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The Deacon's Bench

Brazil archbishop announces excommunications over girl’s abortion

This story is troubling and upsetting and just sad on so many levels:

A Roman Catholic archbishop says the abortion of twins carried by a 9-year-old girl who allegedly was raped by her stepfather means excommunication for the girl’s mother and her doctors.

Despite the nature of the case, the church had to hold its line against abortion, Archbishop Jose Cardoso Sobrinho said in an interview aired Thursday by Globo television.

“The law of God is higher than any human laws,” he said. “When a human law — that is, a law enacted by human legislators — is against the law of God, that law has no value. The adults who approved, who carried out this abortion have incurred excommunication.”


Health Minister Jose Gomes Temporao rebuked the archbishop, saying, “I’m shocked by two facts: by what happened to the girl and by the position of the archbishop, who in saying he defends life puts another at risk.”

Abortion is generally illegal in Brazil, which is home to more Catholics than any other nation. But the procedure is allowed when the mother’s life is in danger, when the fetus has no chance of survival or in rape cases where the woman has not passed her 20th week of pregnancy.

Doctors said the girl was 15 weeks pregnant when the abortion was performed Wednesday in the northeastern city of Recife, where Sobrinho is archbishop. Health officials said the life of the girl — who weighs 80 pounds — was in danger.


The pregnancy was discovered last week when the girl fell ill and her mother took her to a clinic. The child then told officials she had been abused by her stepfather, who is in police custody.

A similar case in southern Brazil surfaced Thursday. Authorities in Rio Grande do Sul state told the O Globo newspaper that an 11-year-old girl allegedly raped by her stepfather is seven months pregnant.

The 51-year-old stepfather has been in jail since January while the girl is in a hospital for high risk pregnancies and apparently will not have an abortion.

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posted March 6, 2009 at 10:18 am

Undoubtedly a sad, tragic experience for everyone involved. It is unfortunate that someone couldn’t have loved that you girl and the unborn children into the fullness of life, rather than destroying all three. Being in the mental health field for 28 years, I have seen the effects of rape on children and its life-changing implications. I have seen the destruction abortion has had on mothers who undergo them, especially when they are young, especially when they have no say in the decision and someone like parent or government presses the issue. You cannot resist divine law without a price.As an aside, if anyone is interested in another Catholic blog that is simple in layout but often interesting in content, take a look at: A blog on Catholic faith and theology, etc.A good Lent to all.

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mary montgomery aka greatgranmary

posted March 6, 2009 at 11:46 am

I am a registered nurse and great grandmother. My 18yr. old granddaughter gave birth in January. I have four kids(3 in heaven) 7 grands, and I belong to a a Church that has gone mad! The step-father by impregnating a nine yr old girl murdered her–her soul her spirit her body. He should be ex-communicated then hung in the town square and the archbishop should be made to do life long penance his actions. Does God wish for murder? An 80lb girl could not have brought those babies to full term. All three would have died anyway. I too have seen the ravages of kids raped by relatives and I tell you it is always the wrong ones who get punished for it. Oh god! I am in such agony— Your Law is higher than all Law—so why are men permitted to commit such atrocities and why are women the bearers of them? I will be screaming for weeks over this story. Not to worry Mother, you cannot be excommunicated from God’s heart.

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Jean Poole

posted March 6, 2009 at 12:16 pm

What about the stepfather? That monster is the one who should be excommunicated forthwith. Send him on over to 1054 East. We’ll take care of the rest.

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posted March 6, 2009 at 3:35 pm

Yes, the step-father. In my post earlier I did not mention him because I do not think it right to the young girl or the unborn children to waste my energy saying what all of us already know….he has destroyed the life of his step-daughter in a very real sense. His crime cries out for justice and judgment. I would wonder why a report on what the bishop said about the step-father’s crimes wasn’t included.Our focus needs to be on the young girl and the now dead children, all of whom are the real victims in these crimes: the crimes of rape and the crime of abortion.

