In a recent letter, Pontifical Academy for Life (PAV) Member Christine de Vollmer asked Vatican spokesman Fr. Federico Lombardi to issue a formal clarification of his recent comments characterizing a statement written by a group of PAV members as a call for the resignation of the Academy's president, Archbishop Rino Fisichella.
Christine de Vollmer and several other PAV members issued a statement on Feb. 19, which criticized the actions of their leader Archbishop Fisichella and denied his remarks to the press that the group is free of disagreement and disunity.
Although Fr. Lombardi interpreted the Feb. 19 statement in his remarks to reporters as an official request for Fisichella's resignation, de Vollmer insisted that this was not her or the other signatories intent in publishing their comments.
“You have unfortunately misrepresented me and my colleagues by your remarks to the press and in L’Osservatore Romano regarding the Statement we published on February 19, 2010 and I ask you to print a correction for the information of the many interested parties worldwide,” de Vollmer wrote to Fr. Lombardi in a March 7 letter and that was made available to the press on Monday.
“The Statement that we issued was not a 'request' to the Holy Father for the removal of Archbishop Fisichella as President of the Pontifical Academy for Life (PAV). Naming the President and Members of PAV (Servants of Life),” she underscored, “ is the unique province of the Holy Father.”
“Our statement was the clarification of important facts and to correct the false impression of unity conveyed to the press on Feb. 12 by our President,” she emphasized.
Pontifical Academy for Life president Archbishop Fisichella sparked controversy last March when he wrote an article for the Vatican paper L'Osservatore Romano, appearing to defend doctors who performed an abortion on a nine-year-old rape victim pregnant with twins in Recife, Brazil.
As a result of the prelate's statements in the Vatican paper, news outlets in Latin America began to report that the Catholic Church had changed its teaching on abortion, particularly “therapeutic abortion” in certain circumstances. In the wake of the controversy, the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) issued a clarification in July of 2009, saying abortion “has not been and can never be” accepted as Catholic teaching.
In her March 7 letter, de Vollmer said that the CDF clarification “gave comfort to those who have sacrificed much to follow the teaching of the Church regarding the sanctity of life, and we considered the matter closed.” However, de Vollmer said that the issue reopened a recent PAV assembly when Archbishop Fisichella “went to lengths to declare that his article had been supported by the CDF 'Clarification.'”
Because of this, “it became evident that the danger of confusion to Catholics everywhere is about to recommence.” “Our Statement,” de Vollmer explained to Fr. Lombardi, “had the effect of making all those faithful who work for the defence of innocent human life understand that he did not speak for the Academy itself.”
“In view of these facts,” de Vollmer concluded, “I formally request, Father Lombardi, that you issue a correction of the false impression of our actions."