Latae Sententiae excommunication: Misunderstood again

This is a horrible story – and for once I am not talking about the journalism (although that leaves something to be desired in this case too). The situation of the little girl and the abuse she suffered from her father are (for one who is himself a father of girls that age) too horrible to contemplate.

I can quite easily imagine where comments on this story might go in the combox, so I will ask you to please be polite and thoughtful in your responses (we don’t want this to become a shouting match).

First, we should observe that carrying the twins to full term might have been physically very dangerous for the life of such a young girl. That brings into the moral equation the law of double effect, which is never straightforward.

Secondly, the child and her mother have obviously suffered a great deal in this situation, and what is needed above all from the Church is pastoral care and compassion. This may in fact have been offered by the Church – the issue seems to have been politicised by the fact that abortion is usually illegal in Brazil “except in cases of rape or if the woman’s health is in danger” (both of which would appear to have made this case legal).

Thirdly, and most importantly, there is a point that might have been lost in translation or in the rush to make political capital out of the story: In saying that “the church was excommunicating all those responsible for the abortion: the medical team and the girl’s mother… The adults who approved, who carried out this abortion, will be excommunicated”, the archbishop may simply have been pointing out that anyone who procurs or cooperates in the procurement of an abortion is automatically (ie. latae sententiae) excommunicated. An explicit act of the Church is not required for such an excommunication to come into effect.

And so, like with the SSPX bishops, we see that once again the meaning of a latae sententiae excommunication is misunderstood by the media – although they could look it up on Wikipedia if they wanted to.

In addition to this, and hopefully this was immediately offered by the family’s pastor, any priest is authorised to lift a latae sententiae excommunication which has been incurred in the case of abortion.

It is a horrible case, and I hope and pray that (despite the tone of the story in The Australian) the poor child and her mother and family are being surrounded by the love and compassion of Christ through his Church at this time.

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35 responses to “Latae Sententiae excommunication: Misunderstood again

  1. Louise

    The situation is obviously hideous beyond belief.

    Pole ould make the point that there is a difference between child removal and abortion (child destruction). Eg it would be permissible in this case for the babies to be removed alive from the uterus after, say 24 weeks and be given the opportunity to survive. If an earlier removal were needed for the girl’s health, I’m not sure exactly what the moral requirements are in that case, not being a moral theologian.

    In such cases, however, many on the pro-choice side of the matter seem to care more about the destruction of the baby than the health of the mother.

    I hope also that the Church is helping this poor girl etc.

  2. Tony

    David,

    I think you miss the point again about the press. You seem to imply condemnation of the press because it didn’t take the time or effort to understand latae sententiae.

    Surely the SSPX issue illustrates that the press will not let technicalities get in the way of a good story and that needs to understood and managed?

    Lets give the Bishop the benefit of the doubt and grant that a journalist actually tricked him by asking the question knowing that the Bishop would answer according to the ‘letter of the law’. The Bishop may have spent the rest of the interview talking in terms of compassion directed to the girl and her mother, but too late, the journalist has his story.

    How should the Bishop have responded in that imagined scenario? With a firm, ‘there is a time and place to answer those questions and this is niether, our concern is for the girl and her mother’. FULL STOP.

    What would concern me would be another scenario where B Sobrinho came out with this response with little or no prompting. If that were the case then he should be got out of the way pronto and replaced by a man with more compassion and more brains.

    But again, shooting the messenger is useless. The church, via PB16, made a move towards reconciliation with the SSPX (however you explain it technically) and Sobrinho does seem to have said what he said and, technically correct or not, it comes over very badly in a situation where surely the church needs to be, and be seen to be, a model of compassion.

    As to trying to examine if the mother did the right thing. Who knows? Can you imagine how distressed she might have been and how her own capacity to reason through these events might have been distorted?

    Does even the possibility that she has earned a latae sententiae excommunication do any more than add to her distress?

    cabio: the kind of taxi drivers who are keen to tell every passenger their life story.

  3. Schütz

    Does even the possibility that she has earned a latae sententiae excommunication do any more than add to her distress?

    I’m afraid it is not a question of the “possibility”. The l.s. excommunication comes about automatically as a result of procuring or being involved in the procurement of an abortion.

    My prayer is that in this situation the pastors moved quickly to a situation where the automatic sentence could be lifted as soon as possible. It would be terrible if a political point were being made out of this sad story.