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posted March 6, 2009 at 4:06 pm

Mary I hope, through less emotion you reconsider you opinion. Yes, the situation, in human terms is beyond appalling and as life goes from a human perspective, “the epitome of unfairness.” I don’t argue that it’s less than ideal for an 80 pound 9 year old to give birth to twins. From a physical standpoint it actually is possible to give birth, especially with modern technologies for early delivery. Emotionally, I would argue that the abortion will be more devastating. Regardless, the fact that this girl was abused, already tells us she was chosen for a heavy cross early in life.Abortion is NEVER the answer, because in doing so, only MORE victims are created. What if the twins were not yet ensouled? Even the church doesn’t know for sure when this occurs, and if they were killed before ensoulment, they lost their one chance of union with God. Perhaps had she had the twins and gave them up for an adoption (which I think most would advise), who’s to say that as she matured, the one bright spot in her horrible sexual abuse, conducive to healing, was the fact she brought life (and LOVE), to the world. Suffering is too big of a mystery for any human reasoning. We can only know, through Christ’s example, that love, and only love, lessens it. When we kill babies, regardless of the situation, we stymie love; and love is God! JPII in Memory and Identity taught us that suffering consumes evil. How do any of know what and how God was using this great suffering against the worlds’ evils?As Christians, and especially as Catholics, we have an obligation to not only “pick up our crosses”, but also to see (or in this case, consider), the bigger picture. Consequently, in this case, more evil came upon the world. The church had no choice but to send the message it had to send. May God’s mercy and healing reach all involved. This is truly a tragic story.

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Dcn Scott Dodge

posted March 6, 2009 at 8:36 pm

Wow! What a heart-rending situation. I suppose my only question would be whether a 9 year-old girl could carry babies to term without dying. This also, rightly, appears to be the concern of the Health Minister. So, I hope that, in addition to getting personally involved with the girl, her mom, and the doctors, which would be a pastoral necessity in this case, that the bishop ascertained the facts in order to arrive at a correct moral judgment.

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mary montgomery aka greatgranmary

posted March 6, 2009 at 10:26 pm

I have never heard of a child so young being able to carry a preganacy like that to term. I looked at several websites today and could not find anything. Perhaps some one out there has different info. We can’t do everything in medicine. Would you be willing to watch as this child’s uterus burst and killed all three? I have seen that happen so forgive the emotions, and it was in a much older mother. What is so appalling to me is how quick we are to say that abortion is never indicated—God does not think so. Upwards of 40% of all pregnancies in child bearing women end in abortion. A young woan I know has had 17 and sheis jailed as a heroe . I think she is a muderess for subjecting so many innocents to death. When does a soul enter a body? Is that a real question? If life begins at conception than a soul has to be present at that point. a thing cannot live unless it is a living spirit. Were the fetuses alive? Were they developed properly were her chemistries and other medical info condusive to being pregnant? Noe of these questions were asked or answered.I cannot know what I would do in the place of that Mother.I am still screaming because the first thing Catholics are willing to do is condemn her. I can take up my cross and suffer just fine—but I have no right to impose thar cross on an 8yrold. My duty to is to protect her and defend her.In the present climate there is no “correct moral judgement” except that by all means a fetus takes presedent over it’s Mother —even if it doesn’t have a soul yet. Are you so foolish as to believe that God would allow the creation of life without the possibility of that re united with Him it’s source? I have never heard or read anything so outrageous. I would be interested to know how the 11yrold fairs in all this.It might also be interesting to note that the greatest number of abortions in Kathleen Sabelious’ state take place in girls aged 10 – 14. I don’t know of a single ex-communication by the Arch Bishop in Kansas of a man guilty of the crime. No wonder our enemies have found us to be laughing stocks.

