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Rumor about Archbishop Fisichella Creates Furor Among International Pro-Life Leaders

Over the past few weeks, a rumor has emerged among Vatican sources that the current president of the Pontifical Academy for Life, Archbishop Salvatore “Rino” Fisichella, may be appointed as the head of a new dicastery in the Vatican. 

As reported by LifeSiteNews:

Italian journalist and specialist on the Vatican, Andrea Tornielli, wrote in Italian daily Il Giornale this weekend that it will soon be announced that the pope will create a new department dedicated to re-evangelization of the West, which will be chaired by Archbishop Fisichella.

Pope Benedict, Tornielli said, is preparing an apostolic letter about the institution of the Pontifical Council for the New Evangelization, dedicated to re-spreading the Catholic religion in countries where the Gospel has already been known for centuries, “but today where its effectiveness in people’s lives seems to have lost.”

Perceived by some commentators as a promotion, it has stirred the ire of several pro-life leaders around the world—including mine.

As leader of the British Society for the Protection of the Unborn Child, John Smeaton has written in his blog entitled “Archbishop Fisichella should be sacked, not promoted”:

How would such a scandalous appointment affect the world’s perception of Catholic moral teaching on abortion? And, in Obama’s push for a universal right to abortion, how would such an appointment affect the world’s perception of conscientious objection to abortion on the part of health professionals?

According to Catholic Online:

“The new department will be aimed at bringing the Gospel back to Western societies that have lost their Christian identity … There is a desperate need for such a new evangelization. Many Catholic Christians do not know what the Church actually teaches and have embraced what some have called a ‘cafeteria Catholicism’ – choosing what parts of their faith they will follow.”
Yes – and that’s precisely the problem with appointing Archbishop Rino Fisichella to such a role. The position set out by Archbishop Fisichella, like the collaboration of the bishops of England and Wales with the British government on life issues, are cancers which are threatening to destroy countless human lives. A perception that cafeteria Catholicism prevails in the Church will end up serving up the right to abortion worldwide.

In the interests of the lives of unborn babies worldwide, Archbishop Fisichella should be removed from the Pontifical Academy for Life without the consolation prize of a promotion, especially one which might make him a cardinal.

We concur with Smeaton and others who expressed grave concerns about the archbishop’s statements. So, I have sent the following letter to officials in the Vatican:

As the president of American Life League, a lay Catholic pro-life educational organization, and as a member of the Pontifical Academy for Life, I write to express my grave concerns about the rumors currently circulating concerning Archbishop Salvatore “Rino” Fisichella. It has been suggested by some sources in the Catholic media that the archbishop will soon head a new Vatican dicastery. This is astounding, and we are perplexed because of the archbishop’s previous writings and the serious problem that he created for the pro-life movement last year.

As current president of the Pontifical Academy for Life, the well-documented position of Archbishop Fisichella regarding the Recife affair in Brazil has created a scandal. As you may know, his public statement provides the impression that the abortion of twins was somehow not as intrinsically evil as abortion in general.

The archbishop has remained intransigent regarding his comments, even though those comments are in direct contradiction to the teaching of the Church’s magisterium.

As you will recall, he wrote in a column for the Vatican newspaper, L’Osservatore Romano (March 15, 2009),

Choices like this, albeit with different cases, are repeated every day in the intensive care units and in the conscience of the medical doctor who finds himself alone in the act of having to decide what is best to do.

No one, however, arrives at a decision of this nature in a careless way. It is unjust and offensive even to think about this possibility.

Due respect to the professionalism of the medical doctor is a rule that should involve all of us and cannot allow us to arrive at a negative judgment without having first considered the conflict that has arisen within the doctor. The doctor carries within himself his history and his experience. A choice like whether to save a life, knowing that he is putting at risk a second life, is never carried out easily.

The archbishop’s written comments encouraged the pro-abortion movement the world over. For example, dissident Frances Kissling, founder of the pro-abortion Catholics for a Free Choice, wrote the following (, March 23, 2009):

In an amazing shift in the Vatican’s strategy of no dissent from its position that direct abortion is never permitted, even to save a woman’s life, the Vatican’s top bioethics official, Archbishop Rino Fisichella opined that the doctors in Brazil who performed an abortion on a nine-year-old who was 15 weeks pregnant with twins did not merit excommunication. … But, this modest deviation by the [a]rchbishop who heads the Pontifical Academy of Life opens the door for Catholics who follow [C]hurch teachings on reproduction to discuss the possibility that there are some cases officially acknowledged where individuals can choose abortion and have a calm conscience.

Yet, to this very day, Archbishop Fisichella has declined to even admit that his column may have created a perception that he did not intend. When asked for a clarification, he refused. Thus, it is not surprising that we are extremely concerned about the current rumor circulating in the Catholic media.

It is our sincere hope that Archbishop Fisichella will not be elevated to a new position in the Church. It is our view that he has created one of the worst disasters we have ever seen, with regard to Catholic teaching on the act of abortion.
Please give this matter your attention, and know of our sincere gratitude to you and our prayers for your special intentions.

Sincerely yours in the Lord Who IS Life,

Judie Brown, President
American Life League, Inc.
Member, Pontifical Academy for Life

To register your concerns on this matter, please note the following contact information:

Giovanni Battista Cardinal Re, Prefect
Francesco Monteresi, Secretary
Congregation for Bishops
Palazzo della Congregazioni
Piazza Pio XII, 10
00193 Vatican City State, Europe

William Cardinal Levada, Prefect
Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith
Piazza del S. Uffizio, 11
00193 Vatican City State, Europe
E-mail: //

Pope Benedict XVI