  4. Tony

    I’m afraid it is not a question of the “possibility”. The l.s. excommunication comes about automatically as a result of procuring or being involved in the procurement of an abortion.

    If that’s the case David then the law is an ass (and that’s the best I can do restraint-wise).

    It’s a little like two people coming up to you and saying, ‘My friend here is going to kick you in the teeth but don’t worry, I know a good dentist!’.

    I have to ask, do any visitors to this blog imagine that God would want us to excommunicate this woman — automatic or otherwise?

    Do you think the God who’s mercy and compassion Jesus spoke about time and time again would want this?

    If so, I despair. If not, the law needs to be changed!

    berphi: wise belch

  5. Terra

    Actually according to Lifesite news the story is more complicated than it seems. The first hospital the girl was examined at found that her life was not at risk, and refused to proceed with an abortion at this stage. The Archdiocese was in the process of seeking an injunction to stop an abortion – when it was ann ounced that it had already happened.

    It is a terrible story. One must feel desperately sorry for the raped child.

    I have little sympathy however for a mother who was either culpable in not stopping the abuse or utterly oblivious to her children not to realize that something was wrong.

    And two wrongs don’t make a right -our first instinct as catholics must always be to oppose abortion regardless of the circumstances. If there really is a double effect case to be made, then the judgment should be made taking into account the expert advice of the priest. Clearly this didn’t occur in this place.

    We should laud the Archbishop for defending Church teaching.

  6. Tony

    I have little sympathy however for a mother who was either culpable in not stopping the abuse or utterly oblivious to her children not to realize that something was wrong.

    Really? Most mothers in this situation are abused too and held in that state by terror, humiliation and intimidation.

    We should laud the Archbishop for defending Church teaching.

    Yep Terra, I despair.

  7. eulogos

    The excommunication can’t be lifted until the people involve repent. Which means that they realize that it was wrong to do it.

    And they were wrong to do it. The little girl should have been given the best care possible, probably in a hospital with her mother with her, until the babies were of an age to survive and thrive with some help outside the womb. They shouldn’t be delivered at a precarious age like 24 weeks unless her life was truly threatened at that point. No one has given a convincing reason why it would be. Around 28 or 30 weeks they could be delivered by C section, and when ready to leave the hospital, given up for adoption. While the girl is in the hospital and afterwards she gets counseling (from faithful Catholic counselors) and whatever other help she needs. Of course the stepfather is removed from the family and put in jail.

    This little girl has suffered and will suffer. Do you really think she will suffer less in the future knowing that her two babies, already developed babies, were killed rather than knowing that they are somewhere being raised in good families?
    Being pregnant under hospital care is probably no worse than what is suffered by children with chronic medical problems who are repeatedly hospitalized, probably less bad. In fact, compared to what the little girl was suffering from her abuser, it would be an improvement.

    In any case, there is simply no situation in which one can deliberately kill a baby in the womb. The church did not permit it, in the era before the safe C section, even to save the mother’s life when the baby could not be delivered. It required a C section to save the baby’s life and the best attempt possible to save the mother’s life, which was very chancy before antibiotics and IV hydration.

    Of course this mother was distressed and was trying to make the whole ugly situation go away, and perhaps trying after the fact to protect the child she didn’t protect before. That is why she should have been surrounded by people who didn’t allow her to make this terrible choice. Hopefully she will later realize it was a terrible choice and say she is sorry; it doesn’t take more than that.

    Susan Peterson

  8. eulogos

    Tony, it is possible to do and allow great evil out of false pity. I just wish the Archbishop had been able to stop the abortions, which would have been the act of true compassion…and then offer to pay for the type of care I described above.
    Susan Peterson

  9. eulogos

    Mr. Schutz,

    Double effect means something like when you removed a cancerous uterus that happens to be pregnant; your purpose is to remove the cancerous womb and the early human life implanted there sadly goes with it.

    There is no double effect situation here. The girl’s womb was not diseased. You could only be trying to save her life at the expense of that of both of her unborn children. That is never permissible. The most you could do, once the babies reached the earliest stage of viability, would be to deliver them then if her life were truly in imminent danger. Then you are acting to save both of them. But you can’t save the girl’s life by doing what you know will kill the babies.

