Just after Holy Week when Catholics the world over recall the indescribable sufferings with which the Savior redeemed mankind, Catholics, who hold absolute majority in Portugal, saw the final approval of an abortion law.
Indeed, after an inexpressive plebiscite and intense action by leftist parties in the country’s National Assembly, a projected bill authorizing abortion was passed. However, it still needed to be promulgated by the nation’s president, who has the constitutional power to veto the law.
Catholic President Promulgates Pro Abortion Law
Unfortunately, as expected, Portugal’s President Anibal Cavaco Silva, though a Catholic and “opposed to abortion,” promulgated the law.1
We said as expected because, after the approval of the pro-abortion law by the Assembly, the country’s bishops failed to ask the President to veto it.
Bishops Avoid Appealing to President against Abortion
The bishops could have appealed to the president’s Catholic conscience by reminding him that as president he must act consistently with his faith, especially in matters of abortion, which is clearly condemned by natural law and the consensus of all peoples.2
Yet, no public appeal was made. For example, José da Cruz Cardinal Policarpo, Patriarch of Lisbon, in an interview to the magazine Visão on February 28 made it clear that he would not appeal to the president.
The interviewer asked him whether the Church was going to intervene in the preparation of the law and appeal to the president, whom he referred to as a “practicing Catholic.” The Cardinal said there would be no intervention and that he had had not spoken with the President: “I still have not spoken with him, but I am convinced that he will do everything, and first of all, to obey the Constitution.”
The reporter insisted on asking whether the Cardinal intended to speak with him about the abortion law. The answer was: “I have not spoken [with him]. I will speak to him if he requests me to do so. I have had a good personal relationship with him for a long time, but I cannot in any way use it in a matter such as this.”3
Laity Appeal to President to Veto Abortion Law
Catholic laymen have maintained a different attitude and fought valiantly to prevent the installation of abortion in Portugal.
On March 28, the campaign director of Acção Família [Family Action] in Coimbra, Mr. José Carlos Sepúlveda da Fonseca, addressed a letter to President Cavaco Silva urging him not to promulgate the said law.
The letter shows how abortionists had manipulated the situation and presented the decriminalization of abortion mainly as a way of preventing clandestine abortions. He goes on to note that the President’s constant attitude against abortion raised expectations that he would veto the law approved by the Assembly: “’Thus, Mr. President, these same reasons solemnly expressed by Your Excellency on that date, can only lead you, as we see it, to veto the present law.”
The letter emphasizes the fact that the abortion law is opposed “to the most basic moral and ethic pillars of any civilized society, and especially to the Law of God!”
Mr. Sepúlveda da Fonseca closes by invoking the help of Our Lady of Fatima for the Portuguese President:
“As Catholic laymen, we beg Our Lady of Fatima, on this 90th anniversary of her apparitions, to assist you at this historic moment so that Your Excellency, as supreme head of our Nation, will not fall short of the stature required to lead the Portuguese State on the paths of order and of peace.”4
The President’s Contradictory Attitude
President Cavaco Silva failed to heed the appeal of lay Catholics to be consistent with the faith he professes. In a contradictory attitude, fifteen days after the letter from Acção Família, he promulgated the law and then attached to its text proposed recommendations to the country’s Assembly that would mitigate the detrimental effects of the law he had just promulgated! Among other measures, he proposed women considering abortion be showed ultrasound images of the unborn child they carry in their wombs.5
Mrs. Isilda Pegado, President of the Federation for Life, pointed out the contradiction of this attitude. She stressed that the President could have returned the law to the Assembly for further consideration in view of his recommendations. “That is not what happened: the law was promulgated.” She added that the President’s recommendations to the Assembly “are good for nothing.” 6
Continue the Struggle under Our Lady of Fatima’s Protection
It is not by using “extreme moderation” in the defense of good that one protects the good. One also cannot win by employing a tactic of concessions to appease radicals in their advocacy of evil.
Good attracts, convinces and draws when it is presented in all its integrity and beauty and when its defenders act gallantly, fearlessly and proudly to defend the just cause of the truth known as such.
This was the attitude of Our Lord Jesus Christ in his disputes with the Pharisees. He Himself summed up this attitude in the straightforward phrase: “Do not think that I have come to bring peace upon the earth. I have come to bring not peace but the sword.”7
As stated in a previous article, battles are won by fearless generals who actively lead the fight and encourage their troops, and not by fearful generals who recommend acting with “extreme moderation.”
Despite the debate Portuguese Catholics should continue in their struggle against abortion, confiding in the protection and promise of Our Lady of Fatima who said: “Finally, my Immaculate Heart will triumph!
- Cf. http://www.presidencia.pt/?id_categoria=9&id_item=4772.
- Cf. Benedict XVI, APOSTOLIC EXHORTATION SACRAMENTUM CARITATIS, n. 83 Eucharistic consistency, http://www.vatican.va/holy_father/benedict_xvi/apost_exhortations/documents/hf_ben-xvi_exh_20070222_sacramentum-caritatis_en.html; Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith – Doctrinal Note on Some Questions Regarding the Participation of Catholics in Political Life, November 24, 2002, the Solemnity of Christ the King at http://www.vatican.va/roman_curia/congregations/cfaith/ documents/rc_con_cfaith_doc_20021124_politica_en.html
- Filipe Luís e Manuel Vilas-Boas, Um cardeal no seu labirinto, VISÃO, nº 730, Feb. 28, 2007, http://visaoonline.clix.pt/default.asp?CpContentId=332921.
- CARTA ABERTA DE ACÇÃO FAMÍLIA AO PRESIDENTE DA REPÚBLICA SOBRE A NOVA LEI DO ABORTO, Coimbra, Mar. 28, 2007, http://www.accaofamilia.pt/abortocartapres.html
- Cf. http://www.presidencia.pt/?id_categoria=9&id_item=4772.
- Observações de Cavaco Silva «de nada servem», http://www.agencia.ecclesia.pt/imprimir.asp?noticiaid=44892.
- Matt 10:34.