Sunday, March 08, 2009

Excommunication Breakdown

Who will eat and who gets eaten?
Too often in America we see faith portrayed as an unmitigated virtue, a means of making us good people even though our understanding of what makes up that goodness only reaches about the third grade level. Christians accept Jesus’ assertion of “love thy god with all thy heart and love thy neighbor as thyself” is the basis for all of the law, although this makes little sense alongside some of the more bizarre proscriptions in Deuteronomy or the salacious rantings of Saul of Tarsus. Ultimately a morality based solely on circular reasoning and argument from authority, as most faith-based moralities are, leads at best to confusion and opportunism. At worst, faith manages to take the misery of the human condition and use it as an excuse to inflict even more pain and suffering.

Such is the case with a nine-year-old girl in Brazil who was repeatedly raped by her stepfather for years. Recently, on a doctor’s visit after complaining of stomach pains, it was discovered that she was four months pregnant. With twins. She was given an abortion because even under Brazil’s restrictive abortion law, which allows the procedure only in cases of rape or danger to the mother, the girl met both conditions.

The laws were applied and the girl was given an abortion while her abusive stepfather – who is also suspected of molesting the victim’s physically-handicapped older sister – was arrested as he was trying to flee town. And then, from the 14th century, the Catholic Church weighed in and excommunicated the girl’s mother and doctors:

Now a Church spokesman says all those involved, including the child's mother and the doctors, are to be excommunicated.
The Archbishop of Olinda and Recife, Jose Cardoso Sobrinho, told Brazil's TV Globo that the law of God was above any human law.
He said the excommunication would not apply to the child because of her age, but would affect all those who ensured the abortion was carried out.

In the ensuing row, Brazil’s President Luiz Ignacio Lula da Silva, also a Catholic, disagreed: “In this case, medicine is more right than the church,” he said. While the qualifying “in this case” seems pretty superfluous – in what instance has faith shown to be better than science at finding anything out? – Lula’s sentiment is reasonable if not painfully obvious. The Vatican, however, has backed up Archbishop Sobrinho. The cardinal in charge of Latin American bishops, Giovanni Battista Re, justified the decision on the grounds that the fetuses were innocent and had a right to live. Even if a nine-year-old girl suffered and died as a consequence. And even if her twins ended up dying as well.

And as a final illustrative outrage comes the complete silence on the church about the responsibility of the girl’s rapist stepfather. While it’s obvious to the archbishop and cardinal – and their brethren with a long institutional history of enabling and covering up pedophilia – that any Catholic performing an abortion deserves excommunication, the pedophile father who put a minor, her mother, and several doctors in this situation seems to have escaped the church’s attention entirely.

It’s certainly true that human laws can be draconian and outrageous. But at least human laws have in them an inherent basis for change. An informed electorate can overturn them; judges can overrule them; even in a dictatorship, another arbitrary leader can come along and negate them. Not so with the Catholic Church and, to extrapolate, all other societies where morality and law are identical and morality is handed down by revelation from an uncontactable being that won’t explain itself.

Think about that the next time some religious fundamentalist argues that the United States is a Christian nation and that the Constitution ought to be brought in line with the Bible. The Enlightenment Humanism on which our Constitution is based is vastly more compassionate, reasonable, and egalitarian than a concept of morals that deems itself “above any human law.”

Update: Archbishop Sobrinho actually did think about the father -- and concluded that his crime was less serious than getting an abortion: "'It is clear that he committed a very serious sin, but worse than this is the abortion,' Sobrinho said." How such barbarians have any claim to morality is one of religion's great mysteries.


Pudentilla said...

The fetuses are more innocent, by definition, than the 9 year old girl. Because the fetuses were not yet born they had yet to acquire a social gender identity. And by definition, a woman is incapable of innocence. See, Eden, Garden of. It's a definitional quality chicks inherently lack.

We know this because men who wear drag for a living have told us so.

dah_sab said...

What amazes me most about this story is how anyone could give a rat's ass about being excommunicated. Obviously one would have to take the church seriously for this to have meaning, but from my perspective it's just a good show begging for popcorn. Except it involves the life of a nine-year-old girl born into a living hell.

The catholic church just can't seem to stop shooting itself in the foot. Before this we have the Holocaust-denying priest and member of the craziest sect of catholics welcomed back by Pope Hitler Youth, and of course the whole pedobear catastrophe which is still playing itself out, with the happy outcome of the church being forced to sell off a hell of a lot of property to pay hush-hush money or court-enforced settlements. Keep it up, Joey Ratz, by the time you're done maybe the church will be bankrupt!