    You didn’t mean that the pastor should lift the latae sententiae excommunication without finding out if the woman repented, did you? Sort of automatically, as if she didn’t really do anything wrong? This is something which is done in the sacrament of penance, and does require contrition.
    I am not saying of course that he would need to be harsh with her. He could be very gentle. But he can’t say what she did was right, or absolve her and lift the excommunication, if she is saying she was right to do it and is not sorry she did it.

    Sometimes this world just is a vale of tears.

    Susan Peterson

  10. Tony

    Eulogos,

    It is too difficult for me to comment on your posts without risking getting to the shouting match David rightly wants to avoid.

    But from your certainty about the rightness and wrongness of a situation you are in no position to judge about — none of us are — to your reference to ‘false pity’ I find your reaction beyond the pale.

  11. matthias

    I think Tony is correct and i believe that Christ would want compassion by those acting in His Name. This is a hideous case as Louise puts it and it just beggars description and raises too many moral and ethical questions

  12. Schütz

    Please, Tony and Susan, do not get into a “shouting match”. I do not ask you to “respect one another’s POV”, which I think must be virtually impossible for either of you (think on that for a minute, Tony..), I just ask you to be civil toward one another.

    My understanding is that an L.S. excommunication resulting from the procurement of an abortion must be lifted before those who have incurred it may be admitted to any of the sacraments – including the sacrament of penance.

    If a penitent comes to a priest, and begins to make their confession, and this includes a confession of having procured or been involved in the procurement of an abortion, the priest is obliged to stop the rite, inform the penitent that they have incurred a l.s. excommunication, but immediately inform them that he has the power to lift this excommunication and that he does so officially right there and now, and then continue with the rite of penance.

    As far as I know, there are no official conditions given for the lifting of an l.s. excommunication. Usually only the pope can take such an action, and he is not obliged to explain to the world his reasons for doing so. The case of the SSPX bishops is illustrative.

    The L.S. excommunication incurred by abortion is the only exception in that any priest can lift it. Again, I am not aware of any conditions required for this. It would be up to the pastoral judgement of the priest, I imagine. It would certainly have to be lifted before the excommunicant would have access to the sacrament of penance.

  13. Terra

    Susan,

    While I agree we shouldn’t leap to the conclusion taht a double effect case can be made, I’m not sure we can entlirely dismiss the possiblity altogether.

    If a person’s life is threatend, there will be a mechanism causing the threat whihc may be treatable. And that treatment may have the indirect effects involved.

    The most likely threat in this case would have been, it appears an inability to deliver which could of course be readily dealt with through a caesarian. But other complications could have occurred. We will never know.

  14. matthias

    Other complications-often a risk in teenage or late 30s’ is
    pre-eclampsia( pregnancy induced hypertension) which can lead to seizures,kidney failure ,stroke and death or disability. not to mention the attendant risks around Caesarian section.
    A complication from the abortion is that it can leave scarring which, if this girl in later life wanted to have children,can cause miscarriage or premature birth,due to an ‘incompetent” birth mechanisms to put it non -clinically and politely .Mental scarring also from the whole process ! and would she ever be able to trust men again!?
    More dilemmas all caused by one man’s evil

  15. eulogos

    Terra, I have been thinking about this since yesterday, trying to find a way under the way of thinking about it that I learned, to justify this, if indeed it was medically necessary to save the child’s life.
    It is difficult to do this without knowing the medical facts which we do not know. For instance, if her uterus really was too small to sustain a pregnancy, perhaps she would just have miscarried. If there is a chance it would have ruptured, and this became imminent, wouldn’t this be the same situation as in a tubal pregnancy where rupture threatens?
    These moral questions aren’t always easy. They can’t always be solved by doing what is “compassionate” for the older people involved ie the nine year old, while ignoring what is compassionate for the younger people involved, ie the unborn twins. One can’t decide it soley in terms of feelings.

    I wonder what Tony would say about the situation in the movie “The Cardinal”? In a time when C section was not safe, and particularly not safe when the woman has been laboring a long time and is thus already exhausted and dehydrated, and the baby is nondeliverable by the vaginal route, what do you do? The standard obstetric practice at that time was to perform the same procedure which is now used for “partial birth abortion”; collapsing the baby’s skull by sucking out the contents. This allowed the dead baby to be delivered and usually allowed the mother’s life to be saved. The Church forbade this, and required that a C section be done, which the mother seldom survived in that era before antibiotics and IV fluids. This could mean that a family with several small children could lose its mother. The Church was much vilified in the popular press over this issue.

