Thursday June 11, 2009
Complete Article on “The Recife Affair” by Political Philosophy Professor Monseigneur Michel Schooyans
1) On the fourth of March 2009, an abortion was carried out on a little nine years old girl in Recife. She had been raped by her step-father and was pregnant with twins. Neither the mother nor the unborn twins were in danger of death. Dom Cardoso, Archbishop of Recife, had done all that he could to prevent this double abortion. But to no avail. Badly informed, Archbishop Rino Fisichella (RF) rebuked his brother bishop for having been lacking in compassion and having excommunicated those who performed the double abortion. His article published in the Osservatore Romano of the 15th of March continues to fuel a controversy of the utmost gravity.
2) The core argument employed by RF is that the double abortion was justified on the grounds of compassion towards the little girl and compassion towards the doctors who exercised their freedom of choice. RF does not recommend compassion towards the aborted twins. Let it simply be established that RF is here admitting direct abortion.
3) Dom Cardoso has been supported by Cardinal Re, the CNBB, bishops and numerous pro-life members of the laity. He has also been well and truly pilloried by the media, Catholics for Choice and even President Lula.
4) There are questions which remain unanswered. Was RF’s article submitted in advance to the SCDF? RF has himself stated that “the article was written on request”. At the request of whom? It is being insinuated in some quarters that it was written at the request of the office of the Secretary of State. This is the crucial question.
5) In objective terms, RF’s article provides formidable backing to all who, in Latin America (Brazil, Santo Domingo, etc.) and elsewhere, are waging a campaign to legalise abortion, with the support of President Obama, the European Union, the IPPF and other NGOs.
6) Frances Kissling, Honorary President of Catholics for Choice, has grasped perfectly what is at stake in this affair. She is delighted to see a high-ranking Vatican official moving away from the Church’s position that direct abortion is always a grave breach of moral law.
7) What is in jeopardy is fidelity to natural moral law and the Christian moral law on respect for life. The morality expounded in RF’s article is a situational morality. According to him, moral principles ought to be taken into consideration in so far as they respect freedom of choice in concrete circumstances. Here we have total relativism.
8) Confronted with the turmoil generated by the article of the President of the Pontifical Academy for Life, there is, it appears, only one true solution: a strong statement from the Holy Father. If the Pope says nothing, the doubt will persist and we will see a repetition of what is happening up to this day with Humanae vitae (1968).
* * *
II. The Recife affair
A commentary by Mgr Michel SCHOOYANS, Emeritus Professor of the University of Louvain, Member of the Pontifical Academy for Life, on the article by His Excellency Mgr Rino Fisichella, appearing in L’Osservatore Romano (weekly French edition of March 17th, 2009; original Italian edition dated March 15th).
On the fourth of March 2009, an abortion was carried out on a little girl in Recife. ” Carmen ” (a fictitious name), a young girl of nine years old, had been raped by her stepfather and was pregnant with twins. This young girl lives in the town of Alagoinha, in the diocese of Pesqueira, some 230 kms from Recife, capital of the Brazilian State of Pernambuco. This double abortion continues to give rise to impassioned reactions, contradictory and at times reflecting a miscomprehension of significant facts in the case.
It is known, for example, that, contrary to repeated assertions, Dom JosÃ© Cardoso Sobrinho, Archbishop of Olinda-Recife did not excommunicate the male and female persons involved in the performance of the double abortion ; he simply quoted Canon 1398 and observed that those responsible had excluded themselves from the Church. However, an outcry followed, in which the Diocesan Bishop was accused of acting “clumsily” and “without compassion”.
These arguments concerning ” clumsiness”, real or supposed, are an attempt to divert attention from the more serious problem : two innocent human beings have been destroyed. Unlike a number of other bishops faced with similar situations, the Archbishop of Olinda-Recife, supported by those working closely with him and his colleague in Pesqueira, Dom Francesco Biasin, did all in his power to comfort the little girl, before and after the irreparable event. Together, they also did everything they could to prevent and avert the double abortion and, when the entreaties of Dom JosÃ© Cardoso went unheard, he did not confine himself to the language of cant.
In spite of these measures, as is now customary, Dom Cardoso has been torn to pieces by the media. Torn to pieces by whom? By journalists hungry for copy, politicians obedient to Presidential directives, the off-the-peg philanthropy of doctors, nuns lobbying for liberation feminism, the Brazilian spokespersons of Catholics for Choice, the pro-abortion Group Curumim, opinion-formers united by the ideology of gender, etc. More surprising have been the attacks from certain Brazilian Catholic circles. Newspapers have declared that bishops had “cancelled” the alleged excommunication proclaimed by Dom Cardoso. Further voices of protest arose outside Brazil. They originated primarily in Europe, where the tradition of preaching to the “countries over there” is deeply rooted, but where religious ministers also hesitate to put their heads above the parapet where vital issues are concerned (see, for example, the report published in Documentation catholique, no. 2421 of 5 April 2009, pages 337-346. It is also of interest to consult the newsletter DÃ©cryptage dated 16 March 2009, accessible on https://www.libertÃ©.politique.com/>).
