Monday, February 18, 2013

German Catholic Bishops Continue to Consider Morning-After Pill as Contraceptive in Cases of Rape

Archbishop Robert Zollitsch

I recently pointed to an article by Pat Perriello in National Catholic Reporter noting the difference between how the U.S. Catholic bishops deal with issues from gay marriage to contraception and how their counterparts in France and Germany approach such issues. As Perriello notes, the German bishops are looking at the use of the morning-after pill in cases of rape.

As this article at The Local website notes, the head of the German bishops' conference, Freiburg archbishop Robert Zollitsch, spoke today to Bayerische Rundfunk, the Bavarian public radio station, about what the German bishops are considering vis-a-vis the morning-after pill.*

As Archbishop Zollitsch notes, at their spring meeting, the German bishops are going to consider the use of the morning-after pill in light of the controversy that arose last month when a Catholic hospital in Köln refused to treat a woman who had been raped, out of concern that administration of the morning-after pill would cause the hospital to run afoul of Catholic authorities. (See Alan McCornick's very thorough discussion of this story at Hepzibah.)

Zollitsch told his Bayerische Rundfunk audience that the German bishops are considering approving use of the morning-after pill in cases of rape "if it becomes clear during the bishops' discussions that the morning after pill can be prescribed only to prevent conception as a result of rape." Note the very important phrase here: only to prevent conception.

The U.S. Catholic bishops and their right-wing evangelical allies who are trying by every means possible to attack the Obama administration's healthcare program persist in claiming that the morning-after pill is an abortifacient. They persist in claiming that the morning-after pill works by preventing the implantation of a zygote in the uterine wall.

But the solid consensus of the medical community (see here, here, and here) is that the morning-after pill prevents ovulation, not implantation of the zygote. The pill is a contraceptive and not an abortifacient.

Hence the importance of the position the German Catholic bishops appear poised now to take: they are recognizing the legitimacy of science in an area in which the U.S. Catholic bishops, in alliance with powerful right-wing evangelical groups who have jumped on the "pro-life" bandwagon for entirely political reasons, refuse to grant science the final word. For ideological reasons, the U.S. bishops prefer to keep lying about how the morning-after pill works and they continue to refuse to accept scientific truth about this technology.

Something tells me that the German bishops have a far firmer grasp than do the U.S. ones on the classic Catholic understanding of sound moral thinking as faith walking side by side with reason. But, then, they haven't sold themselves and their moral credibility down the river by putting themselves in the hands of partisan-right-wing handlers as the U.S. bishops have.

*I'm grateful to Dennis Coday for the link to The Local article at his "Morning Briefing" column in NCR today.

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