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Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith backs Brazilian archbishop in dispute over abortion excommunications

Catholic World News - July 13, 2009

In a remarkable “clarification” published in L'Osservatore Romano, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith has reaffirmed that “the Church’s teaching on procured abortion has not changed, nor can it change,” adding that

the Church attaches the canonical penalty of excommunication to this crime against human life. “A person who procures a completed abortion incurs excommunication latae sententiae,” (Code of Canon Law, can. 1398), “by the very commission of the offense” (Code of Canon Law, can. 1314) and subject to the conditions provided by Canon Law (cf. Code of Canon Law, can. 1323-1324). The Church does not thereby intend to restrict the scope of mercy. Rather, she makes clear the gravity of the crime committed, the irreparable harm done to the innocent who is put to death, as well as to the parents and the whole of society.

In issuing the clarification, the Congregation has lent support to retired Archbishop José Cardoso Sobrinho of Olinda and Recife, Brazil, who was criticized by Archbishop Salvatore Fisichella, the president of the Pontifical Academy for Life, after he warned that those involved in procuring the abortion would incur automatic excommunication. Archbishop Fisichella had written in L'Osservatore Romano that Archbishop Cardoso Sobrinho’s reaction “in the eyes of many" seemed "insensitive, incomprehensible, and lacking in mercy”-- an article that prompted protests from local Brazilian clergy and the majority of the members of the Pontifical Academy for Life.

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