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Sunday, March 08, 2009

Not the transfiguration

It's Sunday and maybe I should post something about the beautiful readings instead of this icky mess, but here it is anyway ....

Doubtless you've seen the story (Nine-year-old’s abortion stirs Brazil debate) about the nine year old, 80 lb Brazilian girl who was pregnant with twins thanks to rape by her stepfather, who was advised by doctors to have an abortion for the sake of her physical health, and whose mother and doctors were then excommunicated by the Archbishop of Olinda and Recife,? Latest news is that the Vatican backs the Archbishop up. Guess I don't need to mention the stepfather wasn't excommunicated. Here's a little of the story ...

Debate in Brazil about the long taboo subject of abortion — which remains illegal except in cases of rape and when the mother’s life is in danger — has sprouted in recent years. The country’s Supreme Court is due to rule this year on whether the exceptions can extend to anencephalic pregnancies, when the fetus has no brain. But despite a rise in the number of legal abortions in recent years, opposition to reform remains stiff — principally from the Catholic Church, but also among a majority of Brazilians, polls show. Pope Benedict made opposition to abortion the cornerstone of his visit to the world’s most populous Catholic country two years ago.

Human Rights Watch voiced concern in a recent report that some states and cities were being pressured by the Church and other groups into making it harder for women to get reproductive health care and contraception. It also criticized a “recent resurgence of police raids of alleged clandestine abortion clinics and prosecutions of its clients and providers.” At least 200,000 clandestine abortions are performed in Brazil every year, officials estimate.

And this from the BBC story Vatican backs abortion row bishop ....

Brazil only permits abortions in cases of rape or health risks to the mother. Doctors said the girl's case met both these conditions, but the Archbishop of Olinda and Recife, Jose Cardoso Sobrinho said the law of God was above any human law. He said the excommunication would apply to the child's mother and the doctors, but not to the girl because of her age.

Cardinal Re, who heads the Roman Catholic Church's Congregation for Bishops and the Pontifical Commission for Latin America, told La Stampa that the archbishop had been right to excommunicate the mother and doctors ....

The girl, who lives in the north-eastern state of Pernambuco, was allegedly sexually assaulted over a number of years by her stepfather, possibly since she was six. The fact that she was four months' pregnant with twins was only discovered after she was taken to hospital in Pernambuco complaining of stomach pains. Her stepfather was arrested last week, allegedly as he tried to escape to another region of the country. He is also suspected of abusing the girl's physically handicapped 14-year-old sister.

And this bit from a TIME artucle ....

The Church excommunicated the doctors who performed the procedure as well. "God's laws," said the archbishop, dictate that abortion is a sin and that transgressors are no longer welcome in the Roman Catholic Church. "They took the life of an innocent," Sobrinho told TIME in a telephone interview. "Abortion is much more serious than killing an adult. An adult may or may not be an innocent, but an unborn child is most definitely innocent. Taking that life cannot be ignored."

Strange, I never got that "innocent life is worth more than non-innocent life" memo. Sometimes I hate the Church.


Blogger Liam said...

It's absolutely infuriating. Sometimes I think that as bad as abortion might be, for the hierarchy it's a question of pride and power -- they love to pick one issue out of all of those that exist and make it central, just so they can exercise power over it. It's especially evident in a tragic situation like this, which requires the greatest pastoral sensitivity and understanding.

But remember -- they're the hierarchy, we're the church.

1:37 PM  
Blogger crystal said...

Hi Liam. Thanks for that reminder about who the Church is - hard to remember sometimes.

2:04 PM  
Blogger cowboyangel said...


2:16 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think Liam has it right, the correct word is tragic. But I somehow suspect the situation is more tragic than meets the eye.

One of my first thoughts was, "where was the mother? She didn't notice that her so called husband was abusing this child for three years? And how long has she been ignoring the abuse of the handicapped sister?" Maybe the mother deserves a bit more than just excommunication! Still this is a fact we don't really know.

I doubt that the stepfather really cares about the excommunication, and possibly the police will cause him to think more about what he did than the excommunication will.

As for the doctors involved, I doubt that they care much either, and I really wonder if any of those involved were practicing Catholics. I will probably never know given the limited amount of information that the press will publish.

And finally I wonder what made this whole thing blow up. 200,000 abortions each year and this one becomes a big deal??? I kind of suspect that some reporter found himself a great story and when it hit the public the Church HAD to react and thus the press had an even bigger story.

Liam, if you have read my postings, you know I have little respect for the hierarchy, but in this case I suspect that they didn't have much of a chance to act in a sensitive pastoral way even had they wanted to, the press made it too public.

And I certainly won't argue that the Church has put itself in a "no compromise" position, but it seems that the other side has also in many ways. But I do believe the press has taken advantage of this situation to happily fan the flames to get a big story.

All in all, I would say tragic!

Love and hugs,

Mike L

6:47 PM  
Blogger Jack said...

