Saturday, 7 March 2009

Jose Cardoso Sobrinho and simple humanity

There were certain topics that I really wanted to avoid on this Blog, and one of these was religion. For one thing, I have a very strange relationship with religion. Secondly, I am far from being even a lay expert on it. Well, I have decided to break that rule.

If you have not heard, then there has been a row in Brazil after a nine year old girl, pregnant with twins, had an abortion after having been repeatedly raped by her stepfather. In response, a local Archbishop excommunicated the girl's mother and the doctors. Brazil allows abortions in cases of rape or where there are health risks to the mother. This case matches both of those criteria. Even Brazil's president, a Catholic, has come out against the excommunication.

Now, the Vatican has backed the excommunication.

Let us list the crimes here:
  • A girl was raped from a young age;
  • A pregnancy resulted from that rape.
Note, I did not include the abortion. The reason is simple: even under Brazil's strict laws, it was not a crime. Is a nine-year old's health in danger from giving birth to twins? Undoubtedly, physically and mentally. Was she raped? Well, I do not know of many jurisdictions that say that a nine year old can have consensual sex. So, yes.

This goes so much beyond 'right to life'. It goes into morality and immorality to a degree that causes shivers to run up my spine. And, unfortunately, the Catholic church has chosen utterly the wrong response. True, the abortion is to be regretted, but so is the concept of forcing a young girl who has already been through so much to have babies.

I have some sympathy with the right-to-life brigade. An abortion is an unfortunate act, one that would be best avoided. However, people are not perfect. I was certainly not perfect when I was younger, and although I never found myself in a position where a partner of mine needed an abortion, friends of mine have been. There but for the grace of God...

Abortion is a difficult issue. After much thought over many years, I have come down firmly on the pro-choice side of the debate.

Having said this, I find it very difficult to reconcile various concepts brought up by this debate. As a man, I would like to think that a man would have a say on whether a partner in a stable relationship has an abortion or not. That is, I would like them to have a say, but I know that they cannot have the final say. If, after that undoubtedly long and harrowing conversation, he cannot agree with her choice to have an abortion, then he is left with two choices: stick with her, or leave her. Both may be distasteful, but at the end of the day, it is the woman's body. Yes, it is unfair, but it is also unavoidable.

The idea of a bunch of middle-aged, unmarried men pronouncing on this issue is really galling. They are, of course, as much entitled to their opinion as I am. But at least my hateful opinion is not causing as much harm as theirs is. I am absolutely disgusted by this excommunication, and it does the image of the Catholic church no end of harm. I would not have minded if they said that they regretted the abortion; even that they wished that she had not had it; but an excommunication is a weapon, and one they have used fair and square against the girl.

Although they have not excommunicated the girl herself, they have excommunicated her mother. If the girl is religious, then how will she feel about that? Will she blame herself? Also, I have seen no indication that they have excommunicated the stepfather. If not, then they have just highlighted their hypocrisy.

Apparently the Archbishop of Olinda and Recife, Jose Cardoso Sobrinho said the law of God was above any human law. (from BBC). If that is the case, then he really needs to take a long look in the mirror. What other human laws does he say that 'his' interpretation of the bible supersede? Does he think that a kind and just God would allow this poor girl to go through with the births, at great risk to herself? Does he even have any simple human compassion? If so, he is not showing it.

I am absolutely furious about this. I hope her stepfather undergoes a fair trial and, if guilty, is treated to justice. Most of all, I hope that this poor girl, who has already been through so much, can recover from the added pressure caused by this excommunication by a bunch of contemptible, sick men who put dogma above humanity.

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