Pontifications

Pontifications


Nine-year-old girl raped by step-dad, has abortion: He is spared, excommunications for everyone else

posted by David Gibson

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.

[snip]

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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pagansister

posted March 8, 2009 at 5:07 pm


Read this in a news article on the internet…and am totally outraged that the RCC thinks that a NINE year old girl should actually carry a baby…never mind twins….to birth!!!!! Not only that…the rapist, her step-father, might only get 15 years at the most for the rape of her and her 14 year old sister. Personally I think the step-father ought to have “surgery” to remove the offending parts! The RCC claims that they are for life?? The life of a pregnant 9 year old is less important than 2 embryos? Apparently. Best way I know to turn folks off to their church, if they were members, and to help prevent new members….by punishing the doctors and mother of that child for a needed operation.



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Gwyddion9

posted March 8, 2009 at 5:38 pm


So much for the love of Jesus.
I can’t help but shake my head to such bigotry and stupidity in gods name.
Where’s the supposed justice in this?
Human arrogance knows no bounds.
I’m speechless.



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NaturaTerra

posted March 8, 2009 at 5:55 pm


I am OUTRAGE to know that the church expects a 9 year old girl to carry twins to term. Her body is NOT ready for this and most likely had she decided to go ahead with the pregnancy she would have died in the process of giving birth. I support abortion in this case. The church can argue all they want about her taking the twins life away, I argue that she did NOT ask to be be raped by that Monster.



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Your Name

posted March 8, 2009 at 5:57 pm


I am OUTRAGE to know that the church expects a 9 year old girl to carry twins to term. Her body is NOT ready for this and most likely had she decided to go ahead with the pregnancy she would have died in the process of giving birth. I support abortion in this case. The church can argue all they want about her taking the twins life away, I argue that she did NOT ask to be be raped by that Monster.



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Charles Cosimano

posted March 8, 2009 at 6:14 pm


So the mother and the doctors will get into Heaven through the Protestant door.



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Henrietta22

posted March 8, 2009 at 7:34 pm


The Roman Catholic Church is attacked by this abortion in Brazil??? No Priest you’ve got it wrong, the little innocent nine year old child was attacked by her Step-father many times before she became pregnant. And his sin was less,the Priest said, then the medical abortion that was necessary to save this childs life. How can any Catholic find their religion credible with this kind of evaluation? Here is how this Christian Protestant feels, the father should be convicted of murder of a set of twins that he stole from his step-child, and then they had to be aborted because of “his” sin against a child, a wife, a church, and God. I read this article a few days ago in the LATIMES, and the ‘slim’ child weighs 80 lbs., the doctors said she and the twins would probably die, her uterus was underdeveloped and too weak to accomadate a set of twins. How many of you out there know little children of nines yrs. old? This was necessary and if she had weighed 150 lbs it would still have been the right thing to do.



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MarcM

posted March 8, 2009 at 8:50 pm


“This was necessary and if she had weighed 150 lbs it would still have been the right thing to do.”
Not according to the radicals in the pro-life movement. Thus you have the child, an innocent victim, punished with excommunication for having a procedure that, in the opinion of the doctors working with her, saved her life.
This is pretty much what I have come to expect from the RCC and their apologists. Sexual abuse, rape, and other vile behaviors are tolerated and protected (I wonder, will the church intervene to try to lower this monster’s criminal penalty?). But have an abortion, even to save your own life, and you have crossed the line.



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JAB

posted March 8, 2009 at 8:55 pm


I read this in the New York Times today. I couldn’t believe the Catholic church would so little value the life of that nine-year-old rape victim. With all due respect, maybe that’s what happens when you have old, supposedly celibate men, making decisions about what is best for women.



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MarcM

posted March 8, 2009 at 9:04 pm


“maybe that’s what happens when you have old, supposedly celibate men, making decisions about what is best for women.”
Or maybe they feared that if they came down too hard on the step-father someone might come forward and out them as having abused children in the past themselves.



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Joe Fernbach

posted March 8, 2009 at 9:54 pm


Dear David,
The way you presented this news story and certainly the way ended your post, you allowed yourself to present a non-Catholic viewpoint. In essence you are acting as a dissenter, you are also praising and flattering sin. This fact is proven by the earlier comments which find a comfortable home in your combox.



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GRobit625

posted March 8, 2009 at 11:19 pm


Joe Fernbach, David was presenting HIS viewpoint. Are Catholics not allowed to have viewpoints? I think this will go over very well for those who are exploring the RCC.



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mrsderusha

posted March 8, 2009 at 11:59 pm


This story makes my stomach roll and reminds me of the Pharisees in Jesus’s time. Weren’t they so concerned about the rule of law that they didn’t notice the actual people in need of the God’s grace and mercy? The same people that the law was originally created to help people could draw closer to God?
I will become a full member of the RCC this Easter, in spite of things like this, because I have a priest who stresses God’s mercy and love. God knew when He put Peter in charge of the church that men would make mistakes in His name. He felt it was worth it to have imperfect people sharing His message, because He knows that imperfect people are seeking out His perfect message.
I can only pray that Mother Mary has interceded on this young’s behalf in the heavens and is able to shower her with Jesus’s love. May this young girl’s wounds be healed and may her stepfather understand the damage he has willfully done to one of Christ’s children. A child who is here and alive and deserves so much more respect than her church is giving her. May Christ do what man cannot in His name.



