VATICAN CITY – Senior Vatican officials weighed into US President Barack Obama Saturday for overturning a ban on state funding for family-planning groups that carry out or facilitate abortions overseas.
It is “the arrogance of someone who believes they are right, in signing a decree which will open the door to abortion and thus to the destruction of human life,” Archbishop Rino Fisichella was quoted as saying by the Corriere della Sera daily.
Fisichella is president of the Pontifical Academy for Life, one of a number of so-called pontifical academies which are formed by or under the direction of the Holy See.
“What is important is to know how to listen… without locking oneself into ideological visions with the arrogance of a person who, having the power, thinks they can decide on life and death,” he added.
His predecessor in the office, Elio Sgreccia, told the ANSA news agency, “Instead of all the good things that he might have done, Barack Obama has chosen the worst,” allowing “the massacre of innocents.”
“The right to life is the first of all rights that must be defended,” he said, claiming that 80 percent of Americans were against abortion.
Obama signed the executive order cancelling the eight-year-old restrictions imposed by his predecessor George W. Bush on Friday, the third full day of his presidency.
The so-called “global gag rule” cut off US funding to overseas family planning clinics which provide any abortion services whatsoever, from the operation itself to counselling, referrals or post-abortion services.
“If this is one of the first acts of President Obama, with all due respect, it seems to me that the path towards disappointment will have been very short,” Fisichella said.
“I do not believe that those who voted for him took into consideration ethical themes, which were astutely left aside during the election debate. The majority of the American population does not take the same position as the president and his team,” he added.
The order won Obama praise from Democratic lawmakers, family planning and women’s rights groups but drew angry condemnation from pro-life organizations and Republicans.
More than 250 health and human rights organizations from around the world sent Obama a letter, thanking him for ending a policy “which has contributed to the deaths and injuries of countless women and girls.”
The Roman Catholic Church has also criticized the approval of US authorities for the first human trials using embryonic stem cells of a therapy to help paralyzed patients regain movement.
The therapy has been developed using cells derived from an existing human embryonic stem cell line, created before August 9, 2001 when Bush banned using new lines of such cells for research.
Friday’s announcement by the Food and Drug Administration may mark the start of a shift in the nation’s stem cell research policy under Obama, who wants the ban overturned.
Embryonic stem cells are taken from early-stage embryos, which are destroyed in the process, prompting some religious groups to brand the process as unethical.
Fisichella charged Saturday that Obama “gave into pressure from multinationals.”
“The problem is not scientific it is ideological,” he said.