Friday, March 6, 2009

Pro Life Or Absolute Insanity?

Brazil Church condemns abortion of twins
Published: March 06, 2009--The Australian

The Brazilian Church has announced the excommunication of those responsible for an abortion carried out on a nine year girl who had been pregnant with twins after allegedly being raped by her stepfather.

Local Archbishop Jose Cardoso Sobrinho, said the Church was excommunicating all those responsible for the abortion: the medical team and the girl's mother, The Australian reports.
"God's law is above any human law. So when a human law ... is contrary to God's law, this human law has no value,'' Archbishop Cardoso told the news television network Globo.

"The adults who approved, who carried out this abortion, will be excommunicated," said the archbishop for the Recife region.

The case has sparked off fierce debate in Brazil, where abortion is illegal except in cases of rape or if the woman's health is in danger.

The girl, who was not identified because she is a minor, was last week found to be four months' pregnant after being taken to hospital suffering stomach pains.

Officials said she told them she had suffered sexual abuse by her stepfather since the age of six.
He was arrested a week ago and is being kept in protective custody. If convicted, he faces up to 15 years in prison.

The website of Globo reported that another girl, aged 11, was being looked after in a hospital in southern Brazil after being found to be seven months' pregnant following alleged sexual abuse at the hands of her adoptive father.


In Brazil, abortion is illegal except in circumstances in which the mother's life is threatened or the fetus is judged non viable, or forcible rape. In this case the nine year old girl presented with all three exceptions. At 80 lbs and nine years of age her medical advisers determined her uterus was too small to carry one baby to full term, much less two. Of course, this doesn't matter to the Catholic Church as legal is not necessarily moral. As the Archbishop says, "God's law is above any human law."

So here we have a case where a nine year old girl is impregnated by her step father. While he sits in jail, the archbishop excommunicates the girl's medical team and her mother. Secular law imprisons the perpetrator while ecclesial law excommunicates the girl's support system.

Most of the commentary I have read about this story is furious with the Church not excommunicating the girl's step father. The truth is the step father has not engaged in an excommunicable offense. In fact, raping his step daughter is actually seen as a more moral sexual act than having sex with his wife if they were using birth control. Raping his nine year old step daughter is a sexual act open to procreation. According to the Church, God's law favors rape over birth control. God's law is sure tough on women and nine year old girls.

What did the Archbishop expect a competent medical team to do in this case? Let this child bring two dead babies into the world at the imminent threat to her own life. Would three potential deaths then satisfy the Archbishop and by extension God? Did he really expect that the professional medical community would allow this girl to potentially die, and certainly suffer, so they could save their own souls? Is this really the bottom line in Catholicism? Save your own soul at the expense of any reasonable expression of compassion? The Archbishop's use of excommunication certainly seems to say so.

This morning I watched a speech given by the historical theologian Karen Armstrong in which she makes the case that all the great spiritual traditions base their core teaching in the Golden Rule. Confucius actually stated this rule 5000 years before Christ. Armstrong maintained that real religion is about compassion and practicing compassion. It's in the practice of compassion that religious people find a relationship with God. When religions place doctrinal belief ahead of compassion, they cease to function as meaningful contributors to the collective good and become sectarian and divisive. They also excommunicate professional medical people who are exercising ethical compassion and mother's who care about their children.

This lack of meaningful compassion as played out in the pro life debate is becoming more and more obvious. In many cases Catholics who are pro choice ground that decision in compassion, not obstinate disobedience to Papal authority. This seems to be a distinction that is lost on pro lifers. It's a distinction that needs to be acknowledged if Catholicism is going to appear as anything other than a sectarian religion on a rampage against secular culture.

Compassion needs to be extended beyond the fetus and include the mother, just as accountability for abortion must extend beyond the mother and include the father. Rape is not about the decision of a nine year old girl. Her circumstances were dictated by the perverted sexuality of her step father. He is the causal agent, and as such should be excommunicated. In the secular world this makes perfect sense, but in the convoluted world of Catholic moral theology the step father is the more moral agent. This is only possible when absolutism trumps compassion. When adherence to doctrine supersedes human decency. What a sorry state of affairs.


  1. I think you're absolutely right in noting the hypocrisy of the lack of compassion in the "pro-life" movement. Considering that this young, vulernable, nine-year-old girl's situation was not fully taken into account or consideration by Church officials but was dismissed as an "act against God" is absurd. This is just another example of how members of the hiearchy fail to try and comprehend the real lives of everyday individuals and just condemn and say "NO" "THATS A SIN!" Obviously, and especially for a girl so very young, the termination of her pregnancy must have been a horrible experience. But the fact that this was at the fault of her step-father and that twins had been conceived...this in no way managed to changed the Bishop's mind...And why punish all those invovled? Who were only trying to give the girl sincere support and genuine help. Just another unfortunate example of how tone-deaf the Church is becoming with regards to society and people's real life experiences...

