By Hilary White, Rome Correspondent

ROME, March 15, 2010 ( – In an interview today with Italy’s leading daily newspaper, the head of the Vatican’s Pontifical Academy for Life (PAV) has again defended the article he wrote last year attacking the head of a Brazilian diocese who publicly declared the automatic excommunication of abortionists who killed the unborn babies of a nine-year-old rape victim.

In today’s comments to Corriere della Sera, Archbishop Salvatore “Rino” Fisichella, who declared in his March 15, 2009 article that the abortionists did not deserve excommunication, claimed that he had been “misunderstood.”

The Archbishop mentioned the Brazilian case in passing during remarks about cases of sexual abuse of minors by clergy, saying, “At the risk of being misunderstood, as was the case with the [Brazilian] child, in cases of pedophilia I want to be very clear: I will stand always on the side of victims. Always, and in any case. Such violence cries out for vengeance to God.”

The head of the Rome office of Human Life International, however, has responded that the comments are “a cause of serious concern.” Monsignore Ignacio Barreiro told (LSN) it is a “surprise and shock” that Archbishop Fisichella would use the “lamentable” situation of sexual abuse by priests as a platform for defending his controversial article.

In his article last year, published in the Vatican’s newspaper L’Osservatore Romano, Fisichella positioned himself as the girl’s one true defender as he attacked the archbishop of Olinda and Recife, José Cardoso Sobrinho, claiming the latter had failed to act with “compassion” towards both the girl and the abortionists.

Titled “On the Side of the Brazilian Girl,” Fisichella wrote, “‘Carmen’ should have in the first place been defended, embraced, sweetly caressed … Before thinking about excommunication, it was necessary and urgent to safeguard her innocent life.”

Mgr. Barreiro commented that although Fisichella had said “nice words about the poor little girl that was found with child due to sexual violence, he conveniently forgets to mention that the real victims were the two little twin children that were murdered through abortion.”

“He states that he was misunderstood, but when thousands of  persons worldwide misunderstand a message, we can reasonably presume that there is a problem with the way that the message was formulated,” Barreiro continued.

Taking his cue from the pro-abortion Brazilian and international media coverage, Fisichella claimed in his article, “Due to her very young age and her precarious health conditions, her life was in serious danger because of the pregnancy under way.” 

This claim, however, was strenuously refuted by local doctors who had the girl in their care and who had refused to commit the abortion. It was later revealed that the girl had been removed from the care of these doctors by members of an abortion campaign group. Archbishop Cardoso made the announcement of the excommunication to the press when the girl had disappeared and all communication with her became impossible, in order to warn the abortionists of the consequences of their actions.

Fisichella further claimed that the abortionists had acted after due consideration of their “conscience”, and that they did not deserve excommunication, calling it “unjust and offensive” to suggest that the doctors had aborted the girl’s twin children “nonchalantly.”

Fisichella wrote, “Carmen bore within herself other innocent lives like her own, even if they were the fruit of violence, and these lives were suppressed. Nevertheless, this is not sufficient reason to give a judgment that falls like an axe.” 

Addressing the girl, he added, “Other people deserve excommunication and our forgiveness: not those who have allowed you to live…”

The article has caused an ongoing international uproar in the pro-life community and provoked some senior members of the PAV to declare him “unfit” to be president. In a statement released after the PAV plenary meeting in February, five members, later joined by two others, declared it “absurd” that the PAV is “being led by an ecclesiastic who does not understand what absolute respect for innocent human lives entails.”

At February’s meeting, Fisichella claimed that a clarification, issued by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, after months of complaints from pro-life leaders, had “vindicated” his article.

Barreiro noted that with his insistence that his comments were correct, Fisichella has caused “confusion” around the world. “His surprising insistence that he was correct, demonstrates that a clarification is necessary. If not, he runs the risk of causing doctrinal confusion, a doctrinal confusion that would lead to the killing of thousands upon thousands of innocent babies worldwide.”      

Read LSN’s extensive coverage of the “Recife Affair”here.