However, despite this climate of mass hysteria, there are those who have come forward to make the necessary corrective statements. On 5 March, the day after the double abortion, the bishops of the Regional Branch of the National Conference of Brazilian Bishops (CNBB) issued a clear Statement on the defence of life. In this Statement, the bishops of the north-east 2 Region clearly stated: “that we are not in agreement with the final solution, consisting in the elimination of the lives of defenceless human beings “. The next day, 6 March, the Chairman, Vice-Chairman and Secretary General of the CNBB expressed forceful and unconditional support for the Statement issued by the bishops of the Regional Branch the previous day. The Chairman quoted key terms in the Statement and added that he was concerned at the growing number of attacks on life witnessed in Brazil.
In the face of recent events in Recife, the most astonishing and high-profile reaction has come from His Excellency Mgr Archbishop Rino Fisichella, President of the Pontifical Academy for Life and Rector of the Pontifical Lateran University, henceforth in this document referred to as RF. This reaction was expressed in an article published in Italian on 15 March 2009 in the Osservatore Romano, which appeared two days later in the French edition of the periodical. The full text of this article can be found in the APPENDIX to this document. (The Spanish version was published in the Osservatore Romano of 20 March ; the English version on 25 March. The reaction of Mgr Fisichella is so astonishing that it calls for serious clarification.
2. The article in question
The title of the article alone provides a clear indication of RF’s position on this matter: he has chosen to focus on the interests of ” Carmen “. The unilateralism of this choice is pushed so far that there are practically no words of compassion for the twins who have been the victims of a double abortion. Compassion is extended to Carmen and the doctors. RF formulates a line of argument which is somewhat demagogic: ” we must make sure Carmen understands how much we love her. ” ” Her life will never be easy.” “Carmen should first of all have been defended”. “She is destroyed internally.” “The Archbishop [of Olinda-Recife] has hastened to inflict excommunication on the doctors who terminated the pregnancy “. This action of Archbishop Cardoso, observes the article, has generated noisy reaction. There follows a call to punish the criminal, who is in fact already in prison.
RF’s exposÃ©, which contains several errors, merits a number of different commentaries. We will proceed to examine some of these errors.
1. RF starts with the assertion, repeated by the journalists, that Carmen would die if the twins she was carrying were not aborted. The abortion of the twins is a consequence of the decision to intervene to save the life of the little girl. The end justifies the means, and the means are presented as the sole means to be employed because – we are assured – Carmen’s life is in danger. In order to save her, it was necessary to perform the two abortions. Either Carmen would die, and the twins would also necessarily die; or one life would be saved, that of the mother, given that the twins had already been condemned in the initial statement, cited above, namely that Carmen would die if the twins were not aborted. According to this logic, which echoes that found in documents of the IPPF, the double abortion was not a necessity of itself; it was needed to save the mother. In consequence – RF reasons – neither the mother, Carmen, nor the perpetrators of the abortion are liable for excommunication. The Archbishop of Olinda-Recife, it is stressed, should not have issued sensational statements; he should instead have consoled the little girl.
Unfortunately for RF and his readers, we have to ask whether RF took the trouble to ensure that he was properly informed. Did he allow himself to be taken in by the journalists ? Did he write under pressure or under duress? He accepted at face value the assertion, unproven, that, without an abortion, the little girl would die. All the reasoning put forward by RF begs this question. What should have been proven, namely that abortion was the sole means of saving the mother, whose life was regarded as at risk, is taken as an established fact. For good measure, it is added that Dom Cardoso was lacking in sympathy in pronouncing the excommunication. In point of fact, did RF merely telephone the Archbishop of Olinda-Recife ?
2. “Her life, writes RF, was seriously in danger”. Evidently RF has not consulted the little girl’s medical records. According to Dr SÃ©rgio Cabral, medical director of the Instituto Materno Perinatal de Pernambuco, [the Brazilian state of which Recife is the capital], Carmen’s life was not in danger. No state of necessity whatsoever could be invoked. It was reasonable to hope that the mother and two babies could be saved. This statement has been confirmed by other Brazilian doctors familiar with the case, including Dr Bernardo Graz, physician and priest, and Dr Elisabeth Kipman, gynaecologist.
