Scandalous Dissent on Abortion in Italy


Without any ambiguity, Bishop Luigi Bettazzi, 99 years old, admits that he supports a thesis that can only “subvert the Church’s conception of abortion”. His thesis or theory is that a human being only becomes a person “after the fourth/fifth month” of pregnancy, and so abortion before that date is not murder, and, if done for a good reason, not even a sin.

Bishop Bettazzi is said to be the last Italian bishop alive to have participated in the Second Vatican Council. He has always been a progressive bishop, having been an assistant bishop to the “Red Cardinal”, Giacomo Lercaro, in the diocese of Bologna in the Sixties. Like many progressives, clerical and lay, he has little regard for theology and the Church’s teaching, most clearly exemplified in his latest bid for notoriety. 

He published his two-page article last August in Rocca, a leftish journal based in Assisi. In mid-November, a well known theologian, Dr Giannino Piana, wrote an article in Rocca supporting and expanding Bettazzi’s thesis.

Both admitted that their shared thesis “contrasts with the traditional doctrine of the Church”, but protested that this teaching cannot be treated like “a monolithic block, to be transmitted in a mummified and repetitive manner”, Well, thank you very much for the compliment. Their remark places us on the level of unthinking believers in the Church. 

No, he continued, the teaching on abortion is “an open and innovative tradition, constantly growing… and the courage to change… is the way to go in order to make it credible and universalisable.” Get that! The purpose of reversing the teaching is to make the Church acceptable to those outside the Church, and to lighten the conscience of Catholics. 

More revealing is the argumentation conceived by Betazzi and Piana to support their thesis. For Bettazzi, “intuition” is a better guide than “reason”, that is, a rational consideration of abortion. Intuition may be a hunch, an instinct, clairvoyance, or a gut feeling, not to be dismissed but nowhere near a proof leading to intellectual certainty. Intuition is personal and private, and, while not without value, requires investigation, be it scientific or philosophic, before it can be accepted as a universal truth. A judge cannot convict a man for a crime on an intuition, nor can the Church decide that a certain action is sinful in the same way. There seems to be progressive thinking in the Church that reason and logic distort the Faith, and we would be better off to rely on our intuitions as the prompting of the Holy Spirit, as radical Protestants do.

Dr Piano places his trust in the distinctive “feeling” of a woman, which, he seems to say, disqualifies everyone else from opening their mouths on the question. In the distant past, a pregnant woman knew that, when the baby began to kick, she was carrying a living human being, and lawyers took that as proof that a person existed from that moment. This is the reason, he concludes, that “that one cannot speak (of abortion) in the strict sense except at a considerable distance from that event (fertilization)”. This argument ignores nearly 200 years of scientific research into fertilization and the early growth of the embryo, the results of which are the basis of the Church’s condemnation of abortion from conception. 

Pope Francis has remained silent for now but his many condemnations of abortion should leave no doubt about his mind. It is “eliminating a human life”, “hiring a hitman to solve a problem”, and this is so from conception, not four or five months after. Maybe the Pope and his advisors judge that any response other than silence would give Bettazzi the publicity he seeks.

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