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Guy Selvester

posted March 9, 2009 at 12:10 am


And, once again what does excommunication in this context mean? Of course the nine year old girl is NOT excommunicated so we are speaking of the doctor(s) and the mother. Those who perform, advise or assist in the procurement of an abortion are automatically excommunicated under Canon law. But, what does this mean? Is it really a great penalty in today’s world where everyone else has decided the Church is always wrong and they are always right? Not really. Does excommunication mean that in the eyes of the Church the excommunicated is expelled from the Church? NO. Does excommunication mean that the Church has decided the excommunicated is going to hell? NO. Is excommunication irreversible? NO. Is excommunication a complete condemnation of the person excommunicated rather than just a condemnation of the particular sinful action by which the person was excommunicated? NO.
After reading these comments I really think that most of you, (including you, too, David) don’t really have a clue what excommunication means and/or is for in the life of the Church.
Excommunication means that those who are excommunicated are very much still members of the Church but that they may not receive the sacraments. For most of you, that sounds like it really wouldn’t bother you very much (especially if you don’t go to church every week and, thus, remove yourself from the sacraments anyway by your own choice!) For a faithful Catholic who desires to remain in the Church and to participate fully in the life of the Church excommunication is a severe, even an extreme, form of censure designed to prompt the excommunicated person to do all in their power to admit their behavior was sinful and to be reconciled to the Church.
So, in the case of the doctor(s) and the mother because this involves automatic excommunication connected to the sin of abortion, which the Church has very consistently taught is always unacceptable, they do not have any special, involved, difficult, or lengthy procedure to follow. All they need do is speak to a priest, explain why they wish reconciliation and then be reconciled through the sacrament of Penance. How can they do that if they may not receive the sacraments? That’s a contradiction. But, priests are invested with the authority to admit someone who wishes to confess the sin of abortion to the sacrament of Penance and absolve them thus REMOVING THE EXCOMMUNICATION. So, rather than being a final pronouncement on an individual’s actions excommunication is supposed to be severe enough to prompt the Catholic with a conscience to bring about their reconciliation to the Church and, ultimately, their own spiritual healing. It’s ALL about forgiveness, compassion, mercy and the correcting of faults. It is worth noting again that the nine year old, because of her youth, is NOT excommunicated in this case.
As for the civil punishment of the rapist that is the decision of the state which means that, of course, the Church is supposed to shut up and mind its own business. The excommunication is a spiritual matter which is ENTIRELY the Church’s business. Of course, it really only has any good effect if the person excommunicated still desires to be active in the Church and is willing to admit that they have sinned. Even in a case as heart-wrenching as this one what may have been deemed “necessary” by those making the decision does not remove its sinfulness. Most of the commenters here seem to think that the abortion in this instance wasn’t wrong so they have obviously re-written the Natural Law and know better than everyone else what is right and what is wrong.
What I find even more shocking than this whole sad affair in Brazil is the large number of people who comment on this blog which is about “Catholic Faith and Culture” who clearly know so little ABOUT Catholic faith and culture.



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To:Guy Selvester

posted March 9, 2009 at 1:36 am


This is an open blog in which anyone can comment on. David has a right to his opinion and people like you can’t stand it when someone’s opinion is different from your own. Are you suggesting that David should be not partake of Holy Communion because of his opinion? If you have a problem with it, I suggest you stop using this website.



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To:mrsderusha

posted March 9, 2009 at 1:58 am


Her church will soon be your church. You claim that this “makes your stomach turn”, yet you speak of getting confirmed in the RCC, submitting to all the teachings and mandates of the RCC, including this decision that was made in Brazil. If this truly “makes your stomach turn”, I would seriously reconsider the sacrament of confirmation in the RCC. To receive this sacrament in the RCC is to condone the events what have taken place in Brazil. Do you want this on your conscience? Even your priest must submit to the will of the RCC and obey who is placed above him. If he were to ever get transfered to Brazil, guess what, he would have to obey archbishop that made this decision. The RCC does NOT have a monopoly on God’s mercy and love. I pray you reconsider your confirmation.



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Gerard Nadal

posted March 9, 2009 at 2:18 am


As I said on another thread regarding this case, decorum prevents me from stating here what I think ought to happen to this 23 year old who raped this poor child and her sister. Excommunication would be getting off easy.
This case shows the problem of an all or nothing mentality. There was neither a need for the girl to bring the babies to term (40 weeks), nor a need to kill them. At four months of gestation the babies were too small to present any immediate danger to the life of the mother. The same may be said for bringing the babies another 2 months along up to the 6 month mark (~25 weeks), at which time a C-section could have been performed and the babies placed in neonatal intensive care. While that’s the limit for taking babies, it is no guarantee of success. But then, abortion is a pretty ironclad guarantee of failure.
Because both sides rushed to the barricades and didn’t explore a middle path that could have given the babies a chance at life without threatening the life of the mother, there are now two more dead humans to add to the toll of abortion, numbering in the hundreds of millions worldwide.
As for the girl being excommunicated, I don’t know where people would get that idea. The penalty only applies if one is aware of the penalty. (That too is part of Canon Law) The penalty applies only if the girl, knowing the penalty, acted volitionally. She is a child under extreme mental duress, a rape victim surrounded by doctors and a mother telling her what is best for her. Not in Heaven or on earth would this child be penalized. I suspect that had she begged for the children’s lives, the issue would not have been decided any differently.
Shame on all those who never tried to find a solution that would have worked for mother and children. Aborting those twins was not the hygienic equivalent of a manicure and pedicure. A psychologically devastating series of events-rape and pregnancy at age nine-has just been complicated by the intentional killing of two innocent babies. Their births couldn’t possibly have added any further dimension of trauma to an already horrific situation. In time, the presence of those two children may well have been an occasion of some healing. But that was not to be, and so we’ll never know.
Their abortions will do nothing to erase the memory of what happened and the damage inflicted by the rapist. They may well add insult to injury if the victim perceives herself in the future as having become the victimizer.
In no system of jurisprudence is the child killed for the father’s crimes. Only in abortion is a human being deemed not worthy of life because it would be a constant reminder of its father’s crimes. That doesn’t say much for our belief in what religion, psychology, psychiatry, or we as family, friends and neighbors have to offer in the way of healing for victims of rape.
People interested in alternative viewpoints will find these links illuminating.
http://www.afterabortion.org/PAR/V2/n1/RAPESUM.htm
http://www.boundless.org/regulars/kaufman/a0000848.html



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clasqm

posted March 9, 2009 at 2:57 am


Neonatal intensive care, Gerard? This is Brazil. The third world, you may have heard of it. Great healthcare for the uppercrust, not so great for those lower down.



