MAŁGORZATA CICHOŃ: - How do you, as a witness of so many human births, look at the mystery of the birth of God the Human?

DR ROBERT WALLEY: - It is an unusual event in the human history over 2 thousand year ago: incarnation of Christ. God decided to realize it, asking a young woman for help. The woman, gifted with her free will said: ‘Yes’ and became a cooperator in the work of humanity salvation . Therefore, if we think over the mystery of Christmas, we should also think over the mystery of motherhood. This is somehow also the Day of Mothers. They participate in this dignity which was given to Mary. Because God decided that every human being would be born as a baby, growing in the womb of a mother. Mary was bearing and feeding unborn Jesus – God in her womb for about 266 days, if he was not a premature baby. In this way all mothers bear and feed their own babies. They accompany them till the end – also when their children are suffering. Therefore it is very important for these women to receive all kinds of help, support and understanding.

And do they receive them?

Mothers are often ignored when considering the issues concerning women. For example, there are a lot of women’s rights charters but there was no a charter of mothers’ rights, until we, as a MaterCare International organization, published this document. It says about what mothers need and what they have a right to.

One of your grandchildren’s name is ‘Beautiful’. Why did he deserve it?

18 months ago my son, John Paul and his wife Michelle, became parents of their third child. The child was born with Down syndrome. The boy’s name is Zayn which means ‘beautiful’. Because he looks so. I am not saying it for sentimental reasons! This child raises unusual love in others. During my professional career I have also helped children with Down syndrome be born, although I must admit that my grandson’s illness was surprising to me. Our first reaction was a sigh of disappointment…But being aware of what we had just said, we regretted it and apologized to God for it. Our son’s is called by the name of John Paul to the honour of the ‘Pope of a smile’, which was an idea of my wife. Whereas the name ‘Beautiful’ expresses a delight which a dad expressed to his child.

Christ, being born as a human being, showed how valuable we are to God and he identified himself with our fate…

And the contemporary world deprives an unborn child of values. Moreover, it wants perfectionism. The world suggests not only abortion of a child but also killing a baby soon after his birth if the baby is not perfect.

You arrived in Poland to the invitation of prof. Bogdan Chazan. What project are you working on together?

We are going to co-organize a conference in June 2019 in Rzeszów and another one in September in Rome. We are preparing these events because we, as doctors, especially gynecologists and obstetricians, want to learn, talk together. We are experiencing being persecuted in the world when considering the freedom of conscience. When we refuse to commit abortion, we must suggest somebody else who will do it, so cooperate for this disgraceful act. In Canada, the USA, Great Britain or Australia catholic hospitals, if only they exist, must go on compromises. Either they will perform abortions or they will lose maternity wards. A lot of such hospitals in Australia or Canada were established by catholic orders which wanted to take care of mothers and children. Later the institutions were taken over by governments and secular universities. Today financial pressure is used. There are legal pressures on doctors so that they would be present in euthanasia. It is against doctors’ ethics and practice! Moreover, there is reduction in a traditional relation between a doctor and a patient to a purely technical one, included in a contract. During the conference we want to talk and also reflect on what everyone of us – doctors, journalists, members of the Church – can do…

In the 70s of the last century you had to leave your home country, because as a doctor you did not want to perform abortion.

I decided to do so a long time ago but it was only the beginning of what takes place every day now. I wanted to work in England. I was given three options. The first one was: ‘if you are against abortion, being a Catholic, what about forgetting your faith?’. I said that I would not do it, as I have conscience. So I was suggested changing specialization. I answered that I had been getting prepared for my specialization for 6 years and I refused. The third option was leaving the national medical service and the country. So I did it. I never saw my father later and my wife saw hers only twice. We lost our friends, contacts with our relatives. At those times it was not easy to travel from England to Canada or even make phone calls. It was a great devotion, but we decided so together with my wife.

Later there appeared challenges which would not have happened if you stayed in the English health service…

In 1985 John Paul II established the Papal Commission for Pastoral Ministry of Health Service which was raised to the rank of the papal council three years later. I was invited to it by the Holy Father, as a consultant for 5 years, which were prolonged to 15. One of the challenges was supporting other colleagues doctors. It was how MaterCare International was established. We knew that we needed a special organization to motivate one another and also- according to what John Paul II wanted – to be the voice of doctors specialists in Church. During his meeting with us in 2001, the Polish pope said to us that we should not be alone in our fight, but the whole Church should support us in it. Otherwise nobody will feel safe – an unborn child, or somebody severely ill…If now doctors are to be forced to ‘help’ in ‘passing over’ organs to transplantations.

