US Catholic Faith in Real Life

Hard cases, part 3

By Bryan Cones | Print this pagePrint | Email this pageShare

The bishops of Brazil have finally done something right on this terrible case. (See my previous posts on this story: part 1 and part 2.) According to the Catholic News Agency, the leadership of the Brazilian national conference of bishops has condemned the child abuse that led to the pregnancy of the nine-year-old girl, who underwent an abortion earlier this week over church objections.

This condemnation of her stepfather's behavior should have been the first thing out of the mouth of her local bishop, who stirred up this controversy. Unfortunately we've had to wait five days for bishops to state the obvious: The source of this whole problem is the morally outrageous, damnable behavior of her stepfather.

No matter what you think about the morality of the final decision to end the child's pregnancy, I think this case highlights the importance of thinking broadly about "life" issues. Issues of direct killing, such as abortion, certainly have pride of place, but child abuse and rape--which always kill spiritually if not physically--certainly deserve attention, especially if the church means what it says about the human dignity of women and girls.

But I also think it asks of us some serious moral thinking and praying: If the girl had been compelled to carry her unborn children to term, what if her uterus had ruptured and she died? What if her children died anyway? What if she miscarried and was left unable to have children in the future? These all seem likely outcomes for a 9-year-old body. Such questions deserve not only our intellectual moral reflection but prayerful silence before the gravity of the situation.

Even with a moral issue as clear as abortion, there can be problematic gray areas that could vex even the most well-formed consciences. I for one pray never to face such a circumstance. We should be wary of judging them too quickly, especially when we consider Jesus' own words on the danger of judging others.