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.