Lifenews reports that the government-sanctioned abortion counselling program was the source of contention as early as 1998 when John Paul II asked German priests to stop issuing certificates saying that they have counselled pregnant women considering an abortion.
German law required counselling before a woman could have an abortion and the priests saw the program as a way to persuade women not to have one.
But the program also involves issuing a certificate allowing the abortion if the counselling fails to persuade the woman to keep her baby. The Holy See considers this as an endorsement of abortion and a violation of the pro-life teachings of the church.
The German newspaper Die Tagespos reports that Cardinal William Levada of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith asked the bishops of the European nation to distance themselves from Donum Vitae, the group that facilitates the counselling.
The newspaper says the Catholic Church in Germany officially asked parishioners in June 2006 to not work with Donum Vitae and now the Vatican wants a more active enforcement of that request.
The Donum Vitae group was founded by Catholics who disagreed with Pope John Paul's original request not to be involved in issuing certificates for abortions after the counselling.
There are about 1,500 counselling clinics in Germany, including about 250 run by the group. The German government and the Red Cross also reportedly run abortion counselling centres.
Vatican Wants German Catholic Bishops to End Abortion Counseling Ties (Lifenews, 19/3/07)
Baby survives mistaken abortion in Italy (CathNews, 9/3/07)
Bishops concerned over Sweden becoming "abortion paradise" (CathNews, 6/3/07)
20 Mar 2007