by Matthew Cullinan Hoffman, Latin America Correspondent
VATICAN CITY, October 28, 2010 (LifeSiteNews.com) - Pope Benedict XVI is telling Brazil's Catholic bishops to speak out against ideologies that justify abortion, only days before a hotly contested presidential election in which the frontrunner has been accused of supporting the decriminalization of abortion.
In a speech delivered to a group of Brazilian prelates present in Rome for a regularly-scheduled visit, Benedict stated that "in defending life we should not fear opposition and unpopularity, refusing any compromise and ambiguity that conforms us to the mentality of this world."
Calling abortion "an intrinsically evil act" that is "morally unacceptable and incompatible with the dignity of people," the pope added that "when political projects contemplate, openly or in veiled fashion, the decriminalization of abortion or euthanasia, the democratic ideal -- which is only truly such when it recognizes and safeguards the dignity of every human person -- is betrayed at its foundation."
"Any defense of political, economic, and social human rights that does not include the energetic defense of the right to life from conception to natural death is totally false and illusory," the pope also said, adding that "regarding efforts on behalf of the weakest and the most defenseless, who is more helpless than an unborn child or a sick person in a vegetative or terminal state?"
Benedict also stressed the importance of educating Catholics about their faith, and their social obligations, particularly with regard to the right to vote, noting that "on certain occasions, pastors should remind all citizens of the right, which is also an obligation, to freely use the vote itself for the the promotion of the common good."
The pope's words are likely to be read as an affirmation of Brazilian bishops and other religious leaders who have raised their voices in recent weeks against the ruling Labor Party and its frontrunner presidential candidate, Dilma Rousseff.
Rousseff and the Labor Party have publicly endorsed the decriminalization of abortion in Brazil, but during the election Rousseff has backpedaled from her previous stance. She now says that she is "personally against" abortion and even calls it an act of "violence" against women. She has signed a public statement stating her personal opposition to decriminalizing abortion, but has refused to say that she will veto pro-abortion legislation.
The vocal and very explicit opposition of some bishops in the Brazilian episcopate such as Luiz Gonzaga Bergonzini of the diocese of Guarulhos, has been denounced by other Catholic bishops, one of whom accused Gonzaga Bergonzini of violating campaign laws.
His letter encouraging people to vote against the Labor Party was removed by the National Conference of Brazilian Bishops from its website during the campaign. The pope's words are likely to bolster such prelates in their conflict with their more timid colleagues.