That’s the upshot of a story that is roiling Brazil, as a nine-year-old girl who was raped by her stepfather and became pregnant with twins received an abortion. There are conflicting reports as to whether the girl was excommunicated–this Irish Times story indicates the ordinary, Archbishop José Cardoso Sobrinho of Olinda and Recife, says she was not, even though he also invoked canon law that would automatically excommunicate her.

But he said the mother and doctors who performed the abortion were definitely excommunicated, and Saturday a top Vatican official today defended the judgments that allowed the stepfather–who has admitted sexually abused the girl since she was six–to escape the ultimate church sanction, even though the abortion likely saved the girl’s life:

Cardinal Giovanni Battista Re, head of the Catholic church’s Congregation for Bishops, told the daily La Stampa on Saturday that the twins the girl had been carrying had a right to live.

“It is a sad case but the real problem is that the twins conceived were two innocent persons, who had the right to live and could not be eliminated,” he said.

Re, who also heads the Pontifical Commission for Latin America, added: “Life must always be protected, the attack on the Brazilian church is unjustified.”

The row was triggered by the termination on Wednesday of twin foetuses carried by a nine-year-old allegedly raped by her stepfather in the Brazilian state of Pernambuco.

The regional archbishop, Jose Cardoso Sobrinho, pronounced excommunication for the mother for authorising the operation and doctors who carried it out for fear that the slim girl would not survive carrying the foetuses to term.

“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,” Cardoso had said.

He also said the accused stepfather would not be expelled from the church. Although the man allegedly committed “a heinous crime … the abortion – the elimination of an innocent life – was more serious”.

Battista Re agreed, saying: “Excommunication for those who carried out the abortion is just” as a pregnancy termination always meant ending an innocent life.

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


One of the doctors involved in the abortion, Rivaldo Albuquerque, told Globo television that he would keep going to mass, regardless of the archbishop’s order.

“The people want a church full of forgiveness, love and mercy,” he said.

Health Minister Jose Gomes Temporao also slammed the archbishop.

“Two things strike me: the assault on the girl and the position of this bishop, which is truly lamentable,” he said.

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.

Police said the 23-year-old stepfather also allegedly sexually abused the girl’s physically handicapped 14-year-old sister.

He was arrested a week ago and is being kept in protective custody. If convicted, he faces up to 15 years in prison.

Fifteen years? Gimme a break. The state’s verdict isn’t much better than the canonical verdict, IMHO.

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