Rorate Caeli

The Olinda and Recife Affair
CDF vindicates Archbishop Cardoso

In a brief note published in tomorrow's edition (released today) of L'Osservatore Romano (temporary link - in Italian), the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith cleared up the grave confusion created by Archbishop Rino Fisichella's scandalous, uninformed, and partial article on the Olinda and Recife Affair.

Clarification of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith

On procured abortion

Several letters have recently arrived at the Holy See, even from highly placed personalities of the political and ecclesial life, who have informed on the confusion created in several nations, particularly in Latin America, following the manipulation and distortion of an article by His Excellency Archbishop Rino Fisichella, President of the Pontifical Academy for Life, on the sad affair of the "Brazilian girl". In that article, which appeared in L'Osservatore Romano, the doctrine of the Church was proposed, even though taking into consideration the dramatic situation of the mentioned girl, who - as it could be pointed out afterwards - was attended with every pastoral care, in particular by the then Archbishop of Olinda and Recife, His Excellency Archbishop José Cardoso Sobrinho. Regarding this, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith reaffirms that the doctrine of the Church on procured abortion has not changed and cannot change. This doctrine was presented in n. 2270-2273 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, in these words:

"Human life must be respected and protected in an absolute manner from the moment of conception. From the first instant of his existence, the human being must have recognized his rights as a person, among which is the inviolable right to life of every innocent being. 'Before I formed thee in the bowels of thy mother, I knew thee' (Jer 1, 5). 'My bone is not hidden from thee, which thou hast made in secret: and my substance in the lower parts of the earth' (Ps 139[138], 15).

"Since the first century, the Church has declared the moral evil of every procured abortion. This teaching has not changed. It remains unchangeable. Direct abortion, that is, willed as an end or as a means, is gravely opposed to the moral law: 'Thou shalt not kill a child by abortion, neither shalt thou slay it when born' (Didache, 2,2). 'For God, the Lord of life, has conferred on men the surpassing ministry of safeguarding life in a manner which is worthy of man. Therefore from the moment of its conception life must be guarded with the greatest care while abortion and infanticide are abominable crimes' (Second Vatican Council, Gaudium et Spes, 51).

"Formal cooperation in an abortion constitutes a grave offense. The Church punishes this crime against human life with a canonical penalty of excommunication: 'A person who procures a completed abortion incurs a latae sententiae excommunication' (CIC, can. 1398), 'by the very commission [ipso facto] of the delict' (CIC, can 1314) and under the conditions foreseen by the law (cfr. CIC, canons 1323-1324). The Church does not intend to limit the domain of mercy in this manner. This puts in evidence the gravity of the crime committed, the irreparable damage caused to the murdered innocent, to his parents, and to all society.

"The inalienable right to life of every innocent human individual represents a constitutive element of civil society and of its legislation: 'the inalienable rights of the person must be recognized and respected by civil society and the political authority. These human rights depend neither on single individuals nor on parents; nor do they represent a concession made by society and the State: they pertain to human nature and are inherent in the person by virtue of the creative act from which the person took his of her origin.Among such fundamental rights one should mention in this regard: every human being's right to life and physical integrity from the moment of conception until death. ... The moment a positive law deprives a category of human beings of the protection which civil legislation must accord them, the State is denying the equality of all before the law. When the State does not place its power at the service of the rights of each citizen, and in particular of the more vulnerable, the very foundations of a State based on law are undermined. ... As a consequence of the respect and protection which must be ensured for the unborn child from the moment of his conception, the law must provide appropriate penal sanctions for every deliberate violation of the child's rights' (Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Instruction Donum vitae, III)."

In the Encyclical Evangelium Vitae, Pope John Paul II reaffirmed this doctrine with his authority of Supreme Pastor of the Church: "By the authority which Christ conferred upon Peter and his Successors, in communion with the Bishops-who on various occasions have condemned abortion and who in the aforementioned consultation, albeit dispersed throughout the world, have shown unanimous agreement concerning this doctrine-I declare that direct abortion, that is, abortion willed as an end or as a means, always constitutes a grave moral disorder, since it is the deliberate killing of an innocent human being. This doctrine is based upon the natural law and upon the written Word of God, is transmitted by the Church's Tradition and taught by the ordinary and universal Magisterium" (n. 62).

Regarding procured abortion in some difficult and complex situations, the clear and precise teaching of Pope John Paul II stands: ""It is true that the decision to have an abortion is often tragic and painful for the mother, insofar as the decision to rid herself of the fruit of conception is not made for purely selfish reasons or out of convenience, but out of a desire to protect certain important values such as her own health or a decent standard of living for the other members of the family. Sometimes it is feared that the child to be born would live in such conditions that it would be better if the birth did not take place. Nevertheless, these reasons and others like them, however serious and tragic, can never justify the deliberate killing of an innocent human being" (Encyclical Evangelium Vitae, n. 58).

