Edward Pentin began reporting on the Pope and the Vatican with Vatican Radio before moving on to become the Rome correspondent for the National Catholic Register. He has also reported on the Holy See and the Catholic Church for a number of other publications including Newsweek, Newsmax, Zenit, The Catholic Herald, and The Holy Land Review, a Franciscan publication specializing in the Church and the Middle East. Edward is the author of “The Rigging of a Vatican Synod? An Investigation into Alleged Manipulation at the Extraordinary Synod on the Family”, published by Ignatius Press. Follow him on Twitter @edwardpentin
In the face of strong opposition, one of Italy’s most notorious abortionists spoke in a Catholic church on Wednesday while pro-life Catholics were locked out, silenced or ejected.
Emma Bonino addressed the issue of immigration at the July 26 event, on the feast of St. Anne and St. Joachim, at the church of San Defendente in San Rocco di Cossato in the diocese of Biella, northern Italy (see video here).
The church had been made available to her by the parish priest, Father Mario Marchiori, despite many protests by Catholics and a sit-in aimed at blocking the meeting. The event was sponsored by a local branch of Caritas Italiana, the Church’s aid and humanitarian organization.
Bonino, who supports an open-door policy for migrants, used her talk to promote the overturning of 2002 legislation that tightened Italy’s immigration laws. More than 500,000 migrants have entered Italy in the past three years, putting strain on local services and leading to heated disputes about how many refugees the country should accept.
An Italian radical leftist and human rights activist, Bonino served as Italy’s Foreign Affairs minister from 2013 to 2014. She had an illegal abortion at the age of 27 and then worked with the Information Centre on Sterilization and Abortion which boasted of performing over 10,000 abortions carried out using a homemade device operated by a bicycle pump.
Along with the late Radical Party member Marco Pannella, Bonino has long campaigned for civil rights and individual liberty, and fought for the legalisation of abortion and drugs as well as sexual and religious freedoms.
In 2016, Pope Francis praised Bonino as one of Italy’s “forgotten greats” for her work in helping refugees in Africa, saying in an interview that he recognized she thinks differently from the Church. “[I say] patience. You have to look at people, what they do,” he said.
At Wednesday’s meeting, Bonino, who has fought against conscientious objection rights, told the audience she had agreed to speak in the church “because I come from a practicing Catholic family, but one that taught me to respect the opinion of others.”
She then claimed the world is overpopulated because of “poverty in Africa, where they are having children because they are poor” while Italy is facing “demographic decline” (Bonino and others like her believe sterilizing women and providing contraception is the answer).
Her comment prompted entrepreneur and pro-life activist Alberto Cerutti to interrupt her talk. “I merely said out loud that, with her abortion choices, she is among those responsible for the population decline,” he told Intelligonews, “at which point I was forcibly escorted out of the church.”
Cerutti said afterwards he was incensed that, despite the earlier protests, the meeting went ahead and was used to promote such “propaganda” from the Italian Radical party. He said what happened was “not a war between Catholics, but a clash between believers and secularists” which should “make us think.”
Two other Catholics, Leandro Aletti, a gynaecologist, and Giorgio Celsi of “Ora et labora,” a pro-life group, also spoke out during the event, but their protestations were drowned out by boos and whistles. Present in the audience were several other well known radicals such as Silvio Viale who led the legalization of the abortion pill RU486.
Police meanwhile questioned the group of protesters who had been praying the Rosary outside the church, and asked to see their identification and documents. Aletti said some of the police sided with the protestors.
The organizers reportedly kept the church doors tightly closed throughout the talk so that the sound of prayer would not enter the place of worship.
According to the Italian newspaper La Nuova Bussola Quotidiana, Aletti told Bonino that it was “absurd” to hear her arguments on immigration “from someone who does not accept our children.”
Bonino replied that they were old arguments that didn’t “scare” her. “I remain convinced of individual freedom, no one can tell you what to do, everyone chooses for themselves,” she said.
“We have no choice”
She then went on to say “we have no choice” but to regularize illegal immigrants “unless we want to drown them all in the Mediterranean.”
The head of the local Caritas office, Father Giovanni Perini, spoke in support of Bonino at the meeting, saying “we have no right to make life difficult for others” and accused anyone concerned about immigration of fuelling human trafficking, crime and exploitation. He made no mention of the six million Italian children killed since abortion was legalized in the country in 1978.
Father Marchiori, meanwhile, has become well known for such controversy (he twice invited pro-euthanasia campaigner Beppino Englaro to speak), but his bishop, Mons. Gabriele Mana, remained silent about the event. Despite campaigners making their concerns known to him, and the disclosure that the bishop did not agree with his priest’s actions, he said he did not want to take sides. He also reportedly made no effort to try to dissuade Caritas from sponsoring the event.
The Register contacted the bishops’ office for comment but no one was available to take our call.
Despite the depth of the controversy, it attracted little attention in Italy. For Italian journalist and bioethics expert Benedetta Frigerio, this is because supposedly intellectual civil, political and Church leaders don’t understand the situation which is visible to “simple, Christian people.”
The Church’s hierarchy is “very confused,” she said; people follow such leaders and become “ideological and confused themselves.” Others, she said, “feel lost, they don’t have a leader, and so they don’t take action and don’t know how to act.” Those who do fight, she added, are a small group, spread all over the country and so have minimal effect.
She believes the faithful and Church leaders are particularly confused on the issue of immigration, also during the pontificate of Benedict XVI, in that they believe all migrants must be welcomed.
Frigerio, who writes for La Nuova Bussola Quotidiana, told the Register July 28 it was a scandal that those Catholics firmly opposed to Bonino are equated with Islamist terrorist groups and accused of threatening peaceful coexistence. For a Catholic to defend Bonino who is so opposed to the Church, she said, is “really a disgrace.”
A false peace
Such actions, she added, go “against the faith, against Jesus Christ. We’re not able to fight for Him anymore. We’re not able to take on our shoulders the hatred of our enemies but told to prefer to be at ‘peace,’ to think we are good, that we are loved for our ego, but not able to suffer [for our faith] anymore.”
Aletti recalled the words of Bl. Paul VI who said in 1977 that such non-Catholic thought within the Church will “become the strongest [force]. But it will never represent the Church's thinking. A small flock must remain, no matter how small it is.”
Giovanni Ceroni, president of Italy’s Movement for Life in Biella, told La Nuova Bussola Quotidiana that the ultimate weapon in these circumstances is “the prayer of reparation and adoration of God.”
“In our prayers we remember Bonino and the many who were present, so blinded by ideology, but especially that priest [who] gives so much scandal to the faithful.”
“It’s possible to convert to Jesus,” he said, “by following the one True, Holy Church.”
Emma Bonino has been an abortionist, for which she has never publicly repented, as well as being politically pro-abortion. This article has been updated to reflect that.