  2. For the medical staff this was an ethical decision, mandated by correct professional medical ethics.

    What would have happened to them had they not done the medically indicated treatment and let the girl and her twins die? Would the church have given them any support, or would the ensuing disgust with the medical team keep them silent?

    Karen Armstrong makes the point that there is no room for compassion in absolute doctrine. This case certainly makes her point.

  3. In all the debates I have read over the years concerning abortion, I rarely saw any comments regarding the role of males. In fact, if one did not know any better, one could assume that women get pregnant all by themselves.

  4. Oh Mercy! This is beyond anyone's worst theological or humane nightmare. . .The heartlessness in this leaves one speechless. . .Can we even begin to imagine the nine year old child trauma from this. . .

    The abuse since age six
    Pregnant at nine with twins
    Mother and support team excommunicated. . .

    The guilt of step-father in prision. .

    The procedure of abortion at age nine. . .

    This child has gone through a holocaust of heart. . .

    This is act against God?

    This is compassionate care?

    This is consistent with God's law?

    God's law is above any human law?
    (someone please tell me where GOD ever said anything about abortion?

    This is CHILD ABUSE and the worst ABUSE is that coming from the Church, for it is deep violating SPIRITUAL ABUSE to this child. . .

    This is theological and sickness!

    I wish i had not read this one and that there is child in such great distress at the hands of those that should of protected and supported her the most. . .

  5. Sparrow, I know where you're coming from. When I first read this I was furious and confused and literally struck dumb. I can truthfully say I finally felt the concept of being scandalized.

    How much more horror can one little nine year old girl endure? I guess according to the Archbishop she should be thankful he deemed her to young to be excommunicated. Wow.

  6. "Local Archbishop Jose Cardoso Sobrinho, said the Church was excommunicating all those responsible for the abortion: the medical team and the girl's mother, The Australian reports.
    "God's law is above any human law. So when a human law ... is contrary to God's law, this human law has no value,'' Archbishop Cardoso told the news television network Globo."

    "Contrary to God's law" Archbishop Jose Cardoso Sobrinho says? He claims to know God's law? That "this human law has no value?"

    The inhuman law would be the letter of the law in his beliefs that the Archbishop is favoring for the stepfather and his incestuous vile sperm, for violence against a little child - of which this Archbishop needs reminding that Jesus said that anyone who goes against these little ones would be better off having a millstone around their neck and better off not ever having been born.

    Furthermore, the Archbishop, in favoring the inhumane law against the innocence of this child and her mother and the doctors and nurses has made himself as guilty as the stepfather, in my opinion. His human law is to herald the incestuous sperm as the King, and as a god to worship, and he is idolizing the sperm of the incestuous rapist step-father of little children.

    Such sperm who are violently impregnated into especially little girls need not be glorified when they are implanted in such an innocent womb.

    The Archbishop is insane to idolize sperm over God's law of Love. This step-father did not LOVE this child, but broke all of God's laws.

  7. I am confused. The NCR site has a story of a 9 year old in Nicaragua who was pregnant with twins whose family was excommunicated by Cardinal Obando y Bravo after she got an abortion. Are their 2 stories? Or? If you click on the story for more information, the date is March 6, 2003?

  8. This post epitomizes what I believe is the real heart that drives the leadership of the catholic church.

    If this were an isolated case, it would be tragic. It is not. It is simply one more in an endless litany of actions, actions that span decades, that provide us with undisputable evidence of the perverted mentality and the amoral consciousness of the ecclestical leadership of the catholic church.

    Excommunicating a mother who did not want her 9 year old daughter to die in childbirth, and at the same time offering forgiveness and communion to the man who raped her for 3 years, that really says it all.

    If this is what being catholic is truly about, if this is what is required to be a "real" catholic, then I am so glad I'm a protestant heretic.

    I cant wait for this to hit NCR and see what perverted rationalizations the "faithful orthodox" will use to justify this perversion.

  9. Cool mom, it wouldn't surprise me if this exact scenario happened in Nicaruaga because the truth is the theology calls for this exact response.

    What really angers me is these situations, which happen with more frequency than we want to admit are never ever used to condemn the men involved. They are used to revictimize the women involved and punish medical professionals for doing the humane, ethical, and compassionate thing for the child.

  10. The NCR article does track back to 2003. I wonder if the gal with the Denver Examiner did an insufficient Google search.

  11. Interesting when I read the article on NCR earlier today it linked to a different news source than it does now. Now it links to the New York Times. Wish I had paid more attention.

    Regardless of when it happened, the Catholic Church's response is still perverted.

