Article 8: The Magisterium's Dilemna: A Test Case
We lay people have been told that Evangelization is not the exclusive rôle
of the clergy, but also ours; that we must, by our words and actions, bring people
back to God and to His Church.
This is indeed a good idea. But first the Magisterium must make it possible
for us to do so.
Indeed, we cannot defend what we ourselves consider indefensible, that is,
many Church policies which are for us and many others squarely
against the message of our Lord and God
The Magisterium's way of doing things has to change. It has to forget its diktats
and stop acting as if it has the only acceptable
solutions to every problem facing the life
of the faithful. It has to stop wanting to macromanage our lives. It has
to lead gently the flock in its care rather than try to bully it into submission.
I have tried in many of my articles so far to indicate
respectfully to the Magisterium
that the bullying approach is incompatible with Jesus' message.
But why should it listen to me? The answer is
simple: because more and more among Catholics are not listening to it anymore as
they have, like me, figured out that the Magisterium is in the wrong; that it is
contradicting itself without even realizing it.
The Magisterium is in a Dilemna which it has to resolve. That this is indeed the
case I intend to show by examining its
position in a very sorry case which came up recently and gave the Church
a black eye, that is, the case of a young girl's abortion.
To do so, I will copy two texts that state the facts and
provide the opinion of many members of the Magisterium.
These texts were found on the Diocese of Montreal web-site or hyperlinked from it
and so should be considered releable.
The first text is a Declaration from my own Bishop; the second, an
Article written by a Vatican based reporter on Comments made by
the President of the Pontifical Academy for Life. This article also gives the opinions
of other members of the Church's Hierarchy.
I have refrained to add to these two texts any of the
many declarations coming from the grass-roots.
But to show the indignation and the determined refusal
by some committed Roman Catholics at the Parish level to
consider Church's Law as having any validity in these matters, I have added in
appendix the declaration of a group in my
group that I have no
link to except that its membes are, like me, members of the One, Holy, Roman, Catholic
and Apostolic Church, and are such just as much as His Holiness Pope Benedict,
My Bishop Jean-Claude Cardinal Turcotte, and the members of the Roman
II. Declarations from the Magisterium on a Young Girl's Abortion
- Declaration by His Eminence Jean-Claude Cardinal Turcotte,
archbishop of Montréal
The following English text, a Declaration by His Eminence Jean-Claude Cardinal Turcotte,
my Bishop, was found on the Diocese of Montréal's Website. It is reproduced here
in extenso as it stood on that website on March 25th, 2009:
Last week, I refrained from commenting publicly on the unfortunate story of the
young 9-year-old Brazilian girl who had been raped by her stepfather since the age of 6.
The media covered it extensively.
My silence must not be construed as indifference, quite to the contrary. But how
does one understand what’s going on without having full information?
I was surprised by the position taken by the Bishop of Recife. How could he
arrive at such a decision? I would have chosen differently. The human drama experienced
by that child and her family was already horrible enough without having to think of
excommunicating the persons involved. The situation called for compassion in word and
I was happy to learn that the Brazilian bishops, better placed than we to appreciate
the local context, have disassociated themselves from the decision of their colleague in
Recife. I also appreciated the commentary, published last week in the Osservatore
Romano, by Archbishop Rino Fisichella, President of the Pontifical Academy for Life.
I share his view that direct abortion is always a morally unacceptable action.
However, in this case, it seems evident that the situation called for understanding and
compassion rather than condemnation and excommunication.
That being said, my conviction stands: life must be respected from conception till
† Jean-Claude Cardinal Turcotte
Archbishop of Montréal
- D'Emilio's 16th March 2009 Article about the Most Rev. Rino Fisichella's Comments
The following article, written at Vatican City on 16th March 2009
by Frances D'Emilio of the Associated Press,
was found on the San Francisco Chronicle's
Website and is reproduced here in extenso as it stood on that website
on March 25th, 2009. This article was
hyperlinked from the Diocese of Montréal's Website with the following description
"Commentary from the Most Rev. Rino Fisichella,
President of the Pontifical Academy for Life":
An influential prelate said Brazilian doctors didn't deserve excommunication
for aborting the twin fetuses of a 9-year-old child who was allegedly raped
by her stepfather because the doctors were saving her life.
The statement by Archbishop Rino Fisichella in the Vatican newspaper
the Holy See on Sunday was highly unusual, because church law mandates
automatic excommunication for abortion. Fisichella, who heads the
Vatican's Pontifical Academy for Life, upheld the church's ban on abortion
and any implications of his criticism of excommunicating the doctors and
the girl's mother weren't clear.