” Carmen carried within herself an innocent life “, continues RF, adding: ” In her case [that of Carmen], life and death came face to face. ” Histrionic, but inaccurate, statements. Carmen was carrying two innocent lives, and these two lives -he should have written in black and white – have been terminated. Death has been inflicted intentionally and ineluctably, without any justification, on two entirely innocent babies. Because of the determination to carry out the abortion, at no time did life have any chance at all of prevailing. Moreover, those performing the abortion even boasted, not without a certain cynicism, that they were accustomed to carrying out abortions and were proud of doing so. One of their number, Dr Rivaldo Mendes of Albuquerque, even declared ironically that he should have already been excommunicated several times over.
Let us be clear at this point that, contrary to the insinuations in RF’s article, there has never been any question of excommunication for the little girl.
3. A further error comes to light: there was no risk of death for either Carmen or the twins. However RF insists that: ” a choice such as that of having to save a life, in the knowledge that he [the doctor] is placing a second life seriously at risk, is never arrived at easily. ” Applied to the case in point, this observation is absurd, given that no life was at risk, neither that of the mother nor those of the two babies she was carrying. The danger originated from the doctors who chose to perform the double abortion, and the ideologists of free choice, who incited the medical practitioners to perpetrate a twofold attack on human life and conferred a pseudo-moral legitimacy on the perpetrators of this act.
What has just been explained destroys the relevance of the parallel drawn between the case of Carmen and that of patients undergoing resuscitation. The result of this parallel is that, not content with lending his support to the abortion, RF is also lending his support to euthanasia, if doctors choose to perpetrate it. Clearly, RF wishes to flatter doctors, declaring that he respects their professionalism. He acknowledges “the freedom of choice” of doctors, without observing that, in their decisions, doctors are bound also by moral rules. Through his words, RF has sown turmoil in the consciences of doctors throughout the world on the subject of respect for life, at its beginning and at its end, that is, on the subject of abortion and euthanasia.
5. RF provides us with another surprise when he ventures into arguments relating to fundamental morality. Here is what he writes: “To make a general inference from a particular case would be not only incorrect, but unjust. [âEUR¦]Like each specific and concrete set of circumstances, it [the moral case] needs to be analysed in its particularity without generalisations.” As on the previous point, RF here reveals his adherence to the opportunistic morality, the morality of the fundamental option, the proportionalist morality, all categorically condemned by Jean-Paul II in the Encyclical Veritatis Splendor (1993 ; see for example paragraphs 65-83 ; 95-102).
RF continues: ” Catholic morality has principles which it cannot ignore even if there were any desire to do so. The defence of human life from the moment of conception is one of these.” Two reasons for astonishment emerge at this point: here RF is affirming the existence of moral principles, although, as pointed out above, he abandons freedom of choice to the doctors and has just stated that individual cases must be analysed in their particularity ! In addition, RF forgets that the defence of human life is primarily a principle of natural morality. Christians do not have a monopoly on respect for human life. The condemnation of abortion originates from well beyond what RF terms “the dawn of the Church”.
6. It is incorrect to say that Vatican II, more specifically Gaudium et spes (paragraphs 27 and 51) uses ” unexpectedly uncompromising and unequivocal terms to condemn direct abortion “. These words are neither unexpected nor uncompromising; they merely reaffirm the moral, natural and Christian tradition, which seeks to protect the most fragile human beings and deter others from attacks on their life. What is curious is that RF himself recalls the Church’s doctrine on procured abortion! He does not appear to perceive that the doctrine he cites contradicts the positions he adopts in the article on which we are commenting. In other words, for him, principles are to be adhered to for as long as freedom of choice, above all, in the face of concrete situations is respected. This is what destroys morality, both natural and ChristianâEUR¦
7. ” The law âEUR¦ states as the objective of its existence : the well-being and salvation of those who believe in the love of the Father – and those who welcome Christ’s Gospel like children… “. Here, the author excels himself. Although not specified, he is referring to Canon Law. And yet, as affirmed in the Church’s teaching, recently cited by RF, there is no greater injustice than a deliberate attack on the lives of the most innocent and most vulnerable human beings. This provision of Canon Law is also a provision of natural law. It applies not only to those who welcome salvation coming from God, but for everyone. There is here something inadmissible in attempting to move the reader to pity by inviting him/her to “look beyond the legal framework”, whose raison d’etre here is to protect the innocent. It is, one might say, blasphemous to twist the words of the Lord of Life to excuse the aborters, while also – to make matters worse – exploiting the misfortune of the mother, injured and for ever deprived of her two children.
