May 30th UPDATE: Jeanne Smits has an even better translation of the full interview. Merci!
The French blog Le Salon Beige has republished lengthy excerpts of an interview that the Bishop of Recife gave to the French magazine Present. Unfortunately, the entire article is available to subscribers only. But there's enough to edify any Catholic hungry for no-non-sense leadership on the abortion issue.
Some, when they speak about the publicity surrounding this affair, affirm that it was not “appropriate” to speak of excommunication. I do not agree with that point of view. I am told that we should have almost forgotten what Canon Law says concerning excommunication. My opinion is different. I say that that law exists for the good of the Church. And that it was not I who excommunicated anyone, as I have repeated countless times. Those who accuse me say that it is I who “excommunicated”, and that’s totally false; I simply drew attention to a law that exists in the Church, canon 1398. And I ask: is it appropriate to remain silent, as many claim? Would it have been better that I not speak at all about excommunication? Well, I answer that I do not agree. It is a law of the Church for the good of the Church. It has existed for many centuries. The new Code of Canon Law, promulgated in 1983 be the Servant of God Pope John Paul II, reiterates this law, just as the Catechism of the Catholic Church does, published by the same pope in 1992, repeats and comment this law. Would it have been better to keep silent? Well, in my opinion, it is of the highest importance to draw everyone’s attention, especially that of the Catholic faithful, to the gravity of the crime of abortion. That is the reason the law exists.
We, in our diocese, have received many messages from many people who have told me “Now, I understand better the gravity of abortion, and I will change my conscience.” In my opinion, the act of the drawing attention to the existence of this excommunication produces a spiritual benefit among the Catholic faithful, but also among others, who, apparently, quietly undergo abortions and who, I believe from now on, will weigh in their conscience the gravity of what they are doing. And this is the final goal of this law of the Church, of this penalty of excommunication: it is medicinal. It is a remedy in view of the conversion of all. And for the person who comes across it, it is a means to make him understand that he will have to answer for his act before God. With the Church, we desire that all people, even those who follow in the path of error, come to live according to the law of God. We do not want the eternal condemnation of that person. In my opinion, silence—not speaking of excommunication—would cause grave damage to the Church.
In addition, I have the impression that among those who spoke against me are practically insinuating that it would be better to abrogate the canon on excommunication. But the Church does not believe this. The Church maintains this law, because it is necessary for the common good of the Church, when it comes to grave offenses, that there is a clear law, and that this law be applied. These are principles of great importance. For me, silence would be equivalent to complicity. […] It is a spiritual remedy. The Church is invested with a mission, which is to bring all men to eternal salvation, and to make them live in the grace of God. In fact, it [silence? Trans: unsure] is from people who “quietly” perform abortions, and who say, just as quietly, that they will continue. We, as Catholics, and above all as pastors of the Church, we cannot remain silent, as if this were all well and good. This is why I repeat that not speaking up, not drawing attention to the gravity, to the seriousness of the problem, and above all to the fact that the Church, for the common good, applies this penalty, would be complicity. It would practically amount to accepting this grave situation.
Here in Brazil, we are in the process of preparing a law to legalize abortion. We Catholics must speak first on moral responsibility. Evidently, there are Catholics in our Parliament who defend the law of God, but there are others who defend this bill, beginning with the president of the Republic. We cannot remain silent! […] It is very important to me to recall that the doctors who committed the abortion had declared that they had practiced abortion for a long time, and with “pride”. And they affirm that they will continue. We cannot remain silent in the face of that. […]
It must be understood: since the very first centuries of the church, there have been laws on excommunication in the Church. They sought to protect the common good of the ecclesial society: it is for this reason that we need a canon law; the juridical aspect of the Church as a human society is indispensable. We cannot simply hope that each person follows his conscience. Evidently, the Church must first of all take care of the spiritual life of each person, but the common good, in the technical sense, is also very important: it consists of an adequate environment in which each may live peaceably. The penalties foreseen by the Code in canon law also have this goal.
As for myself, my conscience is in peace. I did not expect nor did I wish for these repercussions which have taken on an international dimension. I repeat that the common good of the Church needs these latae sententiae laws, which serve as a permanent alert and which she will never abrogate. She has always condemned abortion and she always explained why: because it does not only hurt the person, but it damages society. Today, I repeat: there are 1 million abortions every year in Brazil, 50 million around the world: our silence would be connivance.
Two weeks ago, we met at the National Assembly of Bishops in Sao Paulo: all the bishops with whom I spoke approve; None are against me. However, I read what some French bishops wrote about me. It seems that many do not know all the circumstances.
Wow. A bishop who speaks like a bishop is supposed to speak. No modernist crap, just straight talk on the Catholic Faith. Now if only every bishop in the world had the same line. Nobody could be ignorant of the fact that you cannot be Catholic and oppose fetal rights. Many souls could be saved.
Sobrinho has guts. I say give him a red hat. He deserves it. I would love to see him elected pope.