Fisichella argued for a sense of mercy in such cases and respect for the
Catholic doctors' wrenching decision, and strongly criticized fellow
churchmen who singled out the doctors and mother for public
"Before thinking about excommunication, it was necessary
and urgent to save her innocent life and bring her back to a level
of humanity of which we men of the church should be expert
and masters in proclaiming," Fisichella wrote.
The doctors, Fisichella noted, had said the child's life was in
danger if the pregnancy continued.
Earlier this month, the archbishop of Recife, where the child
and her family live, made a public announcement about the
excommunication, which is the church's most severe penalty.
Cardinal Giovanni Battista Re, a top Vatican official, has
supported the archbishop.
But Fisichella criticized the archbishop's public denunciation,
writing that the girl "should have been above all defended,
embraced, treated with sweetness to make her feel that we
were all on her side, all of us, without distinction."
Fisichella stressed that abortion is always bad. But he said
the quick proclamation of excommunication "unfortunately
hurts the credibility of our teaching, which appears in the eyes
of many as insensitive, incomprehensible and lacking mercy."
The Vatican teaches that anyone performing or helping someone
to have an abortion is automatically excommunicated from the
church, and the Vatican prelate underlined that abortion is "always
condemned by moral law as an intrinsically evil act."
Abortion is generally illegal in Brazil. But the procedure is
allowed when the mother's life is in danger, when the fetus has
no chance of survival or in rape cases where the woman
has not passed her 20th week of pregnancy.
Doctors said the girl was 15 weeks pregnant when the
abortion was performed. Health officials said the life of the
80-pound girl was in danger.
The pregnancy was discovered when the girl fell ill and
her mother took her to a clinic. The child then told officials
she had been abused by her stepfather, who is in police custody.
III. An Analysis of the Previous Texts
I will now
analyze the positions which have been expressed by the various representatives
of the Magisterium named so far.
First, I will mention the facts as stated by the President of the Pontifical Academy
1. A nine year old girl from the Archbishopric of Recife, Brazil,
is made pregnant with twins by her step-father;
2. Her Catholic doctors state that her pregnancy endangers her life.
To this we can add the following facts:
3. The Law in Brazil states that abortion is legal
up to the 20th week of pregnancy if the mother's life is in danger,
or if the foetus has no chance of survival, or in rape cases;
4. The nine-year old girl was aborted when in her 15th week of pregnancy;
5. The penalty for procuring an abortion or getting someone aborted is
automatic excommunication according to Church law (in this case the girl was too
young to be excommunicated as she was not officially demanding one: her mother did);
6. The archbishop of Recife, the girl's diocese, was just making public what
had already happened, i.e. the ipso facto excommunication of the mother and the
doctors who performed the abortion.
These are the hard facts. According to Brazilian Law, the girl qualified for an abortion
as she had been raped, as her life was in danger and as her pregnancy had not reached
twenty weeks. According to Church Law, all abortion, irrespective of the
circumstances that caused the pregnancy and irrespective of the consequences on the
health of the mother, are illegal and the punishment is automatic excommunication for all
concerned in the termination of the pregnancy.
The step-father was not
excommunicated as he did not push for the abortion.
He was just remanded in custody awaiting trial for rape of a minor in
his care by the Brazilian authorities.
The twins, had they been born and had their mother somehow survived,
would have been
her half-brothers or half-sisters as well as her children.
They also would have been their
step-mother's brothers-in-law or sisters-in-law as well as her grandchildren.
I must say that I find such family relationships so abhorrent that they
should not be allowed to happen. This gut feeling is not mentionned by any
Church official. Obviously, if the archbishop of Recife felt it, it did not
deter him at all.
But after all he was not necessarily stating
his own opinion by rendering the excommunications public: he was simply stating
a fact, that is, the ipso facto excommunication
of all involved in any abortion as clearly stated by Church Law.
this point of view, which is
nothing else but the Church's Law,
is not shared by my Bishop and by many many others clerics,
including the President of the Pontifical Academy for Life, as we have seen.
Their position flatly put this Law in question.
Let me examine exactly in what ways.
First, they call for a revamping of that Law in some cases.
The President of the Pontifical Academy seems to call
for an exemption from excommunication, automatic or not,
if the life of the mother is in danger.
But someone can object on the following ground:
abortion means the certain death of the foetus while the death of the mother, although
likely according to the doctors, is not a certain fact. The only two things that are
certain are that the foetus will surely die if an abortion is performed and that the
doctors' considered opinion is that the mother's life is endangered by her pregnancy.
So the right thing is to risk the life of the mother to save the
foetus from certain death.
After all, the biological rôle of a woman is to give birth.
And terminating her pregnancy goes against that.
My Bishop calls for an exemption from excommunication in this particular case
on compassionate grounds:
"However, in this case, it seems evident that the situation
called for understanding and compassion
rather than condemnation and excommunication."
