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Pontifications


Brazil abortion story update: “We are killing childhood”

posted by David Gibson

Catholic News Service has the best coverage I’ve seen (no surprise) that clears up many of the confusions of the previous coverage (and in my post) about the nine-year-old Brazilian gril who was raped by her stepfather, impregnated with twins (she herself is 66 pounds), then prescribed an abortion.

For one thing, she could not have been automatically excommunicated:

According to canon law, anyone who procures a completed abortion incurs an automatic excommunication, meaning there is no need for an official decree from church authorities. However, canon law indicates several conditions — for example, not yet having turned 17 years old — that would render an individual exempt from the penalty of excommunication.

The most poignant and incisive take on the tragedy comes at the end of the story:

Jesuit Father Clodoveo Piazza, a missionary in Brazil, told La Stampa that there are thousands of similar tragedies unfolding in the poorest regions of the South American nation.

He said where he works in the state of Bahia “about a third of all children are born to underage mothers; often they are only 11 or 12 years old.”

The majority of these pregnancies among the young are unwanted and, out of shame, the girls “run even greater risks by aborting” in clandestine clinics, he said.

“The world has to wake up. We are killing childhood,” he said.



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pagansister

posted March 9, 2009 at 8:48 pm


The girl was 9 years old AND only 66 pounds? It really makes no difference what she weighed, she was NINE and no child, much less 9, should be forced to carry a pregnancy to term. Not only that, a rape pregnancy makes the abortion even more necessary Several posters mentioned that she wasn’t excommunicated due to her age.
What is even more unfortunate is that young girls in that part of the world are getting pregnant and having abortions under unsafe circumstances, according to Fr. Piazza. What progress is the RCC making in that country? Not much it seems. Wonder how many of those pregnancies are due to rape? Yet the RCC is quick to condemn an abortion and think it is OK for the 11 and 12 year olds to go ahead and give birth…which just makes the poor that much poorer…more mouths to feed and more young ones to die after birth…both the young mothers as well as babies.



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Carol

posted March 9, 2009 at 9:28 pm


Ironically, it is the Church’s doing – tangentially, the public response – which has brought this horror to light.
If the girl had quietly acquired an abortion – like so many other thousands – and the Church said nothing about it, we’d all go back to watching Lost or American Idol, and many not give this a second thought.
One wonders sometime if The Church is settled in it’s position as being the World’s Whipping Boy, and sometimes knows what it’s doing when people cry the loudest that The Churtch doesn’t know what it’s doing. At least I wonder that.
Tell people to go do good, and they’d rather spend their $10.00 on hamburgers. Tell people they are doing wrong, and in giving it their all to prove you wrong, they’ll finally do the good that they should have been doing all along, starting with energetic outrage. Huh.



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LJG

posted March 9, 2009 at 10:11 pm


If the girl had quietly acquired an abortion – like so many other thousands – and the Church said nothing about it, we’d all go back to watching Lost or American Idol, and many not give this a second thought.
You mean just like how the Church isn’t giving a second thought regarding the pedophile and child rapist that got that young girl pregnant in the first place? He’s the one who should be the focus of the Church’s ire, not the innocent 9 year old, or her mother, or the doctors who saved her life.
It’s beyond asinine that the Church cares more about the babies who could have killed that little girl just by virtue of the effects of a twin pregnancy on a nine year old, 66 lb body than they do the fact that the 9 year old in question was abused, beaten and systematically raped by the monster who got her pregnant in the first place. Why not excommunicate him? The hypocrisy of the entire situation is absurd.



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Tom

posted March 9, 2009 at 11:06 pm


{The majority of these pregnancies among the young are unwanted and, out of shame, the girls “run even greater risks by aborting” in clandestine clinics, he said.
“The world has to wake up. We are killing childhood,” he said.}
Rather peculiar that the good Jesuit Fr. Clodoveo Piazza doesn’t point out the need to bring to justice criminals and crackdown on pedophile rape in third world countries. Instead he ‘poignantly’ addresses the need to make abortions readily available for victims of child-rape. If progressives here and abroad truly want to ‘reduce the need’ for abortion, then cracking down on degenerates who rape children would certainly be an excellent place to ‘reduce the need’ rather than making sure abortion is available for these unfortunate souls, thus compounding one deplorable act on top of another. I say kill two birds with one stone!!