3. Divisions in the Church
1. According to RF, the attitude of Archbishop Cardoso undermines the credibility of the Church. But the Church and its pastors do not deserve to be credible unless they proclaim the truth. The Gospel does not recommend that we please men, it calls us to be faithful to the message which it is our mission to announce. As regards abortion, the Church’s doctrine is expounded with clarity in major documents such as Gaudium et spes (1965), para. 51 Â§ 3 ; cf. para. 27 Â§ 3 ; Code of Canon Law (1983), para. 1398 ; 1314; 1323 s. ; Donum vitae (1987), para. 3 ; Evangelium vitae (1995), para. 62 ; Catechism of the Catholic Church (1997), para. 2271, 2322.
RF’s article was published in the French edition of the Osservatore Romano on 17 March. It is astonishing that it fails to echo the statements of His Eminence, Cardinal Re, Prefect of the Sacred Congregation for Bishops, published in La Stampa on 7 March. Could RF have been unaware of this statement when he signed his article? In this statement, Cardinal Re declares, with regard to the double abortion performed at Recife: ” it is a crime in the eyes of God. The excommunication of the person performing the abortion is just”. On 14 March, Dom Cardoso, Archbishop of Olinda and Recife, received a letter of praise from that same Cardinal. The Church’s position is also reaffirmed by Father Gianfranco Grieco, Head of the Pontifical Council for the Family, in La Stampa of 7 March.
2. The Osservatore Romano is the unofficial mouthpiece of the Vatican. It publishes pontifical texts. It also publishes articles at the request of certain dicasteries. It also publishes texts proposed by authors considered to be knowledgeable about and respecting of the Church’s doctrine. This prestigious publication is particularly necessary at a time when the media pronounce with assurance on any issue. As MoliÃ¨re wrote, ” People of quality know everything without ever having learned anything. ” (Les prÃ©cieuses ridicules, scene 10). With some notable exceptions, adherence to an elementary code of ethics, for example, checking the sources on which relies, does not appear to be a priority. In the case under examination, those in charge of the Osservatore Romano let through a text containing serious inaccuracies and omissions and biased in every sense of the word. To cap it all, instead of putting a stop to the circulation of this article in foreign languages, the publication’s Director arranged for the text to be circulated in different languages. The Vatican’s mouthpiece is therefore seriously adding to a muddying of the waters in as far as it is failing to comply with its mandate as a faithful mouthpiece, palming off on its readers products which are doctrinally dubious.
3. On 20 March, a few days after the appearance of RF’s article, while meeting the authorities in Luanda, Benedict XVI made reference to the abortion. The Pope regrets that the abortion is being presented as a matter of maternal health. Let us quote the strong words pronounced by the Pope:
“How bitter the irony of those who promote abortion as a form of maternal healthcare! How disconcerting the claim that the termination of life is a matter of reproductive health!” (Osservatore Romano, French edition, 31 March 2009, pages 4 and 15).
Whence immediate protests from certain journalists, whose reasoning can be summarised as follows: ” Abortion is a matter of reproductive health. Yet the Pope is against abortion. Therefore he is opposed to reproductive health, which must include therapeutic abortion.” According to this sophistic argument, the premature twins constitute a serious danger to the young Carmen and are themselves in danger, and so it is necessary to go ahead with the abortion.
The next day, in Luanda, Father Federico Lombardi S.J., Head of the Vatican’s Press Office, felt obliged, even authorised, to blunt the authority of the Pope’s statement, quoted above. The statement did not relate to therapeutic abortion, as understood by the ideologists of reproductive health and safe motherhood. In a context in which he is commenting on the Pope’s words, Fr Lombardi goes so far as to affirm, incautiously, that the Catholic Church has ” always allowed indirect abortion “, when treatment given to a pregnant woman in order to save her life “results in the death of the foetus ” (Cathobel, 23 March). The double abortion performed on Carmen would be therapeutic and would thus, in the twisted logic of the Reverend Father, escape the sanction of Canon Law. It would not be condemned by the Pope who moreover – it is added- said nothing, in Africa, on the events in Recife. It is therefore difficult for Father Lombardi to have avoided compromising the Holy Father by creating the impression that the Pope did not condemn the double abortion in Recife, on the grounds that this double abortion was therapeutic! It follows that the Pope would have implicitly disagreed with Archbishop Cardoso!
Admittedly, Father Lombardi asserted, in Luanda, that he did not have all the necessary information regarding the Recife case. However, his statement poses a fundamental problem. Is it normal for a journalist, even a highflyer, to set himself up as an authorised interpreter of what the Pope has just said, especially if his interpretation has the effect of blunting the edge of the Holy Father’s statements? It would doubtless be necessary to clarify the levels of expertise and authority. Should the Pope’s words be so obscure as to need deciphering by an unofficial media magisteriium?
