dotCommonweal

A blog by the magazine's editors and contributors

.

More excommunication miscommunications

Another coda to the terrible story of the 9-year-old girl in Brazil whose serially abusive stepfather impregnated her with twins, leading her mother to take her for an abortion on the advice of doctors who said her life was at serious risk. The story shocked Brazilians butwas made worse (andraced around the Catholic blogosphere) when the local archbishop announced that the girl's mother and the doctors were excommunicated. (There were early reports that the child was declared excommunicated, too, but as she is under 17, that wasn't canonically possible.) A top Vatican official, Cardinal Giovanni Battista Re, publicly backed the Brazilian churchman,Archbishop Jos Cardoso Sobrinho of Olinda and Recife, according to this CNS story.Now another top Vatican official, Archbishop Rino Fisichella, President of the Pontifical Academy for Life and an apparent up-and-comer in Rome, wrotes in L'Osservatore Romano thatthe excommunications had been a mistake.Richard Owens of the London Times writes from Rome:

"Before thinking about an excommunication it was necessary and urgent to save an innocent life", he said. The excommunication had been decided on and publicised "too hastily".Writing in L'Osservatore Romano, the Vatican newspaper, Archishop Fisichella noted that the excommunications had rebounded on the Church. "Unfortunately the credibility of our teaching was dented. It appeared in the eyes of many to be insensitive, incomprehensible and lacking in mercy." The girl "should have been above all defended, embraced, treated with sweetness to make her feel that we were all on her side, all of us, without distinction."

Owens also notes that last week the National Conference of Brazilian Bishops said theexcommunications of the mother and doctorswerewrong--thegirl's motheracted "under pressure from the doctors," who said the child's life was at risk, and a church official said only doctors who "systematically" conducted abortions should be excommunicated. (The doctor in this case had publicly defied the archbisop and said he would continue going to Mass.)Fisichella and the Vatican were no doubt keenly aware of the gap between the act of mercy toward the schismatic bishops of the SSPX and this apparent lack of pastoral concern. But his words are just right in this case, IMHO.PS: ACNS story just moved with the latest, and more details.

Comments

Commenting Guidelines

I think we have another piece of evidence in this story to support Cathy Kaveny's theory that for many, the unborn are superior to the "post-born": Here's the first paragraph in the story from Time, with emphasis added by me:

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."

Abortion is apparently so serious -- "much more serious than killing an adult" -- that the Church's response must be swift, severe, and utterly merciless, no matter what the circumstances. Why, if this girl gets away with having an abortion, every 9-year-old who is raped by her step-father from the age of 6 and becomes pregnant with twins will think it's okay.

Sobrinho misrepresents the tradition when he says that killing a fetus is more serious than killing an adult. In general, whether or not one is an "unjust attacker," (an attacker against whom one may defend oneself, even at the cost of the attacker's life, if need be,) has nothing to do with the attacker's moral state, but the nature of the attack itself. If I am walking down the street and a madman mistakes me for a rampaging terrorist or a demon and attacks me, I have the right to self-defense, even though his madness renders him morally not responsible for the attack. He's innocent, morally, but at the same time an unjust attacker, and I can defend myself.That said--magisterial teaching explicitly rules out self-defense for women (and girls!) endangered by pregnancy: This from "Declaration on Procured Abortion," 14. (CDF, 1974, Seper) After acknowledging that the reasons for which people might seek abortion are serious, Seper writes: We do not deny these very great difficulties. It may be a serious question of health, sometimes of life or death, for the mother.....We proclaim only that none of these reasons can ever objectively confer the right to dispose of anothers life, even when that life is only beginning.In short--Sobrinho represented Church teaching on the indamissibility of abortion in all circumstances correctly, and announcing the excommunication of those responsible for the abortion was also merely stating church teaching. I'd invite all who are shocked by the de facto brutality of magisterial teaching in cases like these to take on the teaching itself, not the clumsy way it was expressed. And Archbishop Fisichella? On what grounds does he make his claim of mercy? Not magisterial teaching on abortion, which rules out mercy in cases like these.

