Vatican cleared bishops’ IVF letter
‘No rift between dioceses’
The bishops have denied there is an internal rift between the dioceses of Malta and Gozo on the Church’s position on in-vitro fertilisation, insisting that the recent pastoral letter “expresses their mutual position on the matter”.
Archbishop Paul Cremona and Gozo Bishop Mario Grech explained yesterday that, due to the sensitivity of the subject, they first sought the “informal advice” of the Vatican.
The Times reported yesterday that a number of priests refused to read the pastoral letter on Sunday because they opposed its “spirit” and “wording”.
According to Church sources, during internal preparatory meetings on the Church’s position on IVF, Mgr Grech objected to a “soft” position proposed by the Archbishop’s theological advisers and insisted on an outright stand against IVF.
In their pastoral letter, the bishops described IVF as “morally wrong” and encouraged couples “not to concede to the temptation of taking easy solutions” by resorting to IVF.
"Our mission must be one with Christ"
When contacted yesterday, Mgr Grech dismissed the idea that there were any differences with the Maltese Curia on the issue and, as a sign of unity, the bishops replied through a joint statement to questions sent separately by The Times.
They recognised that some priests had not obeyed the Church’s directive to read out their letter during Mass and said that they were appreciative of the fact that “a large number of priests are in communion” with their position.
“Our mission as bishops makes sense only if it is one with Christ. This unity can only be guaranteed if it is in conformity with the teachings of the Magisterium.
“This applies also in the case of priests,” the bishops said.
Moreover, they let it be known that “since the pastoral letter deals with a very sensitive issue, before its publication it was sent to a theologian at the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, for his informal advice”.
While observing that “some people took offence”, they said it was not their intention to cause offence in any way.
“On the contrary, because we mean good to all, we made reference to the dignity of the children born with the process of IVF as children of God; we mentioned an openness to the grace of reconciliation for those involved and we also appealed to scientists in order that they may continue to seek ethical methods that may be for the benefit of couples who are facing problems with infertility.”
In their reply, the bishops did not say whether the Church would be taking any disciplinary measures against those priests who refused to read the pastoral letter to their congregation.
Likewise, they did not explain why they chose to publish the letter just a day before the government released a draft Bill on the subject on July 27.
Pastoral letters are normally published on a weekend and there were only few and extraordinary occasions when similar documents were published on a weekday.
See bishops' statement in full: Bishops statement on the Pastoral Letter ‘Celebrating Human Life’