4. Serious grounds for concern have emerged in circles close to the Pontifical Academy for Life and the Pontifical Council for the Family:
a. Incomprehension and sadness on the part of a considerable number of Christians, engaged for several years in multiple pro-life programmes encouraged by the Church. A feeling, often well-founded, of having been ” abandoned ” by their pastor.
b. Perplexity and shame on the part of many members of the Pontifical Academy for Life, who are wondering how such a faux pas could have occurred, and what action will be taken.
c. Discredit affecting the President of the Pontifical Academy for Life, who has undermined his own moral, theological and scientific authority. Loss of confidence in the President and disillusionment. Many members of the Pontifical Academy for Life fear that RF’s statements will compromise them at rank and file level. There will be a down-sizing in aid of all kinds earmarked for the activities of the Pontifical Academy for Life.
d. Fears of a weakening of the Pontifical Academy for Life: its members will be less motivated and will become divided among themselves. There is already talk of only convening members of the Academy every two years. But where is this decision coming from, if confirmed? Is it, as rumoured in certain circles, the prelude to the burial of the Pontifical Academy for Life, at a time when the attacks on life are incessantly multiplying ?
5. In his Letter to the Archbishops of the World, dated 10 March 2009, the Holy Father, quoting the letter to the Galatians (5, 13-15), wrote: “If you bite and devour one another, be warned: you will destroy one another ” Referring to the question of Archbishops following the lead of Archbishop Lefebvre, this quotation also deserves to be repeated in relation to the scandal of Notre Dame University and the harrowing story of Carmen and her twins.
4. Impact on political life
1. According to the pro-choice and similar movements, we are, with Recife, faced with a typical example of a woman who has to undergo an abortion if her life is to be saved. The case of Carmen is all the more exploitable by the media because Carmen is a child of nine years old. RF’s article resorts to this argument, which is the sledgehammer argument employed by the UNFPA, WHO and IPPF, etc. to change legislation protecting the unborn child and legalise abortion throughout the world. ” Abortion ” we are assured ” makes it possible to save human lives. It reduces maternal mortality”. (See, for example, on this issue https://www.unfpa.org/mothers> and also the articles on ” Reproductive health ” and ” Risk-free motherhood ” in the Lexicon published by the Pontifical Council for the Family). RF brings grist to the mill of pro-choice movements in Brazil, throughout the world and in the Church. He weakens the pro-life movements, in the throes of fighting, in Brazil and elsewhere, against proposals to legalise abortion. He lends legitimacy to everything the anti-life movements have been saying for years about reproductive health and risk-free motherhood. Let it be said that these two expressions conceal, in particular, the right to abortion (see on this issue, our work, Terrorism with a human face).
Finally, because RF believes he can exempt the aborting doctors in Recife from excommunication, other doctors, Catholic or non-Catholic, will not fail to avail themselves of this exemption to perform abortions, even in Catholic institutions, the ” therapeutic ” nature of which will be defined in accordance with the criteria of reproductive health or risk-free motherhood.
2. Because of its influence in political circles and its media coverage, it is necessary to note the reactions of the Catholics for Free Choice movement, now called Catholics for Choice, to the words of RF. Here is what Frances Kissling, their Honorary President, wrote with regard to the Recife affair on 23 March:
” In an amazing shift in the Vatican’s strategy of no dissent from its position that abortion is never permitted, even to save a woman’s life, the Vatican’s top bioethics official, Archbishop Rino Fisichella stated that the doctors in Brazil who performed an abortion on a nine-year-old who was 15 weeks pregnant with twins did not deserve excommunication. “
” What is perhaps more interesting, is that Fisichella refers to the difficult decisions doctors are required to take and the moral judgement they have ” [âEUR¦] ” âEUR¦The fact that he [RF] acknowledges that doctors have any moral judgement is extremely important. “
” If the doctors were aware of the fact that someone, high up in the hierarchy, acknowledged these situations as moral dilemmas, in which the conscience must decide what is good or evil, they would be able to decide whether they are able to offer an abortion service. And that, it goes without saying, is what Cardinal [sic] Cardoso Sobrinho wishes to avoid. “
Frances Kissling concludes : ” We can expect an outcry from the ultra-conservative wing of the Church, perhaps a clarification by the Archbishop himself, but the fact is he has opened a crack, through which women, doctors and political decision-makers can slip in. I am grateful for small steps”. (The full text of this quotation appears in Religion Dispatches).
