Tuesday, March 17, 2009

A vexing question

I have been able to read further and deeper into the article written by Archbishop Fisichella for L’Osservatore Romano on the very difficult case of the pregnant 9 year-old girl in Brazil, who was impregnated as the result of being raped by her step-father. In the article, His Excellency emphasizes that abortion is "always condemned by moral law as an intrinsically evil act." The term "always" is pretty definitive, definitive to the point of negating any appeal to the principle of double effect. Further, he seems to accept the latae sententiae (i.e., automatic) excommunications as set forth in canon law, specifically, canon 1398: "A person who procures a completed abortion incurs a latae sententiae excommunication" and the preceding canon. His criticism of the local ordinary seems to be limited to his contention that there was no "need… for so much urgency and publicity in declaring something that happens automatically." I agree that the public nature of the initial denunciation and pronouncement of excommunication, especially judging from the public outrage, was imprudent at best.

The difficulty of applying the principle of double effect is with the fourth criterion, that the good effect cannot be achieved by going through, as it were, the bad effect. Obviously, the saving of the 9 year-old girl’s life was achieved by aborting the in utereo twins. This what the Compendium has to say with regard to abortion as something forbidden by the fifith commandment:

"direct abortion, willed as an end or as means, as well as cooperation in it. Attached to this sin is the penalty of excommunication because, from the moment of his or her conception, the human being must be absolutely respected and protected in his integrity" (par. 470).

Dr Olímpio Moraes, the doctor who performed the abortion, told the Brazilian newspaper, O Globo: "There are two legal justifications for abortion envisioned by the law, which are rape and risk to life. She [the girl] falls within the two and, as a doctor, I could not let a girl of nine years be submitted to this suffering and even pay with her own life."

Here's my solution, I am going to pray to St. Gianna Molla for her intercession on behalf of the local bishop, the doctor, the mother of the 9 year-old, and the girl herself.

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