Cardinal Was Principal Defender on Abortion


With all the minute by minute press coverage of Pope Benedict XVI's first papal visit to the United States, scant attention is being paid to his schedule after his charted Alitalia flight lands in Italy. One of the first orders of business in Rome will be to celebrate a funeral Mass for the Colombian Cardinal Alfonso Lopez Trujillo, head of the Catholic Church's Pontifical Council for the Family, who died this past Saturday at age 72.

For those not familiar with the hierarchy of Catholic Church, Trujillo — one of the Vatican's highest ranking cardinals and once a viable papabile, a candidate to become pope — was the Church's principal defender and point person for all issues related to the family. This meant, among other things, fighting a global battle to reject abortion and contraceptives of any kind. Instead, he chose to promote abstinence and "natural family planning," also known as the rhythm method, the latter of which has been proven ineffective at preventing pregnancy.

Trujillo was particularly active in the developing world where he preached against condom use. He argued that condoms were an ineffective prevention method against HIV/AIDS because they actually contributed to its spread by encouraging sexual promiscuity. Trujillo also argued, rather unscientifically that, "The AIDS virus is roughly 450 times smaller than the spermatozoon. The spermatozoon can easily pass through the 'net' that is formed by the condom." No matter that Trujillo's arguments were quickly debunked by the World Health Organization, and criticized by the European Union Commission and UNAIDS, Trujillo went so far as to recommend that condom packets include warnings, similar to those on packs of cigarettes, cautioning that condoms do not prevent but rather encourage the spread of HIV/AIDS. Trujillo wasn't single minded in his opposition to condoms; he disparaged all forms of contraception, which he referred to as "biological colonialism" imposed on poor nations by pharmaceutical companies and rich countries. This was certainly a polemical, if not persuasive, argument in regions dealing with the aftereffects of colonial rule.

Trujillo was no less outspoken about abortion, which more than contraception, emerged as his pet passion. Trujillo traveled extensively, visiting all range of local churches and massive cathedrals, inveighing against abortion. There was seemingly no audience too small for him preach to about the perils of abortion, and he readily lent his name and credibility to a host of marginal organizations, both in the U.S. and internationally, that advocated against abortion. One such group was the Staten Island-based Priests for Life, where he sat on the Episcopal Board of Advisors since the organization's inception, and which has, according to Catholics for Choice, close ties to "specialists of extreme and sometimes illegal protest."

Trujillo also inserted himself in international fora and strongly opposed advances made for reproductive rights, including the United Nations 1994 International Conference on Population and Development in Cairo, whose Programme of Action represented a radically ambitious blueprint for women's reproductive health and rights. Referring to the ongoing fight for abortion rights Trujillo said, "the battle begins in Cairo," and indeed, the Vatican, led by Trujillo, was a constant roadblock to progress on women's rights and health at the United Nations.

Born in Villahermosa, Colombia in 1935, Trujillo quickly rose through the Vatican ranks and was made a bishop at age 35 and cardinal at 48. He served as archbishop of Medellin from 1979 until 1991, when he was made president of the Pontifical Council for the Family. From 1979 to 1983 Trujillo headed the Latin American Bishops' Council and was a forceful opponent to liberation theology, the Roman Catholic social and political movement, which originated in Latin America, and applied Catholic theology to defending and improving the lives of the poor and the oppressed. Trujillo reportedly attempted to purge the Council of advocates of liberation theology. These actions established his conservative bonafides within the Vatican and made him a close associate of both John Paul II and Benedict XVI.

At Trujillo's Mass this Wednesday Pope Benedict will likely commemorate the Cardinal's work to prevent women from accessing abortion and laud his efforts to eliminate contraceptives. What will be absent from the memorial is the tally of women who died or suffered grievous injury from unsafe and illegal abortions, and the number of men and women infected with HIV.

It is unlikely that Benedict — sometimes referred to as "God's bulldog" for his fierce defense of Catholic theology — will appoint a more moderate president to the Pontifical Council for the Family. Though one never knows, change can happen in the unlikeliest of places; last week Colombia, Trujillo's home country, issued a favorable ruling extending health and pension benefits to same-sex couples.

Like this story? Your $10 tax-deductible contribution helps support our research, reporting, and analysis.

To schedule an interview with contact director of communications Rachel Perrone at rachel@rhrealitycheck.org.

  • invalid-0

    Instead, he chose to promote abstinence and “natural family planning,” also known as the rhythm method,

    Not so. The rhythm method is entirely different than modern NFP.

  • invalid-0

    To reiterate and add to the above comment: the rythm method is NOT the same as NFP, which incorporates body temperature, hormonal levels, time of month and more factors and requires training and dedication. NFP has been proved in EVERY study on it to be VERY effective, including two US government studies that were not well publicized, but showed that NFP was about 98% effective when used correctly.

  • invalid-0

    With the number of hungry people growing even as this is written, “Anonymous” is quibbling about definitions and terms?
    The blunt reality is that human sexuality being the strong drive that it is, competent birth control needs to be more reliable than celibate men telling women of the world to “keep their legs crossed and think on the Virgin Mary”.

