.- The controversy surrounding Bishop Raul Vera Lopez of Saltillo, Mexico has intensified after comments he made in support of the decriminalization of abortion.
The website LifeSiteNews.com published a report on Aug. 3 revealing that the bishop heads two human rights organizations that openly promote the reversal of pro-life legislation enacted in a majority of Mexican states.
In explaining his leadership role in the two organizations that support the decriminalization of abortion, Bishop Vera said, âWhat is debated here in Mexico is the penalization or depenalization of abortion. Thatâs another thing. The penalization (of abortion) is the persecution of people who have abortions.â
Since January 28, 2011, Bishop Vera has been president of the Fray Bartolome de las Casas Center for Human Rights in the Mexican state of Chiapas, where several years ago he served as coadjutor bishop for the late Bishop Samuel Ruiz. He is also the founder of the Fray Juan de Larios Diocesan Center for Human Rights, located in the Diocese of Saltillo.
Both groups belong to a network of organizations that uphold abortion as a fundamental human right. The network openly supported the legalization of abortion in Mexico City in 2007.
The two groups led by Bishop Vera are also signers of a document published in June 2008 opposing constitutional reform in the state of Jalisco that enshrined the right to life from the moment of conception. The Jalisco State Congress adopted the reform in July 2009.
In 2011, the Fray Juan de Larios Diocesan Center also signed a report prepared by the U.N. Human Rights High Commissioner on âaccess to justice for women who are victims of violence, female killings, sexual violence, disappearances and the sex trade.â It also condemned the lack of access to legal abortion in cases of rape in the Mexican state of Guanajuato.
Bishop Vera told LifeSiteNews.com that abortion âis the murder of a child in the womb of his mother,â but that in his opinion to support depenalization is not the same as being pro-abortion.
CNA attempted to confirm the bishopâs statements to LifeSiteNews.com, but Maria Eugenia Arriaga, the director of communications for the Diocese of Saltillo, said they would not give any interviews âto people who distort our information.â
Asked whether Bishop Vera directed her to refuse any requests for interviews, Arriaga said she made the decision herself in consultation with her staff. She made no mention of whether or not she consulted the bishop.
Bishop Vera has previously refused interview requests by CNA regarding his support of the same-sex ministry, the San Elredo Community. He recently accused the news agency of âdistortingâ his words and his pastoral work.
The community has come under fire for promoting events that are in opposition to the Church's teachings on homosexuality.
CNA contacted Jorge Gomez, the director of communication for the Fray Bartolome de la Casas Center for Human Rights, who said, âOur stance is that we are against the criminalization (penalization) of women who make this difficult decision (to have an abortion).â
Asked whether the center supports abortion, Gomez responded: âThatâs not what this discussion is about for us. For us the issue isnât whether we are for or against abortion, because we donât get involved in that discussion.â
Gomez went on to state that until recently the center was under the direction of Bishop Samuel Ruiz, the late bishop emeritus of San Cristobal de las Casas and the emblematic leader of âIndian liberation theology.â
He said the center is a âlayâ organization that defends social and political rights, âespecially of the indigenous,â and that Bishop Raul Vera is the current director.
CNA also contacted the Fran Juan de Larios Center for Human Rights in the Diocese of Saltillo but its spokesperson refused to grant an interview.
Problems in the Diocese of Saltillo
The first time the Diocese of Saltillo refused to speak with CNA was in March of this year, after the agency reported that Bishop Raul Vera Lopez promoted the 4th Forum on Sexual, Family and Religious Diversity, which was organized by the San Elredo Community.
The forum publicly promoted gay activism, sexual activity between homosexuals and adoption by homosexual couples. Bishop Vera presided at the eventâs opening ceremony.
In an interview with CNA the spiritual director of San Elredo, Father Roberto Coogan, who is also a member of the diocesan pastoral council, highlighted Bishop Veraâs support for the community and questioned the teachings of the Church on homosexuality.
âThe only response the Catechism offers (to homosexuals) is to tell them to be celibate,â but âthat is not sufficient,â Coogan said.
CNA also published comments from various pro-family groups in Saltillo expressing their concern about the activities of the San Elredo Community that are in opposition to the teachings of the Church.