Obama Disappoints With Mexico City Reversal

US Bishops and Vatican Voice Dismay

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WASHINGTON, D.C., JAN. 26, 2009 (Zenit.org).- Cardinal Justin Rigali called President Barack Obama's decision on day three of his presidency to reverse the Mexico City Policy to be "very disappointing."



Obama issued an executive order Friday to lift an 8-year ban on U.S. funding of organizations that perform and promote abortion in developing nations.

The chairman of the U.S. bishops' Committee on Pro-Life Activities said in a statement that "an administration that wants to reduce abortions should not divert U.S. funds to groups that promote abortions."

Obama repeatedly insisted during the presidential campaign that he wasn't for abortion, but rather for reducing the number of abortions without making the procedure illegal.

Cardinal Francis George, president of the U.S. episcopal conference, wrote to Obama before last week's inauguration urging him to retain this policy: "'The Mexico City Policy, first established in 1984, has wrongly been attacked as a restriction on foreign aid for family planning. In fact, it has not reduced such aid at all, but has ensured that family planning funds are not diverted to organizations dedicated to performing and promoting abortions instead of reducing them."

"Once the clear line between family planning and abortion is erased," the cardinal added, "the idea of using family planning to reduce abortions becomes meaningless, and abortion tends to replace contraception as the means for reducing family size."

"The worst"

Criticism from the Vatican came Saturday when Archbishop Rino Fisichella, president of the Pontifical Academy for Life, told the Italian daily Corriere della Sera, that "among the many good things that he could have done, Barack Obama instead has chosen the worst."

"If this is one of the first acts of President Obama, with all due respect, it seems to me that the path toward disappointment has been very short," the archbishop added.

Archbishop Elio Sgreccia, the retired president of the Pontifical Academy for Life, told the Italian news agency ANSA that the president's move "deals a harsh blow not only to us Catholics, but to all the people across the world that fight against the slaughter of innocents that is carried out with abortion."

Obama received some praise from the Church for signing an executive order Thursday to ban torture.

Bishop Howard Hubbard of Albany, chairman of the Committee on International Justice and Peace of the U.S. episcopal conference said the bishops welcomed the order, and that the ban "says much about us -- who we are, what we believe about human life and dignity, and how we act as a nation."