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Your Name

posted March 9, 2009 at 5:21 am


This is revolting. We learn that the step-father also raped the 14 year-old handicapped girl(how eay).There is a law against rape in Brazil.It should be applied.Then if the catholic church thinks it has the right to condemn everybody but the rapist, it only shows how much they hate women and support men, in God’s name of course.A pregnancy is NOT a gift in many poor countries. And at the age of 9 a girl should go to school and play with other children.



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Your Name

posted March 9, 2009 at 6:50 am


The twins were with 4 months. The church didnt say here to let put her life at risk or that he should carry the babies until the end of the pregnancy. They could help her with medical care a only for few weeks,and try to save the twins,without risk for the girl. There are here today more 2 cases like this,one girl with 10 ,the other with 11. They didnt do the abortion.



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Gerard Nadal

posted March 9, 2009 at 9:54 am


Clasqm,
“Neonatal intensive care, Gerard? This is Brazil. The third world, you may have heard of it. Great healthcare for the uppercrust, not so great for those lower down.”
Yes, you bring up a good point. There actually are quite a bit of good facilities there, albeit for the wealthier Brazilians. However, with the international spotlight on the case, a nation predisposed to life would have wanted to put its best foot forward. Once the decision for life has been made, everything else has a way of falling into place.
God Bless



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David Gibson

posted March 9, 2009 at 10:06 am


I would defer to Father Guy in almost any circumstance, and I don’t think he was excommunicating me (or at least I hope not–he can confirm). But I do think that 1) there was a great lack of clarity from the archbishop (in other accounts as well) regarding the status of the girl and excommunication, and 2) the very fact of declaring them excommunicated would be seen as a terrible penalty and exclusion by most people, most likely the girl and her mother. Certainly the notion of excommunication is not well understood, but there are reasons for that. I think a more pastoral approach that did not start with an explication of the canon law would have been a start. This is a tragedy all around. let’s start there.
As for the step-father, well, I am still trying to come around to a more charitable view on him.



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serena

posted March 9, 2009 at 11:32 am


“Taking” the babies at 25 weeks is hardly a solution and indicates that you don’t really understand reproductuve issues.
Around 1/3d of 25 week-old preemies do not survive, and those that do stand a very good chance of serious disabilities. Given the girl’s age and lack of prenatal care, there’s even a greater chance that the 25-week old fetuses would not be among the survivors.
Furthermore, maintaining the pregnancy until 25 weeks and a c-section is not a risk-free solutution for a 9-year old girl, who by 25 weeks of a *twin* pregnancy would likely be facing very serious health complications, such as preeclampsia. (The risk of preeclampsia increases drastically for younger mothers AND for twin pregnancies.) You seem to think that keeping the pregnancy going would be merely an inconvenience, and you are wrong about that.
In summary, your off-handed and uneducated solution of forcing this little girl to face unknown, possible fatal, health risks for the small chance of producing live, viable babies demonstrates that this whole issue is *intellectual* and *theoretical* to you. The very real suffering and risks to a nine-year old girl do not seem to enter into your calculations.



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Guy

posted March 9, 2009 at 11:39 am


“Yet another abuser offered the sacraments, while his victims are punished and denied the same.”
You are waaaaay off base! The abuser is not responsible for the abortion, he did not take the girl to get it, the mother did. If you’re going to claim that he is responsible for the abortion because he got the girl pregnant, then your logic would dictate all fathers are guilty of forcing an abortion if the mother has one after he impregnates her.
Who are the “victims” here? The victims are the two girls that were raped and the unborn child. The Bishop said the girl is not excommunicated – the media did. As somebody that deals regularly with the media, I can assure you they rarely ever get a story 100% correct. I will go by the Bishop’s claim the girl is not excommunicated, therefore, this girl is not a voctim of the Church, only of her stepfather, her mother, and the doctors that performed the abortion.



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pagansister

posted March 9, 2009 at 12:23 pm


With all due respect, Gerard, there is NO way that that child should have been forced to carry twins (or even one) in order to perform a C-section 2 months later. One twin would expand her, but 2 for 2 more months? She is NINE years old…and even though sexually mature (0bviously) her body didn’t need the risks assoiated with carrying longer. How much room is there in a 9 year old girl child’s body? It sounds like no one even knew she was pregnant until she had stomach pains…which in itself might have indicated that something was going wrong. Doctors and the mother did the right thing. A 9 year old should be (as someone brought up above) playing and having fun with other children…not being molested by her step-father and untimately getting pregnant and then being made to carry even close to term. This was a case of a rape pregnancy on a girl child of 9…not a woman who “forgot” a condom, or the pill, and accidently got pregnant. Rape is NEVER OK, and a pregancy resulting from it, whether on a female child or adult woman, should ALWAYS have the option of continuing or not. But in this case, there was no option, IMO.
As for the rapist? Fullest extent of the law and the other punishment I feel “just” is above in my previous post and the RCC should have booted his butt too, since they think the mother and doctor made a wrong decision. Rape isn’t grounds for excommunication?