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Carol

posted March 9, 2009 at 11:57 pm


“You mean just like how the Church isn’t giving a second thought regarding the pedophile and child rapist that got that young girl pregnant in the first place?”
Please prove that the Church isn’t giving this a second thought. It’s simply that by their own definitions of excommunication, it is reserved for specific situations; it’s not, as someone else says, a “temper tantrum” or ultimate “gotchya”. That the world perceives it this way doesn’t change anything; as someone else stated, The Church isn’t a democracy.
And you’re right. There are three babies involved here. All innocent, and two of which will be killed. I have no idea why people are loathe to admit the truth and admit that it’s a horrible shame for the two lives being taken as well as the one already in pain. It sounds the same as when people talk about “collateral damage” in war, as if that makes dead babies either side of the womb easier to accept. People go on about the misogyny of the Catholic church when their own misopedia is as abhorrent.
There is something to mourn here. Ask any woman who has suffered a stillbirth or miscarriage. Or would you tell those women that to mourn the “baby” in their womb is “senseless” or “ridiculous”, especially in the face of women who lost a child who was a day old. Is a day old baby less valued than a five year old child and so on? You can’t turn on and off the value of that life inside the womb, make it more or less human according to inconvenient – or convenient – outside circumstances, especially when that life is equally as innocent.
So yes, a horrible situation. But to try to justify and rationalize away the deaths of the two – as you say – babies, is equally as horrible. Everyone wants a nice clean black and white situation, redefine life and that life’s value as suits the purpose, make things easy so we can get on with supper.
There was no way out of the sorrow of this situation either way; not if the 9 year old died, and not if the babies inside her died. A human “god” made the decision that the babies inside should die. Where is the difference here? I’m not seeing it.
What we are left with is still insurmountable sorrow. And ironically, the young girl will probably turn to her faith to pull her through.



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Gerard Nadal

posted March 10, 2009 at 12:32 am


Carol,
You’ve nailed it tonight in your posts. You allude to a very good point. If abortions for these girls is made readily available, we would have nothing to take note of. The ready availability of abortion for these girls makes their being raped even easier. And yes, they will mourn these aborted babies for the rest of their lives.
LJG,
With all due respect, from the tone and tenor of your comments, are you/were you a Roman Catholic?
It’s hard to tell if you are seeing this from within or without the Church? I believe that Tom’s post probably shares much of your, my perspective on eliminating the problem at the root. My posts on the original thread address the excommunication issue. Asinine definitely describes the state of the criminal code in Brazil if the maximum this guy is facing is fifteen years for raping two prepubescent girls over a three year period. At worst, he’s out by the age of 38.
God Bless



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Richard

posted March 10, 2009 at 12:46 am


Carol, I understand your point but what SHOULD be done in this situation? I just want your opinion. Should the 9 yr old die? Should be babies be aborted? What is your solution to this tragedy?



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LJG

posted March 10, 2009 at 2:30 am


With all due respect, from the tone and tenor of your comments, are you/were you a Roman Catholic?
I was, born and raised. I even went through Confirmation in high school, and did my undergrad work at a Catholic university. However, I’ve drifted from the Church over the years, and it’s issues like this that make my blood absolutely boil. It’s infuriating that the mother and doctors who saved that little girl are excommunicated, but the monster who got her pregnant in the first place is left alone. That’s not justice. That’s a hypocrisy of the highest order.
I have no problem with the majority of the Church’s social justice teachings, and would even opt out of ever having an abortion of my own unless there was no other medical choice, but this story in Brazil is where I draw the line. This poor girl’s plight is so far beyond the pale and absolutely justifies the abortion that took place, no question. Where is the social justice in condemning the mother and doctors, but sparing the abuser? I don’t see it at all.
There was absolutely no reason on this Earth for that 9 year old to be forced into a pregnancy that was created against her will, after a systematic, years-long pattern of abuse and rape by the monster who got her pregnant. It’s inhumane, IMO, for anyone to have wanted that young girl’s body to be torn apart by a twin pregnancy that she clearly didn’t want and didn’t ask for, and which her nine year old, 66-pound body could not have physically handled.
In this girl’s case, it was a mercy. To force pregnancy and motherhood on her would have been another round of abuse. Saving her life takes precedence. Period. She’s a child who lived a hellish existence that got her into that horrible position in the first place. I can’t think of a worse punishment for her than to have had to physically endure bearing the children of the monster who wounded her so deeply.
As I said in the other post, if I were the mother and doctors in this case, the excommunication would be a badge of honor because I put that little girl’s life first, and spared her any further reminders of the hell she endured at the hands of the pedophile and child rapist who hurt her for so long. I would live with it knowing my conscience was clean.