His position requires to
examine the reasons for each abortion before deciding if it passes whatever test the
Church would demand to avoid excommunication. This goes against the very principle
of automatic excommunication for abortion, replacing it by a kind of Church Court that
would decide if such and such an abortion is, although an evil act, not a case
calls for exemption from excommunication
in cases where it would cause scandal among
Catholics and non-Catholics. He said that
the excommunication by the Archbishop of Recife
"unfortunately hurts the credibility of our teaching, which appears in the
eyes of many as insensitive, incomprehensible and lacking mercy".
So excommunication should definitely not be automatic
but should be based on a test not defined as such by the Magisterium
but by the people, as it is the people who are or not scandalized by the Magisterium's
lack of compassion.
It should thus
be apparent that at least some members of the Magisterium are very unhappy with the
present Law of the Church on abortion; that they want it revamped, reviewed, to arrive
at a more compassionate solution. Unfortunately, once you open the door to one, you open
the door to all others.
The average abortion case is not as extreme as the case of this little girl, but
rarely are abortions asked for on a pure whim; there are reasons why someone is ready
to go through with this. And to the person involved, these reasons are such that the
procedure is justified. This might not be someone else's opinion, but it is the one
of the person who undergoes the abortion.
On what grounds can I dismiss her reasons outright? Does she not have a say in the
matter? On what grounds am I better placed to judge her predicament than her?
On what grounds is the Magisterium better placed to judge her predicament than her?
How can it say that Jesus would
not understand her and would reject her because of it? Is not this last statement
exactly what they state by their Law? Or is their Law having nothing to do with
IV. The Conundrum
The fundamental problem here is: which part of the Church's teaching does the Magisterium
want to give
precedence to? Her teaching that God is Love, that we must follow in the footsteps
of His Beloved Son Jesus? Or her teaching that
all those who do not follow the instructions she has carefully
formulated over the years will definitely end up in Hell?
For those who would bristle at this last sentence, let me remind them that missing Mass on
Sundays and Holy Days of obligation
without an adequate reason is a grave sin and thus punishable by Hell. That
there are in Church's Law many causes for excommunication and a great number of anathemas.
The Church does teach that if you die in a state of grave sin you go to Hell, and
excommunication is due to a grave sin. To have this state of affairs revoked, you
need to reconcile yourself to the Church, as the saying goes, repent from what the
Magisterium considers a sin. And this cannot happen until you
really agree with its position on the matter. Nothing else will do.
This Church in which we live right now demands obedience from all and
sundry. The Magisterium's rôle is to formulate the laws we have to follow
under pain of Hell. This is the raison d'être of the Church law. And there
is no input from the people as they do not know what is right and what is wrong.
Indeed, we are told that
our conscience is dulled if we think differently from Church Law but
right if we abide by it. We
do not make decisions, we follow the decisions made for us under the pain of Hell.
Mind you, the Magisterium produced these laws for a very worthwhile reason.
The Magisterium considers that it has the excessively important duty
to clearly state was is good and
what is evil so as to make sure that their flock ends up in Heaven. After all,
the Laws it has produced after careful study of Scripture and the Fathers
are God's Laws.
In fact, the Magisterium clearly believes
that those who do not follow Church Law
will be punished by God - not them - with Hell; that God does
indeed send people to Hell. To me,
this implies that their God is a Heavenly Sadist Who recreates (resurrects)
dead people so as to then be able to punish them by having them tortured for ever.
The Magisterium seems to have made God into a kind of partly
benevolent ruler, Who provides rules that guarantee
Heaven to His obedient subjects and Hell to His unruly ones
just like temporal rulers provided laws to guarantee the security of their
obedient subjects and harsh penalties to their unruly ones.
When most of the world's peoples lived under
political régimes where the Law was imposed on them by their King or Emperor,
the people could make sense of a God
that demanded of them as much obedience as their King or Emperor. This Magisterium's view
of God could
easily be accepted. Furthermore most were unable
to check for themselves what the gospels actually said as they could not read. The
people had no choice but to believe what they were told.
With the advent of democracy the people started to have a say in what was or not
a proper law. These were to be for their good and not just the good of the King or
Establishment. Questionning became the proper thing to do. Add to this the education
of the masses and the people, now litterate, could read the gospels themselves
and find out what Jesus actually said.
These changes were reinforced when the Magisterium introduced the
vernacular in the liturgy and saw to the production of
the New Cathechism, in which the various statements are actually
backed by the earliest texts on the subject so as to answer legitimate questions about
their relationship with the original message.
Both these changes show a Magisterium with a different approach, a Magisterium
who wants to convince people rather than demand blind obedience.