As for the problem of certain medical treatments with the end of preserving the health of the mother, two different cases should be distinguished: on one hand, a procedure which directly causes the death of the fetus, often called inappropriately a "therapeutic" abortion, cannot be any more licit than the direct murder of an innocent human being; on the other hand, a procedure which is not itself abortive may have, as a collateral consequence, the death of the child: "If, for instance, saving the life of the future mother, regardless of her state of pregnancy, would urgently demand a surgical procedure, or other therapeutic measure, which could have, as an accessory consequence, in no way willed by itself, but unavoidably, the death of the fetus, such act could not be called a direct attack against innocent life. In such conditions, the procedure may be considered licit, as other similar medical interventions, as long as a good of great worth, such as life, is involved, and it is not possible to postpone it until after the birth of the child, nor to resort to another efficacious remedy" (Pius XII, Address to the "Fronte alla Famiglia" and the Associazione Famiglie Numerose, November 27, 1951).

Regarding the responsibility of health-care personnel, the words of Pope John Paul II should be recalled: "Their profession calls for them to be guardians and servants of human life. In today's cultural and social context, in which science and the practice of medicine risk losing sight of their inherent ethical dimension, health-care professionals can be strongly tempted at times to become manipulators of life, or even agents of death. In the face of this temptation their responsibility today is greatly increased. Its deepest inspiration and strongest support lie in the intrinsic and undeniable ethical dimension of the health-care profession, something already recognized by the ancient and still relevant Hippocratic Oath, which requires every doctor to commit himself to absolute respect for human life and its sacredness" (Encyclical Evangelium Vitae, n. 89).
(L'Osservatore Romano - July 11, 2009)

Editorial note: Unfortunately, the note does not publicly chastise Archbishop Fisichella for his mistake.

First, there was no "manipulation" of Fisichella's very clear words by the press or by anyone else - those who wrote the first paragraph of this note are being disingenuous by raising this. Second, the truth was only known to him afterwards because he did not even place a mere phone call to his brother, the Archbishop of Olinda and Recife. Nor did he, in a matter of grave doctrinal relevance, seek the opinion of the only dicastery responsible for doctrinal matters: the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, not the Secretariat of State. His sloppy and shameful procedure has caused irreparable damage to the cause of life around the world and particularly in Latin America, where it is strongly under attack.

It is embarrassing and scandalous that Fisichella remains president of the Pontifical Academy for Life: even the nunciature in Tehran is too good for him. His continued presence at the helm of a Curial office is an unfortunate blemish in the Pontificate of a very dear Pope.


Anonymous said...

The damage is done. The l'Oservatore Romano is basically like every other useless and annoying diocesan paper, except it is that of the universal Church.

Anonymous said...

One official says that the moral evaluation of abortion has not changed while another says the opposite. Neither the former nor the latter is going to be punished, even though the one who is wrong has made serious damage. But what is truth anyway? Beautiful example of hermeneutic of continuity.

Anonymous said...

Pope Benedict XVI should immediatly sack the radical liberal editor of L'Ossevatore Romano, who last week had the gall to print a story praising of all people.....John Calvin....the founder of what is commonly today called the Calvinist Church/Presbyterians, and also Congregationalists. These people were/are among the worst virulent anti-Catholics. Even Martin Luther at the time of the Reformation had alittle respect for some old traditions of the Catholic Church and wished to keep them....but his radical followers disuaded him from doing so.
But Calvin was a nutjob who spewed hate towards the Catholic Church every time he preached.
I read once that he worked himself into such a frenzy of yelling and shouting when he was preaching against the Catholic Church and lingering Catholic traditions in Geneva that he suffered a massive stroke and died!

That the Vatican newspaper should praise Calvin on the 500th anniversary of his beginning his work is a tremendous outrage and disgrace.

The Pope should also sack Rino Fishiella for being misinformed, spreading false opinions, and gross incompetency!

quirinus said...

As a rule, I never agree with those rad-trads who are never happy no matter what Rome does.

Yet I have to lament the absolute cowardice of this statement by CDF. It's probably the first time in my life that I express criticism of CDF in public, if at all. It says that Fisichella's disgusting article was "manipulated" as if the problem lied with the use the secular press made of it. But the fact is that Fisichella attacked and insulted Archbp. Cardoso Sobrinho, without even trying to know the facts, and ended his article by praising the doctors who performed the abortion for allegedly saving the girl's life (she was never in danger btw, supposing that could justify baby-killing).

THAT was the scandal, not the media's predictable exploitation of the appalling ignorance and irresponsibility of Abp. Fisichella, the President of the Pontifical Academy for Life, of all things!

Thank God decades of persecutions suffered because of disloyal Catholics from both sides (especially the left side, though) have vaccinated me against losing the faith because of such scandals.