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Gerard Nadal

posted March 10, 2009 at 9:48 am


LJG,
Thanks for responding. Much of what you say is absolutely correct from a doctrinal point of view. My lawyer friends have an expression: Bad cases make for bad laws. In this case, I would say that bad reporting makes for bad PR and deepens feelings of alienation among people of good will such as yourself.
The Church recognizes that there are pregnancies, such as ectopic pregnancy where:
1. The baby will never make it, even to the point where it could be taken early and cared for in the neonatal intensive care unit. AND
2. The life of the mother is endangered.
In such cases life must prevail. Inasmuch as the babies would be dead either way, the life of the mother must be saved. If that was genuinely the case here, then there is no problem. In cases such as this one should ask two essential questions:
1. Are the media giving me all of the facts?
2. Does the bishop have all of the facts?
“There was absolutely no reason on this Earth for that 9 year old to be forced into a pregnancy that was created against her will, after a systematic, years-long pattern of abuse and rape by the monster who got her pregnant.”
Respectfully, the Church was not trying to force the girl into a pregnancy. The babies existed. They were alive and growing in their mother. The only question, and it is a legitimate one, was whether or not the babies lives could be spared without endangering the life of the mother. I don’t count on the major media ever to report with any accuracy and responsibility what the Church teaches. But, clearly, the pregnancy was brought about by this monster.
I respect the Bishops for standing up for the rights of the unborn.
I think that people of good will should hold their fire until more is known. The media incorrectly reported that the Bishop excommunicated the girl. In truth, Canon law does not provide for excommunications of those under the age of 16 in abortion. Those who perform them and those who help procure them are automatically excommunicated, but even then, they need to know that the penalty exists to incur the penalty. Further, there are enough extenuating circumstances here to remove culpability from the mother if this were a case where the babies could have made it, which sounds unlikely. If this is genuinely a case morally akin to ectopic pregnancy, the doctors are off the hook as well, at least for this case. If they practice abortion, then they have much to be concerned about.
The media have gotten much wrong here. I learned decades ago not to trust their reporting on things Catholic. Their inaccuracies, either born of ignorance or mendacity, stir great passions needlessly. More often than not, when the truth is explained, most people come away seeing the Church as much more reasonable than portrayed.
With the knowledge that we’re probably dealing with significant factual gaps, be at Peace.
God Bless.



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JAB

posted March 10, 2009 at 9:56 am


So the doctrine is automatic. It doesn’t take individual circumstances into account at all. And according to the priest quoted at the end, it is the women and children the doctrine holds accountable. Not the rapists. So much for the morality of Roman Catholic doctrine.



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Marcio

posted March 10, 2009 at 10:34 am


“And according to the priest quoted at the end, it is the women and children the doctrine holds accountable. Not the rapists.” Ah, come on. The rapists commit mortal sin, and their soul is in as much danger as those of the excommunicated people. Of course the pedophile stepfather will have communion denied to him (whenever he has the chance of entering a communion line, which may not happen in the near future). Anyone thinking the Church is ignoring the evil of rape is completely biased or ignorant.



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Gerard Nadal

posted March 10, 2009 at 10:49 am


JAB,
Where do you get that the Church doesn’t hold the rapist responsible? If he does not repent, he’s going straight to hell.