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pagansister

posted March 9, 2009 at 12:38 pm


Hi! Gerard,
Was so busy trying to “Meet the time limit” for posting, that I forgot to add in my last post, (12:23PM) that I hope all is well with you and yours. Know we don’t agree, but that’s OK. This particular situation makes me very angry, as you could tell, I’m sure.
pagansister



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Gerard Nadal

posted March 9, 2009 at 1:00 pm


Hi Pagansister,
What is difficult to know in this case is whether or not the girl’s body could have continued gestation for a few more weeks. It was hard to discern the facts on the ground from the strident voices on both sides of the issue, which was the substantial point I was trying to make. I too sincerely doubt that she could have carried the babies to term, nor should she have.
As for whether rape is grounds for excommunication, the answer is no. Excommunication is reserved for certain circumstances dealing with denial of defined elements of the faith, or certain acts of desecration. Even murder is not grounds for excommunication. Abortion presents a certain set of egregious circumstances surrounding the murder of the baby.
That isn’t to say that rapists and murderers aren’t headed straight for hell unless they genuinely repent of their sins. Excommunication is meant as a spiritual remedy to effect the change of heart that leads to genuine contrition. I think the public views excommunication as some sort of papal temper tantrum, which then leads to the mistaken notion that somehow certain behaviors are tolerable while others are not. Such is not the case. A soul in hell that has been excommunicated and a soul in hell that wasn’t are both still in hell. That’s where the focus needs to be. It won’t matter if the stepfather was excommunicated or not, he’ll be frying all the same unless he repents.
The bigger story that is lost in the misreporting about who is or is not excommunicated is why this guy only faces fifteen years for all that he has done. Those sentencing guidelines bespeak a great deal about what Brazil thinks about the abuse of prepubescent children.
Take Care!!



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Gerard Nadal

posted March 9, 2009 at 1:18 pm


Hi Pagansister!
All is well with my family. I hope all is well with yours! Yes, this story has stirred rage in me too. Having daughters younger than this child, I cannot fathom the evil that leads to the savagery this poor child and her sister have endured. It is OK that we don’t agree on all of the issues. We agree where it counts, on family, on decency and honor, on respect, on justice. (Plus, our favorite tea, John Denver, Neil Diamond). I’d say all in all that’s pretty good.
Take good care. God Bless.



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Gerard Nadal

posted March 9, 2009 at 1:32 pm


Serena,
Actually, I’ve spoken to doctors and nurses in OB/GYN about this. The results have been mixed. Many agree with you. Some do not. Yes, about 33% of the babies taken at 25 weeks die, so do 100% of the ones aborted. I know some very handicapped people who are grateful for being alive, so the issue of severe handicaps should not guide us in determining one’s fitness to live. I also say that as the father of a handicapped child.
My position was predicated on whether or not it was feasible to bring the babies that far. I also said that the strident voices on both sides made such a determination from a distance hard to make. Some in OB/GYN seem to think that it could be possible.
Did the mother make the right decision for the right reasons? I submit that she had good cause to not want her daughter giving life to her husband’s children. Is she feeling guilty that she was unaware of the abuse having gone on for at least three years with both daughters? Was she entirely unaware? Was she aware but cowed into complicit silence by this monster?
You and I may have some disagreement on particulars, but I believe that we agree that no matter what the outcome of the pregnancy, it pales in comparison to the magnitude of the trauma and damage wrought by this sick beast. I’m sure that you, as well as I have lifted this girl and her sister up in prayer.
God Bless.



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serena

posted March 9, 2009 at 2:01 pm


“Even murder is not grounds for excommunication. Abortion presents a certain set of egregious circumstances surrounding the murder of the baby.”
Wait, so if the grandmother had just *murdered* the babies after they were born, then she would not be excommunicated? On what planet does that make any sense?
“My position was predicated on whether or not it was feasible to bring the babies that far. I also said that the strident voices on both sides made such a determination from a distance hard to make. Some in OB/GYN seem to think that it could be possible.”
Well, of course we can’t get a full report from the newspapers about her diagnosis, but they are saying that the girl’s doctors did not think she could survive it without severe risks to her health. What purpose does a counter-factual play here? And why are you so studiously ignoring the risks to the girl/mother’s health? The fact is, this case presents the one case that almost EVERYONE, of all religions everywhere, can agree justifies abortion. You’re altering the facts because you just can’t face this fact.



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LJG

posted March 9, 2009 at 2:03 pm


It is situations like this that have made me drift from the Church over the years. The social justice teachings of the RCC are awesome, but when it comes to abortion, birth control, and sex, everyone starts mainlining the crazy pills.
We’re talking about a NINE YEAR OLD GIRL. She was repeatedly raped and abused for *years* by this sick and twisted “stepfather”, which is how she ended up pregnant in the first place. A nine year old’s body cannot handle carrying one baby, let alone twins. Carrying the children to term would have killed her, or otherwise rendered her incapable of ever having other children of her own as an adult, as well as leading to a whole host of other health problems. A C-section on a nine year old is an absurdity. Neonatal intensive care? Please.
There is a difference between being pro-life and being so thoroughly irrational and dogmatic about abortion that you can’t see why this abortion for this young girl was a mercy. Get the sick pervert that was abusing and raping this girl out of her and her sister’s lives, end the pregnancy that he caused and which could have killed her, and allow that young girl to heal and grow up, and try to get back to whatever normal is. Forcing her to carry the children of the predator who systematically raped her would have been obscene.
If I was the doctors or this girl’s mother, I’d wear the excommunication like a badge of honor. They did what they had to do to save the life of that little girl. It’s absolutely unconscionable that the Church refuses to see that, and that they also refuse to equally throw out the pedophile and child rapist that made this horrible situation possible in the first place.
Abortion should never be taken lightly, and I can honestly say I’d never have one myself. However, I’m a 35 year old, college educated woman with a career. I’m in a position to take responsibility for my own actions. In this case, however, which involves an innocent nine year old who was so horribly and violently abused, the abortion was the right thing to do. I can’t imagine trying to argue otherwise.



