Thursday, March 19, 2009

Vatican Official Backtracks on Brazilian Girl's Abortion - "Insensitive, Incomprehensible, and Devoid of Mercy" Sounds About Right

In the wake of national and then international outrage over the Catholic Church's quickness to condemn and excommunicate those involved with a 9-year-old rape victim's abortion when her life was at risk, it comes as somewhat of a surprise that at least some in the Vatican are backtracking.

Archbishop Rino Fisichella, president of the Pontifical Academy for Life, criticized what he called a "hasty" public declaration of the excommunication of the girl's mother and the doctors who aborted the girl's twins.

The girl "in the first place should have been defended, hugged and held tenderly to help her feel that we were all on her side" he wrote in the Vatican newspaper, L'Osservatore Romano, March 15."

Before thinking about excommunication, it was necessary and urgent to protect her innocent life and bring her back to a level of humanity of which we men of the church should be expert witnesses and teachers," he said.

"Unfortunately, this is not what happened and it has impacted the credibility of our teaching, which appears in the eyes of many as insensitive, incomprehensible and devoid of mercy," he said.

Well, yeah - "Insensitive, incomprehensible, and devoid of mercy" pretty much sums it up. Fisichella went on to defend the Church's overall stance and teachings on abortion. Still, the fact that the head of the Church's Pontifical Academy for Life was critical of Archbishop Sobrinho's immediate and damning response, and the Church's defense of him, just goes to show how radical that stance was and is. At least somebody in the Vatican, for all of the problems I have with his own positions, had the decency to criticize the archbishop's and the Vatican's response to the situation with condemnation rather than with compassion.

(h/t The Latin Americanist).

...(Update) - Randy really gets to the crux of Fisichella's stance when he says, "the objection is to the public aspect of it." Absolutely. Fisichella is in no way interested in undoing or disagreeing with the Vatican's stance on abortion - he is, after all, a voluntary member of the Vatican community. But nobody in the Vatican is going to say, "well, our iron-fisted stance on abortion is probably wrong" - that's beyond the realm of even the most unreasonable expectations. So from an institution that we'll probably never see backtrack on the actual abortion issue in our lifetime, the acknowledgement that the public treatment of and response to the victim's circumstances, and the complete lack of compassion behind that public stance, is as good a concession as we're going to get from the Vatican. It's not much, but it's (slightly) better than nothing.