The authority of the Magisterium, especially its good judgment, was definitely
put into question by its reaction to the sexual scandals
perpetrated by some priests on children. Indeed, in many cases
the Hierarchy threatened with excommunication the parents who complained
(after all, the revelation of such abominations would cause scandal!)
while letting the priests at fault free to continue their evil acts.
The Magisterium's concept of God as a Heavenly Sadist now comes face-to-face
against its new teaching - if I can call going back to the Gospels a new teaching -
that God is Love. Perhaps the Magisterium does not even now see the
contradiction that is created; but the common folk can clearly see that the
Heavenly Sadist is no God-Father; that He is not the God of our Lord Jesus Christ
but some kind of scarecrow.
Ordinary people have also come to realize that they know more about
love and compassion than the Magisterium does.
They see the Magisterium
preaching about love and compassion while not showing any;
preaching that God speaks to us personally while insisting that they
must tell people exactly how to live their lives under the pain of Hell. No wonder
the Magisterium's credibility is at an all-time low!
The Magisterium is faced with an alternative: either
proclaiming the Gospel that Jesus Her Lord and Saviour proclaimed
although this message caused His horrible death and will mean for it
accepting a much more humble rôle or continuing as
it has these last Centuries.
The basic problem lies in the kind of authority the Magisterium wants
for itself; one based on mutual respect, on acceptance of differences of opinions,
of cultures, and so on, or one based on force. The last fifty years show a definite
movement towards the former at the expense of the latter. But the very unhappy
coexistence of two rather mutually exclusive view points must come
to an end at one point.
Many bishops have come to a conclusion close to this. And I believe that
more and more among the Magisterium know
that they have to convince rather than coerce, that the Church's fundamental message,
the one that our Lord and God Jesus brought us, is
one that the people can readily assent to.
For those Bishops God is really Love; Christ died for all,
the just and the unjust, the good
and the bad; He excluded no one from His Presence, He gave Himself totally to all. He
certainly did not tell us to excommunicate; He certainly did not tell us that we will
go to Hell if we do not do as we are told. He came for sinners, people like me. He
told people that some things were wrong, but He did not reject them for that.
He continued to the bitter end to pray for His persecutors, for each and every sinner
past, present and future, making excuses for each and everyone of them. He was and is
I believe that this view of God will win in the end. After all, the Church must follow
her Beloved Spouse, our Lord and God Jesus Christ, of Whose side
she was born through Water and Blood, as He laid in death on His Cross
on Good Friday. May His name be blessed for ever!
Good Friday, April 10th, 2009.
Appendix: A Grass-root Reaction
I have added here a text published in French in the local paper Le Flambeau
for Mercier-Anjou dated March 31st, 2009 and found on its page 4. This text is from
the Pastoral Councils of Anjou / Saint Justin and Mercier-Est, as reported
by Sylvia Cerasi. I hasten to
add that I am in no way associated with whese people,
although the translation found following
the text is mine. The original published text is provided
to permit anyone to check my translation, as again I am
not a bona fide translator:
Compassion first and before every thing
The members of the Pastoral Councils of Anjou / Saint-Justin and Mercier-Est were
meeting on the 12th March last with the Episcopal Vicar and his assistant. The subject
of the hour has had our attention for quite some time, viz the excommunication in
Brazil of the mother of a 9-year old little girl who had been raped by her step-father
and was made pregnant with twins, as well as that of
the medical team who considered the abortion
necessary for the health of the young mother.
Confronted by such a scandalously hard position, our reactions were punctuated
by a feeling of desolation,
a profound disapproval of the religious autorities concerned and
indignation in the face of such a flagrant lack of compassion.
We want to express to the population of Anjou / Saint-Justin and Mercier-Est that
we are available to welcome and accompany all those who live difficult situations,
that we affirm our solidarity with those who are most wounded in life as well as
our refusal to judge anyone: "Let him who is without sin cast the first stone"
(John 8 7). What cames first for us is to act with compassion whatever the
situation. Our mission is essentialy a pastoral one. We refuse to exclude anyone.
We are inspired in this by Jesus-Christ, our shepherd, "who came
not to judge the world but to save it" (John 12 47).
We express that way our commitment to take care of life, to serve all the people of
our area, the members of our Christian Communities and especially the
families and groups of our area.
- The members of the Pastoral Councils of Anjou / Saint-Justin and Mercier-Est,
André Tiphane, Episcopal Vicar, Est region, and Johanne Egglefield, associate to the
Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity, June 6th, 2004
Comment via e-mail to the author
© 2004 Jacques Beaulieu - property of Jacques Beaulieu - All rights reserved:
Any text on this website can be freely copied if then freely distributed
«freely ye have
received, freely give.» (Matthew 10:8b)