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Excommunication Miscommunications

Somehow I suspect that most of the bloggers and other commentators who went (sometimes appropriately) batshit over the excommunication of the Brazilian mother who procured an abortion for her sexually abused 9-year-old daughter won’t have quite as much to say about the latest developments in that sickening saga (H/T David Gibson, who has much more):

Archbishop Rino Fisichella, president of the Pontifical Academy for Life, criticized what he called a “hasty” public declaration of the excommunication of the girl’s mother and the doctors who aborted the girl’s twins.

The girl “in the first place should have been defended, hugged and held tenderly to help her feel that we were all on her side” he wrote in the Vatican newspaper, L’Osservatore Romano, March 15.

“Before thinking about excommunication, it was necessary and urgent to protect her innocent life and bring her back to a level of humanity of which we men of the church should be expert witnesses and teachers,” he said.

“Unfortunately, this is not what happened and it has impacted the credibility of our teaching, which appears in the eyes of many as insensitive, incomprehensible and devoid of mercy,” he said.


Fisichella criticized the way Archbishop Sobrinho handled the situation.

“Only because the archbishop of Olinda and Recife hastily declared the excommunication of the doctors” did this story of despicable, yet all too common, violence against girls and women make newspaper headlines, he said.

Fisichella said that because of the Brazilian girl’s young age and her “precarious state of health her life was in serious danger” by continuing the pregnancy.

“How should one act in these cases?” he asked, underlining that the girl’s case represented an “arduous decision for doctors and moral law itself.”

Doctors deserve respect for the difficult decisions they must often grapple with, he said, adding that no one nonchalantly makes life-and-death decisions and to even suggest it “is unjust and offensive.”

He said the Catholic principle that upholds the sanctity of life is unshakeable and “abortion has always been condemned by moral law as an intrinsically evil act.”

However, because excommunication is incurred automatically at the moment a direct abortion is carried out, “there was no need to declare with such urgency and publicity a fact that occurred automatically,” he said.

Fisichella said the church can still be firm with its moral principles and at the same time reach out and show mercy toward others.

He told the young girl in his written article: “We are on your side. We feel your suffering and we would like to do everything that would help you restore the dignity that you have been deprived of and the love that you will still need.

“There are others who deserve excommunication and our forgiveness, not those who have allowed you to live and who will help you regain hope and trust despite the presence of evil and the wickedness of many people,” he said.

As in the much-discussed case of the Holocaust-denying Bishop Williamson, the fact that the Brazilian archbishop may have had some claim to doctrinal correctness is in itself no excuse for the horrible way in which this situation was handled; by my lights, anyway, both the archbishop and the Vatican prefect who initially stuck up for him should be shut away in a dark room and never again allowed within fifty feet of a microphone. All the more reason, of course, why the Vatican really needs a PR department to work alongside the folks who deal with the dogmas.

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