Sunday, July 5, 2009

A Pro Life Archbishop Gets The Progressive Treatment At Retirement

Pope accepts resignation of Brazilian who spoke about girl's abortion
By Cindy WoodenCatholic News ServiceVATICAN CITY (CNS) --

Pope Benedict XVI has accepted the resignation of the Brazilian archbishop at the center of a controversy over excommunications related to the case of an abortion performed on a 9-year-old rape victim.

The pope accepted the resignation of Archbishop Jose Cardoso Sobrinho of Olinda and Recife July 1, the day after the archbishop's 76th birthday. Under canon law, bishops must submit their resignations when they turn 75.

At the same time, 62-year-old Bishop Fernando Saburido of Sobral, Brazil, was named as his replacement. With the appointment, he automatically becomes an archbishop.

In early March doctors at a hospital in Recife performed an abortion on the girl, who was pregnant with twins, weighed a little more than 66 pounds and reportedly had been raped repeatedly by her stepfather from the time she was 6 years old. Abortion in Brazil is illegal except in cases of rape or if the mother's life is in danger.

Interviewed by the media after the abortion, Archbishop Sobrinho noted that abortion always was a sin and that, according to canon law, anyone participating in the abortion -- including the girl's mother and her doctors -- would automatically incur excommunication.

He told a newspaper that while it was true the child ran health risks if she continued the pregnancy, "the end does not justify the means. The good aim of saving her life cannot justify the killing of two other lives."


This has to be some sort of record for the acceptance of a resignation and the assignment of one archbishop for another--especially conservative. Archbishop Cardoso Sobrhino most certainly came under a great deal of world wide negative publicity for his stance in this particular case. His designate replacement, Bishop Saburido, also served in the past as an auxiliary bishop for his new archdiocese.

Lifesite News, a Canadian Catholic pro life site, has it's suspicions of what this speed of change is all about. They see Archbishop Cardoso as a heroic martyr to the pro life cause:

Heroically Pro-Life Brazilian Archbishop's Resignation Accepted Under Cloud of Vatican Newspaper Misrepresentation
By John-Henry Westen RECIFE, Brazil, July 1, 2009 ( -

This morning, the Vatican announced that Pope Benedict XVI accepted the resignation of Archbishop Jose Cardoso Sobrinho, the metropolitan archbishop of Olinda and Recife. The pope appointed Bishop Fernando Antonio Saburido as his successor. Pro-life activists around the world are very familiar with Archbishop Cardoso for his heroic defense of the unborn despite criticism he received even from Archbishop Salvatore (Rino) Fisichella, the President of Pontifical Academy for Life. (Pro life activists aren't the only people familiar with Archbishop Cardoso.)

The acceptance of his resignation at this time has raised many questions; however, there is no evidence to indicate that it was undertaken as a punitive measure. The Vatican announcement merely states that the archbishop's "resignation from the pastoral care of the same archdiocese the Holy Father accepted, upon having reached the age limit."

Bishops are required to submit a letter of resignation to the Pope on the completion of their 75th year, but accepting the resignation is at the discretion of the Pope. Archbishop Cardoso just turned 76 yesterday.

For his ardent defense of the lives of unborn twins, Archbishop Cardoso has been vilified in the media since February of this year. The media pounced on the archbishop due to his action in the very hard case of a nine-year-old girl who was raped by her step-father and was carrying twins.
The priest involved and Archbishop Cardoso himself did everything in their power to work with the family and the child to assist them with their needs and also to save the lives of the twins she was carrying. An international abortion lobby group was pushing the family to have the girl abort, apparently seeing the case as a golden opportunity to press for legal abortion in the nation. (Abortion in cases of rape, incest, and threat to the mother's life were already legal in Brazil. That fact makes this statement highly suspect.)

As a last-ditch effort to save the lives of the unborn twins, after the girl was moved by pro-abortion activists to an unknown location, the archbishop announced that those involved in procuring the abortions would suffer an automatic excommunication. (The Archbishop's announcement came after the abortion, not before.)

The international anti-life media jumped on the announcement, portraying the archbishop as heartless and cruel. At first the archbishop was defended by his confreres in the episcopate locally and also by the Vatican's Prefect for the Congregation of Bishops Cardinal Battista Re.
However, the relentless media attacks and falsifications, coupled with public denunciations from political leaders including Brazil's health minister as well as its President, began to affect even his brother bishops. (The bigger issue here is that Archbishop Cardoso made it very evident to the eyes of the world that the pre born were more important than the born. In a real sense he was saying the 'creation' is more important than the 'creator'. This is what prompted some of the remarks from his brother bishops.)

The most devastating rejection of Archbishop Cardoso's actions came from the President of the Pontifical Academy for Life in the pages of the Vatican newspaper L'Osservatore Romano. Without ever having consulted his brother Archbishop in Brazil, Archbishop Fisichella launched what has been seen as a scathing attack on Archbishop Cardoso. (Maybe the President of the Pontifical Academy for Life understands his mission is to value all life equally, not just the pre born.)

Fisichella's Vatican newspaper article implied that Archbishop Cardoso had not been caring enough for the rape victim, that he had "hastily" announced the excommunication and defended the abortionists from excommunication. Criticism from other bishops around the world followed with two French bishops and a Canadian cardinal chiming in.

When Archbishop Cardoso requested that he be permitted to defend himself in the pages of the Vatican newspaper, and correct factul errors present in Fisichella's article, his request was declined.