This document successfully demonstrates the perception of Frances Kissling, and, through her, the pro-choice movements, of the position expounded by RF. What delights Frances Kissling is not only that RF lends his support for the double abortion at Recife. It is, quite simply, that she considers that, for the first time, a high-ranking Vatican official, a bioethicist, deviates from the Church’s position that ” Direct abortion, that is to say, abortion willed either as an end or a means, is gravely contrary to the moral law: ” (Catechism, paragraph 2271)
3. The positions adopted by RF are very close to those encountered in publications of the IPPF, WHO, UNFPA and Catholics for (Free) Choice. It is permitted to ask whether this proximity is random, or whether other explanations are worth investigating. Readers of the article in question have the impression that a hidden hand has played a part. What leads us to envisage this hypothesis is the significant difference in style and doctrine between the article published under the signature RF in the Osservatore Romano of 17 March and the interview, also given by the RF, to Gian Guido Vecchi, published in Corriere della Sera of 24 January 2009.
In this interview, freely accessible on the internet, RF declares himself ” concerned and somewhat disappointed by the first steps taken by Obama in the matter of abortion “. And he adds: ” The road to disillusion is short. [âEUR¦] Also, when someone rightly sets himself up as a champion of the dignity of person, one expects this right to be extended to all, without radical contradiction or discrimination “.
4. RF has given a real boost to those who, in Brazil, in Latin America, in Africa and elsewhere want to liberalise abortion as a means of population control. He wants to please the Brazilian government, which has hastened to proceed with this liberalisation (see on this subject the report published in the weekly Veja (SÃ£o Paulo) dated 28 January 2009). RF is weakening the Church in Brazil at a moment when, in the Campaign for Fraternity, Christians are giving priority to the defence of life. In repudiating Dom Cardoso, RF is endorsing the repudiation expressed by President Lula in relation to the Archbishop of Olinda-Recife. In a statement given on 5 March in VitÃ³ria (Capital of the State of EspÃrito Santo), President Lula launched a fierce attack on Dom JosÃ© Cardoso Sobrinho, declaring:
“As a Christian and as a Catholic, I am profoundly sorry that an Archbishop of the Church is behaving this conservatively. It is not possible to allow a little girl raped by her stepfather to have this child [in the singular in the text], if only because her life was in danger. [âEUR¦] Medicine is more correct than the Church and has done what should have been done: saved the life of a little girl of 9 years old “.
One does not dare to imagine that Lula’s influence impregnates certain sectors of the Roman Curia !
5. RF’s article comes at a time when President Obama is multiplying initiatives designed to intensify, in Latin America and elsewhere, the campaigns financed by the North American government in favour of reproductive health and risk-free motherhood. His action in this direction is taken over and extended by the interventions of Hillary Clinton and those of organisations such as the Planned Parenthood Federation, IPPF, NGO agencies and the European Union.
This campaign, based in the US, is further intensified by the actions of Tony Blair, whose aspirations towards becoming the first President of the European Union are well-known, and by the actions of his wife, Cherie Blair, who pulls out all the stops with her radical feminist declarations. Like so many others, this couple do not hesitate to proclaim themselves Catholic, but also do not deprive themselves of the right to dissociate themselves publicly from the Church’s teaching on life and the family.
Under the influence of these two nation-leaders and the UNO, in which they carry significant weight, we must expect that Latin America will soon be under pressure to adopt the ” new human rights “, including the ” right ” to abortion. Ultimately, medical personnel will be deprived of their right to objection on the grounds of conscience. President Lula has already clearly expressed his spontaneous sympathy for such a reform. We can also expect the Latin American education systems to be used as channels for the expansion of the sex education of young people in the near future. For some years, a campaign has been under way for this purpose.
At a time when Presidents Obama and Lula are intensifying their proposals for collaboration in the matter of population control, the remarks of RF can only harm the cause of the Latin American populations and nations.
5. Questions which call for clear answers
On completion of our analysis of this article, a number of different questions are posed. Here are some of them.
1. As is customary in the dicasteries, ” delicate ” documents have to be submitted to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. Did RF’s article receive the prior approval of this Congregation ? Does not this lamentable episode reveal how urgent it is to re-establish the precedence of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith within the Curia?
2. Was RF’s article published with the backing of other Vatican authorities ? Which ones? Who financed, organised and covered this arrangement ? In a letter dated 14 May (PAV, ref. 4235/09), RF wrote ” The article was written on request”. At the request of whom? There are those who wish to insinuate that a petition was given to RF or even a summons served on him, at the level of the office of the Secretary of StateâEUR¦ this is the crucial question on which light must be thrown.