Not so fast, please. Surely in an ideal world any of those involved in carrying out an abortion in the case of a 9 year old raped girl pregnant with twins, and whose life is at risk, should be excommunicated. Isn't that right? What possible reasons could there be not to do so? The fact that the mother -- poor, weak vessel that she is -- acted "under pressure" from the doctors? The fact that the doctors do not "systematically" perform abortions? Or is it that the girl's life was at risk? But what does that mean? That killing the innocent in self-defense is morally justified? But surely that is not the stand of the Church. Look, after all, at all the soldiers, sailors, and airmen who have been excommunicated because they shelled or bombed villages, towns, and cities, killing the innocent as well as the guilty, the unborn as well as the post-born. Yes, look at them all, indeed. Name three. And where is Jonathan Swift (author of A Modest Proposal) when we need him?

And I notice as well that Fisichella doesn't say the girl's mother and doctors were not excommunicated, merely that the public announcement that they were damaged the Church's reputation. He seems to suggest that the girl and those responsible for her care should be hugged first. Then informed that they were excommunicated.

The episcopacy of this church seems to enjoy self-destruction. Sooner or later the pew potatoes are going to willingly give B16 his "smaller" church .... much smaller. Then who will pay for the opulent digs and clothing?

This is sad, sad commentary on the state of the hierarchy. Where is the gospel message? We have sank to the lowest common denominator - law of rule; catechism & ideology over pastoral common sense; the bankruptcy of the church's ability to articulate, much less explain a consistent ethic of life.You can always make an arguement that life must be protected from conception to death. The devil is in the details. If life is a comprehensive principle, how each of us lives that out is what some of us learned in moral theology. That seems to be totally forgotten when issues such as abortion, euthanasia, stem cell, IVF, etc. are raised. As if by command we can end all "gray" and make the world safe and black & white.But, the mission of the church is not an ideology; it is a journey towards the kingdom of God. Our goal is not life; not even to protect life above all else. Our goal is the kingdom which is marked by the ups and downs of humans' journeying - with hope, mercy, and forgiveness. Vatican II (even if you argue brought no change to doctrine or the truths of revelation) did try to start a pattern that was not characterized by anathemas, negation but rather by engaging the signs of the times, bringing dialogue and openness, with an attitude of affirmation not condemnation. The "Law of Rule" - a version of Prof. Kaveny's statement - seems to have lost its way on the journey and to have forgotten what was lived at Vatican II.

Wisdom from the past:"The Catholic leadership crisis for tomorrow is more profound that we dare think about thinking about." Martin E. Marty, You're Going to Have to be Institutionalized (article), "The Critic", SUMMER, 1989

Jimmy Mac: Do you have the most remarkable filing system in the world or do you just have an enviable steel-trap mind? Either way, damn you! (Of course I don't mean that canonically...)

"Abortion is apparently so serious much more serious than killing an adult that the Churchs response must be swift, severe, and utterly merciless, "I believe we all agree that abortion is serious.Far be it from me to speak for the bishop in Brazil. Maybe what he meant, though, is that in judging the moral gravity of a case in which an adult kills another adult, circumstances can be given some weight. Some forms of killing - e.g. some killing in self defense, some killing in war, a tubal ligation that has the unintended effect of terminating an ectopic pregnancy - may even be completely justified. But there are no circumstances that can justify a voluntarily procured abortion. Whether this case - which btw contains the sort of freakishly extreme set of circumstances that should never be used to decide any first principles about anything- qualifies as a voluntarily procured abortion, I don't pretend to judge.I do disagree with the characterization of "merciless". Excommunications contain within them the seeds of mercy, although I don't know how widely understood that is - we tend to think of it as the equivalent of the death penalty, or of lifetime exile. But those notions aren't accurate. The purpose of an excommunication is to call a person guilty of a very serious sin to repentance and conversion. If the person responds to that call in the prescribed way, the excommunication can be lifted, conceivably within five minutes of its imposition.

"This is sad, sad commentary on the state of the hierarchy. Where is the gospel message? "Bill, did you have any quibble with Fisichella's comments? I thought they hit all the right notes.

Saddening in all the alarums about this sad story is the reliance on second-hand sources. How many of the commentators read Portuguese? How many know all the facts of the case? Might this be called a rush to judgment?

