Archbishop Josef Cardinal Meisner caused a stir in Church circles last week when he said the morning-after pill was, in certain circumstances, not morally objectionable.
Bishops of the Münster, Aachen, Essen and Paderborn dioceses officially gave him their support on Monday, NRW paper the Westdeutsche Allgemeine Zeitung said.
In the instance of rape, medication that stopped pregnancy by halting the division of cells had the Archbishop's blessing. Chemical abortion pills, however, remained unacceptable in the eyes of the Church.
Two Catholic clinics in NRW came under fire in January after it emerged that they refused in December a woman who had been raped the morning-after pill. Their reasoning was that their medical treatment of the woman would result in ending a pregnancy, which is against Church doctrine.
The state's Health Minister Babara Steffens then said that they had failed to offer the woman thorough medical treatment and that their choice put the service available at NRW's Catholic health facilities into question.
“Now there is clarity for the future,” the state's Catholic office told the paper. The head of the office had asked for a clear opinion on the matter from the Archbishop, to prevent confusion.
Steffens called the Archbishop's decision “an important signal for securing the availability of thorough treatment for women in need at Catholic hospitals.” That other Bishops have agreed, meant that Steffens would not have to take legal action to make the pill available in Catholic institutions.