Recently I put a post on this blog which dealt with the scandal of the Secretary of State of the Vatican causing the President of the Pontifical Academy for Life to write an article for publication on the pages of L’Osservatore Romano which article faulted the Archbishop of Olinda and Recife in Brazil for excommunicating those who were responsible for the abortion of twins by a nine-year-old girl.  I pointed out that that action by Cardinal Bertone in effect contradicted the Church’s teaching by all the popes, including Pope Benedict XVI and that it was a source of great satisfaction to note that Pope Bendict had ordered Cardinal Levada and the Pontifical Council for the Doctrine of the Faith to prepare and have published a “clarification’ in L’Osservatore Roman which in effect support the Brazilian Archbishop’s excommunications and rebuked Cardinal Bertone.

Here are recent posts on the subject which the distinguished canonist Dr. Edward Peters who teaches Canon Law at Sacred Heart Seminary in Detroit placed on his blog, IN THE LIGHT OF THE LAW,


Monday, July 06, 2009

The Recife excommunications: Summum ius, summa iniuria

Roughly translated, Summum ius, summa iniuria means “the greater the right, the greater the wrong”. When a great right (e.g., the right to life) is violated, it results in a great wrong. Similarly, when those with great responsibility (say, Curial officials) commit blunders in office, they do much more harm than would others. The continuing crisis over recent statements by certain Roman dicastery officials in regard to the Recife excommunications case features, I suggest, wrongs of both these sorts.

What is required of those who want to assess

the comments by Abp. Rino Fisichella, president of the Pontifical Academy for Life, published last March in L’Osservatore Romano, concerning the excommunications of those performing a double abortion on a nine-year old girl in Brazil? Well, for starters, they must bear in mind that it is never easy to analyze comments (1) made in one language but translated into another, especially when (2) the person making those comments seems unaware of how poor his grasp of the facts is, and particularly when (3) his comments involve applying highly technical but imperfect laws (4) to emotion-laden fact patterns.

Until I see the brief prepared on behalf of the (now-emeritus) Archbishop of Olinda and Recife, Jose Cardoso Sobrinho, against Fisichella’s comments, I refer interested readers to

Sandro Magister’s insightful reporting on the matter here, in light of which report I offer a few observations.

Some preliminary points: (1)

L’Osservatore Romano is acting with unprofessional bias in stone-walling Cardoso’s request to defend himself against the accusations made in the pages of L’OR; (2) Vatican spokesman Fr. Lombardi has once again made statements on a high-profile case that seem to blunt the meaning of the pope’s own words about the case, showing himself ill-suited to being the spokesman for the pontiff; (3) deliberate abortion is gravely evil (CCC 2271) and should result in one’s excommunication (1983 CIC 1398), but the canonical debate over whether that (or any other) penalty should operate latae sententiae must be separated from the discussion of Fisichella’s statements.

Now, even with all those caveats in mind, I find Fisichella’s statements on this case nigh on unbelievable.

There is nothing, absolutely nothing, ‘ambiguous’ or ‘hard’ or ‘difficult’ to grasp about the Church’s unexceptioned condemnation of the deliberate killing of an innocent human life. For the prelate in charge of the pope’s primary office concerned with life issues to have expressed himself in such a way as to even suggest (not just once, but several times!) that such a heinous deed might ever be justifiable is grounds for him to resign.

Perhaps some will think my interpretation of Fisichella’s comments unfair? I invite them to consider the devastating analysis of Fisichella’s comments offered by Msgr Michel Schooyans, a Belgian bioethicist and member of three pontifical academies, including the Academy of Life. He finds Fisichella’s comments “astonishing” and is urging nothing less than a personal papal intervention in correction thereof. Or, via negativa, the notorious Frances Kissling took comfort in Fisicella’s comments, showing thereby how poorly the prelate served his office and the wider cause of defending preborn babies from the abortionists’ savagery.

Summum ius, summa iniuria, indeed, et consequenter summa obligatio scandalum reparandi.

PS: Once again it may be said, too many of those who are supposed to be making Benedict XVI’s pontificate more effective are in fact making things more difficult.

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Update 11 July 2009: Sandro Magister writes “The congregation for the doctrine of the faith has released a ‘clarification’ that in fact repudiates the article published in L’Osservatore Romano by the president of the pontifical academy for life, on the abortion performed on a Brazilian mother-child.”

posted by Dr. Edward Peters at This Permanent Link

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

L’OR and the Loss of Reason

For most of my life L’Osservatore Romano has been a sleepy Roman rag that arrived weeks after its publication date, printed in cheap ink that soiled the fingers of those who felt the need to read page after page of boilerplate remarks on the latest ambassador from anywhere shown in his tuxedo presenting diplomatic credentials. Aside, I suppose, from an occasionally interesting book review, L’OR has for decades carried nothing of serious interest that could not be found much more quickly in a half-dozen other venues, ones, moreover, that didn’t compel readers to wash their hands before handling anything beige or white.

But lately, L’OR has decided to become relevant. God help us.

Having just emerged, battered, but, I thought, moderately chastened after its embarrassingly naive and harmful editorial in praise of Pres. Obama, L’OR treats the world to a high-schoolish tribute to the highly talented and utterly pathetic entertainer Michael Jackson.

Jackson might not be fully responsible for the swirling chaos that was his life and death, but for L’OR even to mention his death – – without simultaneously urging Catholics to pray for his soul and the souls of all the faithful departed – – astounds me.

Worse, the L’OR report leaves Catholics little sense that much of Jackson’s work was sexually exploitative, at times quasi-obscene; it dismisses as insignificant the terrible example that Jackson’s chronic pursuit of superficial “beauty” gave to millions of young people; and, worst of all, it trivializes the serious, and in some cases unresolved, allegations of child sexual abuse made against him. L’OR need not assume the worst about Jackson’s conduct in these cases, but it should never have implied that such allegations, even if they are true, cannot tarnish the world-wide esteem in which he is held! Good grief. Has L’OR completely lost its reason?

If the Vatican wants a newspaper to provide a Catholic perspective on the world, fine. Item Number One on the to-do list, though, should be to find Catholics who can write and edit such a paper coherently. Anyone can lurch from gaff to gaff.

In the meantime, if you really want to get in on the Jackson Praise Train, check out M-TV, dude. Their graphics are like way better than L’OR.

About abyssum

I am a retired Roman Catholic Bishop, Bishop Emeritus of Corpus Christi, Texas
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