    I wonder what people here think of that moral dilemma, thankfully no longer an issue, but somewhat illustrative.

    Susan Peterson

  16. matthias

    I have often wondered about that Susan and can see why there is still strong anti catholic sentiment in a lot of older protestants .I do not know if our Catholic brethren amongst us here, really know the depth of feelings that were engendered in certain denominations especially around marriage and birth control if a member married a Catholic. I think what you have spoken of here could have been at the back of their minds. However thank God for Flemming for discovering penicillin and for Florey (an Aussie) and Ernst Chaim (German Jewish refugee) for putting Flemming’s discovery to work,to avoid post operative/nosocomial infection.

  17. Tom

    This is one messy bed. Still, there does seem to be some sense that can be made of it. The way we think about the law today, mostly secular in our outlook, is that the law is something man made. As such, any punishment or consequence from the law is a purely human invention designed from positivist stand points. To be more precise, the law is fundamentally Utilitarian. That is, we envisage that at some point, someone wrote this law with a certain situation in mind, trying to create another certain consequence. This, especially when looking at today’s modern secular law, and the law-makers instant obedience to the claims of the media seems very viable.

    However, I think the problem here lies again in the way the world fails to understand the church. The l.s. excommunication is nothing to do with an antecedant being followed by a consequence. Certain acts, by their very nature put us outside the church, and as such are an excommunication. This is true of the three mortal sins particularly. Murder, Adultery and Apostasy. This is what an l.s. excommunication is, it is just the Church recognising formally what it already knows. Anyone, anywhere involved in an abortion, for whatever reason is outside the communion of the church. This is a communion based on the unity with the Pope, through the bishops. An act against life, such as abortion puts one outside that communion.

    It is for this matter why the sacrament of penance is so important, and why this excommunication can be lifted so quickly and simply; because there are situations where such an act might be viewed as unavoidable. But the bishop talking about this l.s. excommunication is simply stating a fact, rather like saying of a car accident that people are hurt. The difficulty with such is that the media loves to work itself up in regards to this kind of thing. It loves to throw these words around as though it really understands them, when it almost never does. It loves to play to emotional heartstrings, never looking at the nature of anything just the superficiality of it. Saw a brilliant (sarcasm alert) article today in the Australian, talking about the supposed problem with over-population in the world. It was saying that the women of the world need to be (and i quote) “freed from the tyranny – and i mean tyranny – of fertility.”

    It is this kind of twisted language that i’m referring to. Anyway, yeah i’m not deviating from my position, the journalist is a jackass, the Bishop is doing what he ought to and the newspapers need to raise their journalistic quality if they wish to be taken seriously.

  18. eulogos

    Back to the first post in the thread, Louise. Where does this idea come from that it would be legitimate to remove completely nonviable fetuses so long as you did it in a non-traumatic way and then just let them die? I encountered this on another blog. It is contrary to what I was taught, so I want to hear the argument for it from moral theology. Your wrote “Pole ould make the point…” I think this must be a typo. Who makes the point? I want to research this.

    This is what I wrote when I encountered this idea on another blog,

    “Can you give me references for what you say about an induced delivery of unborn babies too small to have even a chance of living , in order to save the life of the mother?

    My understanding has always been that this is not permitted. A cancerous uterus may be removed even though it is pregnant, because this is the removal of a diseased organ and it is that which is desired, not the death of the baby. That is the usual application of the principle of double effect. A fallopian tube with an ectopic pregnancy can be removed because that is the removal of an organ in which an abnormal process is going on, but you can’t flush the tube with methotrexate to kill the developing fertilized ovum.

    We aren’t allowed to kill an adult person by removing their supply of oxygen, food, and water. We couldn’t even do this if they were in a permanent coma, and a mentally able and productive human being needed the person’s heart or liver to survive; in other words, we couldn’t kill that comatose person in order to save another person’s life. So why can we kill an unborn child by removing its supply of oxygen, food and water?

    I would like to know on what authority you concluded that this would be legitimate.
    Susan Peterson”

    I am asking this here also, in hopes that someone here has some references to moral theologians faithful to the magisterium, who discuss this issue and come to the conclusion you referred to.
    SFP

  19. Louise

    Back to the first post in the thread, Louise. Where does this idea come from that it would be legitimate to remove completely nonviable fetuses so long as you did it in a non-traumatic way and then just let them die?

