Catholic Nun Urges Church Rethink On Abortion

Sister Teresa Forcades is a world-famous Benedictine nun and medical doctor originally from Barcelona. She is also an author, scholar, and a Catalonian independence leader who holds a pro-choice view on the topic of abortion. The BBC has referred to her as ‘Europe’s most radical nun’.


Speaking in Dublin in advance of next week’s referendum on the Eight Amendment, Sister Forcades has appealed for a rethink on how Catholicism views the issue of abortion.


“I’m not pro-abortion. I don’t know anybody who is pro-abortion. It makes no sense to be pro-abortion.” she told Ruairí McKiernan in an interview for his Love and Courage podcast.


“I would like that no woman felt that she wanted to have an abortion, or she felt she needed to have it. That would be the better world, for me. But we have the real world. In the real world, if we push for laws that criminalise abortion, I think that the end result is worse than if we don’t.”


When it comes to the issue of the church campaigning for an abortion ban, Sister Forcades says the church should reconsider its position.


“How can you promote the best values that come from the Gospel?” It’s not by having the power of the state behind you. I don’t believe that’s a general belief. It’s not by forcing. It’s been done in the past, forcing conversion, it’s an absurdity. Even the text of the Bible, at the end, in Apocalypse, says: “Look, I’m at the door, and I’m knocking. If you open the door, I will come in and eat with you. And if not, I’m going to stay out.” So God cannot impose itself. The Catholic Church, and the humanistic values that it entails, and the Christian values that it entails, if they have the power of the state behind them to be imposed, they don’t progress in the world. It’s on the contrary – people just get against them. And I believe this is not good for the church, to try to impose through the criminal law that issue of abortion.”


“I think it’s better to have it as we have it in many countries in Europe, now, which is that it is not prosecuted in a criminal way, if you do it in certain circumstances, which basically is during the period where the baby is still dependent on you as a mother.”


“Of course, I would not at all, in any country, justify an abortion when you can have a delivery, and then the baby can survive outside of the mother. Because then, if you don’t want the baby, you just have to have the delivery, and then somebody else will take care of it. It can go into an incubator. But there is a period of time where the mother and the child are a very peculiar unit, and this unit, I believe, should not be forced by the state. The state should not have the power to force that, because, again, you have this value of a human life. But you also have the value of what we call personal freedom, and that’s also acknowledged by the church.”


Sister Forcades says El Salvador church influenced abortion ban is a testimony of how religious influence on the state can have devastating results. She says the ban in the Central American country is compelling doctors to report women to authorities who suffer miscarriages to avoid the risk of being associated with what might be seen as a planned abortion.


“What happens in El Salvador, because the law is so against it, is that doctors denounce the women, to avoid themselves being denounced by somebody else. Today, if a doctor in El Salvador – and that’s thanks to this hierarchy of the Catholic Church – if a doctor in El Salvador is denounced as having covered up an abortion, he or she will lose the license forever, and will go 30 years in prison. So are you going to risk that, as a doctor? That’s extreme. That’s pushing you in a situation that’s almost life and death.”


Sister Forcades says there are numerous internationally known cases of women currently enduring up to 30-year prison sentences after having miscarriages. She also goes on to quote the case of a 17-year-old woman who became pregnant after being raped.


“…she was 17 years old, she was raped, she became pregnant after the rape. Then she was already 18 while she was pregnant, and she had the spontaneous abortion, and she was denounced as having caused that. And now she’s in prison, for 20 years. So is that something that we believe should be accepted? I don’t believe that.”


Sr. Forcades was in Dublin for a New Monasticisms Ireland conference. You can listen to her interview with Ruairí McKiernan on the Love and Courage podcast which is available for free on iTunes, Spotify, Soundcloud and other podcast apps.



Teresa Forcades i Vila is a Benedictine nun at the Monastery of Sant Benet de Montserrat. Born to atheist parents in Barcelona in 1966, she had no experience of religion until the age of 15 when she took part in a school retreat that exposed her to the bible. She moved to the U.S in 1992 to study medicine at the University of New York at Buffalo and then theological studies at Harvard University. She later entered a monastery in 1997.

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