VATICAN CITY (Reuters) - The Catholic Church could one day be prosecuted for its right-to-life stance by some countries where abortion is considered a woman's right, a senior Vatican cardinal said in an interview published on Thursday.
Cardinal Alfonso Lopez Trujillo, head of the Pontifical Council for the Family, criticized several Western countries for allowing abortion and introducing gay marriage and civil unions.
"I fear that faced with current legislation, speaking in defense of life, of the rights of the family, is becoming in some societies a crime against the state, a form of disobedience of the government, a discrimination against women.
"The Church risks being brought in front of some international court, if the debate gets any more tense, if the most radical opinions are heeded," Lopez Trujillo told Famiglia Cristiana, a Catholic Italian weekly.
Last week, another cardinal said he feared human rights group Amnesty International might start campaigning against countries that make abortion a crime. The group said it was discussing the issue but no decision had been made.
In his interview, Lopez Trujillo, a 70-year-old Colombian, said scientists who experiment on embryonic stem cells should be viewed in the same light as abortionists and be barred by the Church from taking Communion.
"Destroying an embryo equals abortion and that excommunication goes for the woman, the doctors and the scientists who eliminate the embryo," he said.
The Church teaches that communion bread and wine are the body and blood of Christ and that those in a state of sin should not receive it. The sanction automatically applies for people who perform abortions.
The cardinal singled out Spain, Belgium, the Netherlands and Nordic countries for "exporting" socially liberal policies, particularly granting homosexual and non-married heterosexual couples the same rights as married men and women.
"We are changing the definitions about life: male and female, father and mother are disappearing. Everyone becomes a 'partner'," he said.
"Civil unions are a legal fiction, two people who promise each other nothing, who promise nothing to their children nor to the state but want the same rights as marriage." He said gay marriage was "absolute nothingness".
Italy's new centre-left government plans to grant certain legal rights for unmarried couples, including gay ones, but Catholic members of Italy's Prime Minister Romano Prodi's coalition have blocked any move to recognizing gay marriage.
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