The bishops of the world must, as individuals, take the lead in combating the Culture of Death, and not wait for the national conferences, Cardinal Raymond Burke told LifeSiteNews.com in an interview according to a report by LifeSiteNews.com.
“It should be emphasized that the individual bishop has a responsibility in this matter. Sometimes what happens is the individual bishops are unwilling to do anything because they wait for the national bishops’ conference to take the lead.”
Warning against some of the bureaucratic trends of “truth by committee” in the Church’s organisation, Cardinal Burke said, “Simply by the way these conferences work, it can be years before some kind of effective direction is given, and then oftentimes because this direction is discussed and debated, it can get very watered down.”
He emphasized that the involvement of the bishops should be constant, and not merely a matter of issuing a statement once. “We’re not writing term papers here where you make reference to an earlier document and that’s sufficient.” In public life, he said, the message has to be stated and re-stated and kept up to date.
And statements, he said, are only one part of it. “Its another thing to encourage people to actively manifest their desire that the moral law be respected,” he said. Even in a “pluralistic” society the moral law is universal and can and must be expressed in law, he explained.
The head of the Apostolic Signatura, the Vatican’s supreme court, spoke with LSN in the lead-up to the Marcia per la Vita (March for Life) Nazionale in Rome, set for May 12th in Rome. The Cardinal is known around the world as one of the strongest voices in the Vatican’s Curia for the Church’s teaching on the sacredness of human life at all its stages. He said that the growth of the marches for life, starting in the US, is indicating a shift in opinion on abortion in many countries of the western world, particularly among younger people.
Cardinal Burke said that abortion is the premier social justice issue, even if some in the hierarchy, even in the Vatican, don’t seem to act that way. The lack of enthusiasm for combating abortion as a priority among some of the upper echelons of the Church administration, he said, “is something that needs to be addressed”.
He said that overall, “there is a concern” about abortion among the cardinals. “How they see it practically being witnessed is another thing, however.”
“I think in some places there’s a great hesitation among prelates to be involved in public manifestations. Many see it as some kind of political activity that isn’t proper for a cleric.”
But Burke said he does not hesitate to participate, “because to me, it’s a question of the common good. Giving witness for the common good. It’s not a political rally in the sense that they’re rallying for this or that candidate, it’s not partisan, it’s a good across the board.”
Citing the encyclical by Pope Benedict XVI Caritas in Veritate, he said that abortion, as well as the widespread use of artificial contraception, must be made priorities: “It seems to me it’s the first issue of social justice, the right to life.”
Remarking on the marches springing up in ultra-liberal European centres like Brussels and Paris, as well as the leap for the Italian national march from 1000 to 15,000 participants in one year, the cardinal said, “I think especially among the younger people there’s a great interest. People realise that the culture is really bankrupt and they’re trying their best to respond to the situation.”
He said that there is a visible increase in interest by bishops, particularly at the March in Washington. He also said that the media blackout has been unable to stop the personal witness of the marches. “I believe it has a great impact,” he said.
He urged the upcoming generation of younger pro-life leaders to bring the life issues up with their clergy.
“I think the lay faithful in the parishes and in the dioceses need to go to their bishops and priests and urge them to give that pastoral leadership that they’re called to give on this very critical issue. Yes the laity have their part, a very significant part in all the various areas of public life to give witness to the Gospel but they depend upon their priests and bishops to give that teaching and example, how to confront the situation.”
“They need leadership. That’s what it’s all about.”
The marches in Italy are only three years old, and have already grown from a small gathering in an out-of-the-way town in the north, to 15,000 last year in the capital. Organisers are hoping to jumpstart a public debate which has not occurred since Italy’s abortion law was passed in 1978.
While it is true that the Italian abortion rate is relatively low and few doctors are willing to participate in abortion – with overall about 70 per cent in the country refusing and as many as 86 per cent in Lazio, the region of Rome – the abortion rate has numbered in the millions since legalisation. The latest statistics available estimate that about 115,517 abortions in 2010 out of a total Italian population of 60.77 million and a national rate of 8.5 abortions per 1000 women between 18 and 49.
In 2009, the notorious abortion drug regimen, RU-486, was approved for use in early pregnancies. Italian ambivalence about abortion was demonstrated in 1981 when a national referendum to repeal the law was rejected by nearly 68 per cent of voters and another, that would have removed legal restrictions was rejected by 88.4 per cent.
Marcia per la Vita, Roma organizers have asked for help with advertising expenses. In a media release today, organizers explained that radio spots, posters and newspaper ads have cost a total of around 10,000 Euros. “We ask you to help us according to your abilities, to give our event the biggest impact possible,” they said.
“The life of a human being is priceless and we will be in the streets to join our voices in defense of innocent human life that is suppressed every day, every minute, in the world and also in Italy!”