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RJohnson

posted March 9, 2009 at 2:06 pm


OK…I come to this with a poor knowledge and understanding of RCC Canon Law, so I ask this of those of you who are more knowledgeable than I in this area.
To the general public we have the following perceptions:
1) A young girl, against her will, is made pregnant by a monster that has been abusing her for the past three years. The mother and the doctors caring for her make a decision that, apparently, they believe is in the best interests of her health and well-being. None of us here have access to medical records concerning this case, yet many seem willing to jump to the conclusion that any other conclusion could have been reached here. As a result of this decision, both the doctors involved and the mother have been excommunicated from the Church, and are no longer permitted access to the sacraments.
2) The step-father who raped this young girl for a period of three years as well as abusing her sister faces criminal penalties for his actions but apparently faces no sanction at all with the church. He is still welcome to come to Mass and receive the Sacraments.
As a non-Catholic this seems to be an unbalanced judgment. While I do not agree with his anger or his ad hominems, MarcM hits a valid point. This decision gives the impression to the non-Catholic world that the Church punished a mother and doctors who were put into a situation against their will, but did nothing to the monster who put them in that situation.
I mention this in light of the survey (publicized in several other blogs here on B-Net) about declining number of folks identifying as Catholic or Other Christian. Could it be that the apparent unbalance in decisions like this is contributing to that decline?



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RJohnson

posted March 9, 2009 at 2:31 pm


“…and that they also refuse to equally throw out the pedophile and child rapist that made this horrible situation possible in the first place.”
I think that is what is sticking in my craw on this one. Admittedly I do not understand Canon law, nor have I ever studied it. The step-father is the cause of this fiasco, and for him not to be denied Sacraments while those who are left to deal with his mess are denied such…it’s hard for this Protestant to see any justice (either temporal or spiritual) in that.



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Gerard Nadal

posted March 9, 2009 at 2:37 pm


RJohnson,
Good afternoon. I hope you’ve been well. In response to your question, see my 1:00 PM post to Pagansister. The matter is largely one of perception. The mission of the Church is the salvation of all sinners, even this beast. Again, excommunication is reserved for certain transgressions. Its lack of applicability to this man does not lessen the likelihood of eternal separation from God unless he repents.
While I cringe at the PR blunders in the Church, I don’t think that juridical penalties should be PR-driven. Were that to happen, charity would be obliterated. Before we say what the Pope should or should not do in this or that case, I believe that we need to do some honest effort at first understanding why the Church approaches different situations as it does.
Far from an apologia on why this creep should not be excommunicated, again, excommunication isn’t akin to making one wear the scarlet letter. It’s meant to drive one to repentance. Now, is THAT what an outraged public is clamoring for? They want this man to be made to understand that he’s going to hell unless he repents? I think not. They want him branded. That isn’t the purpose or function of excommunication.



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LJG

posted March 9, 2009 at 2:40 pm


it’s hard for this Protestant to see any justice (either temporal or spiritual) in that
That’s because there is no justice in it at all. Excommunicating the mother and the doctors for saving the life of that child, but leaving the pedophile and child rapist who caused this whole mess in good standing with the Church? It’s obscene.
That’s why I said I’d wear the excommunication like a badge of honor if I was that mother or those doctors. They may not be able to receive the Sacraments, but at least their consciences are clean that they did what was merciful for that young girl.



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Gerard Nadal

posted March 9, 2009 at 2:42 pm


RJohnson,
A follow-up if I may. One who has been excommunicated is free to come back to the Sacraments at any time. But Confession is the gateway Sacrament. Likewise, the stepfather, though not excommunicated, may not receive Communion in a state of mortal sin. For him too, Confession is the gateway Sacrament, available at any time.
Does this help at all? Let me know.
God Bless



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RJohnson

posted March 9, 2009 at 2:51 pm


Good afternoon, Gerard. I do well, and I trust you do likewise.
Gerard: “Far from an apologia on why this creep should not be excommunicated, again, excommunication isn’t akin to making one wear the scarlet letter. It’s meant to drive one to repentance.”
Under what circumstances do you believe repentance could be demonstrated by the mother, the doctors, or even the nine-year old in this circumstance? Would the mother coming to confession and seeking forgiveness in sincere confession of her sins be sufficient? Would there need to be some sort of penance? I realize that I am seeking a large amount of speculation here, but given that you were, at one time, on the path to priesthood, I trust you have some thoughts on this that might give some light here.
In addition, if the denial of sacramental participation is designed to move the person towards repentance, how is the excommunication then revoked? Since this seems to be an automatic thing (if I read Canon law correctly), how can it be reversed?



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LJG

posted March 9, 2009 at 2:53 pm


Likewise, the stepfather, though not excommunicated, may not receive Communion in a state of mortal sin. For him too, Confession is the gateway Sacrament, available at any time.
That’s not good enough.
He systematically raped and abused an innocent child for years, to the point where he got her pregnant at 9 years of age. He also apparently raped and abused this girl’s older, disabled sister. If a monster like that is somehow exempt from excommunication, then excommunication has no meaning.
The mother and the doctors saving the life of that little girl when the pregnancy that this monster created could have killed her merits excommunication, but raping and abusing that girl for years and putting her into that situation in the first place doesn’t? Calling that a mixed message from the Vatican is being kind. It’s a hypocrisy of the highest order.



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RJohnson

posted March 9, 2009 at 3:00 pm


Gerard, correctly anticipating my prior response, posts: “A follow-up if I may. One who has been excommunicated is free to come back to the Sacraments at any time. But Confession is the gateway Sacrament. Likewise, the stepfather, though not excommunicated, may not receive Communion in a state of mortal sin. For him too, Confession is the gateway Sacrament, available at any time.”
Thanks for the clarification, and it does help a bit. Would it be possible, even likely, that if the stepfather and the mother were to show up at their local church, that the stepfather would be given Communion but the mother denied it?