Jim - he hit most of the right notes. But even he did not address the fact that law came first.Mr. Austin - have tried to read every posting on this situation - this is no rush to judgment. We will not get clarification after clarification and backtracking that will suggest we all do not understand what had to happen.Agree with Mr. Gibson -- Jimmy Mac....what an appropriate and timely quote.

I believe we all agree that abortion is serious.Jim,But do we all agree that abortion is by its very nature more serious than the murder of an adult? Is that something that even needs to be a matter of conjecture? Everyone has a right to life, but an unborn child has more of a right than an adult? Why even make a pronouncement about which murders are worse than others?Bill, did you have any quibble with Fisichellas comments? I thought they hit all the right notes.How can you take the side of both Archbishop Rino Fisichella and Archibishop Jose Cardoso Sobrinho, whom Archbishop Fisichella is criticizing???I do disagree with the characterization of merciless. Excommunications contain within them the seeds of mercy, although I dont know how widely understood that is - we tend to think of it as the equivalent of the death penalty, or of lifetime exile. I would suggest that in this case, the excommunications were purely punitive, and contained no seeds of mercy. What kind of mercy is it to say that an abortion under these circumstances was worse than a step-father raping his daughter repeatedly from ages 6 to 9? ("The row was inflamed when Archbishop Sobrinho said he had not excommunicated the stepfather because abortion was a more serious sin than rape.") One might argue that child rape in theory is lesser sin than abortion, but when faced with the actual circumstances and a real-life situation, would you honestly declare to the world that the mother of the girl was a worse sinner than the step-father? No one forced the father into making an anguished decision whether or not to rape his 6-year-old daughter. Don't you think the mother in this case deserves a little sympathy for being in an extraordinarily difficult decision?Whether this case - which btw contains the sort of freakishly extreme set of circumstances that should never be used to decide any first principles about anything- qualifies as a voluntarily procured abortion, I dont pretend to judge.You don't pretend to judge, but Archbishop Sobrinho didn't hesitate to judge, and Cardinal Giovanni Battista Re didn't hesitate to back him up.

Might this be called a rush to judgment?Gabriel, Are you saying Archbishop Rino Fisichella, president of the Pontifical Academy for Life, rushed to judgment when he published his article in L'Osservatore Romano criticizing the handling of the matter by the Archbishops in Brazil?

Whether this case - which btw contains the sort of freakishly extreme set of circumstances that should never be used to decide any first principles about anything- qualifies as a voluntarily procured abortion, I dont pretend to judge.How freakish are these circumstances? This article was linked to in the original post above:

Jesuit Father Clodoveo Piazza, a missionary in Brazil, told La Stampa that there are thousands of similar tragedies unfolding in the poorest regions of the South American nation.He said where he works in the state of Bahia "about a third of all children are born to underage mothers; often they are only 11 or 12 years old."The majority of these pregnancies among the young are unwanted and, out of shame, the girls "run even greater risks by aborting" in clandestine clinics, he said."The world has to wake up. We are killing childhood," he said.

Lisa-Unless you have access to the full statement of Archbishop Fisichella's statement (which doesn't seem to appear as link in any of the posts), then I think your interpretation:"He seems to suggest that the girl and those responsible for her care should be hugged first. Then informed that they were excommunicated."is quite unfair. According to St. Ignatius of Loyola, we should always assume the best intentions of one another. Until the full statement of Fisichella (and its context), I think we should avoid rushing to judgment of his deeper meaning or intentions. This whole episode is so sad and we as observers should be careful in our commentary until we have all the facts less we add to the sadness of an already tragic situation.

I miss the old days when theologians like Liguori and Sanchez had such "liberal" views on the tragic reality of abortion -- sometimes too liberal to be sure. The current teaching is a recipe for fanaticism and cruelty. No amount of spin and image management can solve this. It is putting lipstick on a pig.

This is a no-brainer. Bishop Sobrinho and Cardinal Re are wrong. It does not matter whether or not they are following a teaching of the magisterium: if they are, then that teaching, too, is wrong. That's obvious to me, to the point where I find it difficult to argue about it.What happened to people's inner compass?

