40 YEARS OF A FIGHT FOR LIFE
Włodzimierz Rędzioch talks with Carlo Casini – a legendary Italian pro-life activist
Carlo Casini is a real legend for pro-life activists. Over 40 years ago this attorney from Florence established the first Italian Movement for Life, whose the honourable chairman he is at present, and he was an inspirer of organizing the European Federation for Life and Human Dignity ‘One of us’ with the headquarter in Brussels (www.oneofus.eu), and as an MP he has been fighting for many years for respect to life in the Italian and European parliaments. He is the author of many books on the beginning and the end of life, right to life, human rights, opposition of conscience, bio-policy. Recently he has written a book in relation to the 40th anniversary of legalizing abortion in Italy. And this book has just become a starting point of our interview.
WŁODZIMIERZ RĘDZIOCH: - This year there has been the 40th anniversary of implementing the act (no. 194 of 22 May 1978), which legalized abortion in Italy. Why did you entitle the latest book commemorating this event as ’40 years for the future’?
CARLO CASINI: - We have experienced a really sad 40th anniversary when considering the number of unborn children aborted – by permission of the state and by the will of their mothers – by the national health service: nearly six million. Sadness is growing when we are thinking about unsuccessful attempts of enacting the act no. 194, and what is worse – about a ‘conspiracy’ against life, which has got stronger during the last forty years, also thanks to the contribution of powerful international organizations, that today there are demands on acknowledging the right to abortion as the basic human rights. But whoever focuses their look on a conceived baby will understand that recognizing his full is not a cornerstone of new humanism, and will uncover the truth about proclaimed human rights as the condition of freedom, justice and peace, will discover the sense of human dignity as a compass leading to the society of truth and love. This is an epoch matter of planetary range, so its solution will take a lot of time. We cannot give in and we must look into the future, continue working with trustfulness and perseverance. I am consoled by the fact that thanks to the activity of our Centres of Help for Life, over 200 thousand children were born, whose mothers resigned from abortion, finding enthusiasm of their youth and today they thanks us for it. We managed to document this activity, from which we can draw conclusions for the future.
You mentioned the Centress of Help for Life, which began to function before the act about abortion. What was the role of these centres?
In 1975 permitted abortion in Italy was still a crime. Last January in Florence the structure run by the Radical Party was uncovered, which went to history as an abortion clinic, in which a doctor and representative of a pharmaceutical company were doing abortions, 30-40 a day – during a year in whole Italy 30 thousand women arrived at this ‘clinic’. The radicals argued that their organization helped women and money which they received were only something symbolical. A respond of the Florence society was to organize the first Italian Centre of Help for Life, whose program is defined by the motto: ‘Life difficulties are not overcome by destroying life, but overcoming difficulties’. Whole Italy followed the example of Florence – today we have 350 centres CAV, thanks to which, as I mentioned, over 200 thousand children were born. Our centres not only help mothers, but also play a cultural role, because their activity proves that children are human beings before birth. When a child’s life is endangered, the whole society gets mobilized to save him/her. The same should be done for the sake of unborn children. For this reason CAV emphasize the specifics of their engagement, that is, saving every endangered life.
40 years of the act about abortion converges with the 40th anniversary of the functioning of the Italian pro-Life Movement. What was the contribution of the movement in the pro-live activity?
The Italian pro-Life Movement did not allow for acknowledging abortion as a finished chapter, after implementing the act about abortion and unsuccessful referendum in 1981 concerning its withdrawal. The movement contributed to maintaining the problem in people’s awareness not only thanks to CAV, but also through cultural actions which often resulted in legislation actions in the parliament and raised fervent debates in media. It contributed to making the argument become more and more present thanks to building the unity of various Catholic movements and associations, and also contributed to establishing the Forum of Families, Association Science and Life and the Forum of health service employees of Christian inspiration. Great credibility of the Italian pro-Life Movement is based on the fact that in its fight against abortion, the movement has never condemned women who had done abortion, and defended life not only theoretically, but also practically, by helping thousands of women to give birth, and bring up their children. What testimony should the Catholics give so that their engagement in pro-life activity would be credible? The state of a human being before birth is particular and unique. In fact its greatest defence are the mind and heart of a mother. It is very difficult to save appearing life without a mother’s cooperation. Therefore, we must awaken inborn courage in women to accept their children; but the courage cannot be unjustified. And this motivation is acknowledging a child as a human being. Unfortunately, when there are actions against life, a strong accent is put on qualifying a conceived child as ‘a mass of cells’ or a tissue similar to hair, nail or a piece of skin. When this belief penetrates the mind and heart of a woman, she finds it difficult to oppose to the option of abortion, if pregnancy has not been planned or if it brings difficulties. Therefore it is necessary to convince a mother that her child is a child since the beginning of growing in her womb. Although words are not enough – the attitude of friendship, love and sharing is necessary. St. John Paul II taught it when in the end prayer of his encyclical ‘Evangelium vitae’ addressed to Mary, the Morning Star of the new world, asks her to make the Christians be able to proclaim the Gospel of life ‘openly and with love’.
