The Catholic News Agency Austria, Kath.net, reports that Salzburg Auxiliary Bishop Andreas Laun has caused a stir in the German press by saying publicly that businessman Richard Lugner has been excommunicated.
Lugner's initial response was to threaten a lawsuit against the bishop but did not go through with the threat, the report says.
In an interview with the news agency, Bishop Laun was asked if Lugner's action constituted an automatic excommunication (latae sententiae).
Bishop Laun said "Certainly. The catechism says: 'The formal cooperation in an abortion is a grave delict. The Church punishes this violation with the penalty of excommunication.'"
"Because Lugner cooperates in abortions, by letting them happen in his shopping mall," the Bishop explains, "the norm applies to him and he is excommunicated."
Scandal broke when Erich Leitenberger, the press secretary of Cardinal Christoph Schonborn, came to Lugner's defence.
Leitenberger, also the editor-in-chief of the Catholic Press Agency in Germany Kathpress, criticised Kath.net and Bishop Laun saying, "Academic discussions about excommunication will not help to save the right to life of even one child."
However, in later comments, Cardinal Schonborn backed Bishop Laun, saying that "the destruction of life must not be made banal and viewed like a shopping trip. It must not be that a society is viewed as a way out. Everything you need to know about abortion is to be found in the Fifth Commandment."
In an interview with Kath.net, Cardinal Schonborn said that he had asked Lugner to not sign a contract with the abortion clinic. He added that he was pleased with the discussion the controversy had caused.
Meanwhile in another story, the US Catholic News Agency reports that Spanish Bishop Gerald Demetrio Fernandez of Tarazona has praised the efficient and generous work of the Spanish Caritas organisation Manos Unidas to help to the poor and needy, underscoring that the Catholic NGO, in contrast with other aid organisations, does not make acceptance of contraception a condition for helping poor countries.
And in Panama, the government has backed away from plans to legalise abortion following massive protests called for by Archbishop Dimas Cedeo of Panama City.
Austrian Bishop Laun Says Mall Owner Excommunicated... (Kath.net, 7/2/07)
Pope urges Italian bishops to defend culture of life (Catholic World News, 7/2/07)
LINKS (not necessarily endorsed by Church Resources)
Bishop Andreas Laun (Catholic Hierarchy)
Bishop praises NGO for excluding contraception requirement from aid to the poor (Catholic News Agency, 7/2/07)
Black pro-life leader says abortion ratios point to racism (Catholic News Agency, 7/2/07)
Important pro-life victory in Panama: government steps back from legalizing abortion (Catholic News Agency, 7/2/07)
8 Feb 2007