I'm reminded of of an insight I once head, that we're usually not willing to grant other people the exceptions we justly grant ourselves.This is still a world and Church, especially, dominated by men. Warfare is, traditionally, the realm of men. Therefore, the issue of the morality of killing in war, even the unavoidable killing of the innocent (and I'm sure some of them will be the innocent unborn) has been tackled head-on for centuries. The result is a thoughtful ethic (at best) that makes room for exceptions to fundamentalism for the sake of justice.Now as to the world of women- well, like I said, I think we're still not granting this perspective the thoughtfulness we grant the mostly masculine battlefield. Consequently, the actions involving women in this case are either absolutely pure or absolutely corrupt. This lack of thoughtfulness gets us into another mess. When we consider the Church's teaching on baptism, how is it that the baptized 9 year old girl is 'less innocent' than the unborn twins? Also, while we mourn the loss of others because we want to be with them and we're now separated, I wonder: should people who believe in the Resurrection really feel sorry for the lost unborn children? I know that sounds strange, but I feel like there's an air of desperation to the extreme prohibitionist view on abortion - as if this life were our only home and chance.

Brian, I would add that the refusal to reconsider the moral dimensions of abortion, especially in extreme cases such as this one, reflects not just a failure of empathy and imagination. In effect, the uniqueness of pregnancy has been viewed as a reason to condemn abortion, not to re-examine the moral complexities of two physically intertwined lives, one completely dependent on the other. There is in this reasoning a strong sense that a woman's purpose is bound up in her capacity to breed. Which is to say, that the Church comes awfully close to valuing women's lives only in light of their reproductive potential. If a woman's life is worthless apart from her breeding potential, there can never be any moral justification for eroding that potential, even if the woman's own life is at stake.I am not saying this is the conscious reasoning used by the Church, but picking apart the catechism and even recent Church writings "on women" gives a strong sense that the Church has great difficulty seeing women as the moral equal of men, and sees reproduction as the apex of female experience.

Archbishop Fisichella sympathizes with the child, her mother, and the doctors who were faced with such a difficult dilemma. He even goes so far as to say that those who allowed her to live did not deserve excommunication. But he did not go so far as to criticize the canon law that would have automatically punished the childs mother and her doctors. All he can say is that the church can be firm with its moral principles and at the same time reach out and show mercy toward others. How? Surely not with crude boilerplate automatic excommunications applied to complex and difficult situations. The real problem here is that the canon law is utterly inadequate to the situation and so far none of the Bishops involved in commenting on the case have had the courage and common decency to say so. Jimmy Mac's apt quote from Martin Marty is, unfortunately, right on target.

"But do we all agree that abortion is by its very nature more serious than the murder of an adult? Is that something that even needs to be a matter of conjecture? Everyone has a right to life, but an unborn child has more of a right than an adult? Why even make a pronouncement about which murders are worse than others?"As I said - far be it from me to be his spokesperson. I'm just speculating on what he was trying to say. Why he said what he said, I dunno.Nevertheless, it's both possible and important to look at the various ways in which lives are taken, think clearly about them and make useful distinctions, even in emotionally fraught cases like this one.Is abortion more serious by its very nature than the murder of an adult? If we wish to think with the church on this, then there is not a simple yes-or-no answer to your question, because in the case of the killed adult, we may and should consider the specific circumstances of the life-taking. I gave several examples in which taking an adult's life is (by the church's criteria) less serious - that is to say, less morally culpable - than abortion. By the same token, certainly there are circumstances of killing adults (like purposely flying a jetliner into an office building) that are at least equally grave to abortion.

"How can you take the side of both Archbishop Rino Fisichella and Archibishop Jose Cardoso Sobrinho, whom Archbishop Fisichella is criticizing???"I'm not particularly taking sides in this discussion, just analyzing and commenting. I haven't immersed myself in the story, so it's possible there are angles and shades that I'm not seeing, but istm that the two abps are talking about different aspects of the situation. The one guy seems to be focusing on the legal aspect, while the other is (thankfully) introducing the pastoral side. Both are necessary.

