Sunday, March 08, 2009

Catholic Church's Unsurprising-but-Extreme Stance on Abortion Causes Outrage in Brazil

The Catholic Church in Brazil ended up making headlines this week with its dogmatic stance on abortion. A nine-year-old girl in Northeastern Brazil had been raped by her stepfather, and was pregnant with twins. Brazil does not allow abortion except in cases of rape or the danger of the mother's health, and this particular case fell under both of those categories, as doctors announced that the girl would die before she could give birth, simply because her uterus at 9 years of age simply could not foster twins. Thus, the girl underwent an abortion.

The Catholic Church, of course, came out on the wrong side of this issue once again, excommunicating the doctors who performed the abortion, as well as mother of the girl (but not the child-raping stepfather).

Archbishop Jose Cardoso Sobrinho of the coastal city of Recife announced that the Vatican was excommunicating the family of a local girl who had been raped and impregnated with twins by her stepfather, because they had chosen to have the girl undergo an abortion. The Church excommunicated the doctors who performed the procedure as well. "God's laws," said the archbishop, dictate that abortion is a sin and that transgressors are no longer welcome in the Roman Catholic Church. "They took the life of an innocent," Sobrinho told TIME in a telephone interview. " Abortion is much more serious than killing an adult. An adult may or may not be an innocent, but an unborn child is most definitely innocent. Taking that life cannot be ignored."

Of course, far from standing down, the Vatican fully supported Sobrinho:
Cardinal Giovanni Battista Re, head of the Roman Catholic Church’s Congregation for Bishops, told La Stampa, an Italian daily newspaper, that the case was sad, but that “the real problem is that the twins conceived were two innocent persons, who had the right to live and could not be eliminated.”
Suffice to say, the issue is causing all kinds of outrage in Brazil, and let us be absolutely clear that, although there are many devout Catholics in Brazil, the overwhelming majority of the population side with the girl's family and the government on this one. Even Lula, a very ardent Catholic himself, was none-too-subtle in his views earlier this week, saying that he was bothered both "as a Christian and a Catholic" by the Archbishop's comments and stance and declaring that "I think, in this aspect, medicine is more correct than the bishop."

As I've commented before, the Church is quickly alienating any of its remaining support in its strongest bastion, Latin America. This is just adding to that, revealing a rigidity and intolerance that has been behind the Catholic Church for hundreds of years. One of the excommunicated doctors (who insists he will continue to attend mass) put the Church's idiocy best: "My sadness comes from the fact that the Church could choose the side of fraternity, but it chose the side of conflict. This isn't the Church that people like, that the people want. The people want a church of forgiveness, love, and compassion."

Thanks to its stance on issues like abortion and people like Sobrinho, people just aren't going to get that from Catholicism, and it's likely to continue its decline unless it makes some fundamental shifts.

...UPDATE - Having gotten around to the rest of the internets this afternoon, it appears that Scott and Randy have also gotten to this story (with Randy's including this particular bit of lunacy in Connecticut)