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RJohnson

posted March 9, 2009 at 3:10 pm


Gerard: “Likewise, the stepfather, though not excommunicated, may not receive Communion in a state of mortal sin. For him too, Confession is the gateway Sacrament, available at any time.”
LJG: “That’s not good enough.”
And thus we have the mystery of God’s grace. It is the same mystery that hears the sincere confession from a convicted murderer seconds before the executioner carries out the death penalty. It is the same mystery that hears the sincere confession of a totalitarian dictator guilty of murdering millions in the last moments of his life.
I agree…from a human standpoint it is not good enough. From a human standpoint we want to see this monster ostracized, punished severely and publicly for his sins against this girl. And were the girl my daughter or granddaughter, I would be one of those helping inflict a very painful punishment on this “person.”
But the mystery of God’s grace transcends human understanding. Though I have been wrestling with the application of RCC Canon Law in this instance (and to be honest, may never understand it), I have no problem with accepting that God’s grace can accept the sincere confession of this multiple-rapist and grant salvation on the same level that I was granted that salvation. In this I rely on faith.
Now, how humans apply seemingly extra-Biblical laws (no disrespect intended to those Catholics here) to situations like this…having not grown up under such I may well never understand or accept it. To say to one person, who acted out of concern and love for their child, that because of those actions you may not accept Holy Communion here in the Church, but to not say the same to a person who acted out of depraved lust and violence…I just don’t get it.



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Gerard Nadal

posted March 9, 2009 at 3:17 pm


RJohnson,
In matters concerning abortion, the local Bishop has the sole authority to lift the excommunication. He may (and I believe that all actually do) delegate this authority to their Priests. Confession is required. Yes, a penance is given whenever a person goes to Confession, and is usually the assignment of some prayer that is meant to strengthen the renewed bond between God and the penitent.
I won’t speculate about repentance in the mother and what would be required. Actually, I have serious questions about excommunication where she is concerned. I question her fitness and competence in this matter. She no doubt is in shock, not only over her daughter being pregnant at age nine, but that her husband is the father. I question how much of this abuse she was aware of over the past three years. Did she know and was she cowed into complicit silence by an abusive husband? If she didn’t know about the abuse and has only this past week become aware, how much more intense is her shock and trauma?
The girl has nothing to confess. If I a sinner see this, how much more does God see this for this poor young victim?
The doctors are another story. I doubt that this was their very first abortion. There is undoubtedly a history and a degree of proficiency here that comes with practice. If so, they incurred automatic excommunication way before this event. Absolution in Confession for them, as well as anyone, requires genuine contrition and a firm purpose of amendment. “I’m sorry until next time” doesn’t cut it.



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Ingrid Shafer

posted March 9, 2009 at 3:21 pm


This is the URL of ARCC’s press release concerning this unloving, legalistic, sadistic response to human suffering:
March 8, 2009
Professor Leonard Swidler, S.T.L. Ph.D. LL.D.,
President, Association for the Rights of Catholics in the Church
dialogue@temple.edu
The Association for the Rights of Catholics in the Church says: Shame!
When is the last time Cardinal Re of the Vatican, or any Vatican official, or indeed, any bishop, excommunicated a Mafioso responsible for deliberate murders?
But Archbishop José Cardoso Sobrinho of Brazil did excommunicate the mother who permitted an abortion to save the life of her nine-year old daughter who was rape-impregnated by her stepfather!
And this excommunication was defended by Cardinal Giovanni Battista Re, head of the Roman Catholic Church’s Congregation for Bishops, as he told La Stampa, an Italian daily newspaper.
According to the report, the abortion was undertaken to save the life of the nine-year old mother. Why was Archbishop Sobrinho not at the side of the little raped child and her agonizing mother spiritually helping them – instead of publicly condemning them?
Perhaps the archbishop and the Vatican wonder why so many tens of millions of intelligent, sensitive Catholics are fleeing the Church? Here is another stunning reason!
Again, ARCC says to Archbishop Sobrinho and Cardinal Re: Shame!



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Gerard Nadal

posted March 9, 2009 at 3:54 pm


RJohnson,
More followup. It’s been a long time since I dug into the Canon Law on abortion (I’ve been involved in a science career). Those under the age of 16 do not incur the penalty. Try this link for a good discussion on the Law involved.
http://www.ewtn.com/expert/answers/Abortio2.htm
“Would it be possible, even likely, that if the stepfather and the mother were to show up at their local church, that the stepfather would be given Communion but the mother denied it?”
No Priest in his right mind would knowingly give this man Communion without his having gone to Confession. I seriously question the emotional/psychological capacities and culpability in the mother. She seems to me as tragic a figure as her two daughters.
“Now, how humans apply seemingly extra-Biblical laws (no disrespect intended to those Catholics here) to situations like this…having not grown up under such I may well never understand or accept it. To say to one person, who acted out of concern and love for their child, that because of those actions you may not accept Holy Communion here in the Church, but to not say the same to a person who acted out of depraved lust and violence…I just don’t get it.”
No disrespect taken. You make an artificial dichotomy here. IF (and to me it is a BIG IF) the mother is indeed culpable in God’s eyes, the rapist is no more welcome at Communion than she or the doctors are, or myself for that matter if I am in a state of mortal sin that I have not Confessed and done penance for. How can any of us be “in Holy Communion” with Jesus while locked into a state of mortal sin? Ergo the exclusion from the Sacrament until we remove the obstacle to that Holy Communion.
I know people want him tarred and feathered. But that is the provence of the civil and criminal courts. The Catholic Church is in the business of salvation, even for the most despicable among us. Ultimately, it is our sin that bars us from Holy Communion with Jesus, not some contrived juridical pecking order. I won’t tell Jesus who His suffering and death ought to redeem and who it ought not. He cautioned against as much repeatedly.
God Bless.



