You might remember several months ago the case of the nine-year old Brazilian girl who was raped by her stepfather:
Weighing just 79 pounds and barely four feet tall, the 9-year-old girl, from Alagoinha, a town in the northeast, underwent an abortion when she was 15 weeks pregnant at one of the 55 centers authorized to perform the procedure in Brazil. Abortion is legal [t]here only in cases of rape or when the mother’s life is at risk.
The doctors’ actions set off a swirl of controversy. A Brazilian archbishop summarily excommunicated everyone involved — the doctors for performing the abortion and the girl’s mother for allowing it — except for the stepfather, who stands accused of raping the girl over a number of years.
“The law of God is above any human law,” said José Cardoso Sobrinho, the archbishop, who argued that while rape was bad, abortion was even worse.
Time picks up the story from there:
Monsignor Rino Fisichella, a solidly traditionalist Rome prelate considered close to [Pope Benedict XVI], tried to soften the Church’s approach on the Brazilian case by writing in the Vatican’s official newspaper L’Osservatore Romano that the girl “should have been defended, hugged and held tenderly to help her feel that we were all on her side.” Two weeks ago, the Vatican announced that Sobrinho, who had been serving past retirement, was stepping down. And that’s where the Church stood. Until now.
In a tucked away “clarification” published on page 7 of a recent edition of L’Osservatore Romano, the Vatican produced a document that unequivocally confirmed automatic excommunication for anyone involved in an abortion — even in such a situation as dire as the Brazilian case. It settles any questions about the absolute nature of Church doctrine on the matter of abortion — but could potentially reignite the PR firestorm.
No word yet on automatic excommunication for those convicted of murder.