Costa Rican Bishops Protest IVF Draft Law
Affirm Women's Contribution in the Church
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This was one of the topics of the plenary assembly of the Episcopal Conference of Costa Rica, which ended Friday.
The prelates also discussed topics such as seminarians and the role of women in the Church and in society.
In the final message of the assembly, the conference noted that on Feb. 24 the country's legislative assembly approved the creation of a special commission to study and give an opinion on Draft Law 17900 on in vitro fertilization and embryonic transfer, opening a new chapter in this story.
Although the special commission "has not considered our participation necessary," the prelates stated, "we, who because of our pastoral task are called to discern and support the present realities and events, insist on making a contribution to the legislative discussion from the rich stock of Christian anthropology, of ethics and of the ecclesial magisterium, with the certainty that these values and principles, shared by the immense majority of Costa Rican citizens, must be included and considered in this delicate project."
They affirmed that although in vitro fertilization is often "presented to public opinion as the 'last opportunity' for women who suffer sterility, those who promote it hide the fact that this technique allows for human beings, in the weakest and most defenseless state of their existence, to be selected, abandoned, killed or used as biological material."
In approaching this topic, the Church presented as basic criterion the fact that "the fruit of human generation from the first moment of its existence, that is, from the constitution of the zygote, calls for unconditional respect that is morally due to the human being in his corporal and spiritual totality."
The human being must be respected and treated as a person from the instant of his conception, the bishops emphasized.
They continued: "We know that the teaching of the Church is rejected by some sectors and that it is even accused of resisting the progress of the sciences and of ignoring the rights of spouses.
"This could not be farther from the reality. The true meaning of science is service to human life.
"It is necessary to say forcefully that the human being cannot and must not ever be sacrificed to the successes of science and technology."
The bishops reported that they have been reflecting on common pastoral criteria that will result in concrete actions in favor of family and youth.
In this connection, they quoted Benedict XVI's words to Costa Ricans: "Much will be contributed by the strengthening in society of a pillar as substantial and indispensable as the stability and union of the family, an institution that is suffering, perhaps as no other, the attack of the widespread and rapid transformations of society and culture."
The family, said the Pope, "cannot lose its genuine identity, as it is called to be breeding ground of human and Christian virtues, where children learn from their parents in a natural way to respect and understand one another, to mature as persons, as believers and to be exemplary citizens."
The prelates noted: "Consequently, nothing that fosters, protects and supports the family founded on marriage between a man and a woman will be a waste.
"In this sense, the Church will not tire of especially encouraging young people, so that they discover the beauty and grandeur entailed in serving faithfully and generously marital love and the transmission of life."
The prelates acknowledged the success of last month's celebration of the 2nd Continental Latin American Congress on Vocations, which drew 500 participants to Costa Rica.
Without a doubt, they affirmed, "this meeting strengthened our pastoral commitment to encourage vocations in all the dioceses of Costa Rica."
Because of this, the bishops said, the Holy Spirit "continues to inspire in the Church a diversity of ministries, exercised also by laymen, capable of rejuvenating and reinforcing the evangelizing dynamism."
Hence, they expressed the desire "to give the vocational ministry the priority place it has in the whole pastoral" endeavor, "specifically in the youth and family ministry."
The conference reported that this year the national seminary of Our Lady of the Angels welcomed 53 young seminarians who are beginning a process of formation and discernment of their vocation.
It added that there are now 172 young men who, having felt the call to the priestly life, and supported by a qualified team of formators, are taking on the challenge of maturing in human and Christian virtues, common to all disciples of Jesus and, especially, future pastors.
In regard to International Women's Day, celebrated March 8, the bishops "thanked the Lord for his plan for the vocation and mission of women in the world."
The plan, they added, "becomes concrete and direct gratitude to women, to each woman, for what they represent in the life of humanity."
Beyond this recognition, as Church, "this celebration commits us to work so that women will be recognized, respected and appreciated in their particular dignity," the prelates stated.
They lamented "that innumerable women of all conditions are not appreciated in their dignity; they are often left alone and abandoned, not recognized sufficiently in their abnegated sacrifice and also their heroic generosity in the care and education of children, and in the transmission of the faith in the family."
In particular, the prelates decried the "growing violence that manifests itself in different ways, as psychological or physical aggression or murder."
"And given that it is impossible to imagine a Church without the feminine contribution," they continued, "we send a special greeting to all women religious, catechists, committed laywomen, and other Catholic women who with their witness, work, patience, tenderness and understanding contribute in a unique way to manifest the true face of the Church, bride of Christ and mother of believers."
In regard to the border conflict with Nicaragua, the bishops expressed their "ardent concern over the tension in relations between the governments of both nations due to the dredging of the San Juan River and the presence of Nicaraguan military troops on Calero Island."
With hope and in spiritual communion with their people, they said they received the resolution with which the International Court of Justice "granted Costa Rica the principal provisional measures requested by our government -- while the definitive ruling is issued -- that should mark the course so that law, reason, the brotherhood of our peoples and the rejection of the horrors of war, will be the principles that encourage the resolution of the conflict."
At the same time the prelates exhorted the government of Costa Rica to continue on the path called for by its civil tradition, to support the efforts that both governments will carry out to comply with the dispositions of the International Court of Justice.
They reiterated their appeal to the Costa Rican people to come together around their most profound values: peace, civility, fraternity and respect for life, as "violence has never done anything other than destroy, not build, enkindle passions, not calm them, accumulating hatred and wreckage, not allowing contenders to fraternize.
The bishops expressed their special gratitude to God on celebrating the 50th anniversary of the erection of the Diocese of Tilaran-Liberia on July 22. They sent their fraternal greeting to Bishop Héctor Morera, the former bishop of that diocese, to priests, religious communities and faithful of that ecclesial community and, in communion with Bishop Vittorino Girardi, they joined in thanksgiving for the spiritual fruits received in these years of evangelization.