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Marcio

posted March 9, 2009 at 4:14 pm


I live in Brazil and have friends who followed the case closely. Much about it wasn’t told by mainstream media. First, there was no medical statement about an actual risk to the 9-year old girl. Gerard Nadal at March 9, 2009 2:18 AM, has it correctly — and yes, we do have good intensive neonatal care units. A friend of mine is a Medicine student and some of his teachers were involved in the abortion. They were unable to explain the actual risk involved in the pregnancy at that moment.
About the excommunication, I saw the first TV interview of archbishop Cardoso. He stated clearly that the girl wasn’t excommunicated, as well as her father, who opposed abortion. After it happened, the priest from the girl’s little town, who did his best to follow the girl and her family, published a complete report on his blog stating that an abortionist NGO took active part in the process, helped by a social worker, persuading the girl’s illiterated mother that the girl would die, which led the mother to authorize abortion. I don’t know if archbishop Cardoso was aware of this when he said the mother was excommunicated too. This priest had access to the girl and her family denied several times by this social worker. When the NGO learnt that the director of the hospital where the girl was wouldn’t authorize the abortion, the social worked provided for a quick transference to another hospital. In short: the girl was used by abortionists to push their views and create a problem with the Church.
However, the archbishop does need to learn how to deal with the press. It took one day (and by them the damage was already done) for him to claim that excommuncation was authomatic, not a decision by himself. And even after that, some of his statements gave ammunition for anti-Catholic journalists to bash archbishop Cardoso as much as they could. Recife newspapers and TV stations have been criticizing the archbishop for years because he started fixing the damage caused by his predecessor, quasi-marxist archbishop Helder Camara (in Camara’s times, the Recife Institute of Theology was closed by the Vatican due to complete lack of orthoodoxy).
And it’s plain stupid to think that the Church wanted the girl to be sacrificed in the pro-life altar – there are circumstances in which the death of the baby is tolerated when it’s a consequence of a medical treatment which is necessary to save the mother’s life. What is to be stressed is that, in the case of the 9-year old girl, these circumstances weren’t present at that time.



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Your Name

posted March 9, 2009 at 5:52 pm


Someone anonymously posted that her (the child) church would soon be my church. And after reading through these wonderful posts, especially the ones from Gerard and RJohnson, I have to say that now I am absolutely sure of my conversion. A systematic approach to dealing with sin AND the means of Reconciliation to come back into God’s grace give me hope for my own life and sinfulness.
Yes, the RCC could have handled this situation MUCH BETTER, and it is such a terrible situation, but I believe in the mystery of God’s grace and know that I couldn’t live with out the promise of it. I think that’s what Jesus meant when he said “Anyone who believes in me”. He didn’t clarify and say only the good or those with small sins on their souls could come to him. ALL can come to him. It’s Divine Mercy at work.



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serena

posted March 9, 2009 at 6:22 pm


“A systematic approach to dealing with sin AND the means of Reconciliation to come back into God’s grace give me hope for my own life and sinfulnes.”
Well, that’s an extremely self-centered way to interpret this episode. The health and life of a REAL nine-year old girl were in play here. She is not some theoretical example to prove the integrity of your “system.” Girls will continue to get raped, be deprived of birth control, be forced to give birth to babies they don’t want, live in poverty that makes them unable to support the babies they do want. This is not your little morality play — this is injustice here, now on planet earch.



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Your Name

posted March 9, 2009 at 6:37 pm


Guy, you write: “The abuser is not responsible for the abortion, he did not take the girl to get it, the mother did. If you’re going to claim that he is responsible for the abortion because he got the girl pregnant, then your logic would dictate all fathers are guilty of forcing an abortion if the mother has one after he impregnates her.”
You write that as if, by following the comment’s reasoning to its logical conclusion, you came to a statement that was obviously nonsense, but actually, that statement makes sense to me: a man who impregnates a woman (or a young girl) has some responsibility for what happens to the embryo. All men who do not actively support the woman whom they impregnated and who do not see her through her pregnancy have shared responsibility for what happens.
But on the main topic of this thread: excommunication can only be revoked by the sacrament of Reconciliation. But doesn’t that sacrament require regret? If the mother or the doctors say: “I’m sorry that this abortion happened, but, still, if I could go back in time and undo what I did, I would not change my actions in procuring the abortion” – does that count for a valid reconciliation? If not, the doctors, who surely feel that they did the right thing considering the extreme circumstances, cannot be reconciled, can they?



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RJohnson

posted March 9, 2009 at 6:59 pm


“What is to be stressed is that, in the case of the 9-year old girl, these circumstances weren’t present at that time.”
That may well be the case…not being in Brazil I do not have the access to news that you do, so I have no reason to doubt your account.
But (and here I think is where Gerard and I part company) at what point does “circumstances in which the death of the baby is tolerated when it’s a consequence of a medical treatment which is necessary to save the mother’s life” come into play? I believe that Gerard would say that there is NEVER such a case, thus abortion would NEVER be necessary (and if I am wrong I trust him to gently correct me). I hold that there are rare instances where the health of the mother is indeed threatened by carrying the pregnancy to term, or even to the point of accepted viability (which is approaching 20 weeks, thanks to our technology).
Where does the idea enter that saving the life of the mother can sometimes justify ending the life of the unborn child within her?



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LJG

posted March 9, 2009 at 7:12 pm


A friend of mine is a Medicine student and some of his teachers were involved in the abortion. They were unable to explain the actual risk involved in the pregnancy at that moment.
I don’t buy that for a second. I can’t believe that a doctor can’t look at a nine year old girl and see that they’re not physically developed enough to carry a single pregnancy to term, much less twins. The idea that they then couldn’t explain the risks of that kind of pregnancy on a body that young is absurd. You’d have to wonder just what kind of two-bit medical board is handing out licenses in Brazil if that was the case.
There is simply NO excuse for excommunicating the mother and doctors in this case, and not excommunicating the monster that raped, abused and impregnated the child in the first place. None. It’s hypocritical and punishes the wrong people. The monster who abused and raped that little girl should be tossed out, not the people who saved her life.
Honestly, the Church trying to defend this is coming across as irrational and inhumane. It’s obscene to in any way punish the mother and doctors involved, but let the child rapist and pedophile who caused this horror remain in the Church.