But this CDF note is NOT going to help. This is going to make things WORSE. Loyal Catholics and pro-lifers in Brazil are not stupid. They know EXACTLY how things went. And so do the various prelates and scholars who have written asking for a repudiation of Fisichella's inexcusable piece.

This is a SAD day. Mother of the Church, pray for us

Anonymous said...

Dear Moderators:

Please open up the blog for the thread on Masses in Latin America. You have closed it down. A number of people have asked me questions but I can now now answer them. I'd send the answers by carrier pigeons but I don't have their addresses.


Confitebor said...

Well, the statement is unsatisfactory, but the fact that the CDF issued any such statement at all is at least an indication that there is recognition on some level that Archbishop Cardoso is right and Archbishop Fisichella is wrong -- but "damage control" is out of a place in a CDF statement. Now all we need is for Archbishop Fisichella to be replaced, and for him to apologise for harming the Church and Archbishop Cardoso and for acting against the interests of the unborn and the born.

Anonymous said...

It is not possible to chastise liberals when they betray our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. They have a special immunity which protects them from truth, goodness and beauty.


Anonymous said...

The Church protects the liberals and heretics within midst.

Long live the Pope. Let us do penance for his failings.

Anonymous said...

Pope give Obama book on bioethics

Gideon Ertner said...

Since in NuChurch prelates cannot be doctrinally corrected, Abp. Fisichella would be a perfect choice as the first missionary to a fabulous new frontier - one where there are no children. I believe it is a fitting time to start up the Prefectura Apostolica Luniensis.

Anonymous said...

"Pope give Obama book on bioethics."

There's no point in that. B.O. doesn't have enough brains to read the document, let alone comprehend it.


Anonymous said...

My own P.M. has bested Obama. Wonders never cease. He is not a Catholic and yet committed sacrilege by going up for Holy Communion at the late Governor-General's funneral. Cameras show that he did not consume the Host which he received in manu. He claims that he consumed It off camera; others claim that he pocketed It.

Now there are reports coming from L'Aquila, Italy, that he received and pocketed the Host yet again, and after being warned why he should not do this.

Tomorrow, he will meet the Pope.

I'll never vote Conservative again until he's gone.


Anonymous said...

When, I ask, do we return to the traditional practice of Communion in lingua? When?


Anonymous said...

Perhaps the Pope will give our PM a book, "Catholicism for Dummies", or "How to Listen and To Tell The Truth"...better yet, "Catechism of the Council Of Trent".

Brandeen and Cletus

New Catholic said...

It is curious that, in a week otherwise filled with documents, the one most worthy to appear in a future edition of Denzinger is this clarification...

It would also be important to add that this is, of course, a very diplomatic rebuke of Fisichella. But, still, one does not have to blame on external "manipulation" what was the product of personal weakness and vanity.


Anonymous said...

Perhaps the manipulation of the article refered to, was the change in the text of what he wrote, prior to its being published in he L'Osservatore Romano.

And that Both Archbishops are free from fault here.

It could be the mischief of some minor worker at the paper, so we cannot outright charge the editor with the fault.

In judging men, we ought not condemn on the basis of rash judgment or supposition...

Br. Alexis Bugnolo

Asshole said...

Magister's article about this on his blog demonstrates the kinds of snakes we are dealing with here.

Bertone was the one who first asked Fisichella to write his article in the L'OR. Only after the majority of the members of Fisichella's own Congregation complained about Fisichella's article did the ball start moving, but up hill.

They went first to Fisichella who ignored them. They they went to Levada at the CDF who ignorned them. They then took it to Bertone, who ignored it until he was told by the Holy Father to submit it to the CDF and they were then forced to address it.

Even then, it is obvious that the snakes are still trying to take care of their own.

New Catholic said...

Brother Alexis,

It was his article, published under his name. And he still has not apologized for it; nor did he publicly apologize to Archbishop Cardoso, as he was bound to do, since he commented on Cardoso's acts also in public.

There were rash judgment and supposition in this whole affair: the rash judgment and supposition of Archbishop Fisichella, who could not even make a phone call to Archbishop Cardoso (we know this because the Archdiocese of Olinda and Recife included this amazing oversight in their declaration).


Peter said...

P.K.T.P. wrote:

"B.O. doesn't have enough brains to read the document, let alone comprehend it."

I loathe Obama but I'm not sure the logic follows.

But PKTP may have a brain the size of a planet ...

[apologies to Douglas Adams].

Anonymous said...

This scandal effectively ruins Fisichella's career. He was an "up and coming" moderate/liberal but with some sympathies to Catholic tradition.
Still, if he would misstate the policy of the Church in this regard as badly as he did, and twist it to the liking of radical liberals, then it's fantastic that it blew up in his face and his career is halted.

Now if only they could find some dirt on the other supposed "rising star". Bruno Forte (60), who actually is a rad liberal and 100 against Catholic tradition and the Tridentine Latin Mass, Summorum Pontificum, etc.