"The real problem here is that the canon law is utterly inadequate to the situation and so far none of the Bishops involved in commenting on the case have had the courage and common decency to say so. "Susan, if I may ask, are you a canonist? I don't mean to ask that in an antagonistic way; I have an impression from reading your comments that you are an academic in theology, but I'm not sure if your expertise is canon law or something else (or more than one thing :-)).Anyway, I ask because it would be useful to have some canonical expertise on this point. I'm not a canon law expert (very far from it), but I do have this notion, which may or may not be correct, that one of the fundamental principles of canon law is that it is merciful and flexible. It's not supposed to be the hard, absolute and rigorous system that we've inherited (I'm told) from the Anglo-Saxon tradition. I'm wondering what the applications would be in this case of those principles of flexibility and mercy. I've already commented on the fact that excommunications (which, for the record, the bishop did not impose in this case) are themselves a means to the end of mercy and reconciliation. I'm also wondering if, for example, the bishop has the authority (if he were so inclined) override or set aside the latae sententiae excommunications.

"What kind of mercy is it to say that an abortion under these circumstances was worse than a step-father raping his daughter repeatedly from ages 6 to 9? (The row was inflamed when Archbishop Sobrinho said he had not excommunicated the stepfather because abortion was a more serious sin than rape.) One might argue that child rape in theory is lesser sin than abortion, but when faced with the actual circumstances and a real-life situation, would you honestly declare to the world that the mother of the girl was a worse sinner than the step-father? No one forced the father into making an anguished decision whether or not to rape his 6-year-old daughter. Dont you think the mother in this case deserves a little sympathy for being in an extraordinarily difficult decision?"Yes, I do sympathize with the mother and the doctors. I think that is what Fisichella was also trying to say.Rape is horrible. But the fact that the state doesn't execute rapists, and does occasionally execute those guilty of other crimes, suggests that there is a cultural consensus that those other crimes are even worse. One doesn't excuse or minimize rape to see that. There are gradations of punishment to fit gradations of crime.Canon law doesn't replace criminal law, it has a different sphere of operation. Child rape is a crime in the eyes of criminal law, and we hope that the stepfather receives his just deserts at the hands of the Brazilian criminal court. Whether canon law also prescribes a penalty for child rape, and if so what it is, I don't know. A canonist could tell us. At the very least, it's a serious sin that would sever his relationship with God and the church. (That seems to be the real "death penalty" in church law). And our visceral disgust at the child rape shouldn't blind us to the fact that also an innocent human being was killed in this case. (or was it two innocent human beings?) That's also a horrible sin.

Brian ==You're right, I think, to say that the problem here is one of exceptions to a moral law. It seems to me that the ultimate moral principle that requires an exception here is that pillar=principle of Western morality "The end does not justify the means". Unfortunately the RCC has repeated that principle so loudly for so long that it would be the ultimate embarassment to have to admit that the principle is not the "absolute", "no exceptions" law that the Church has claimed for so long. The Church has defended the just war theory at least since St. Augustine, and at least from St. Augustine on the just war theory has been inconsistent with the principle that the end does not justify the means. The Church did and does teach that innocent soldiers may lawfully be killed in the just defense of one's country. In other words, it is simply false, false, false that the Church has ALWAYS taught that the end does not justtfy the means. No, not in so many words, but most certainly by implication that is exactly what it has taught loudly and long."As the Church has always taught . . . " ?? Hmph.

Oops -- I didn't speak accurately. Yes, so far as I know the Church has always taught that the end does not justify the means. This is why people like Nancy can repeat such statements and speak the truth. But the problem is that the Church has *also* taught the opposite by crystal-clear implication..

David: I have been collecting these bon mots for at least 25 years! It's not a function of wisdom, just persistence ... and age!

I'd just like to say two things here:1) a major problem in the Church today is the prominence given to canon law -which should be a minor discipline to promote good order - over theology and good pastoral practice.The problem is multiplied by the fact that many hierarchs are canonists and opearte out of a legalistic frame, often with little pastoral experience. Those who support them tend to enjoy the beaurocratic mold of hierarchy not unlike some fairly terrible government structures that depend almost totally on top down/rules and regs/mauals/by the book governance.2)Everyone should read and maybe we need a thread on Cathy Kaveny's article in the new Commonweal on the Vagina Mo nologues and what it means to engage the play (and far more on the question of women's experiences including rape of children.)

