Bishop Juan Alberto Mata Guevara of Estelí, Nicaragua and the bishop’s conference of Nicaragua have achieved a beautiful pro-life result in their Central American country that we wish to recognize with the Cardinal von Galen Award. Bishop Mata is head of the department for lay movements, the laity and the family for the Nicaraguan bishops and actively supported a successful drive to eliminate the last exceptions permitting so-called “therapeutic abortion” in his nation’s penal code in 2006. Prior to the law’s passage by a unanimous vote of 59-0, a signature drive calling for this pro-life reform collected almost 300,000 names. The bishops then led a 200,000 person march for life to the steps of the Congress building. This is most impressive in a country of five and half million souls.
Faced with a clear pro-life majority from the people and their representatives, members of international groups attempted to intimidate the president into refusing to sign it into law. Members of CLADEM-an influential Latin American Feminist organization, the UN Committee on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), the UN Development Programme (UNDP), the Organization of American States (OAS) and ambassadors from European Union (EU) nations pressured Nicaragua to reconsider the pro-life law. These threats resulted in legal challenges to the reform of the penal code and the loss of economic development aid.
Repeated attacks on the 100% pro-life law of Nicaragua have consistently met with defeat thanks to the unwavering strength of the pro-life movement and the Church. The bishops wrote to the legislators of Nicaragua and urged them to “defend our sovereignty and values without allowing outside pressure that does not recognize the precious gift of life to manipulate us.” These noble words from the pastors of the Catholic Church are typical of the strong leadership that has triumphed over so many obstacles in Nicaragua.
Several years ago Bishop Mata raised his voice to denounce the terrible manipulation by radical feminists of a poor young girl. “Rosa” was raped and conceived a child. Pro-abortion groups tried to force Nicaragua to permit an abortion in this case. When they failed to get government sanction, they defied the authorities and had an illegal abortion performed on her. Recently it was revealed that the rapist was this girl’s stepfather whom the feminists had embraced and supported in his demand for an abortion. Clearly he wanted to conceal his crime, and they did everything to make this possible.
The steadfast defense of life by Bishop Mata and the bishops of Nicaragua is a shining example for the rest of the world. Nicaragua joins a growing list of Latin American countries with complete protection for human life from conception. HLI is honored to work with them in fostering this triumph of the culture of life. We look forward to increased reverence for innocent human life as the Church takes a leading role in awakening this insight which is deeply planted in every human soul.