The story and the comments are sick. Liam, my friend, you ain't the Church; you have no say. Same for you Crystal. And Mike, blaming the press makes me puke. B16 is a weird sicko as are most of the hierarchy. Jack

7:32 PM  
Blogger crystal said...

Hi Mike,

I don't know if it's been in the news much - I've seen no mention of it at most Catholic news places.

If the Church would allow the fear of bad press to foce them to excommunicate people, that doesn't say much for the Church.

7:55 PM  
Anonymous Dyan said...

Wow - such a lot of pain on the earth.

9:21 PM  
Blogger crystal said...

Yes, it really seems like a vale of tears at times.

11:06 PM  
Blogger Jeff said...

Unfortunately, the hierarchy is full of small, petty-minded men right now. A lot of them are bad men.

This is yet another catastrophic humiliation for us that was caused in large part by the war on liberation theology.

Did you know that this guy, this moron, Jose Cardoso Sobrinho, was chosen to replace the visionary and heroic Dom Helder Camara? He was put in place to undo all of Camara's good work.

See here.

Meanwhile, the Vatican was orchestrating a coup in Latin America. Progressive Brazilian prelates such as Dom Helder Camara of Olinda e Recife and Paulo Evaristo Cardinal Arns of São Paolo found it increasingly difficult to work under a papacy hostile to their kind of pastoral care and understanding of the Church as a "community". Decades of assiduous work done to empower the poor in Olinda e Recife came to halt when, on Dom Helder Camara's retirement at the mandatory age of 75 in 1985, the Vatican appointed an arch-conservative to run the diocese. Dom Jose Cardoso Sobrinho, the new Archbishop, re-established the influence of the landowners, whom Dom Helder Camara had fought for years. Radical priests were "disciplined" and the local Catholic Justice and Peace Commission was disbanded in 1989.

4:07 PM  
Blogger Jeff said...

And here.

Even in Brazil, where the church has strongly resisted Vatican encroachment, the pendulum is swinging to the right, threatening to end the prophetic leadership of the country's bishops. Thanks to the steady appointment of Vatican yes-men, conservative archbishops now outnumber progressives. Indicative of the consequences is the shift in church priorities in the country's impoverished northeast, which once led the Brazilian church in denouncing human rights abuses and economic injustice. Since John Paul's advent, conservative prelates there have come to dominate the region and are now in charge of the leadership of its regional bishops' conference. When Dom Helder Camara, the outspoken Archbishop of Recife, resigned on reaching the mandatory retirement age, he was replaced by a conservative, Archbishop Jose Cardoso Sobrinho, who has ceased church support for consciousness-raising work with the poor. He has also forbidden Dom Helder to speak publicly in the Recife archdiocese. Meanwhile, Cardoso has reopened the local seminary to provide orthodox training for priests; the seminary competes with the Recife Theological Institute, which teaches liberation theology and encourages students to live in poor communities as part of their training. If the competition proves tough enough-the northeast's traditionalist bishops prefer to have their future priests trained by Cardoso's seminary-the Theological institute could be forced to close. "At a time when church communities would like priests who are more familiar with their people," said one theologian, "there appears to be a growing tendency to form them behind closed doors, to make them more concerned with the internal institutional order than with the church's mission in the world."

4:10 PM  
Blogger crystal said...

Hi Jeff,

Thanks for the links. I didn't know anything about Sobrinho before this story. It's heartbreaking that all the work and sacrifice of the liberation theology priests (and sisters like Dorothy Stang) is being rolled back by the conservatives.

4:55 PM  
Blogger Jack said...

Listen, Crystal.

Please clarify!!! I (Jack)get smeared for criticisms of the Church. But you and the others here say "moron," "hate," "tragic" and on and on.

But the Archbishop is just following official Church policy, Like Chaput, the guy in Scranton and the American bishops. So am I a catholic hater and the rest of those here just love OFFICIAL Church teaching. After all doesn't the church define a person as one cell to natural death? Please read before you erase and go to poetry:) Jack

4:58 PM  
Blogger crystal said...


No, you aren't the only one critical of the Church. I don't know if you are the only Catholic hater - I do sometimes hate church policy and hierarchy, but I can't speak for the others. I don't care if you say what you think about a topic, it's when you start criticizing other people who comment that I feel the urge to delete.

7:04 PM  
Blogger Jack said...

But Crystal,

Does the desire to delete apply only to me? And I try to be 'open' by making it clear to whom I am refering. I like L..., but in the future I will refer to him, as say, Luther. Will that be alright? Jack

7:16 PM  
Blogger crystal said...


I'm tired of deleting my posts because you insult or get in arguments with others in the com box. You know very well what I mean.

8:51 PM  
Blogger Jack said...


It is your blog, but I do believe you play 'favorites.' Jack

8:03 AM  
Anonymous Dyan said...

Jack - why so angry?

9:27 PM  

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