoize Catholics and lead to their not being taken seriously. "Nobody possibly could think abortion is ever a good thing, but there are certainly people who feel it needs to be legal."
Legalization is not, however, what Caritas would be advocating or she herself would be advocating, she said. "All of us are pro-life."
In societies where abortion isn't legal, abortions happen anyway and excruciating suffering results, she said. "Should it be a right?" she said.
"We are clear in the Catholic Church about this being something intrinsically that we feel in our depths to be against any human dignity and where we want our planet to go."
There's a need to get back to the roots, to ensuring human dignity, making sure people have enough to eat, that they have shelter, and access to land to grow their food, she said.