Tuesday, March 10, 2009


Stephen Suh blogs at my other home, Cogitamus:
Forgiveness for a rapist I can handle. We are none of us perfect or good or holy. But forgiveness for that monster while consigning a nine year old girl to eternal damnation? Because that's what excommunication is. Oh, pedants will tell us that reconciliation is possible, but unless this young lady begins a career of denying the Holocaust, there's little chance of that happening.
If you haven't been keeping up, this is what riles him so.
A senior Vatican cleric has defended the excommunication of the mother and doctors of a nine-year-old girl who had an abortion in Brazil after being raped.... He also said the accused stepfather would not be expelled from the church. Although the man allegedly committed "a heinous crime ... the abortion - the elimination of an innocent life - was more serious".
So... At what point do we get to start spitting when we walk by Roman Catholic churches? Admittedly, when your history includes the Inquisition damning a 9-year-old girl for submitting to medical necessity is pretty small fry. Nevertheless.

UPDATE: I misread, the girl is not being excommunicated, only her mother and doctors. Doesn't change the anger.


Mike said...

I already do...

Anonymous said...

I don't think it's pedantic to point out that the 9-year old girl wasn't excommunicated, rather her mother and the doctors involved were. The girl was "spared" because by the Church's standards she's not able to make decisions for herself as a minor, so her mother takes the blame (the rapist stepfather, OTOH, is off the hook because he wasn't involved in the abortion).

Still - a monstrous mindset. It gets weirder when you realize what you can be excommunicated for - not for murder, or rape, but you can get one if you try to kill a Pope, ordain a woman as a priest, or grant absolution to a priest who has gotten married. The Church of my birth is a weird place.


Chet Scoville said...

Also, excommunication is not, as Suh alleges, consigning someone to eternal damnation. It is forbidding someone to take communion or otherwise participate publicly in worship services (by leading prayers, doing readings, etc.) until such time as they repent and make confession. It was inappropriate in these circumstances, but it's not what a lot of people think it is.

Anonymous said...

The problem with "it's not instant damnation" is that in order to have the excommunication lifted, the excommunicated typically have to admit they were wrong and never commit this "sin" again. That's at a minimum - excommunication can't be lifted by going to confession with a parish priest - the bishop who laid the order is the one who reviews it to revoke it, and if he wants to get involved the Pope can make things easier or harder for the excommunicated to come back into the fold.

But as long as you're excommunicated you're cut off from most of the sacraments. And, though confession is a sacrament still available to you, you can't be given absolution for the sin that you've been excommunicated for. So given the enormity of the sin as dictated by the Church (murder), you are effectively damned until you pony up to the Bishop and promise to toe the line and never do it again, even if a "technical" reading of the law says that it isn't a form of "instant damnation."

Worse in my mind - you're shut out of your community. The excommunicated are supposed to be shunned or shamed by the faithful until they repent and beg the bishop for forgiveness. In the US that's a laughable idea these days. In Brazil? That could be rough on the doctors and rougher on the mother.

The doctors are effectively shut out of the Church, because if they're good doctors there isn't any way they can promise that they'd never do this again if the situation repeated itself. And the mother is put into the monstrous situation of having to say that saving her daughter's life was a sinful act, and having to say that she should have let her daughter die instead. They did the right thing, and if the Church patriarchs could get out of their damn ivory towers and see that real life is goddamn messy, they might show some of that compassion that their supposed teacher Jesus told them they're supposed to be tempering their rules with. Instead they're doing the modern day equivalent of hounding Jesus for healing the sick on the Sabbath.


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