    It took The Vatican about 400 years to admit that Galileo was right about the Earth travelling around the Sun, and almost 2000 years to change the dogmatic taboo against human cremation. How many millions will die of starvation and/or overpopulation-driven wars before the Roman Catholic Church changes its medieval mindset against human sexuality and birth control?

  • http://www.nfpandmore.org invalid-0

    Cardinal Lopez Trujillo was also an adcocate of another form of natural family planning that gets little attention even in the NFP movement, namely, ecological breastfeeding. When mothers follow the Seven Standards of Ecological Breastfeeding, they experience, on average, between 14 and 15 months before their fertility returns. The Cardinal so appreciated my wife’s work in this field that on his own intiative he wrote the Forewords to her two books, “Breastfeeding and Natural Child Spacing” and “Breastfeeding and Catholic Motherhood.”

    John F. Kippley
    http://www.NFPandmore.org

  • invalid-0

    If there is a god in heaven, Alfonso Lopez Trujillo is now in hell suffering the ravages of AIDS and agony of unanesthetized childbirth, fates to which he was personally responsible for consigning countless of his fellow humans while he was alive. When ideology and lies replace compassion and facts, people, actual human beings and not philosophical absrtactions, suffer and die, many of them horribly. It is long past time to take off the gloves and start calling zealots like Cardinal Trujillo to account for the pain and death they spread in the world (the real world in which we live, not the fairyland in which they apparently believe we ought to live).
    Let me also state categorically that many, perhaps most, of the individuals I mean by “people like Cardinal Trujillo” are not Roman Catholics. Regular readers of this blog know very well what people I mean; we read about them here every day.

  • invalid-0

    Natural family planning is very effective for women who live where they have equal rights but it is not going to work for women in developing nations where they are not allowed to say no to their husbands. For NFP to work the man and woman must agree to abstain from intercourse or use barrier methods while she is fertile(which is what I did for many years==now in menopause so don’t have to worry anymore–yea!) Also NFP is certainly not going to protect from STD’s which is a big problem in many nations where men go to prostitutes and it does not matter if the wife is monogous!

  • invalid-0

    Do we not agree that the effectiveness of this Natural Family Planning is moot, since people in developing countries are rather busy not monitoring their hormone levels and body temperatures? Being slightly less self-centered means that you understand the whole of a situation in which people are in a different scenario than oneself.

  • invalid-0

    This is misleading.

    Not all women show clear signs of fertility. If a woman’s symptoms are weak, unusual, or ambiguous, NFP becomes abstinence. Since the couple cannot clearly determine when the woman can become pregnant, the couple cannot safely have sex.

    The reality is that NFP is about 83% effective at preventing pregnancy, in part because the fertile days are not easy to figure out, but the major reason is because married couples have difficulty with that much abstinence.

  • invalid-0

    The studies that claim that NFP is 98% effective throw out the couples that knowingly have sex on fertile days.

  • invalid-0

    I was sad to see that the hyper-link of “natural family planning” had no definition. It is actually a very scientific approach to a women’s fertility health care. It helps achieve (yes, some people do want to have children and can’t) and avoid pregnancy. It is not rhythm. It is worth checking out http://www.creightonmodel.com.

  • invalid-0

    Wow, Imagine that, a priest being pro-life or anti-choice.
    It’s really sad that you would hope that anyone would burn in hell. The man didn’t tell millions of people to have sex and contract a deadly disease. It is cause and effect. People have indiscriminate sex and get STDs. Period. Those people then spread it to others, innocent and not so innocent. If people would keep their pants up and their legs crossed there would be alot less STDs, don’t you think?
    I applaud this man. He stood up for the rights of innocents. That is something to be commended.

  • invalid-0

    you applaud this man??? how? he is blatantly sexist and couldn’t care less about those who disagree with his ridiculous radical views. the fact that abstinence is 100% effective is common knowledge, and more needs to be done to help those who will not or cannot abstain. like somone else said, these women cannot say no to their husbands, and their husbands likely cheat on them anyway. this man deserves the torture in hell awaiting him.

  • invalid-0

    Again, NFP is NOT the rhythm method. Not. Not. NOT. I was extremely pleased when I reached the comment section and found I didn’t even really need to add mine regarding that patently false statement claiming the two are the same. But I will anyway. :) Insofar as effectiveness goes, indeed, IF it’s done properly, studies have found 98% or higher success rates, which is fantastic. It’s worked for my wife and I thus far [fingers crossed, 'cause we don't follow the rules as well as we should...]. Anyway, boo to ancient, outdated, dangerous religious teachings discouraging contraceptives and common sense. Power to the people, not the power-hungry church! Peace.

  • http://www.myspace.com/7558749 invalid-0

    You might as well be speaking out against Muslim imams who preach against eating pork.

    It is his faith, and his faith says that contraception is unclean.

  • http://www.myspace.com/7558749 invalid-0

    Criticizing Jews because their activism against pork puts pig farmers out of business?

    These are harmless religious beliefs.