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Mary

posted March 10, 2009 at 12:45 pm


“Anyone thinking the Church is ignoring the evil of rape is completely biased or ignorant.”
For decades the church hierarchy did exactly that, until the press made them take (some) action to protect children from rape by clergy. Sorry, but if folks read the story of this nine-year-old and come away thinking the church isn’t much appalled by child rape, well, too bad. No one told the bishops to compromise their moral authority.
As for this story, horrible. If her doctors said this was a risk to her life, then according to church law, the abortion was sanctioned, right? Or no, because her bishop decided it would be safe for a tiny nine-year-old to carry twins to term, so long as she had a c-section? (Has he ever seen a woman with full-term twins?)
As for the priest warning that we are “killing childhood” I read that as how we as a society sexualize children and don’t protect them from predators generally, not that we’re “killing childhood” by not providing abortions. Am I wrong?



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LJG

posted March 10, 2009 at 1:37 pm


The only question, and it is a legitimate one, was whether or not the babies lives could be spared without endangering the life of the mother.
The problem is, the pregnancy itself put the life of this 9 year old, 66-pound girl at risk.
Twin pregnancies and multiple births are hard enough on the body of a fully grown, fully developed adult woman. According to the Mayo Clinic, twin pregnancies have an increased risk of preterm labor, premature rupture of membranes in the womb, uneven growth, high blood pressure, preeclampsia, and diabetes. Also, the additional weight of the twins is said to be more uncomfortable, with more leg pain and swelling, so more rest is often recommended.
Another thing that is recommended is massive weight gain to properly feed those babies. The average would be anywhere from 35-50 pounds. Exactly how is that 66-pound nine year old supposed to gain that much weight and be expected to endure all those possible complications? Her body simply could not have handled it.
Add to all of that the physical size of those twins growing inside her body and the effects they would have had on her internal organs and her bone structure. She’s nine. Her uterus hasn’t fully developed at that age and would barely be able to hold one child, much less two. It would have literally torn her apart from the inside and led to a whole host of issues later on in life had the pregnancy been allowed to continue.
Standing up for the rights of the unborn is one thing. Standing up for those rights at the expense of an innocent 9 year old girl who was systematically beaten, abused, and raped for years, and whose body could not have handled that pregnancy is another, especially when the pregnancy only happened at all because of the rape and abuse she endured.
I’m sorry, but IMO that little girl’s life comes first, and mercifully, the authorities in Brazil agreed. It’s just a shame that the doctors and mother who saved her are excommunicated while the pedophile and child rapist who got her into this situation is left alone.



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RJohnson

posted March 10, 2009 at 2:57 pm


“I’m sorry, but IMO that little girl’s life comes first, and mercifully, the authorities in Brazil agreed. It’s just a shame that the doctors and mother who saved her are excommunicated while the pedophile and child rapist who got her into this situation is left alone.”
I’m not certain that the monster in this case has been left alone. However, I believe that the local priest and the presiding bishop (and to some extent, the Vatican) missed an opportunity to deflect much of the criticism over this issue by not speaking to the spiritual situation of the abusive step-father.
In pointing out what canon law states regarding the automatic nature of the excommunication the Church may well have correctly explained the situation. However, I believe that the bishop erred in stating that the sin of abortion was greater than the sin of child abuse. In doing so he was feeding into the perception (not necessarily incorrect) that the Church still does not accept the gravity of child sexual abuse, even after so many years of public scandal.
Perhaps it would have helped if the Bishop had taken the time to instruct the public on how the actions of the step-father, which have been characterized by others here as a mortal sin, prevent him from receiving the Eucharist.
I understand that there is to be a sermon in that church this weekend on the evils of abortion. I sincerely hope that next week there is a sermon on the evils of child sexual abuse.



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Your Name

posted March 10, 2009 at 3:17 pm


There’s the blog of the local priest (padreedson.blogspot.com), who tells the whole story from his perspective.
http://padreedson.blogspot.com/2009/03/caso-da-menina-de-alagoinha-o-lado-que.html
An English translation of the priest’s letter:
http://www.monachos.net/forum/showthread.php?p=76422
“The mother told me she was fine and was playing in the apartment with some dolls she had been given by some people in the hospital”, wrote the priest.
Yep, “we are killing childhood”…
Because nothing else in this letter is about the girl; not a shadow of doubt about the medical reasons of the abortion, not a question to the social workers or the doctors. No. If the father and the mother initially declared that they wanted “the grandchildren” and that their daughter is “fine”, then no other argument should ever appear, and anyone else must be portrayed as a manipulating monster.



