Pope Benedict, Age and Strength

Pope Benedict, Age and Strength February 19, 2013

Soraya Chemaly has a post at Reproductive Health Reality Check about the pope’s sudden retirement. The announced reason for this is that his age and lack of strength prevents him from carrying out his duties. Chemaly relates this to one of the most appalling actions the Catholic Church has taken in recent years.

The Pope’s rationale is that his “age means he lacks strength to do job.” You could use the exact words to describe the nine-year old girl  whose family the Pope excommunicated for having a life-saving abortion after being raped and impregnated, with twins. It seems to me that her age meant she lacked strength to do the job, too. Actually, the job would have killed her.  These things happen. She and 16 million other pregnant adolescent girls a year, two million of whom are under age 15, strike me as 16 million good #reasonstorise.

Perhaps my memory is fading, but I don’t even recall hearing about this incident with the nine year old girl. It happened in Brazil in 2009:

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.”

The case has caused a furor. Abortion is illegal in Brazil except in cases of rape or when the mother’s life is in danger, both of which apply in this case. (The girl’s immature hips would have made labor dangerous; the Catholic opinion was that she could have had a cesarean section.) When the incident came to light in local newspapers, the Church first asked a judge to halt the process and then condemned those involved, including the 9-year-old’s distraught mother. Even Catholic Brazilians were shocked at the harshness of the archbishop’s actions. “In this case, most people support the doctors and the family. Everything they did was legal and correct,” says Beatriz Galli, the policy associate for Ipas Brasil, an NGO that fights to give women more say over their health and reproductive rights.

If 1700 years or so of barbarism and corruption haven’t already proven it, this incident certainly shows that the Catholic Church is pretty much the last institution that should be viewed as a sound moral guide.


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