    That’s not what I meant. I know that babies *can* live from 24 weeks onwards if they are properly cared for (I know an adolescent boy personally who was born prem at that stage of gestation) and that a baby can very safely be removed from 37 weeks onwards, which is counted as full term. I was merely pointing out that at some point along the way, should a mother’s life been in actual danger it’s my understanding that a baby can be removed if there is a chance for the baby to live. 24 weeks may be deemed by doctors, bioethicists and moral theologians to be too early, so I will not say exactly when it is acceptable to do so, although on re-reading my original remark it does look as though I have *recommended 24* weeks. It was just mentioned as a *possibility.* I really don’t know what the accepted dating is. I always defer to others more expert in these matters and I’m sorry if it looked like I was advocating the death of the baby.

    What usually happens with an ectopic pregnancy, for example, if the baby is still alive? Anyone know?

  20. matthias

    Louise from my experience working and running operating theatres-including obstetric ones- we have operated when rupture has occurred and the baby has died as a result of that. This is normally 4-7 weeks gestation. However usual practice would be that the baby does not survive ,even if rupture has not occurred and is sent to pathology. The last unruptured one i ‘scrubbed’ for turned out to be a pregnancy that had become pre cancerous,and in this case the baby had not even developed.
    I can remember a gynaecological oncologist lecturing us in 1981,stating his belief ,and he was not catholic,that the oral contraceptive pill may cause an increase in ectopic pregancies and possibly ovarian cancinoma.

  21. Louise

    Thanks for that info, Matthias.

  22. Tony

    For me the bottom line is

    1. Is it reasonable for the church to have a ‘rule’ that says, independent of circumstances, ‘when you do this you’re excommunicated’. I find that reprehensible.

    2. I don’t know enough about the circumstances in this case to come close to offering an opinion about the rights and wrongs.

    3. Finally, the focus as we have received it (and this may reflect the priorities of the media) is on the mother and her ‘wrong doing’. It comes over so badly because the real culprit, the step-father, should be the focus of our concern in terms of who is the culprit. He’s the one who surely earns an excommunication?

    beardr: barber specialising in facial hair.

  23. a Catholic

    If the doctors said that “the girl is very small and her uterus doesn’t have the ability to hold one, let alone two children” (Fatima Maia, director of the public university hospital), then why exactly should the mother and the doctors be repentant and seek forgiveness? For not allowing this child to die or become mutilated because of this dangerous pregnancy?

  24. eulogos

    What is moral has to be determined by principles which can be stated clearly, not by heart string tugging stories.

    Suffering is not the worst evil in the world.

    Cardinal Newman famously said…infamously to some people…
    that it would be better for thousands to die in agony than for one single venial sin to be committed.

    He wasn’t thinking of any particular scenario in which one venial sin could avert the death of thousands, and I haven’t been able to think of one.

    But if killing two 15 week old unborn children is wrong, it is still wrong in this case. The first question we should all ask is, Is there anything we can we do to help this nine year old without killing these two unborn babies?
    The lives of the babies take precedent over her emotional distress or physical discomfort, although we should do what we can to ameliorate them. A Catholic really shouldn’t have any dispute at all to this point. But what happens if the life of the nine year old is really in conflict with the lives of the unborn babies? Is it ever legitimate deliberately to kill the unborn?

    The reason I asked Louise what I did was because some other commentors, on a Canadian blog called “Big Blue Wave” were saying that it is allowed for Catholics, in cases where the mother’s life is threatened, to remove PREVIABLE unborn from the womb and allow them to die (offering what comfort is possible) and that this is a more Catholic choice than aborting them in a way which would directly kill them. I said that removing them from the womb is morally equivalent to killing them another way.

    Has anyone else heard of this?
    Susan Peterson

  25. Arabella-m

    Hello Susan,

    Regarding ‘Has anyone else ever heard of this?’ (i.e. allowing the removal of PREVIABLE unborn from the womb and allowing them to die as being not the same as directly killing them) – No I’ve not heard of that, you’re correct stating both methods are morally the same.

    The US bishops sum it up: “Abortion (that is, the directly intended termination of pregnancy before viability or the directly intended destruction of a viable fetus) is never permitted.”

