Church-State Fight Erupts In Argentina

The Argentine government and the Vatican are in conflict over the firing of a military bishop who offered headline-grabbing comments over abortion.

In February, Argentina’s Health Minister Gines Gonzalez said that decriminalizing abortion in the country would save the lives of mothers in medical danger. Bishop Antonio Baseotto, assigned to the nation’s military, responded angrily in a letter that included a suggestion that Gonzalez be “thrown into the sea with a millstone around his neck,” which the bishop later said was a reference to a biblical passage.

But, the media pointed out that the bishop’s reference recalled the “flights of death” during the 1976-83 right-wing military dictatorship, when suspected dissidents were thrown from planes into the sea.

President Nestor Kirchner in March asked the Vatican to fire the bishop. The Vatican refused, arguing no grounds existed. Kirchner then yanked Baseotto’s state salary, effectively ending the bishop’s relationship with the military.