As an MP for the European Parliament during cadencies, that is, for over 20 years, you defended life. How do you evaluate the evolution of the situation in Europe on the area of respect for life?
Unfortunately, the situation in the European Parliament got worse. All EU countries legalized abortion – the last one was Ireland. In Poland there is still a kind of defiance but generally speaking, the situation is bad. In the past we managed to succeed a few times: in 1989 the parliament enacted two resolutions on the artificial procreation and genetic engineering and encouraged countries to settle down the issue, acknowledging the right to conceived life – unfortunately, countries did not respect this indication.
In 1992 the parliament rejected the resolution which was to use to justify euthanasia; in 1998 a biotechnological directive was acknowledged, which forbids patenting inventions which are aiming at destroying human embryos. However, today international pressures and culture of particular membership countries of the European Union create a situation in which the European Parliament proves an attitude of approval of abortion and destroying human embryos in the context of procreation medically supported. I call this situation ‘anxiety of Europe’ because in fact, neither in Europe nor in the parliament, nor judicial bodies can negate humanity of a conceived baby, but despite that they make decisions which reflect a complete freedom in destroying life being born.
You are an initiator of the campaign ‘One of us’. Why is it so important to acknowledge a child’s humanity in a mother’s womb as dignity of ‘one of us’?
In fact Europe, as well as abortion lobby all over the world, does not want to notice a conceived baby. Moreover, EU funds get to international organizations – one can only mention the International Planned Parenthood Federation or Marie Stopes, which are promoting abortion all over the world and are doing it, allocating big amounts of money for experiments in which embryos are destroyed and abortion in some countries of the Third World are financed. The initiative ‘One of us’ was to ‘force’ Europe to look at conceived human beings. But although this initiative collected nearly 2 million signatures in all countries of Europe and was the first in the chronological order, the European Commission again refused to concentrate on the conceived life and decided to ignore this civilian initiative. Unfortunately, the tribunal of the first instance behaved in the same way but the organizational Committee of ‘One of us’ appealed to the Grand Chamber of the Tribunal. We will see what result will be. Poland contributed in supported the initiative ‘One of us’ and now the European Federation called ‘One of us for life and human dignity’ was established, which is going to undertake actions so that human dignity would be acknowledged from the conception.
How should we conduct the cultural battle in life defence, when so many countries and international organizations, and what is more, the very women treat abortion already as ‘human right’?
From our experience we have made two conclusions which may raise hope for life victory. Firstly, acknowledging the conceived life as a human being, that is, as a subject, not an object, that is, one of us. This statement which is supported by modern science and reason today, is irresistible. Therefore, instead of demanding on a prison for women who had abortion, it is necessary to demand on pointing to a conceived child as a human being. And as I have already said, acknowledging a conceived being as one of us is the fundament of new humanism. It is necessary to understand that solidarity with the last of people gains strength from the first elementary solidarity towards children. Secondly, it is absurd that a small group of women are able to impose the idea of abortion on the whole world as the basic right. And, after all, much more women express their courage and love just in motherhood. These are them who must have a right to speak and build new feminism which will stifle the old one.
The 40th anniversary of introducing abortion in Italy converges with the 40th anniversary of electing John Paul II. What was the role of the Pope in the area of bioethics and life defence?
St. John Paul II was really a giant of life. In one of his first speeches to workers of the Roman Curia he assured that he would not stop speaking about the value of life, that he would take advantage of every meeting and journey. In his last speech to ambassadors representing all countries of the world he pointed to the greatest challenges today: peace, bread, conscience freedom, life. But - he added - the first challenge is life. When in 1981 in Italy there was a referendum on abortion (unfortunately, unsuccessful), he was not afraid to support the Pro-Life Movement. And in his speech at the end of 1981 – the year of the assassination on his life, when on 13 May he was attacked with bullets of Ali Agca – he said that he considered his long suffering as penance for the Italians’ betrayal. His encyclical ‘Evangelium Vitae’ remains a fundamental document which can be considered as the most important event during the last 40 years, that is, from the moment of enacting an Italian act on abortion. I think that every Christian community should analyze this encyclical again and thoroughly.
Translated by Aneta Amrozik
Niedziela 40/2018 (7 X 2018)