From April 4 to 7, 1991, some 112 Cardinals met in Rome in a special meeting (Consistory) to discuss two topics: threats to human life and threats to the proclamation of Jesus Christ, the only Savior, by sects and false theologies promoting a world religion.


Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger opened the meeting with a penetrating theological survey while the Cardinals’ final communiqué called for a new document, preferably an encyclical, to outline and survey the nature and seriousness of these threats.


The first day was taken up with reports from various regions for the world.  The spokesman for Europe was Cardinal Giacomo Biffi, Archbishop of Bologna, Italy.


Because the European paper was focused directly on abortion and because Europe closely resembles the situation in North America we are carrying the complete text of Cardinal Biffi’s address.  His points are precise and clear.


Permissive legislation


On the level of society, the spread of legalized abortion has gone hand in hand with our countries’ growth in prosperity.


The introduction of permissive legislation in this field is sowing insidious confusion in the hearts of Christians also. It is very difficult for a person who lacks a living faith and who has little aptitude for reflection to be defended indefinitely from ambiguity and not be gradually convinced that what is explicitly permitted by the state cannot be considered ethically reprehensible.


From a pastoral stand-point, if the killing of the innocent is a very grave evil, this loss of the ability to distinguish between good and evil is an even worse misfortune.


This criminal rejection of unborn life, accomplished with the complicity of the law, creates an interior devastation from its incalculable consequences. Whoever gives into such an unnatural and anti-human way of acting ends up killing within himself the very principle of moral life and, finding the light of truth unbearable, he becomes hardened within and exasperated in a desperate self-defence against the voice of morality.


Social consequences


On the level of social life, the harmful consequences are even more evident. Among other things, the hoped-for reduction in clandestine abortions, usually alleged by legislators as the purpose and reason for legalizing abortion, seems belied by the facts.


The disapproval of war, much affirmed these past few decades, has fortunately gone against the war-mongering rhetoric which has accompanied practically all of human history.  In reality, each war is always a calamity, and any exaltation of it is uncalled for.


But no war is more ignoble than that which people, with the consent of the law and society’s finances, have now unleashed against their children who have not yet seen the light of day.


Return to pre-Christian darkness


Western society before our eyes is appearing surprisingly like that humanity lacking Christ, which St. Paul describes in the first chapter of the Letter to the Romans.


And we are not touching here perhaps the saddest point of the whole issue, that the legalization of abortion drives human thought, which is entangled in egoism and misled by ideology, to a type of suicide.


The primary and most radical misfortune of de-Christianization is not the loss of faith: it is the loss of reason.  Never before has it been so obvious that faith, like every grace of God, has a healing function in addition to an elevating one.  It has never been so clear as today that the Gospel of Christ saves the human person truly and totally and, therefore, saves even his rational nature.  Today we have new evidence of how easily one loses right reason if he is not enlightened by the Word of God, so much so that he can wind up being convinced, against the unusually concordant judgment of science and common sense that suppressing a human life at its beginning is not suppressing a human life.




The devil (who Jesus has taught us is basically a ‘murderer’) is achieving his evil designs by persuading human beings to destroy themselves by their own hand.  It is the perfect crime, perpetrated by spreading a lie:  “He was a murderer from the beginning and does not stand in truth, because there is no truth in him” (John 8:44). Thus he succeeds in gratifying his impotent hatred for God by gradually leading man, the living image of God, to the folly of self-destruction.  But, if the great enemy is managing to kill man with the seduction of lies, then the Church’s way must be to save man with the arms of truth.


We can say that humanity is objectively questioning the Church and unconsciously asking her for help in being saved from its misadventures, first among which is the destruction of natural reason.


Church support is necessary


The Church is then asked to come to the aid of Christians, even those who are explicitly Christian and live out their commitment, in the difficult art of being always truly themselves.


In this moment of history I sometimes feel that Christianity is oppressed by an avalanche of deceit and egoism, and I am afraid that she could be suffocated by it.  But the Lord is with us, if we are with him through a little bit of faith.


Source:  Osservatore Romano, April 15, 1991, English edition.