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LJG

posted March 10, 2009 at 3:21 pm


I’m not certain that the monster in this case has been left alone.
Of course he’s been left alone. He wasn’t excommunicated. It was his systematic pattern of beating, abusing and raping that 9-year old girl that led to all of this happening in the first place. Why not hold him accountable as well? Saying, “oh, well he’s in mortal sin” or whatever isn’t enough.
If the Church is going to condemn and excommunicate the mother of this little girl for saving her daughter’s life, as well as the doctors who performed the abortion, why not ALSO condemn and excommunicate the monster whose vile, morally repugnant actions made all of this awful situation happen at all? There would never have been an abortion if he hadn’t been raping that little girl from the time she was six years old.
Honestly, this is just another in a long, long line of missteps and moral failures of the Church when it comes to the sexual abuse of children. In this case, they’ve gone after the mother and the doctors for the abortion that saved that little girl’s life, but NOT after the pedophile and child rapist who caused all this mess in the first place.
It’s like they still haven’t learned from all the scandals that have ripped the Church apart these past years. You can’t just brush aside these kinds of abuses. You can’t just focus on one issue (in this case, the abortion) while turning a blind eye to the other, larger issue at work (the child sexual abuse that caused the pregnancy).
Not excommunicating the monster that caused this is ridiculous. Surely there’s grounds for excommunication due to his actions. If not, the Church’s actions and responses to all this are inadequate.



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Your Name

posted March 10, 2009 at 3:45 pm


LJG
And I should add, after reading the priest’s letter above: why not excommunicate THE GIRL’S BIOLOGICAL FATHER as well?? Not the stepfather-rapist, but the father, the one who does the talking with the secular and religios authorities and the one who handles all the documents, as we see, since the mother is illiterate.
BOTH mother and father ended up by endorsing the abortion. And yet, until this letter, nobody knew that there was a biological father involved, because… because only the mother was excommunicated!



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RJohnson

posted March 10, 2009 at 4:32 pm


“If the Church is going to condemn and excommunicate the mother of this little girl for saving her daughter’s life, as well as the doctors who performed the abortion, why not ALSO condemn and excommunicate the monster whose vile, morally repugnant actions made all of this awful situation happen at all? There would never have been an abortion if he hadn’t been raping that little girl from the time she was six years old.”
As I said in my earlier post, this was a missed opportunity by both the local priest and the Bishop to speak to the whole of this tragedy. Perhaps Canon Law did not permit the excommunication of the step-father under these circumstances, but certainly the leadership could have explained how the church viewed the nature of his crimes against the daughter. Simply saying that abortion is a greater sin than child abuse was not enough, and stopped well short of a full explanation of the situation.
Others here have explained that the step-father would not be permitted to partake in communion until/unless he confesses. It would have been much better to hear this from the priest at the same time that the discussion of the mother’s excommunication happened.
Of course, I have the feeling much more of this story is left to be told.



