Saturday, March 14, 2009

Jesus Wept

I have found myself distracted all week by this story out of Brazil. A nine-year-old girl was discovered to be pregnant with twins when she was taken to the hospital for severe stomach pains. The rapist who fathered those twins? The girls 23-year-old step-father who has been raping the child since she was six.

Her doctors determined that she was too small, and her uterus was too undeveloped for her to carry the fetuses to term without her dying in the process. Between that and the fact that she was raped by her step-father, she definitely fell into Brazil's narrow exceptions for legal abortion. So her mother and doctor arranged one.

The Roman Catholic Church, by way of Archbishop Jose Cardoso Sobrinho, excommunicated the mother and doctor.

That is bad enough,but that's not what has gnawed at me for a week.

What haunts me is this quote:

"God's law is above any human law. So when a human law ... is contrary to God's law, this human law has no value," Cardoso said Thursday.

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," he said.

Just chew on that for a second. I'll wait.

It gets even worse when you read what comes next in the article:

(Cardinal Giovanni Battista Re, head of the Roman Catholic Church's Congregation for Bishops) agreed, saying, "Excommunication for those who carried out the abortion is just," as a pregnancy termination always meant ending an innocent life.

Need another minute to mull that one over? Go right ahead.

Yes, you read it right. Vatican officials came right out and said that while raping a six-year-old child for three years is bad, procuring a medical procedure that will preserve that child's life is worse. Not only worse, but, at least for the mother, potentially unforgiveable.

Procuring an abortion results in automatic excommunication. The excommunicated is usually able to return to a state of communion with the Church is he or she admits the action was wrong, undergoes appropriate penance and makes amends as far as is possible. In this case, the girl's mother would have to admit that saving her daughter's life was wrong.

Could you do that? Could you say "Father, I recognize now that by listening to my child's doctor and procuring a procedure that would save her life, I was wrong."

I couldn't. And I would question any parent who said they could, and mean it. The Church has essentially placed this woman in the untenable position of having to choose between saving her daughter and saving her soul.

There are actions that are unforgivable by human society. I acknowledge this. Hell, I even agree with it. And, since the Church is a human institution, however divinely inspired, I don't really even have a problem with some actions being unforgivable by the Church. But chew on this:

The Church claims that God is omnipresent, omniscient, and omnipotent. If this is true, how can He be bound by the rules of men? Is the Church's view of God really so small? Is it possible that an omnipresent, omniscient, and omnipotent being would, when faced with this mother, this girl, this doctor, say anything to them other than "You did the best you could under untenable circumstances. You are forgiven and beautiful to my sight"?

The Church's view of God is petty. They are more interested in maintaining their own power and privilege than they are in leading their flocks in compassion and grace. Their actions damage the Church and its unity by failing to take into consideration all we have learned about human nature since the Church's founding. They divide the faithful when they protect those who use place of position and power to hurt those they should cherish. By their own rules, every single official who was part of this travesty, or complicit in the covering up of the rapes of hundreds of children by priests, should be automatically excommunicated for causing unhealable breaches in the fabric of the Church.

And somewhere, Jesus is weeping.

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