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Hoosier Paul

posted March 6, 2009 at 10:39 pm

“I don’t argue that it’s less than ideal for an 80 pound 9 year old to give birth to twins.”Klaire, you have an extraordinary talent for understatement.Several posts have noted that there’s no word on whether the stepfather was excommunicated. As far as I can see, the article doesn’t state whether he’s even Catholic, but Brazil is 75 percent Catholic, and his wife is Catholic so it’s certainly likely.And if so, it does seem astounding that the church would excommunicate a woman who, faced with the very real possibility of her nine-year-old daughter’s death, made a tragic and heart-wrenching decision that while haunt her the rest of her life, while at the same time, not excommunicating a man who created the situation in the first place, by raping his nine-year-old stepdaughter. Even if she hadn’t had an abortion — even if she hadn’t become pregnant — her childhood and her innocence were already destroyed.

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posted March 7, 2009 at 12:11 am

It is always these cases which come to the forefront of abortion questions. I would believe that the Bishop reviewed the information and got feedback on this case before making his decision. He may have advised the mother and doctors that doing this would bring the excommunication. We do not know all the facts. What we do know is that 50 million babies are dead in a holocaust unlike any the world has ever seen and too many remain silent including bishops. Since I do not know all the facts, I will leave this to the bishop and hope he is correct. As to the rapist father, there is no need for excommunication for his soul is damned. I think Christ had a few things to say about those that hurt children and this would top the list of hurting kids. There is a millstone waiting for this man. But why do we as a society not do more to stop the abuse of children? We know from everything that has been studied about the Catholic abuse situation that those who are attracted to children do not seem able to be cured and yet a quick search of certain database will find most homes surrounded by known perverts wandering the streets waiting for thier next victim. Meanwhile our children have been placed in protective custody no longer able to go out as we once did and roam the neighborhood as kids. Something is wrong with this and frankly it started to explode as Pope Paul VI predicted in Humanae Vitae some 40 years ago. We need to put these people away from society for life on the first offense. Make it clear that children are off limits. When we discover some crime has occured and been covered up, that agency needs to be brought on the carpet. I am thinking about Planned Parenthood where many recent calls have proven that the organization on routine seems to be hiding abuse on minors with a wink and nod. Underage kid comes in, someone goes to jail for life who abused her.

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Deacon Greg Kandra

posted March 7, 2009 at 8:18 am

Gramps…I’d caution you against deciding that the stepfather’s soul — or anyone’s — is damned. That judgment is not ours to make. To others…This is a tragedy for all concerned — including the archbishop. It seems to me that he took a teachable moment — and an opportunity to address this painful and complex issue with compassion and concern and charity — and handled it with a callousness (in the media, no less) that can only be called cruel. He could have said, “This is a heartbreaking situation and I want to meet personally with those affected to bring them back into the fullness of the faith. Abortion can never be an option for a believing Catholic. It is a grave evil, and I can’t condone what they did. But the church needs to be there for them during this terrible time. And we need to find ways to help others in similar situations. Otherwise, I think this matter is best addressed between those involved and their confessors.”

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posted March 7, 2009 at 12:56 pm

Brother Deacon Greg,You are so right on both of your points!

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posted March 8, 2009 at 4:35 am

Gramps – “…Something is wrong with this and frankly it started to explode as Pope Paul VI predicted in Humanae Vitae some 40 years ago. We need to put these people away from society for life on the first offense. Make it clear that children are off limits. When we discover some crime has occurred and been covered up, that agency needs to be brought on the carpet.”I’m sorry, are you kidding? I mean, I totally agree that people who sexually molest children should be held accountable for their actions. Unlike the hierarchy of the Roman Catholic Church. We as a group really shouldn’t point out the speck in another’s eye when we have a much bigger plank in our own. When the RCC starts holding priests and seminarians accountable at the first offense instead of trying to hide sexual abuse then maybe you can spout off without offending people. Also, do you have any citations to back up what you said about Planned Parenthood?Also, the doctors in this case regarding the 9 year old Brazilian girl said that it was highly likely she would not survive bringing the two fetuses to term. A 9 year old, 80 pound body is not equipped to do that. The Brazilian bishops disregarded the medical opinions and, in my belief, disregarded the sanctity of life by being so willing to offer up the 9 year old’s life so as to not go against tradition.

