Virginia Attorney Says No Charges in Case of Catholic Charity OKing Abortion
by Steven Ertelt
July 16, 2008
Richmond, VA (LifeNews.com) — Richmond Commonwealth’s Attorney Michael N. Herring says no charges will be filed in connection with a Catholic charity that came under fire recently for allegedly helping a foreign teenager in the foster care system to have a secret abortion.
Herring says a Commonwealth Catholic Charities’ staff member did not have legal authority to sign a parental consent form for the abortion in question.
However, he said he would not prosecute the employee because there was no criminal intent to violate the state’s parental involvement law.
He told the Richmond Times Dispatch newspaper that the staffer thought the charity had the authority through the Office of Refugee Resettlement to sign the form for the 16-year-old Guatemalan girl.
The office said it would not pay for the abortion, citing federal law, but did not direct the staff to not be involved in the abortion.
The CCC staffer could have faced a Class 3 misdemeanor and a fine of as much as $500.
He said the American Life League pro-life group asked him to look into the case but told the newspaper he had decided to investigate before the organization submitted its request.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has also launched an investigation.
In the case, the Catholic charity supposedly fitted the girl, who already has one child, with a contraceptive device to prevent her from becoming pregnant.
After CCC officials learned of the pregnancy, they took the unnamed girl for an abortion and illegally signed the consent form that is supposed to be completed by a parent, grandparent or adult relative.
Bishop Francis X. DiLorenzo of the Richmond diocese issued a statement in last Monday’s edition of the Catholic Virginian apologizing for the incident.
He noted that Catholic Church officials fired four of the charity staff members involved in the case and participated in signing the abortion consent form.
"I express my profound apology for the loss of life of one of the most vulnerable among us," DiLorenzo wrote. "And I apologize for the profound embarrassment this has caused the Catholic Diocese of Richmond, and Catholics throughout the United States."
DiLorenzo said he was told of the impending abortion but said the charitys staff told him there was nothing they could do to prevent the abortion from taking place.
The incident first came to light when The Wanderer published a letter from three Catholic bishops to their colleagues with concerns about the situation.
The letter, according to the Washington Times, came in response to a federal investigation that began in April. It discussed the firing of the employees and the suspension of a staff member at the bishops’ Migration and Refugee Services agency.
HHS spokesman Kenneth Wolfe talked with the Times about the problems and said the agency could put in jeopardy the millions in funding the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops receives for foster care for immigrant children.
"These federal funds are awarded with the clear purpose of caring for unaccompanied minors here from other countries," Wolfe said. "To that end, we were surprised and disappointed to learn of a chapter of Catholic Charities using this funding to facilitate a minor procuring an abortion."
He said the case is still under investigation by federal authorities and said the USCCB has been asked to make sure a similar incident doesn’t happen again.
The abortion incident and the resulting media attention may prompt concerned Catholics and pro-life groups to ask local bishops and diocesan leaders to conduct more careful oversight on Catholic charitable groups.
The Catholic Church has a clear teaching on abortion and pro-life advocates expect related agencies to abide by those teachings and policies.
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