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 CNS Story:

BRAZIL-ABORTION Mar-9-2009 (550 words) xxxi

Abortion results in excommunication for mother, doctors in Brazil

By Carol Glatz
Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- A top Vatican official agreed with a Brazilian archbishop's decision to excommunicate the mother of a nine-year-old girl who had been raped by her stepfather and the doctors who aborted the girl's twins.

Cardinal Giovanni Battista Re, prefect of the Congregation for Bishops and president of the Pontifical Commission for Latin America said, "It is a sad case, but the real problem is that the conceived twins were innocent people and they had a right to live and should not have been killed."

Excommunication against those responsible for the abortion was legitimate, he said in an interview with the Italian newspaper La Stampa, March 7.

Doctors at a hospital in Recife, Brazil, performed the abortion March 4 during the girl's fourth month of pregnancy. Abortion in Brazil is illegal except in cases of rape or if the mother's life is in danger.

The girl, who weighed a little more than 66 pounds, reportedly had been raped repeatedly by her stepfather from the time she was six years old. The 23-year-old stepfather has been arrested and is also accused of raping the girl's 14-year-old handicapped sister.

Archbishop Jose Cardoso Sobrinho of Olinda and Recife said the abortion was "a crime in the eyes of the church."

He told the Brazilian newspaper Folha de Sao Paulo that "it's true the doctor said the child ran (health) risks, but at any rate, the end does not justify the means. The good aim of saving her life can not justify the killing of two other lives."

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.

Brazil's President Luiz Ignacio Lula da Silva criticized the church's decision, saying the doctors had to save the life of the nine-year-old girl and, "in this case, the medical profession was more right than the church."

Cardinal Re defended Archbishop Cardoso's decision to excommunicate the girl's mother and the doctors who were responsible for terminating the pregnancy.

"Life must always be safeguarded; therefore, the attack against the Brazilian church is unjustified," Cardinal Re said.

Father Piero Coda, a professor of theology at Rome's Pontifical Lateran University, deplored "the abominable crime the raped child has undergone."

He told La Stampa that the rapist must be "punished immediately and severely," but he also emphasized the sanctity of all human life.

"One cannot respond to one tragedy with another tragedy. Abortion is the wrong answer and should be avoided in every way," he said.

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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