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Veronica Abbass

posted March 8, 2009 at 9:24 am

Dear Mary MontgomeryThank you for speaking out.Yes, you “belong to a a Church that has gone mad!”I see you express your sympathy for the mother of the nine year old. I too believe she should not be excommunicated for saving the life of her child.However, I also ask as gramps has asked, “why do we as a society not do more to stop the abuse of children?” In this case where was the mother when the stepfather was abusing her daughter? Other reports indicate that the sexual abuse went on for many years. The mother should have been more vigilant. The mother deserves more than excommunication; she deserves to be jailed for neglecting her daughter.As I write this, the church bells are ringing summoning people to the local Catholic church. All Catholic women should rise up against the RCC church’s decision and ask to be excommunicated in solidarity with the people who saved this young girl’s life.

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posted March 9, 2009 at 4:06 pm

I think we’d need to establish what risk the girl was in. I found two recent cases of a 9 and 10 year old successfully giving birth.The youngest mother on record was reputedly 5 years old.We have the recent case of octuplets indicating just how much stress a mother’s body can take.We have the (as yet unverified) story of the mother rejecting the advice of the first Doctor she saw who thought the twins could come to full term and be delivered alive by C-Section.We don’t know what the girl may have wanted.Consider this: 20 years from now the young mother is looking at her twins and seeing how they have grown into beautiful people, individuals and unique in their own right. In coming to terms with the horror inflicted upon her, she realises that the twins at least, have shown that from great evil can come good. Instead she has to grapple later in life that even those innocent lives were ended because of this monster. Maybe that will be worse, in the long run?Consider this too: If she had not become pregnant, this abuse would have likely continued for some time. She has been saved from continued abuse.Finally, while I hesitate to say this, the sad possibility remains that the abuse had been going on for some time (which is one of the reasons for triggering early puberty). That means the mother may well have suspected such abuse but did not act (felt powerless?) to end it. The same mother making decisions on aborting before considering the possibility of not aborting.It is an interesting exercise to see how far developed the fetus is at 16 weeks. Abortion is a grave step at this stage, it can even create its own long term medical issues.All in all, a terrible situation, but now that it has come to light the girl has a real chance of recovery. She had less hope a few months ago.My full post is here for any interested: Child Mothers

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Chris Sullivan

posted March 9, 2009 at 6:01 pm

Dear Mary MontgomeryI also thank you for speaking out.Unfortunately, this is a case where some leaders of the Church (Sobrinho and Re) have lost the pro-life plot.Assuming that the operation was motivated by a genuine concern to save the life of the mother (which appears a reasonable inference) then, according to Catholic moral theology, such an operation to save the mothers life would not be considered an abortion, because the moral object choosen was not to kill the babies but to save the mothers life.This can easily be seen if we consider the possibility that one day we will have the medical technology to remove 4 month old foetus’ from the mothers womb and keep the baby alive in some kind of incubator.If we were able to do that, then we could operate to save the mothers life will still saving the baby’s life.Unfortunately, today we don’t have such medical technology.But we are not morally culpable for our lack of such technology.A similar situation occurs with ectopic pregancies where the Catholic moral tradition is quite clear that we can operate to save the mothers life even though we are unable to save the life of the baby.In these cases we have to do what we can to save the lives we can, even though we can’t yet save all of them. Maybe one day we will.Hope this helps.God Bless

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Deacon Greg Kandra

posted March 9, 2009 at 6:55 pm

Assuming that the operation was motivated by a genuine concern to save the life of the mother (which appears a reasonable inference) then, according to Catholic moral theology, such an operation to save the mothers life would not be considered an abortion, because the moral object chosen was not to kill the babies but to save the mothers life.Pius XII, in a 1951 letter about large families, looks at it a bit differently. Emphasis mine: “If, for example, the saving of the life of the future mother, independently of her pregnant condition, should urgently require a surgical act or other therapeutic treatment which would have as an accessory consequence, in no way desired nor intended, but inevitable, the death of the fetus, such an act could no longer be called a direct attempt on an innocent life. Under these conditions the operation can be lawful, like other similar medical interventions – granted always that a good of high worth is concerned, such as life, and that it is not possible to postpone the operation until after the birth of the child, nor to have recourse to other efficacious remedies.” In the Brazil case, removing a fetus in the fourth month was clearly intended to kill it.