    Allowing my cynicism to have a moment in the spotlight now -- why should we be surprised, we've known for a long time that a significant number of those who are leading the catholic church are perverts.

  12. To show the depths of perversion, this was in the New York Times Article:

    Marcio Miranda, a lawyer for the Archdiocese of Olinda and Recife in northeastern Brazil, said the girl should have carried the twins to term and had a Caesarean section.

    A 9 year old should have carried them to term then had a C-section???

    This is leadership we are supposed to trust?

  13. Carl, thank you for the link and the update. I used the Australian and the BBC for my commentary. It's nice to see the NCR clean up it's link and direct to an American source.

    The implications of this story go way beyond the pro life abortion debate and directly into the concept of compassion.

    I really did not want to think that my sources were wrong as to time and date. This is not an issue which needed to be clouded by innacurate soureces, and I was loathe to think I might have been such.

  14. "Marcio Miranda, a lawyer for the Archdiocese of Olinda and Recife in northeastern Brazil, said the girl should have carried the twins to term and had a Caesarean section."

    There is no way that if I had a daughter and she was raped and got pregnant with twins at 9 that I could with any sense of humanity allow her to carry it to term and then have a cesarian. It would be reckless endangerment to the little girl to put her through such a nightmare psychologically, not to mention the possibility of her death. Any parent that would see it as the right thing to do and follow such a bishop is a parent that no longer loves its child or has any real connection with any compassion for her as a human being, as a child, and in a very true sense has abandoned that child.

    This story is just so awful. It is bad enough that she was raped since she was 6. It's bad enough that she was raped in her childhood. The audacity to say "she should have carried the twins to term and had a cesarian" is mindlessness, lovelessness, hopelessness, outrageousness....

    Just pitiful of someone to have their lawyer come out and tell people this. The Bishop was too much of a wimp to stand on his own two feet and had to call his lawyer to speak for him. Too much of a wimp, but he is telling a 9 year old little girl who was raped what she should have done? And, oh, what he thinks she should have done he could never do. Just like a true Pharisee they place burdens on others but don't lift a finger to help them.

    The Archbishop is an evil man, devoid of good human decency. I cannot say how gut wrenching this is to hear is going on, and from a Church that says it believes in Jesus Christ. What a load of crap!

  15. Colleen. . i came back to apologize for having such a strong reaction this morning when i read it. . .but after re-reading and the comments. . .i lost the apology. . .

    May he be swallowed by the picture frame behind his head. . .wish it had teeth on it. . .

  16. This quote from Abraham Joshua Heschel might be appropriate for this post?

    " We worry a great deal about the problem of the church and state. Now what about the church and God?

    Sometimes there seems to be a greater separation between the church and God than between the church and state."

  17. does this smell of taliban mentality? I believe we see these same kind of stories wherever they are in control...only they murder the victimized girls/women.

  18. This comment has been removed by the author.

  19. That was me that deleted as I saw a typo I had to fix.

    mlou, I think it does smell of "taliban mentality."

    In the NCR comments to an article about Sibelius' new job I could not help but hear the Taliban mentality and some of the "faithful orthodox" ignorant men and women support it, just as some men and women support female circumcision as an age old tradition! Blah!!

    river, I am glad you did not apologize. There is nothing for you to apologize for being outraged by this insanity of punishing the victims who were helping this poor little child. I am very outraged at this story. Every man and woman of true Christian character should be outraged. We should let our voices shrill to such decibel levels about this story that those perverts with no compassion will long for the silence of hell and depart from our midst forever.

    Word is twinge

  20. There is quite an interesting thread unfolding on NCR:

    It really does show the diversity of opinion that permeates the catholic laity today. It also shows the depths of illogic that people will us to rationalize a position.

    I marvel sometimes when I think of the cafe, how the people who were regulars there were rarely posting to articles, and the people who posted regularly to the articles, rarely frequented the cafe. I wonder what it was that caused that?

    chooshmi - what a fun word to play with

  21. It is an interesting thread Carl. It does reveal a lot.

    I think that some people didn't know about the Cafe and they just stayed there. When the changes were made to upgrade NCR we were given a choice of format. I chose the old format because I had an old computer at the time and the old format seemed easier to read with the type of screen I had. Maybe depending on which format you liked you received a link to either the cafe or to the new format. I don't know though; just speculating.

    It is very difficult to read some of the right wing rants on there of the same old stories to issues and their thinking is just unthinkable nonsense and they are young and really not knowing what they are really doing. There are a lot of parrots there just repeating what someone told them. They really haven't thought it all out. They are going on faith in whatever the authorities in the Church say from the depths of their illogic, a very fundamentalist conservative point of view. They seem to be a force for regression and repression of anything foreign to their understanding.

    And then there are some really good comments that bring the light of intelligence into that dark room.

    word is reast and it's pointing east