All readers of this blog will be thankful with the reaction of several curial officials in the Holy See to the way in which the Brazilian abortion case was (mis-)handled. See the full update on Cathnews here. Apparently the original source is in the Italian daily edition L’Osservatore Romano. The following is from report from the International Herald Tribune.
Fisichella stressed that abortion is always “bad.” But he said the quick proclamation of excommunication “unfortunately hurts the credibility of our teaching, which appears in the eyes of many as insensitive, incomprehensible and lacking mercy.”
The Vatican teaches that anyone performing or helping someone to have an abortion is automatically excommunicated from the church, and the Vatican prelate underlined that abortion is “always condemned by moral law as an intrinsically evil act.”
“There wasn’t any need, we contend, for so much urgency and publicity in declaring something that happens automatically,” Fisichella wrote.
Writing as if he were addressing the girl, Fisichella said: “There are others who merit excommunication and our pardon, not those who have allowed you to live and have helped you to regain hope and trust.”
Note two things: first the reference to latae sententiae excommunication. Fisichella seems to be saying that while it is true that such an automatic excommunication comes into play with the act of abortion, nothing publically should have been said about this, and mercy (ie. the lifting of the automatic excommunication) should have been immediately applied to the situation.
Note too that there seems to be some doubt as to whether anything was really actively done as far as the imposition of excommunication goes. Here is something from one of the links given by Cathnews, from the Latin American Herald Tribune:
Brazil’s Catholic bishops conference denied that the archbishop of Recife and Olinda, Jose Cardoso Sobrinho, excommunicated the mother and doctors who practiced a legal abortion on a 9-year-old girl that was pregnant with twins after being raped by her stepfather.
The secretary general of the bishops conference, Dimas Lara Barbosa, said that the prelate “at no time excommunicated anyone.”