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“The Right to Abortion” – Brasiliens wichtigster Befreiungstheologe Frei Betto.


Although I am against abortion I must admit that in certain cases such as rape it should not be considered a criminal offence and I do not endorse the position of the archbishop of Olinda and Recife who demanded that a child of nine years of age should carry her unwanted pregnancy (with serious risks to her physical state, for her mental state is already damaged) excommunicating those who helped her terminate it.

Throughout history the Catholic Church has never reached a unanimous and definitive position regarding abortion. It swings between condemning it radically to admitting it at certain stages of the pregnancy. Behind the differences of opinion is the discussion about the moment in which the fetus can be considered human. Until now neither science nor theology has the exact answer. It remains an open ended question.
St. Augustine (4th century) admitted that one can only think of a fetus as a person 40 days after conception. St. Thomas Aquinas (13th century) reaffirmed it was not human until the embryo was 40 days old when it was endowed with a ”rational soul.

This position became official Church doctrine after the Council of Trent (16th century) but was contested by theologians who, based on the authority of Tertullian (3rd century) and of St. Albert the Great (13th century) defended immediate ”homonization in other words the fetus was a human being in process since conception. This thesis was incorporated in the encyclical Apostolica Sedis (1869) when Pope Pius IX condemned every sort of voluntary interruption to pregnancy.

During the 20th century the discussion on direct or indirect abortion was introduced. Rome admitted to indirect abortion in the case of an ectopic pregnancy or cancer of the uterus but did not admit to direct abortion even in the case of rape.

Rome is against abortion because it considers it to be the voluntary suppression of a human life. This is a principle which the Church has not always applied with equal rigour in other instances for it defends the right of countries to adopt the death sentence, the legitimacy of a ”just war and a popular revolution in the case of prolonged tyranny which is immovable through other means (Populorum Progresio).

In spite of the Church defending the sacredness of the life of the potential embryo as from conception, she has never likened abortion to the crime of infanticide and does not even hold ritual funerals or baptisms in extremis for aborted fetuses¦
For genetics, the fetus is human from the moment of segmentation. For gynecology and obstetrics, it is when the egg attaches to the wall of the uterus. For neo physiology it is when the brain is formed and for psycosociology when a personalized relationship exists. To sum up, science is lacking in consensus as to when human life begins.
I share the opinion that as from conception there is a life destined to be human and hence historical. From the Christian viewpoint the dignity of a being does not derive from what it is but from what it can become. That is why Christianity defends the inalienable rights of those who are placed on the bottom rung of the human and social ladder.
The debate about whether the embryonic self deserves recognition of its dignity or not should not lead to intolerant moralism which ignores the drama of women who opt for abortion for reasons which do not stem from mere selfishness or social convenience, as is the case of the little girl from Recife.
If moralists were sincerely against abortion, they would struggle so that it would not be necessary and all could be born in secure social conditions. But it is easier to demand that abortion continue to be considered a crime. But what about punishment for the crime of the unproductive latifundium and for so many other causes which, in Brazil, lead to the death of almost 21 out of every 1000 children who have not yet reached the age of a year?
Bishop Duchène, former president of the Episcopal Commission for the Family declared:  ”Talking of principles, I recall that every abortion is a suppression of a human being. We cannot forget this. I do not want, however, to put myself in the shoes of the doctors who reflected carefully on the subject in their soul and conscience and who, faced with an irreparable tragedy tried to bring comfort as best they could, at the risk of being mistaken.  (La Croix, 31.3.79).
The Recife case demands a deep analysis of the rights of the embryo and of the pregnant mother, severe punishment for rape and sexual violence within the family and for the cases of pedophilia within the Church and, above all, the establishing of concrete measures which socially will make abortion unnecessary.  

*Frei Betto is a writer and co-author with L.F. Veríssimo & others of ”O desafio ético (The Ethical Challenge) (Garamond).


He is a Brazilian Dominican with an international reputation as a liberation theologian. Within Brazil he is equally famous as a writer, with over 52 books to his name.  In 1985 he won Brazil™s most important literary prize, the Jabuti, and was elected Intellectual of the Year by the members of the Brazilian Writers™ Union. Frei Betto has always been active in Brazilian social movements, and has been an adviser to the Church™s ministry to workers in Sáo Paulo™s industrial belt, to the Church base communities, and to the Landless Rural Workers™ Movement (MST). In 2003-2004, he was Special Adviser to President Lula and Coordinator of Social Mobilisation for the Brazilian Government™s Zero Hunger programme. 

Dieser Beitrag wurde am Dienstag, 24. März 2009 um 21:33 Uhr veröffentlicht und wurde unter der Kategorie Kultur, Politik abgelegt. Du kannst die Kommentare zu diesen Eintrag durch den RSS-Feed verfolgen.

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