This is probably off topic but the late Fr. Herbert McCabe, OP had some important things to teach us about absolute moral principles. In the Christian tradition love trumps any rule. Situation ethics opposes any absolutist ethic that might say, for example, "It is always wrong to lie no matter what the situation." Obviously the situationist would say that someone should not lie habitually; however, in some situations, lying is the most loving thing to do. For example lying to Nazis to save Jews.Dominican Fr. Herbert McCabe tells us language is very important as we approach ethics. He notes with regard to the language of moral absolutes that "it is quite important to notice that being absolutely wrong is not the same as being very wrong. A man or woman might hold that lying is absolutely wrong while at the same time regarding it as often a rather trivial offense. All that 'absolutely' says is that whatever makes it wrong is independent of circumstances." Whether these kinds of absolutes exist was and is the debate.For McCabe love is a basic moral concept. Love is related to context. What counts as a loving act and how we recognize it depends on our own biography. It takes a life time to understand the word "love". It is not like understanding the word "tree". Once you understand the word tree you understand it for life.

Maybe we need to keep in mind Shakespeare's words on mercy, Church: pay attention, dammit.The quality of mercy is not strain'd,It droppeth as the gentle rain from heavenUpon the place beneath. It is twice blest:It blesseth him that gives and him that takes.The Merchant Of Venice Act 4, scene 1, 180187

Rape is horrible. But the fact that the state doesnt execute rapists, and does occasionally execute those guilty of other crimes, suggests that there is a cultural consensus that those other crimes are even worse. One doesnt excuse or minimize rape to see that. There are gradations of punishment to fit gradations of crime.Jim,There is a consensus in the world -- excluding Chile, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Malta, and Vatican City -- that abortion is acceptable under some circumstances. Even in those countries it is not punished as murder. The abortion for the 9-year-old in Brazil was legal. I don't think child rape is legal in many countries. So I don't think you can appeal to cultural consensus here.Who would you rather have living in your neighborhood, the step-father who raped his step-daughter from ages 6 to 9, or the mother who opted for an abortion for her daughter?

"There is a consensus in the world excluding Chile, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Malta, and Vatican City that abortion is acceptable under some circumstances. "Sadly true. All human cultures, particularly ours, which may be the most permissive abortion culture in the world, are in need of leavening. We're called to do that. One way we can do that is by helping people think clearly about these issues. Using extreme and emotionally manipulative cases is not a good way to do that.That people react viscerally to a child molester but not to an abortionist suggests that they need help thinking these things through.

That people react viscerally to a child molester but not to an abortionist suggests that they need help thinking these things through.Jim,I agree that just because there is consensus on something doesn't make it right or wrong, but it seems to me if you argue based on cultural consensus when you agree with the consensus, and dismiss arguments made from cultural consensus when you disagree with the consensus, you are simply arguing your own point of view. Or in this case, you are arguing in favor of the Church's point of view. Of course, you have every right to do that (particularly on a Catholic blog!), but it seems to me you are on weak ground arguing from cultural consensus when what you are really saying is that the Catholic Church has the truth here, and to whatever extent the cultural consensus is out of synch with that, the culture is wrong.All human cultures, particularly ours, which may be the most permissive abortion culture in the world, are in need of leavening.Are you saying the United States, or the West in general, has the most permissive abortion culture in the world? What about India, Russia, and China? There was a priest on Vox Nova whose position was that abortion in the United States was the worst crime against humanity in the history of the world. Why do some in the pro-life movement want to make the United States out to be so evil? Other countries have legalized abortion through national referendums or legislation. Conservatives are fond of arguing that abortion rights were conferred in the United States by judicial fiat, not by the will of the people. What makes the United States the worst offender?

I suspect that most Archbishops give at least lip-service to the words of Jesus, and, as such, I suggest that Sobrihno (and the rest of us) pay attention to how Jesus reacted when presented with the woman caught in adultery (John 8:11). Weve all had this told to us during at least one mass in our lives. Mosaic law required her execution by stoning; not to enforce it might be seen as condoning the sin and setting a bad example for others. He did not condone her behavior; he simply told her to go and sin no more. And then came the clincher . Verse 7, to be exact. Jesus response in this matter displayed a profound compassion very lacking in the Brazilian case.Has this church through the ages allowed and condoned attitudes on the part of men that have led to situations such as this? It the Church (and her senior clerics who make the rules and enforce them)entirely without sin and capable of casting the first stone?

Have the views of Archbishop Fisichella actually made those in authority revoke the excommunications? What I read gave the impression that Fisichella was standing against the Vatican decision.