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Pope Benedict, Age and Strength

Soraya Chemaly has a post at Reproductive Health Reality Check about the pope’s sudden retirement. The announced reason for this is that his age and lack of strength prevents him from carrying out his duties. Chemaly relates this to one of the most appalling actions the Catholic Church has taken in recent years.

The Pope’s rationale is that his “age means he lacks strength to do job.” You could use the exact words to describe the nine-year old girl  whose family the Pope excommunicated for having a life-saving abortion after being raped and impregnated, with twins. It seems to me that her age meant she lacked strength to do the job, too. Actually, the job would have killed her.  These things happen. She and 16 million other pregnant adolescent girls a year, two million of whom are under age 15, strike me as 16 million good #reasonstorise.

Perhaps my memory is fading, but I don’t even recall hearing about this incident with the nine year old girl. It happened in Brazil in 2009:

The case of the pregnant 9-year-old was shocking enough. But it was the response of the Catholic Church that infuriated many Brazilians. Archibishop Jose Cardoso Sobrinho of the coastal city of Recife announced that the Vatican was excommunicating the family of a local girl who had been raped and impregnated with twins by her stepfather, because they had chosen to have the girl undergo an abortion. The Church excommunicated the doctors who performed the procedure as well. “God’s laws,” said the archbishop, dictate that abortion is a sin and that transgressors are no longer welcome in the Roman Catholic Church. “They took the life of an innocent,” Sobrinho told TIME in a telephone interview. “Abortion is much more serious than killing an adult. An adult may or may not be an innocent, but an unborn child is most definitely innocent. Taking that life cannot be ignored.”

The case has caused a furor. Abortion is illegal in Brazil except in cases of rape or when the mother’s life is in danger, both of which apply in this case. (The girl’s immature hips would have made labor dangerous; the Catholic opinion was that she could have had a cesarean section.) When the incident came to light in local newspapers, the Church first asked a judge to halt the process and then condemned those involved, including the 9-year-old’s distraught mother. Even Catholic Brazilians were shocked at the harshness of the archbishop’s actions. “In this case, most people support the doctors and the family. Everything they did was legal and correct,” says Beatriz Galli, the policy associate for Ipas Brasil, an NGO that fights to give women more say over their health and reproductive rights.

If 1700 years or so of barbarism and corruption haven’t already proven it, this incident certainly shows that the Catholic Church is pretty much the last institution that should be viewed as a sound moral guide.

Comments

  1. Reginald Selkirk says

    Chemaly relates this to one of the most appalling actions the Catholic Church has taken in recent years.

    Sadly, when I red that sentence the answer did not leap immediately to my mind. There are too many candidates.

  2. says

    Abortion is much more serious than killing an adult.

    Yeah, there’s that “culture of life” for you. (In Virginia, that’s pronounced “CULtur-a-LAHF.”)

  3. jeevmon says

    Savita Halappanavar. Died because a Catholic hospital refused to perform an abortion to end a pregnancy that was already in the process of miscarrying to alleviate the mother’s pain. So tell me again about how it’s all about protecting innocent babies and has nothing to do with making sure women know their place.

  4. otrame says

    You know the one person in the whole sorry mess that didn’t get excommunicated?

    The rapist.

    The whole rationale was ridiculous anyway. Even if they were guilty of murder, I am unaware that murderers are routinely excommunicated.

  5. rabbitscribe says

    For purposes of reproductive decisions, the baby is innocent. For theological purposes it goes to Hell if it dies without its stain of original sin having been removed by baptism. Wheeeeee!

  6. Rawnaeris, FREEZE PEACHES says

    I remover that. It was horrifying then, and hasn’t lost any of the impact with time. IIRC, the Catholic Church did not excommunicate her stepfather.

  7. glodson says

    He excommunicated a nine year old girl who was raped and left pregnant for getting an abortion which saved her life… This is a vile and callous institution. This is thoughtlessly cruel.

  8. says

    @rabbitscribe:

    Actually, Catholic tradition holds that unbaptized infants (and by extension fetuses) are consigned to limbo rather than hell. More recently, the Church hierarchy has disavowed that idea and says that God can do whatever he wants to with the souls of unbaptized children.

    But since abortion is not homicide, and even if it were in this case it would be counted as self-defense for the girl who was pregnant, that does absolutely nothing to absolve the Church.

  9. says

    You non-Catholics have the easy path, sitting comfortably a safe distance away, pushing (nay, demanding!) that others conform to your view of morality, protecting a woman’s rights her own body, well, try being a True Catholic! Then you’d have to take the hard path, sitting comfortably a safe distance away, pushing (nay, demanding!) that others conform to our view of morality, protecting the Church’s right to her own body!

  10. vmanis1 says

    Credo quia absurdum. — (Common misquote of a line from Tertullian.)

    That’s why I could never be a Catholic: my ability to believe nonsensical twaddle is impaired.

  11. Nick Gotts (formerly KG) says

    Actually, Catholic tradition holds that unbaptized infants (and by extension fetuses) are consigned to limbo rather than hell. More recently, the Church hierarchy has disavowed that idea and says that God can do whatever he wants to with the souls of unbaptized children. – michaelbusch

    I’m surprised they uninvented Limbo, as it’s a much neater solution to the awkward question “What happens to the soul of an aborted fetus?” than the current one, which amounts to a helpless shrug of the shoulders. Both “It goes to Hell” and “It goes to Heaven” are awkward from a PR viewpoint: Hell because of the obvious and monstrous injustice and cruelty, Heaven because that would obviously mean the abortionist is doing the fetus the greatest possible service.

  12. leni says

    But since abortion is not homicide, and even if it were in this case it would be counted as self-defense for the girl who was pregnant, that does absolutely nothing to absolve the Church.

    Abortion is always self defense. Even so, these fools would have us believe that our homes deseve better protection from intruders than do women’s bodies.

  13. lanir says

    Abortion is much more serious than killing an adult.

    Where on earth is a 9 year old considered an adult? I fully understand the archbishop was not directly referring to her as an adult but he nonetheless used the term as a straw man to justify his attack so I see no logical problem with pinning him with this ridiculous assertion.

    If the story i read was correct Ratzinger is being consistent at least. His new place is where a convent used to be, so presumably he moved a bunch of ascetic old ladies out of the way so he could posh up their place and retire there.

  14. Aliasalpha says

    Oh come on Ed, this is clearly just another in a seemingly endless series of bad apples spoiling an otherwise impeccable reputation

  15. Doug Little says

    Yes the Church that is morally superior than the rest of us. They certainly lead by example.

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