Although abortion is illegal in Brazil, over 1 million women there have the procedure each year. 250,000 of those women suffer trauma due to botched abortions and must be treated by doctors through the government's managed health care system. Forty percent of Brazil's rape victims are children, whose parents are then forced to break the law in order to terminate their daughters' pregnancy. Into this ugly morass the Catholic Church has waded, once again demonstrating how oblivious the Vatican is to the suffering of its followers.
A nine-year-old girl from the countryside was impregnated by her stepfather. The man had been sexually abusing her since she was six. A medical team in Brazil's northeastern city of Recife performed an abortion on the girl, who was fourth months pregnant. She was carrying twins.
When told about the incident, Archbishop Don Jose Cardoso Sobrinho of Recife excommunicated the doctor, the child's mother, and the medical team involved in the procedure. The abusive stepfather was not excommunicated because, according to Sobrinho, "A graver act than rape is abortion, to eliminate an innocent life."
Some Brazilians are calling the physician a hero. From CNN: A doctor excommunicated by the Catholic Church for performing an abortion on a 9-year-old rape victim received a standing ovation during a national convention on women's health, according to a local media report. The response came during the opening ceremony of an event hosted by Brazilian Minister of Health Jose Gomes Temporao. The newspaper O Povo reported that Temporao called on the audience to acknowledge the "brilliant" work done by a medical team in the abortion, performed in Brazil's northeastern city of Recife.
But now the Holy See has stepped into the fray, staunchly defending Sobrinho's excommunication of the doctor and the girl's mother. According to Agence France-Presse, Cardinal Giovanni Battista Re, head of the Catholic Church’s Congregation for Bishops, said that the case was sad, but that "the real problem is that the twins conceived were two innocent persons, who had the right to live and could not be eliminated."
As usual, the Vatican gets things bass-ackward. The abortion was regrettable. Abortions are always regrettable. But despite what Cardinal Re says, the "real problem" is the horrifying sexual abuse this young girl suffered. Knuckles planted firmly on the ground, the Roman Catholic Church continues slouching toward irrelevance.