Saturday, 11 July 2009

Brazil case revisited

Remember the scandalous criticism by Archbishop Fisichella of the action of the Brazilian Archbishop Sobrinho to uphold the Church's teaching on abortion?

Well now the Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith have stepped in and published a clarification in L'Osservatore Romano. It isn't quite what is really needed - such as Archbishop Fisichella's resignation. But it is a start.

Here is an extract - you can find the whole thing at Rorate Caeli.

Clarification of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith

On procured abortionSeveral letters have recently arrived at the Holy See, even from highly placed personalities of the political and ecclesial life, who have informed on the confusion created in several nations, particularly in Latin America, following the manipulation and distortion of an article by His Excellency Archbishop Rino Fisichella, President of the Pontifical Academy for Life, on the sad affair of the "Brazilian girl".

In that article, which appeared in L'Osservatore Romano, the doctrine of the Church was proposed, even though taking into consideration the dramatic situation of the mentioned girl, who - as it could be pointed out afterwards - was attended with every pastoral care, in particular by the then Archbishop of Olinda and Recife, His Excellency Archbishop José Cardoso Sobrinho. Regarding this, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith reaffirms that the doctrine of the Church on procured abortion has not changed and cannot change.

Human life must be respected and protected in an absolute manner from the moment of conception. From the first instant of his existence, the human being must have recognized his rights as a person, among which is the inviolable right to life of every innocent being. "Before I formed thee in the bowels of thy mother, I knew thee" (Jer 1, 5). "My bone is not hidden from thee, which thou hast made in secret: and my substance in the lower parts of the earth" (Ps 139[138], 15).

Since the first century, the Church has declared the moral evil of every procured abortion. This teaching has not changed. It remains unchangeable. Direct abortion, that is, willed as an end or as a means, is gravely opposed to the moral law: "Thou shalt not kill a child by abortion, neither shalt thou slay it when born" (Didache, 2,2). "For God, the Lord of life, has conferred on men the surpassing ministry of safeguarding life in a manner which is worthy of man. Therefore from the moment of its conception life must be guarded with the greatest care while abortion and infanticide are abominable crimes" (Second Vatican Council, Gaudium et Spes, 51).

Formal cooperation in an abortion constitutes a grave sin. The Church punishes this crime against human life with a canonical penalty of excommunication: "A person who procures a completed abortion incurs a latae sententiae excommunication" (CIC, can. 1398), "for the very fact [ipso facto] of having committed the delict" (CIC, can 1314) and under the conditions foreseen by the law (cfr. CIC, canons 1323-1324). The Church does not intend to limit the domain of mercy in this manner. This puts in evidence the gravity of the crime committed, the irreparable damage caused to the murdered innocent, to his parents, and to all society...."

As for the problem of certain medical treatments with the end of preserving the health of the mother, two different cases should be distinguished: on one hand, a procedure which directly causes the death of the fetus, often called inappropriately a "therapeutic" abortion, cannot be any more licit than the direct murder of an innocent human being; on the other hand, a procedure which is not itself abortive may have, as a collateral consequence, the death of the child: "If, for instance, saving the life of the future mother, regardless of her state of pregnancy, would urgently demand a surgical procedure, or other therapeutic measure, which could have, as an accessory consequence, in no way willed by itself, but unavoidably, the death of the fetus, such act could not be called a direct attack against innocent life. In such conditions, the procedure may be considered licit, as other similar medical interventions, as long as a good of great worth, such as life, is involved, and it is not possible to postpone it until after the birth of the child, nor to resort to another efficacious remedy" (Pius XII, Address to the "Fronte alla Famiglia" and the Associazione Famiglie Numerose, November 27, 1951)...."

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