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Chris Sullivan

posted March 9, 2009 at 7:43 pm

In the Brazil case, removing a fetus in the fourth month was clearly intended to kill it.I disagree.The medical evidence appears to suggest that should the pregnancy have continued, both the twin babies and the mother would probably have died.We taking a nine year old girl here, 66 pounds, having twins, in a third world country.That would be medically problematic.Operating with the intent of saving the mothers life would fit exactly the criteria Pius XII outlined.That’s not an abortion.It’s merely an operation to save a life.God Bless

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Trevor S

posted March 12, 2009 at 11:03 pm

To all of you who comes to this blog in the Faith of our Lord Christ Jesus.I can understand many of your sentiments, but will refrain from adding my own opinion on the excommunicants for later in this post. I first want to clear up a few things:1) I agree that abortion is wrong for Catholics, and for all other people. As a young man (21 yrs), and as a man who has not been in this sort of situation, I cannot full appreciate the emotions and feelings of a pregnant rape victim, let alone a 9 year old. I think it is wrong to jump on the mother and doctors and claim that their intent was to kill. The girl was in her fourth month. I will also presume that the mother did not know what was going on. There are ways that the step father could have committed this unspeakable act in secrecy. To use another example in our Church body, how many parents and parishioners knew of the sex abuse going on in Residential schools and to altar boys. How many parents know that school teachers have the same rate of abuse as the clergy? My point is that it is also wrong to say the mother obviously knew. My other point was that it is quite possible she didn’t know her daughter was pregnant until just recently. I quick Google search of “when do you start showing” (which I know refers to adult females so it could be different for someone so young) but the consensus seems to be between and five months! The child’s mother could have just found out!We cannot judge the hearts of man; judgment is the duty of out Lord. I like what was suggested earlier about the pastoral care that these people need and the steps that should have been taken to reconcile this horrific series of acts with the faith of our fathers. 2) The Church is clear that, paradoxically, “life saving abortions” are acceptable if the saving nature of the operation is considered to be the intent. Obviously we know the outcome of the operation, so it is a matter of weighing the options. The link to the site about child mothers, whilst if she had been carrying one child would have made the issue more complicated. In my eyes it makes it even less complicated. This child was under 100lbs (I’ve read 80, but someone suggested 66) carrying two babies. This seems to be an unprecedented case. I am pretty sure that if she carried the babies longer and had died, the Church would suffer similar backlash about not allowing abortions and causing the death of this poor girl. This is a very sensitive issue that has been treated like a terrorist attack with clear evils (abortion and the girl’s mother) and innocents (the girl and the babies). As Christians we are called to compassion, we are called to reach out to those who are most vulnerable in society. This is (partially) was Jesus did in his Earthly mission. He sought out those whom we sought by no-one. This being said, I disagree with the seeming “automatic” excommunication of these people. This is as I, and many who have come before me, have said is a horrible tragedy. I would have liked to see more consultation on this.This is going to cause a big rift in the Church between more liberal members and moderates and traditionalists. I do not support abortion as an elective procedure because of the mother’s or father’s whims. I do support life saving procedures such as this in extreme cases of major child molestation, rape, and life endangerment. I would like to see the excommunicating bishop’s reasons for excommunication (i.e. why this is not in the girl’s best interests for her own life).May we all find the love of Christ in this troubled time. May Christ bring those together to help foster reconciliation within the Church to those severed from its Body. May Christ be with the families affected by this tragedy. And may Christ be with us all throughout our own life through all of our sorrows and joys.Faithfully Yours, In ChristTrevorArchdiocese of Edmonton, Canada

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