3. Why did the Osservatore Romano publish this article ? Why was it given so much prominence on the first page? Was there not a plan to compromise the unofficial mouthpiece of the Holy See? As we have already envisaged with regard to the Press Office, was there not a misuse of power here? Who, at the Osservatore Romano, let this article through ? Why publish English, Spanish and Portuguese translations of RF’s article after the statements of Benedict XVI in Luanda on 20 March ? Why was the publication of these translations not halted? How did it come about that the article was published in Italian on 15 March i.e. after the intervention of His Eminence, Cardinal Re, in the form of his letter of support to Archbishop Cardoso ?
4. What is envisaged in terms of the essential doctrinal, pastoral and Canonic corrections called for by RF’s article ? The time has come for the Congregation for Catholic Education to consider the expediency of a visitation of Catholic universities, including those in Rome.
1. Everyone is in agreement in repeatedly asserting that what this little girl has experienced is particularly dreadful : repeated rapes, followed by a twin pregnancy. What is less emphasised is the fact that an effective network was built up to come to the assistance of the little girl and her family circle. The action of these ” good Samaritans ” is not mentioned in the article. However, they provided the young mother with kindness and compassion. In common with other episodes of this kind, the Recife episode has highlighted profound failings in the Roman system of communication and information. Are there moles at the Vatican? Infiltrators in the diplomatic services of the Holy See?
2. RF’s article reflects arguments which ally him with the pro-choice Catholics. He is compromising the immense effort made under the impetus of the Popes of the last century in favour of life and family. The article we have analysed contains not the slightest echo of the work sponsored by Cardinal LÃ³pez Trujillo of the Pontifical Council for the Family, for example the celebrated Lexicon. Nor is there any reference to the prestigious School of Personalist Bioethics, founded by His Excellency Mgr Sgreccia, on which the Pontifical Academy for Life was broadly modeled.
3. It would be disastrous for this affair to be hushed up or dragged out, given that the turmoil is great among the faithful and ” lay ” movements are evidently ready to exploit the slightest new crack in Church unity. An abnormal silence would imply that the Holy See confirms the repudiation of Archbishop Cardoso, pronounced implicitly by RF.
4. It is essential to measure the reactions already raised in the international press and the pro-life movements, as well as in the clergy and among the laity, in the face of what many describe, not without reason, as a scandal. On three essential points, a serious error has been perpetrated: an error in the morality of respect for life; an error in fundamental morality: opportunistic morality; an error in ecclesiology, given that solid and established doctrine cannot be swept aside by a stroke of the pen or abolished by a coup de force. In addition, at disciplinary level, it is not certain that RF has a special mandate to repudiate a Diocesan Bishop, an Archbishop like himself. Urgent measures must therefore be taken to break the deadlock. The Pontifical Academy for Life needs a pilot. It is necessary to re-establish the truth and restore, with confidence, a unity now seriously weakened.
5. Although he has recently criticised the policy of President Obama on abortion, RF has misjudged the political impact of his article, at a time when Brazil, Latin America and Africa are being subjected to an outright siege on the part of the propagandists of the culture of death.
6. The dissent is exposed to the light of day. Confident in the precedent created by the head of a dicastery of the Roman Curia, other archbishops and theologians will not fail in turn to take liberties with doctrine and claim the right to dissent, even transgression. In addition, what RF has said on the subject of abortion could be transposed to other issues.
7. The Recife affair highlights the fact that the unity of the Church cannot be reduced to a matter of political convenience. The Church, or at least certain of its members, is the victim of a salami-slice strategy. In rejecting Humanae vitae (1968), certain of her pastors swallowed the first salami slice: contraception. The Recife affair reveals that certain pastors are in the process of swallowing the second slice, abortion. Other slices wait to be swallowed: euthanasia, the “marriage” of persons of the same sex, various forms of genetic engineering, etc. Rather than to the truth, the foundation of unity, preference is increasingly being given to an outward appearance of unity, designed to placate the world. People are content with a truth rooted in ambiguity. But this ambiguity leads inevitably to a generalised doctrinal relativism. Should this trend be encouraged ?
8. To recap, faced with the turbulence provoked by RF’s article, there is, it appears, only one real solution: a strong statement from the Holy Father. RF’s article has created a general doubt concerning the “legitimacy” of abortion. However, it is uncertain whether, in Rome, the gravity of the situation created is sufficiently perceived. Yet the doubt is now being passed on to the universal Church, reinforced by three factors: the senior position of the article’s author, the unofficial nature of the periodical publishing it, the “mouthpiece” which explains these matters. If the Pope says nothing, the doubt will persist and we will see a repetition of what is happening today with Humanae vitae (1968).
