During the episcopal Conference of Malawi on Sunday, Catholic bishops of Malawi issued a pastoral statement on the Jubilee Year of Mercy, Catholic social teaching, and its relevance for their country, reaffirming the beauty of family life amid proposal for enacting the abortion law.
“In a country little by little marked by trends in the declining respect for human life, the Catholic Church proclaims that human life is sacred and that the dignity of the human person is the foundation of a moral vision for society. Our belief in the sanctity of human life and the inherent dignity of the human person is the foundation of all the principles of social teaching."
While the church has publicly announced its stance on abortion, abortion rights campaigners with international support are pushing for a review of abortion laws in Malawi, saying legal restrictions drive women to commit illegal abortions that are unsafe for the women’s health. Activists say the laws need to be liberalized since they infringe the women’s right to choose.
“Through the agents of the culture of death, campaigning for abortion legislation, human life is under direct attack," the bishops lamented. “In these circumstances, we wish to reaffirm that every person is precious, that people are more important than things, and that the measure of every society is whether it threatens or enhances the life and dignity of the human person.”
The prelates reflected on the Church’s Year of Mercy, saying Christ is “the face of the Father’s mercy" and that mercy is “the wellspring of Christian joy, serenity, and peace."
They encouraged the Catholic faithful to “remain united” and spirited towards in their pursuit towards attaining eternal life. They also urged women who undergo the “tormenting experience" of abortion to seek God’s mercy.
The pastoral letter also touched issues like persistent threats in Malawi; food insecurity, economic hardships, corruption, a lack of security and tribal divisions.
More than 1.63 million people, or 11 per cent of the population, are facing severe food shortages, according to a UN relief agency. Agriculture is the backbone of its economy and four in five people rely on it for income.
Malawi’s bishops think the government is responsible for Malawi facing severe food shortages. They expressed deep concern for the bad performance of their economy" and the “continuous presentation of unrealistic indicators" of economic growth.
They criticized the Malawian government for a lack of “transformative leadership," saying that “God recommends leadership that is visionary, transformative, empowering, caring, serving, protective, people-centered and obedient to Him."
“As your pastors, we cannot sit back and watch in the face of shrinking standards or lack of public service delivery, increasing gap between the rich and the poor, lack of fiscal discipline and misplaced priorities in the prevailing tough times which call for tough measures."
The bishops also spoke on dignity of the family and Homosexual rights saying:
“Despite these new challenges to the Biblical marriage between man and woman, we reaffirm the Catholic tradition that the Family is the central social
institution that must be protected, supported and strengthened and not undermined.”
“We intend to reaffirm our position that the homosexual condition is disordered, but not sinful in itself. We also affirm that once a person with this orientation or indeed a person without this orientation indulges in homosexual acts, such acts must always be judged as
objectively evil and totally unacceptable. Whatever the circumstances or reasons
behind this disordered orientation, the Church does not condemn or judge someone
because of his or her sexual orientation. In front of the homosexual orientation and
homosexual persons, the attitude of the Church is non-judgmental; yes their condition
is disordered but not sinful in itself. However, when it comes to homosexual acts or
unions, the Church does not mince words: these are objectively evil and totally
unacceptable,” the statement said.
They criticized the government for bowing down to pressure from donor community, international bodies and local human rights campaigners.
“As Pastors, we find this path very unfortunate. It is an act of betrayal on the part of those in power to sell our country to foreign practices and tendencies contrary to the will of God because of money,” they added.