The organization established by you is the moral support not only for doctors and obstetricians wanting to work according to their conscience but mainly for mothers and children in developing countries. Why did you focus on your actions in Africa?

We knew that we had to be practical, not only talk with one another. We know about the tragedy of a big number of mothers who are dying in Subsaharian Africa because of birth delivery complications. I went to Nigeria in 1991 and since then we have been providing medical help to women there, living in villages far away from hospitals or clinics. We also got to Ghana and other subsaharian countires. In 2005 we were invited by the bishop of Kenya to strengthen help for mothers on the area of the apostolic vicariate of Isiolo. I visited this place and I saw that there was no medical help there for pregnant women. Hence their highest rate of death during birth deliveries – on the scale of not only Africa but also the whole world. We began the project ‘Isiolo’. Three months after I met the local bishop, he was murdered …however, we decided to continue this project under care of the next hierarch.

A maternity hospital in Isiolo was named after St. John Paul II. You implement the teaching included in the encyclical of the pope ‘Evangelium Vitae’, don’t you?

Exactly on that day when the Holy Father was canonized in Rome, there was the Holy Mass in Kenya. At the moment when we heard on radio that the canonization had been completed, we announced that it would be the first hospital in the world named after the Saint Pope. I met with John Paul II many times. I was a witness that he showed his interlocutors absolute attention, respect and love. A challenge for our organization is implementing the teaching of the encyclical ‘Evangelium vitae’. The Polish Pope told us to, believing that others would help us. Therefore, today we are asking the whole Church, bishops, associations, communities, mothers, fathers for help, to give us and local doctors courage.

However, in Africa there are also other organizations which do not support care of mothers but suggest… sterilization or an abortion pill.

As MaterCare International we help with 1500 birth deliveries in Isiolo annually, supporting mothers from villages. We never close the door to women. We invested 3 million dollars in various kinds of projects. Whereas the very Canada spends 650 million on sex-education, abortion and programs of birth controlling in Africa. Now there are attempts to provide those women with an abortion pill. Will it reduce their death rate? Or will it rather increase it? Because if one wants to reduce the death rate of African mothers, one should provide them with the same help as women in Warsaw are provided with: good care in pregnancy (especially in the last three months) and after the birth delivery, suitably equipped and clean hospital delivery rooms, access to blood transfusion, etc. It is also necessary to take care of food for women and children in Africa as well as counteract malaria. Abortion and birth controlling will not save anybody but will only eliminate maternity. It is manipulating people and the same is taking place in the Western world.

We assume that our readers opt for life of every conceived child but what can we do to express this attitude in practice and have a positive influence on others?

We should listen to what is also a motto of the MaterCare International. These were the first words of Mary referring to Jesus: ‘Do whatever he will tell you’ (J 2.5). You, Poles, have a particular task and mission in the world: you are its future! Recently you have had the 100th anniversary of regaining independence. I understood how firm Poles are. You survived as a nation. You did not give in to totalitarianisms. Also in Canada you are attacked for your pro-life attitude. Media – BBC or Canadian TV and Radio stations – think that you should think like the French, the German or the Spanish. Ireland which was a bastion of the good and a pro-life attitude, failed. It may not have been fighting enough, not seeing any black clouds on the horizon, which Poland must be aware of, for example, the pressure from the EU authorities…John Paul II often said: ‘Do not be afraid!’. I will add: Make friends with your doctors , nurses, love them, support them and give them courage. Maybe Church should speak about this issue more loudly? When we attend the Holy Mass we apologize for what bad we have done and for our neglecting the good. Because we also commit a sin in this way. You are going to be criticized in media but do not be afraid to tell the truth. After all St. John Paul II said clearly: ‘If you want peace, defend life’.

Translated by Aneta Amrozik

Niedziela 2/2019 (13 I 2019)

Editor: Tygodnik Katolicki "Niedziela", ul. 3 Maja 12, 42-200 Czestochowa, Polska
Editor-in-chief: Fr Jaroslaw Grabowski • E-mail: redakcja@niedziela.pl