    Many of the principles concerning the morality of pregnancy termination are outlined in their statement on the ‘Moral Principles Concerning Infants with Anencephaly’. This statement is, in part, a response to the frequent suggestion that pregnancies where infants have anencephaly be terminated before full term.

    http://www.usccb.org/dpp/anencephaly.htm

  26. Tony

    What is moral has to be determined by principles which can be stated clearly, not by heart string tugging stories.

    But, as I’ve said all along, there is a time for the heart and a time for the head. The immediate aftermath of these terrible events is a time for the heart. IMO the church needs, above all, to be seen as compassionate and supportive not ‘laying down the law’.

    Could you imagine a personal scenario like this? Your 9yo niece has been raped by your brother in law and is pregnant. You find out that your sister in law has organised an abortion.

    What do you do? Wag your finger and say ‘tsk, tsk, you know you’re excommunicated, don’t you?’.

    Surely you offer her what comfort you can and leave the moral judgment stuff until she is more capable of actually hearing you?

    You may, if you build some trust with your sister-in-law, find that she did her very best to act according to how she saw the situation at the time.

    Now, she may have been wrong, but I can’t see how in a situation as distressing as this that she should be subject to an automatic ‘penalty’ by an institution more concerned with ‘principles’ than human suffering.

    It is, and I hesitate to use such an expression, heartless and the church should never be seen that way in situations of such distress.

  27. William Tighe

    “Surely you offer her what comfort you can and leave the moral judgment stuff until she is more capable of actually hearing you?”

    Rubbish! First of all, if there is even the slightest possibility of dissuading her from organizing the murder of her own grandchild, one is obliged to do it. Secondly, even if not, it may be best to say nothing, but, once again, hardly to offer “comfort” to someone who is effectively arranging for a murder.

  28. Tony

    Rubbish!

    No shouting now William.

    First of all, if there is even the slightest possibility of dissuading her from organizing the murder of her own grandchild, one is obliged to do it.

    Just to be clear then: all my comments are based on the fact that it has already occurred.

    Secondly, even if not, it may be best to say nothing, but, once again, hardly to offer “comfort” to someone who is effectively arranging for a murder.

    Rubbish (!). Offering her comfort could actually lead to a situation where she could trust you for advice. So it may be that your ‘before the fact’ advice to look at other alternatives might, again, actually be heard.

  29. eulogos

    Re Tony’s comment two comments up, ending with “the church should never be seen that way..”

    Why are you so concerned with how the Church is “seen”? The Church has to be the Church, proclaim the truth, say what is right is right and what is wrong is wrong. It shouldn’t be concerning itself too much with how it is going to be reported by its enemies.

    If this happened in my family and I knew about it ahead of time, I would certainly try to intervene to prevent abortion happening as the first step. If my involvement were accepted at all, I would send out a call on all the Catholic blogs I knew for prolife obstetricians and neonatologists, in order to solicit medical opinions about what really are the medical facts in the case.

    I want very much for the medical facts to say that there was some other choice but death for either the girl or the babies, and of course I would want that with even more intensity if the girl were related to me. It does seem to me that ovulation would usually be related biologically to at least a minimal degree of sexual maturation and the ability to carry a child if conceived.

    So I am having trouble getting my mind to go to the place where I consider the choice of death for either the babies or the girl. If there really should be such a choice, and one were sure that those were the choices, I can’t say for sure that I would let my own child die, which of course would also lead to the death of the babies. Considering that no one survives that scenario…it is hard to see what good would be served. All I can say is that I would do everything I possibly could to fight for a way for all of them to live. If the mother was told and believed that her child would die if she didn’t have an abortion, I think we can all understand her.

    I think the facts presented to the bishop in this case were that the girl was taken to one hospital, where they did not find her life to be in danger and would not do the abortion. The mother then took her to another hospital which did the abortion.
    This puts the situation in a different light. The mother was not concerned to find any other possible way before she consented to the abortion.
    This was the situation in which the bishop spoke of the automatic excommunication. I think he was speaking in a Catholic country which still has fairly strict abortion laws, where he is trying to fight abortion on every possible front and keep it in people’s minds that it is evil. He probably didn’t understand that this was such a juicy store that it would go worldwide. Oh well, those that hate us for it, already hate us. And I doubt the woman cares much what the church thinks, or she would
    have stayed at the first hospital.

