Saturday 7 March 2009

The compassion and courage of Brazilian archbishop in nine-year old's abortion case

You may have read reports that Archbishop José Cardoso Sobrinho of Olinda and Recife (pictured) excommunicated the mother and doctors of a nine year old girl who had an abortion when it was found she was expecting twins. According to reports the little girl had been raped by her stepfather.

Meanwhile, the Brazilian President, President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, has said "As a Christian and a Catholic I deeply regret that a bishop of the Catholic Church has such a conservative attitude."

The archbishop, of course, carried out no excommunications. What he did was to announce publicly that all those involved in the abortion have incurred in excommunication latae sententiae (automatically) "except for the little girl, who is not morally responsible for this tragic act.”

According to CNA, he said:
“All those who approved, promoted and performed the abortion, incurred automatic excommunication, according to code 1398 of the Canon Law.

“The Church usually does not announce or publicly that that is the case, but it was important for me to do it on this occasion.

“My hope is that those affected by the excommunication they brought upon themselves may change their hearts and may not wait until the proximity of death to repent.”

In other words, the archbishop's announcement is motivated by his compassion for all those involved. As a good pastor of the Church to which those involved in the abortion belong, he wants them to realise the gravity of the action they have committed and to be reconciled to God.

Thank God for Archbishop José Cardoso Sobrinho of Recife. It took enormous courage for the archbishop to make this announcement, knowing the fury that would be aroused by the media who appear to have misreported what he said worldwide. When church leaders act with such courage, countless vulnerable innocent unborn children and their young teenage mothers elsewhere in Brazil and elsewhere in the world are protected. The work of pro-life movements is also strengthened. It's also good news that the Cardinal Giovanni Battista Re, one of the Vatican's most senior officials, has backed the archbishop.

Of course it's hard to imagine a more tragic and difficult situation demanding medical attention and skill of the highest order to safeguard the lives of the three children involved - a nine year old girl and her two unborn children. Now that the abortion has taken place, I hope that those, like President Lula of Brazil, who have attacked the archbishop, will continue to take an interest in the welfare of a little girl who has suffered not only the violence of rape but also the violence of abortion, which carries the risk of long-term harm including a seriously increased risk of suicide.