Brazil Abortion-Excommunication Debate Heats Up, Vatican Calls for Healing

International   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Mar 19, 2009   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

Brazil Abortion-Excommunication Debate Heats Up, Vatican Calls for Healing

by Steven Ertelt Editor
March 19
, 2009

Brasilia, Brazil ( — The nation of Brazil continues to be mired in controversy surrounding Brazilian bishop who excommunicated the mother, doctors and others involved in the abortion of twin babies a nine-year-old girl had. A leading pro-life spokesman at the Vatican is calling for healing in the situation.

The young girl involved in the controversy became pregnant after allegedly being subjected to sexual abuse at the hands of her stepfather, who is now in custody.

She was found to be four months pregnant when she was taken to a local hospital after complaining of stomach pains.

Although some doctors said she could have carried the pregnancy to term, other physicians said her body could not bear the pregnancy and both babies were killed in an abortion, which is legal to save the life of the mother in Brazil.

Jose Cardoso Sobrinho, the archbishop of Olinda and Recife, was upset the abortion was done and excommunicated those involved from the Catholic Church.

Cardinal Giovanni Battista Re, the head of the Catholic Church’s Congregation for Bishops, initially told the Italian daily La Stampa that Sobrinho made the right decision.

Now there is some dispute between the Vatican and the Brazilian bishops on whether the decision should have been made.

Writing in L’Osservatore Romano, the newspaper of the Catholic Church, Archbishop Rino Fisichella, the president of the Pontifical Academy for Life, has suggested that the excommunication appeared harsh and ignored the girl’s suffering.

Archbishop Fisichella lamented the excommunication saying that "such urgency and publicity was not necessary."

Fisichell said the girl "carried within her innocent lives like her own, though the fruit of violence, and they have been done away with; however, this is not enough to pass a judgment that weighs as a condemnation."

"Before giving thought to excommunication, it was necessary and urgent to safeguard the innocent life of this girl, and return her to a level of humanity of which we, men of the Church, should be expert heralds and teachers," he added.

He said what is needed now "is the sign of a testimony of closeness with the one suffering, an act of mercy that, even while firmly maintaining the principle, is able to look beyond the juridical sphere."

The Brazilian bishops responded that they had "treated the pregnant girl and her family with all charity and tenderness," and did what they could to "avoid the abortion and thus save all three lives" before the media made it an international debate.

They said excommunication had been brought up before the case generated any media attention or the abortion had been performed.

"We are convinced that the disclosure of this therapeutic penalty (the excommunication) will do much good to many Catholics, making them avoid this grievous sin," they wrote.

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