Germany: Church Makes Effort to Help Pregnant Women

Catholic Counseling Offices to Lose Government Aid

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BERLIN, DEC. 22, 2000 ( The Catholic Church in Germany has presented a broad publicity campaign to help guarantee its help to pregnant women in crisis preganancies who are considering abortion.

According to the president of the Bishops Conference, Bishop Karl Lehmann, this initiative which will include television and print advertisements along with public posters. German Catholics want to make sure that women having pregnancy problems do not think the Church has abandoned them.

The German Bishops recently voted to accept the Pope´s request to stop participating in the official government counselling program. Under that program, Catholic centers were obliged to hand out a voucher at the end of counselling that could be used to get an abortion without facing the legal consequences — abortion is technically illegal in Germany.

«We will not stop offering our help, especially to those women who became pregnant involuntarily,» explained the bishop of Mainz.

The presentation of the campaign has been the object of criticism for the mass media and within Church circles. A television commercial shows a naked woman, while at the same time a voice asks: «Should I do it or not? Can I do it? Is it wrong? Do I want to do it?»

According to Bishop Lehmann, the clip illustrates that the woman «is not an object, but a subject. We must be courageous enough to use means not often used.»

Likewise he emphasizes that this idea has been supported unanimously by all the bishops. On the other hand, a certain number of lay Catholics, dissatisfied with the Church´s disapproval of the vouchers, founded «Donum Vitae» in September of 1999. Donum Vitae is a private association that aims to continue counseling for pregnant woman and issuing abortion vouchers.

Bishop Lehmann has been critical of this enterprise, affirming that it openly opposes the expressed position of Pope John Paul II on this issue.

Also, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, according to the magazine Vida Nueva [New Life], has warned the president minister of Bavaria, Christian Democrat Edmund Stoiber, that this situation could provoke a deep rupture in the Church. Stoiber has nonetheless remained implacable: in the future, only «Donum Vitae» will receive government aid.

Due to the lack of public funding, many of the 260 counseling centers that refuse to issue vouchers will be forced to close during the upcoming months. Up to now, most of these have been run by Caritas and the Catholic Women´s Social Services.

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