APPENDIX : ‘On the side of the little Brazilian girl
Debate on certain issues frequently becomes inflamed and the conflicting viewpoints do not always make it possible to understand the true importance of what is at stake. At such moments it is necessary to consider the core issue and temporarily set aside anything not directly related to the problem in question. The case, in its dramatic nature, is simple. It is that of an innocent young girl whom we must look directly in the eye, without turning away for a second, to let her know how much we love her. We will call her Carmen; in recent months in Recife, in Brazil, she was raped on several occasions by her young stepfather at the tender age of nine. She then fell pregnant with twins and her life will never be easy again. The wound is deep, because the entirely gratuitous violence has destroyed her internally and it will be difficult, in the future, for her to regard others with love. Carmen represents a story of everyday violence; the story only made the newspaper headlines because the Archbishop of Recife hastened to excommunicate the doctors who terminated the pregnancy. A tale of violence which would, unfortunately, have passed unnoticed, so accustomed are we to hearing on a daily basis of acts of unparalleled gravity, had it not been for the outcry and reactions generated by the Archbishop’s intervention. Violence against a woman, serious in itself, becomes even more reprehensible when the person suffering it is a defenceless little girl, with the aggravating circumstances of the poverty and social deprivation in which she lives. There is no language to condemn these acts and the feelings they arouse are frequently a blend of anger and bitterness, mitigated only when justice is truly done and one can be certain that the penalty inflicted on the criminal in question will be served.
Carmen should first of all have been defended, embraced, held in tenderness to convey that we were all with her; all of us, without distinction. Before thinking of excommunication, it was necessary and urgent to safeguard her innocent life and restore her to a level of humanity of which we, the people of the Church, should be witnesses and teachers. This was not the case and, unfortunately, the credibility of our teaching has been undermined, appearing to many as insensitive, incomprehensible and without mercy. It is true that Carmen carried within her another life, innocent like her own, although the fruit of violence, which has been terminated; however, this is not sufficient grounds for pronouncing a judgement as heavy as a meat-cleaver. In her case, life and death came face to face. Due to her very young age and precarious health, her life was seriously in danger as a result of her pregnancy. How should one act under these circumstances ? A difficult decision for the doctor and for the moral law itself. Decisions such as this, although the individual circumstances differ, are played out repeatedly in resuscitation rooms, where the doctor stands alone with his conscience in the act of having to decide on the best course of action. However, no one makes a decision of this kind nonchalantly ; even to think so is unjust and offensive. The respect due to the professionalism of the physician must always be borne in mind and one should not make any negative judgement without first considering the conflict generated. The physician carries within him his history and experience; a choice such as that of having to save a life, in the knowledge that he is placing a second life seriously at risk, is never arrived at easily. Of course there are those who become hardened to these situations, to the point of ceasing to feel any emotion; in these circumstances however, the choice of being a doctor is reduced to the passive and unfeeling performance of a job. However, to make a general inference from a particular case would be not only incorrect, but unjust.
Carmen has reformulated one of the most delicate moral situations; to treat it in a hasty manner would be unjust to her fragile person and all concerned in the case in various capacities. Like each specific and concrete set of circumstances, it needs to be analysed in its particularity without generalisations. Catholic morality has principles which it cannot ignore, even if there were any desire to do so. The defence of human life from the moment of conception is one of these. It is justified by the sacred nature of existence; in fact, each human being is imprinted from his/her first moment with the image of the Creator and this is why we are convinced he/she must be accorded the dignity and rights due to each person, the first of these being intangibility and inviolability. Procured abortion has always been condemned by moral law as an intrinsically evil act and this teaching has remained unaltered from the dawn of the Church to the present day. The second Vatican Council, in Gaudium et spes, as we know, a document of great significance and attention in its content to the contemporary world, makes unexpected use of unequivocal and uncompromising terms to condemn direct abortion. Formal collaboration in itself constitutes a grave offence which, when accomplished, takes the person responsible directly outside the Christian Community. Technically, the Code of Canon Law employs the term latae sententiae to indicate that excommunication takes place at the moment the act is performed. In our opinion, it was unnecessary to make a fact which occurs autonomously public so quickly and in the glare of such publicity. What we most need at this moment is a token of proximity with the person who suffers, an act of mercy which, while standing firmly by the principle, is capable of looking beyond the legal framework to that which the law itself proposes as the objective of its existence: the well-being and salvation of those who believe in the love of the Father and those who receive the Gospel of Christ like children, those whom Jesus called to his side and clasped in his arms, saying that the Kingdom of Heaven belongs to such as them. Carmen, we are with you. We share with you the suffering you have experienced, we want to do everything in our power to give you back the dignity taken from you and the love of which you stand in greater need; it is others who deserve excommunication and our forgiveness, not those who have enabled you to live and who will help you to regain hope and confidence in spite of the presence of evil and the wickedness of many.