In the wake of increasing criticism, Colombian priest Father Carlos Novoa retracted previous statements that appeared to support abortion using documents from the Vatican and Blessed John Paul II.
“I wish to make it clear that in no way can my words be interpreted as a justification for abortion or as support for those who defend the right to terminate a human life,” Fr. Novoa said in an editorial for local newspaper El Tiempo.
His remarks come after the bishops of Colombia held a meeting between Fr. Novoa and nearly twenty pro-life leaders on Nov. 30.
Controversy began over comments the Jesuit priest made to the paper El Espectador on Oct. 15 that seemed to support the ruling by Colombia’s Constitutional Court to legalize abortion.
Fr. Novoa, who teaches at the Pontifical Xavierian University in Bogota, also appeared to defend the procedure through his own interpretation of passages from Blessed Pope John Paul II’s encyclical “Evangelium Vitae,” documents from Vatican II and canon law.
His statements were praised by leading abortion advocates but harshly criticized by Catholics and pro-life supporters.
On Nov. 12, dozens of young people gathered on campus to protest Fr. Navoa's comments. Human Life International president Father Shenan J. Boquet weighed in on the controversy in a Nov. 17 statement underscoring that “there is absolutely no justification” for abortion in Church teaching.
In a Nov. 25 piece for El Tiempo, Father Pedro Mercado—chaplain of the Colombian Congress—also called the priest's support for abortion unacceptable.
However, in his own op-ed piece over the weekend, Fr. Novoa argued that his position has been misinterpreted and that he in fact opposes the legalization of abortion.
“In no way do I hold that Pope Wojtyla directly or indirectly supported the legalization of abortion,” he wrote. “Likewise, I declare that I do not subscribe to the ruling by the Constitutional Court that legalized the termination of pregnancies in three cases.”
In previous statements, Fr. Novoa had said, “As a person I respect that ruling.” However, in his recent editorial, he claimed his “respect” actually meant “rejection.”
“The meaning of that word is determined by its etymology and its use. In our media, it is used as a delicate way of stating that one disagrees with somebody, of saying, 'Your position is respectable but I do not share it,' or to put it more briefly, 'Your position is respectable,'” he wrote.
Although he said “I respect the ruling,” what he meant was, “I reject the ruling,” Fr. Novoa said.
“Catholic tradition in its purest form defends life, especially human life, which is a gift from God that is not at our disposal and which we must protect and cultivate,” he emphasized.
“For this reason, the Catholic Church rejects abortion. With all my heart I embrace this rejection, as a priest in service to the Church.”