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Gerard Nadal

posted March 9, 2009 at 11:35 pm


RJohnson,
“But (and here I think is where Gerard and I part company) at what point does “circumstances in which the death of the baby is tolerated when it’s a consequence of a medical treatment which is necessary to save the mother’s life” come into play? I believe that Gerard would say that there is NEVER such a case, thus abortion would NEVER be necessary (and if I am wrong I trust him to gently correct me).”
Okay, some very gentle correction. Ending an ectopic pregnancy (which does not have the chance to come anywhere near viability) is permitted to save the life of the mother. If the circumstances here were similar, where the babies could never make it to 25-28 weeks AND the mother’s life is endangered, then the moral principle of “double effect” would apply here as well.
Since you are really one of the more thoughtful people I’ve had the pleasure of speaking with, may I offer you a pretty good resource for understanding Catholic teaching, issue, etc.? It’s the online Catholic Encyclopedia by New Advent. I find them very solid and reliable.
http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/
Well, the babies may have been aborted, but this is only round one in a heavyweight fight this poor child and her sister will be fighting for the rest of their lives. My prayers are with them, and with you for your intentions.
God Bless.



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Guy Selvester

posted March 10, 2009 at 2:17 pm


“David Gibson
March 9, 2009 10:06 AM
I would defer to Father Guy in almost any circumstance, and I don’t think he was excommunicating me (or at least I hope not–he can confirm).”
No, David, I was not excommunicating you. I was merely pointing out the gross misunderstanding by Catholics and Non-Catholics alike about what excommunication actually means. That’s not a matter of my opinion; it is Church teaching.
The other (anonymous) commenter who asserted I was “excommunicating you” because he or she erroneously thought we didn’t agree was clearly reading their own agenda into the discussion…and they got it WRONG.



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Michelle Agustin

posted March 11, 2009 at 11:58 pm


Im a mother of a 12 yr old. and I cant believe this story. Im catholic and sometimes wonder why???? Who truely has the right to judge anyone!! No wonder Catholic churche’s has all these fathers molesting and committing sins to our innocent. they claim and talk about the life of the twins, and yes thoses are innocent lifes. but what happens to the innocence of the little girl or that fact that being so young and carrying twins could kill her and her twins. theres no way she could bare that. and why isnt the mother being held responsible. I would know when my little girls body is changing. and sure as hell no if shes 4 months. This is truley obsurb and hes lucky hes not in our states!! IM DONE



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Paul Barenie

posted March 16, 2009 at 11:20 am


What I find interesting is what information isn’t presented in this article. Before passing judgement, it would be nice to have ALL the information.
**We live in a society that jumps to rash judgements without all the facts**
This article says “…and doctors who carried it out for fear that the slim girl would not survive carrying the foetuses to term.”
Sounds pretty bad, and dire, doesn’t it? If you look at the Irish Times article, it gives a little more information, interestingly left out of this article: “The doctor who carried out the procedure has defended his actions. ‘If the pregnancy had continued, the damage would have been worse, being a high risk pregnancy. The risk would have been of death or at the very least that she would never have been able to become pregnant again,’ Dr Olímpio Moraes told O Globo newspaper.”
So what does ‘high risk pregnancy’ mean? Does it mean the mother has a 50% chance of death if the babies are carried to term? Or, is it a relative term, for example, where a regular pregnancy has a .5 % chance of complications and risks to the mother’s health, and this ‘high risk pregnancy’ has a 1% chance of risks if the babies are carried to term? We don’t really know, do we. Let’s look at the Irish Times quote:
“If the pregnancy had continued, the damage would have been worse, being a high risk pregnancy. The risk would have been of death…”
Sounds pretty dire. But then there is that ‘or’ clause:
“or at the very least that she would never have been able to become pregnant again,”
So, does it really mean death was much of a probability? We really don’t know, do we. The doctor that performed the operation (and that killed the twins) added that the girl would not have been able to become pregnant again. But surely, there would have been some percentage associated with this conclusion, wouldn’t there? Since the doctor is ‘defending’ his actions, I’m guessing (but again, not positive) that his view is slanted anyways.
This article mentions the rational by the doctors ” who carried it out for fear that the slim girl would not survive carrying the foetuses to term.”
But what might the Vatican and Pope have considered that could not have been made public for privacy reasons? Again we simply don’t know. Were there four other doctors that had a differing opinion that the girl could carry the babies to term unharmed? We have no information on the girl’s height/weight- do other girls/women with similar stature (i.e., height/weight) deliver babies with no signifigant elevated risk of delivering? Again, we simply don’t know. It appears that there may be more here than meets the eye.
So, before we jump on the bandwagon and critize the church, or support the decision of abortion, we may need more facts.
Just my humble opinion.
Paul Barenie



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Jean Marc Chartier

posted March 20, 2009 at 1:47 pm


I am in no way a perfect catholic. I like the 10 commandments and I try to follow them as much as possible. I think I understand what was done here. Rules of the church were broken and punishment was handed out. Having said that maybe it is time that the rules change…… So now will the church excommunicate every catholic who commits murder? What about catholic solders who shoot the enemy? Is there a double standard here? What if the mother and doctor acted in good faith based on their seemingly limited knowledge of the situation? Are we punished for ignorance? Oh, yes we are. I forgot the Original sin. Its a sad day in Rome when this crap is allowed to continue.



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