The world's pro-life movement followed the story closely and were, especially due to this persecution, all the more endeared to Archbishop Cardoso. Human Life International put those sentiments into reality in April as it presented Archbishop Cardoso with a prestigious award recognizing his valiant defence of life.

The award was presented by Monsignor Ignacio Barreiro-Carámbula, JD, STD, head of HLI's bureau in Rome. spoke with Monsignor Barreiro about his reaction to Archbishop Cardoso's resignation.

"It is regrettable that his resignation has been accepted without an official clarification that defends him against the unjust accusations leveled against him by Archbishop Fisichella in his article of March 15," said Monsignor Barreiro. "Nevertheless it would be an act of justice if, even after the retirement of Archbishop Cardoso, that those clarifications would be published for two reasons.

Firstly, "To clarify the confusions created by Archbishop Fisichella with regard to extreme cases. It should be made absolutely clear that under no circumstances is an abortion permitted." And, secondly, "A clarification that would underline that Archbishop Cardoso and his archdiocese paid the best pastoral care to the young girl who eventually suffered the abortion."


Pro lifers will wait until hell freezes over before Archbishop Cardoso is given an apology or receives any act of 'justice' from the Vatican. The fact the pages of L'Osservatore Romano were not offered for his clarifications and his resignation was accepted post haste and his replacement announced at the same time pretty much says it all.

The reason is this 'extreme' case showed the contradictions inherent in any absolutist moral stance. In placing a nine year old rape victim at the mercy of her twin pregnancy the Archbishop made it plain that the life of pregnant girl is not equal to the life of her unborn offspring. In making this absolute judgment Archbishop Cardoso left open doors to question all kinds of other Church moral teaching. One of those is the whole notion of self defense. Another is the whole issue of justifiable war, which also kills plenty of innocent unborn children.

His stance also brought to the forefront the idiocies in the whole tapestry of natural law sexuality which explicitly puts the act of rape morally above any other sexual act not open to procreation precisely because most rape is open to procreation. Hence it is impossible under current church law to excommunicate the causal act of the step father. This is a case in which the consequences of the original act carry more penalty than the original act itself---and those penalties are applied to neither of the original parties.

There were all kinds of reasons this high profile act of Archbishop Cardoso caused Vatican angst. In being canonically correct, the archbishop merely pointed out the incredible theological flaws in the absolutist position with regards to abortion. This case was surely a storm of publicity the Vatican neither wanted nor will applaud and undoubtedly wishes would go away. The Vatican can not afford to have thinking people come to the conclusion that adherence to the law supersedes Christian compassion and understanding. Meaningful compassion sometimes means finding meaningful loopholes.

One thing Catholics get good at is finding meaningful loopholes in otherwise stringent doctrine and almost all Catholics engage in this very thing. In that sense Archbishop Fisichella was being very Catholic in his search for compassion. It's sometimes referred to as pastoral license.

I doubt very much the acceptance of Archbishop Cardoso's retirement letter and his subsequent replacement is going to make this story go away. This is not all that unusual a story. Young girls are raped into pregnancy with far more frequency than the Church wants to admit. The only thing that makes the Brazil story unique is the amount of world wide publicity it generated. Archbishop Cardoso will never have any Vatican thanks for that.


  1. "In being canonically correct, the archbishop merely pointed out the incredible theological flaws in the absolutist position with regards to abortion."

    He sure did point out the flaws! OMG - did he ever! The entire case points out how sick a stance to be an absolutist. Strictly following Canon Law leaves no room for compassion at all for the child or her mother or the doctor who knew she wouldn't ever survive carrying twins! Anybody in their right mind who has any sense of common decency would know that a child cannot carry twins! The stupid idiots that follow the letter of the law can follow the letter of the law. But do they?

  2. Would that they followed the letter of the law about the pedophile priests...."whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to to sin, it would be better for him if a great millstone were put around his neck and he were thrown into the sea." Perhaps the same could be said of those who protected those causers of sin.

  3. Butterfly, the strict letter of the law only applies to others. When it's the self, it's the loopholes in the law.

    This thinking can be seen in the acton of many bishops that placing the welfare of abusive priests and the image of the Church was more important than the welfare of abuse victims. Avoidance of institutional scandal is a big enough loop hole to drive a B2 bomber through.

  4. "This thinking can be seen in the acton of many bishops that placing the welfare of abusive priests and the image of the Church was more important than the welfare of abuse victims. Avoidance of institutional scandal ......"

    ....seemingly at any price. Including brushing off the (more then a few....)'suicides' of US priests somehow connected to the sex abuse crisis.

    BINGO! You hit they key point: avoid scandal, smooth things over, & encourage the collective consciousness of the faithful to become conveniently senile with regard to any priest or bishop involved in the scandals or coverups.

    They care no more for this 9yo girl, then for a teenaged boy repeatedly abused by a priest....threatened not to tell.....threatened by corrupt diocesan attorneys if he does open his mouth.....and then villified by the 'oh so pious' laity, for daring to say something bad about a priest!

    What did Christ say about Canon Law, Canonists, and 'Doctors of the Law' (Bishops)?

    "for they make unsupportable burdens & lay them on men's shoulders; but a finger of their own they will not move.......their works they do to be seen by men........Woe to you Scribes & Pharisees, hypocrites! Because you have left the weightier things of the law: judgment, mercy & faith. These things you ought to have done, & not to leave those undone. Blind guides, who strain at a gnat, but swallow a camel..."

    And one need not be reminded who passed by the robbed & beaten traveler in the Parable of the Good Samaritan: a Priest & a Bishop (a Levite, the caste of the High Priests/Hierarchy/'Doctors of the Law').......