    Susan Peterson

    PS, Seeing your stress i comments which arrived while I was writing this, If someone has already had an abortion, I usually express sorrow at the loss. If my sister did something like that she would approach me about it defiantly, and there would be nothing for me to say. I might say, “I would have tried more first to find a different solution to the situation, but if the doctor told you she would die, I do understand why you did it.” She already knows I think abortion is wrong, I don’t have to tell her that again. I might then ask “How is [her daughter] doing with this now?” showing that I still care about her daughter.
    There is not too much point on an individual level in moralizing immediately after the fact.

    The bishop’s situation is different, though, as I said above.

  30. Tony

    Why are you so concerned with how the Church is “seen”? The Church has to be the Church, proclaim the truth, say what is right is right and what is wrong is wrong. It shouldn’t be concerning itself too much with how it is going to be reported by its enemies.

    Its enemies?!

    I can see now we’re coming from entirely different directions.

    I am simply not prepared to regard secular society, or the subset of your imagination, as ‘enemies’.

    That doesn’t mean I’m blind to the hostility the church attracts or the way the media reports issues — quite the opposite!

    I don’t see any contradiction at all in being concerned with how the church is seen and a commitment to the truth and I don’t see the Bishop’s role as being any different. If there is ‘not too much point’ in moralizing on an individual level then, similarly, there is not too much point on a wider level especially when most people hearing or reading about this story would be most concerned (after the fact) with the real victims.

  31. Louise

    The reason I asked Louise what I did was because some other commentors, on a Canadian blog called “Big Blue Wave” were saying that it is allowed for Catholics, in cases where the mother’s life is threatened, to remove PREVIABLE unborn from the womb and allow them to die (offering what comfort is possible) and that this is a more Catholic choice than aborting them in a way which would directly kill them. I said that removing them from the womb is morally equivalent to killing them another way.

    Has anyone else heard of this?

    There is the pinciple of double effect, but I’m not sure if it applies in the case of this girl or not.

    Eg. if a woman had uterine cancer and the uterus had to be removed to save her life, my understanding is that it could still be removed even if she were pregnant and the baby died because it was not old enough to live out of the womb. It goes without saying that the child may not be directly harmed. That is my understanding, but I am a housewife, not a moral theologian, so I may be wrong.

  32. Maria

    “I think the facts presented to the bishop in this case were that the girl was taken to one hospital, where they did not find her life to be in danger and would not do the abortion. The mother then took her to another hospital which did the abortion.
    This puts the situation in a different light. The mother was not concerned to find any other possible way before she consented to the abortion.”
    No. It takes a little googling and a little knowledge of Portuguese (or Google Translate) to find out that the mother received THREE warnings that her daughter’s life is in danger and that an abortion is necessary to save her life: first at the local clinic – Casa de Saúde São José from Pesqueira, then at the Instituto Materno Infantil from Pernambuco (Imip), then at the Centro Integrado de Saúde Amaury de Medeiros from Pernambuco (Cisam/UPE), this one being the place where the abortion was eventually performed.

  33. Tony

    The mother was not concerned to find any other possible way before she consented to the abortion.

    Thanks Maria and this goes to one of the themes of my responses to this issue, that is, we don’t know the facts so making statements like the above are risky.

    More disturbing still, IMO, how can the church simply lay down a ‘penalty’ without reference to some sort of intimate knowledge of the events and the motivations of the key players?

  34. Maria

    Because the Church sees an abortion as a theological matter, not as a social or a medical one. President Lula da Silva said: “The medicine was more correct that the Church and did what it has to be done: saving the life of a nine year old”. And Dom Sobrinho replied: “I suggest to the president to consult a Catholic theologian before commenting on a theological matter”.

  35. Tony

    … the archbishop may simply have been pointing out that anyone who procurs or cooperates in the procurement of an abortion is automatically (ie. latae sententiae) excommunicated.

    See http://www.radionz.co.nz/news/stories/2009/03/14/1245a40abd9e

    And, almost identical (presumably sourced from the same news wire): http://www.france24.com/en/20090314-bishops-admit-mistake-annul-excommunication-abortion-row-minor-rape-brazil

    An excerpt:

    Brazilian bishops have cancelled the excommunication of the mother and doctors of a nine-year-old girl who had an abortion after being raped.

    They said the decision to excommunicate was wrong and would not be applied.

    Assuming the source is correct, this suggest that the excommunication was in fact discretionary?

    CNBB secretary-general Dimas Lara Barbosa told reporters the mother therefore could not be excommunicated. “We must take the circumstances into consideration,” he said.

    Eureka!