Wednesday, 6 September 2006

What did Cardinal Trujillo mean?

See the stories here about Cardinal Trujillo excommunicating doctors in Colombia who performed an abortion on an 11-year-old girl raped by her stepfather:,,1861532,00.html

Irim takes a deep breath. My first reaction was to publish a scathing entry - but I decided to save it as a draft and do a bit of research before I said anything. To be fair, it seems far more likely that His Eminence used the phrase "incurred excommunication", since the excommunication is latae sententiae, meaning "by the law itself" (N.B. - someone is excommunicated
*lata sententia*) - therefore, the penalty is automatic once the rule is broken (in this case, Canon 1398). What that means is that Trujillo did not pronounce excommunication, he simply told the doctors that they had *excommunicated themselves* by choosing to perform an abortion, thus violating the aforementioned canon. For non-Catholics, that may seem like splitting hairs; in the Catholic world, there's a big difference.

*Exhales* So, how do I feel about it? I'm what most people might refer to as "conservatively pro-choice" - the Colombian law
allows for abortion in cases of a severely deformed foetus, when the pregnancy is the result of rape or incest, or when the mother's life is in danger. That's about where I am, though I have reservations about the severely deformed foetus - tests have been known to be wrong, one parent might consider mild Down's a 'severe deformity', some severe deformities can be overcome...I'm just not sure. What I do know is that if you are going to leave a child motherless or if you are going to drive a woman to suicidal despair by forcing her to bear a child conceived in violence, then abortion may well be the best option. For these reasons, I feel it must always be kept safe and I will always vote pro-choice.

Note, however, that even though I am conservatively pro-choice, I would never condemn a woman who had an abortion for other reasons. I may not agree with why she did it, but I would always support her. Sometimes, it seems as if the celibate male Catholic hierarchy (don't roll your eyes, lads, you are!) seems to think that women wake up one morning and think, "Ooh, I'm bored and pregnant. What shall I do? Oh, I know! Get an abortion!" Each decision is an emotional one that is agonised over. Women who go through this don't need the contempt, horror and lack of compassion that so often come from those wearing a collar who may know canon law to their fingertips, but have no idea of the law of essence, those who know the law, but have no *faith*.

In this case, Your Eminence, I side firmly with the doctors - they are not 'evildoers' (please reserve that word for the one person in this case who deserves it - the stepfather), but people who were trying to do what was right by one very young, very frightened, abused little girl. So show some cajones and admit that, even if you feel you need to remind them that they "incurred excommunication" - and even better, feel free to pronounce excommunication on the stepfather whose actions and lack of remorse were heinous enough to deserve it.

A lot of people will applaud you for standing up for the "difficult moral teachings of the Catholic Church". I'm less sure of that. You've thrown the word "excommunication" around a lot lately. Your scaremongering on condoms was below the belt (pun intended) and an irresponsible spread of scientifically incorrect information. You state the laws very loudly, but you aren't making any real, thoughtful moral judgments. You're just shouting the rulebook louder than everyone else and trying to convince us that's real authority.

Real authority would have been quietly stating, "I understand why the doctors thought what they did was best for the girl, but in the eyes of the Church it is wrong. Unfortunately, they have incurred excommunication under Canon 1398, though we would hope to see them reconciled to the Church at some future time." (And yes, I'd add the stepfather to that.) Calling them "a web of evildoers" smacks of fear, not authority. You sound afraid, as if even admitting that people who act outside the rules have good intentions might bring your faith crashing down around you. God doesn't live in a box or in a rulebook - look at the wonderfully complex, intricate, evolving universe He created, full of energy and creativity. Step out. Dare. Trust in Him.

I would ask you, Your Eminence, to bear in mind the words of the Gospel in your work as shepherd to God's people:

"There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and he who fears is not perfected in love." --1 John 4:18


1 comment:

Rachel said...

Mmmm. One of the things in the Graundiad (deliberate!) I found most telling was the comment from a spokeswoman, saying yeah, OK, as long as you excommunicate the priests who rape little boys and girls... Well, we know that doesn't happen.

WHY doesn't the Catholic church get off its high horse, and, well, (a) stop treating women (and female CHILDREN) like they're there to produce lots of Catholic babies, and (b)...(z) see above! Like Irim, I'm pro-choice, probably to a much greater extent (from personal prejudice) but, I have to ask, HOW do the Catholic clergy *really* make decisions about things like this? I'm not talking the rubbish about how Benedict XVI doesn't like concerts of pop music (see today's BBC!) or guitars in services...but how does he not see that by stances like this, he is alienating over half the world's population???!!!

Incidentally, I would love to know where on his (and his advisors') list, the priorities of this small child, YES guys, *SMALL CHILD* being pregnant, comes... I suspect, from the reported vatican comments, he couldn't give a to*s. Well, it's only a girl, isn't it?! God, that kind of thing REALLY makes me angry!