Monday, March 09, 2009

Moral Outrage of the Week: Excommunication in Brazil

In a very sad and disturbing case from Brazil, Yahoo news reports:

“A senior Vatican cleric has defended the excommunication of the mother and doctors of a nine-year-old girl who had an abortion in Brazil after being raped…."It is a sad case but the real problem is that the twins conceived were two innocent persons, who had the right to live and could not be eliminated," he said. The girl was apparently raped by her stepfather since she was six; he also allegedly sexually abused the girl's physically handicapped 14-year-old sister -- but the stepfather is not being excommunicated -- he is still a Catholic in good standing (at least if he ‘confesses’). The doctors who carried out the abortion did so for fear that the slim girl would not survive carrying the fetuses to term; President Lula da Silva said "in this case, the medical profession was more right than the church."

As one of my colleagues commented, 'Surely, the Vatican is pursuing a foolish consistency." Couldn't the Church have acknowledged that this was a case of self-defense, like an ectopic pregnancy? (Ideally, the Church could have considered its pre-Vatican Council I [1860s] position that abortion is permitted prior to the ‘quickening,’ but I don’t see that happening any time soon). And what happens if the mother and doctor ‘confess’, like the stepfather? Will the excommunication be lifted? Or will politics outweigh morality?

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