Sometimes I think some Catholics just need to grab a paper bag and breathe into it. I wasn’t following this story too much as it broke last week, but I was aware that excommunications were flying around in Brazil in the aftermath. Now we have a bishop calling out other bishops over it. Something of a crack in the episcopal club, it would seem.
One headline on a Catholic site termed it a “backpedal.” That’s not accurate. There are a lot of voices in the Catholic Church, and some of them even contradict at times. In this one it seems that Archbishop Jose Cardoso Sobrinho, supported by Cardinal Giovanni Battista Re (Congregation for Bishops) gets contradicted by Archbishop Rino Fisichella (Pontifical Academy for Life). Or sort of.
The act of performing an abortion or procuring one draws an automatic penalty of excommunication. So Archbishop Sobrinho is just stating a reality that already exists. Or is he?
I was thinking about a sixty-six pound girl pregnant with twins. Newborn twins weigh what, four to eight pounds? This girl’s pregnancy would be equivalent to an adult woman bearing two eight to sixteen pound babies, with the prospect of giving birth through the hips of a boy. I think girls achieve fertility without the full set of skeletal and other adaptations that come with puberty, right? Toss in psychological abuse, malnutrition, stress, and any other set of problems, and it’s not so clear the abortion was so heinous.
By the way, you all do know the medical justification for so-called partial birth abortion, right? That’s an important thing to separate from the horror. You do realize it’s not intended to be an act of torture to let the fetus come almost all the way out before crushing her or his skull, right? The passage of the head through the birth canal is traumatic, dangerous, and the life-threatening stage to a mother who is physically unprepared to bear a child. The cruelty to the fetus is not the point, but a legitimate danger to the mother.
From Archbishop Fisichella to the young girl:
We are on your side. We feel your suffering and we would like to do everything that would help you restore the dignity that you have been deprived of and the love that you will still need.
There are others who deserve excommunication and our forgiveness, not those who have allowed you to live and who will help you regain hope and trust despite the presence of evil and the wickedness of many people.
Good question here: why doesn’t rape justify an excommunication? Lots of people ask why the grandmother and doctors were singled out, and not the father of the child. It’s a good question, but I don’t think you’ll find it answered in the sexist milieu of Brazilian culture and church.
Archbishop Fisichella seems to get that the pro-life cause needs a more compassionate face. It is clear that one party in this situation was operating from sinful self-interest. Funny how he got off scot-free, ecclesiastically speaking.