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Gerard Nadal

posted March 10, 2009 at 5:22 pm


LJG,
“Another thing that is recommended is massive weight gain to properly feed those babies. The average would be anywhere from 35-50 pounds. Exactly how is that 66-pound nine year old supposed to gain that much weight and be expected to endure all those possible complications? Her body simply could not have handled it.”
I agree with you entirely. When I speak of saving the babies, I do so relative to taking them at ~23-26 weeks before most of the weight gain takes place. But, as we have seen, pertinent details like the girl’s weight trickle out days, weeks later after the sensationalized reporting that generates the initial round of hysteria. If the details released are true, it seems that there was no other option and that the abortion was justifiable in order to save the mother’s life. If such is truly the case, then the Bishop needs better medical advisors.
As for your outrage over the rapist not being excommunicated, that opens a Pandora’s Box of issues. First, I think this link will give you a wealth of insights and answers about excommunication:
http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/05678a.htm
The reasons are too long to get into on a thread like this, but the penalty of excommunication is reserved for certain crimes. That does not lessen the severity of the sinfulness of other crimes, such as sex crimes. Either way, excommunication is not meant to be the scarlet letter. It’s meant to make the recalcitrant sinner rethink their sin and reform, beginning with confession and penance.
Suppose the Bishop publicly declared this rapist as excommunicated. Then the critics of the Church would point to the clergy abuse scandal and cry foul, as a layman was being penalized worse than the clergy. Suppose the Bishops excommunicated everyone who committed sex crimes. Then the critics would say that because other Bishops moved pedophile Priests around in the past, no Bishop had the authority to enforce such discipline. If the Brazilian Bishops spoke out against the rampant pedophilia in that country, would most people sit and ridicule the Bishops? Would they rally to them?
We all know the answers. That’s why the Bishops should do their very best and ignore the inevitable criticisms from those who would poke their finger in the Bishops’ eyes no matter what they do.
In the final analysis, excommunication and/or public prohibitions from receiving the Eucharist are all aimed not at public shame and ridicule, but at impressing upon the recalcitrant the need for conversion and repentance. This rapist, if his sins are not confessed and absolved, has no more access to the Sacraments than the person who has been formally excommunicated. Such mortal sin precludes participation in any other Sacrament, as reception of the others requires one to first be in a state of grace.
I share your loathing for this man ad what he has done. Before I became a scientist, I was a Catholic seminarian who also worked in Times Square NY with homeless teens, most of whom were prostitutes. Believe me when I say that I detest what has been done to this child. I saw so much of it. But especially in this season of Lent, I cast one eye in the mirror, realizing that my sins, while not at all related to this guy’s sins, still separate me from God.
Yes, I think he deserves far more than the 15 year maximum prison sentence that he’s facing. But I do not say that his sins place him beyond redemption. That is for God alone to determine.



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Gerard Nadal

posted March 10, 2009 at 5:24 pm


RJohnson,
Amen to your posts!
God Bless.



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RJohnson

posted March 10, 2009 at 9:16 pm


“I agree with you entirely. When I speak of saving the babies, I do so relative to taking them at ~23-26 weeks before most of the weight gain takes place. But, as we have seen, pertinent details like the girl’s weight trickle out days, weeks later after the sensationalized reporting that generates the initial round of hysteria. If the details released are true, it seems that there was no other option and that the abortion was justifiable in order to save the mother’s life. If such is truly the case, then the Bishop needs better medical advisors.”
And herein is the problem with absolute prohibitions against abortions that do not permit such factors from being considered. But…that may well be left for another thread.
I appreciate your helpful links to websites where I can learn more about Canon Law. They do make the topic somewhat less complex. But I have to admit, coming from a “sola scriptura” background I find this quite confusing. But then, I suspect that it can well be confusing at times to someone who is an “expert” in it, if such persons exist.
God bless!



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Your Name

posted March 11, 2009 at 12:51 pm


The Catholic Church preaches morality but look at what it does:
1. Sex abuse by priests covered up.
2. Laundered Nazi gold, covered up.
Not much of a moral authority – the Church needs to own up to its own crimes before it condemns others.



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Charles

posted March 11, 2009 at 1:15 pm


The Catholic Church in Brazil is terrible. They wink their eye to institutional corruption. One of the richest countries in the world. But also has the most poor.On top of that violent poor. They the Catholic Church want to send a girl and her mother to hell because the mother did not want her daughter live in hell. Catholicism is lacking integrity in Latin America. I know a local Brazilian Bishop who rushed a wedding so the bride and groom could get their wedding blessed in a Hari Krisna ceremony. The brides parents are a local rich and powerful family. So much for canon law.



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Alan Ferris

posted March 13, 2009 at 6:09 am


It is unbeleivable that the church would wish to kill a child just to prevent an abortion. How is that pro-life?
Whilst these events are going on once again in Ireland Catholics are killing innocent people, yet the church has never excomunicated any of those for taking a life.
So it seems that the excomminicaiton is only bade temper on their part for not getting thier way in court. Correctly the courts decided that the girls life was at risk. Maybe if the Bishop was medically trained and could have provided evidcence for the girls life not being at risk he would be more credible.
As it is, at this tragic time, when the family needs support most from their priest and church, they are denied it, yet the rapist still gets full support from his priest and church…..makes me glad I left the Catholic faith, with morals like those it is clear that they are not following Jesus, but are following something more sinister.



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