11-March-2002 -- Catholic World News Feature Story |

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POPE STRIPS SOME AUTHORITY FROM GERMAN BISHOP

FRANKFURT, Mar 11, 02 (CWNews.com) -- In a rare disciplinary move, Pope John Paul II has stripped a German bishop of some of his authority, after the bishop refused to follow a direct order from Rome to stop abortion counseling in his diocese.

Because Bishop Franz Kamphaus of Limburg defied a Vatican directive regarding the policies of Church-related counseling centers in his diocese, Pope John Paul stripped him of his authority over those centers. Bishop Kamphaus remains the head of the Limburg diocese, but his jurisdiction does not include the counseling centers-- which will now follow the policy set by Rome.

The Pope's action, announced on March 8, came after Bishop Kamphaus-- alone among the 28 diocesan bishops of Germany-- refused to comply with a Vatican policy that had been set in 1999. The policy called for an end to the issuance of certificates that could be used to fulfill the legal requirements for obtaining an abortion.

Under a German law that went into effect in 1995, women who wish to procure abortions must produce a certificate showing that they have received counseling on their options. Among the counseling centers authorized to issue such certificates, many were affiliated with the Catholic Church. Some prelates, following the lead of the late Archbishop Johannes Dyba of Fulda, immediately recognized the moral hazards involved, and insisted that Church-related agencies must not issue the certificates. Others reasoned that if they continued to offer counseling for pregnant women, they might dissuade some of them from having abortions.

Eventually the German bishops asked Pope John Paul to settle that deabte, and-- after months of inconclusive haggling-- in 1999 he issued his clear judgment: the Church-sponsored agencies must cease to issue these certificates. After a lengthy "transition period" that lasted through the end of the 2000 calendar year, the German bishops complied, with one notable exception.

In the Limburg diocese, which includes the city of Frankfurt, Bishop Franz Kamphaus refused to follow the directive from Rome. In February, the Frankfurter Allegemeine Zeitung reported that Bishop Kamphaus received a personal letter from Pope John Paul, hand-delivered by the papal nuncio in Germany, Archbishop Giovanni Lajolo, informing him that he must follow the new policy or relinquish his responsibilities. Still the bishop held firm; the German media reported that he might be willing to resign rather than implement the Vatican policy.

On March 8, the Pope took action. Rather than forcing Bishop Kamphaus to resign, he stripped the bishop of his authority over the counseling centers in the Limburg diocese. So the issuance of the abortion certificates would cease, but Bishop Kamphaus would remain in office.

Bishop Kamphaus told the Frankfurter Allegemeine Zeitung that the Vatican's action would leave a "deep wound" in the German diocese, but said that he had concluded his resignation would not help to heal that wound. Instead, he said, he would continue to act as bishop, "wounded but unbroken" by the unusual disciplinary measure.

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