Monday, 9 March 2009

I’m in “Good” Company: Hitler, Mussolini and Pinochet

The mongoose has her first guest post. Last week, Archbishop Jose Cardoso Sobrinho became famous in the news for the excommunication of the adults involved in providing an abortion to a nine-year-old child who had been raped by her stepfather. Today, Jodi, a writer from Jamaica and one of the directors of WHAN, shares her thoughts on the incident from a religious and philosophical perspective. Welcome, Jodi and take it away:

“Practical Wisdom is the combination of moral will and moral skill.” – Aristotle

Tonight I read that a nine year old girl had an abortion and as a result a Brazilian archbishop of the Roman Catholic Church, Father Sobrinho, excommunicated her mother and the medical doctors who carried out the abortion. Apart from the fact that the girl is nine, the medical doctors decided to carry out the abortion because:

1. The child was going to die because she only weighs 80 pounds and can’t support two foetuses. The little girl was pregnant with twins. (Attention Father Sobrinho supporters: if the child was going to die, chances are the foetuses weren’t going to make it either.)
2. The child was raped by her step-father.
3. The child is nine years old.
4. Nine.
5. Years.
6. Old.

The fact that the child’s life was in danger is enough for a logical person to feel that the abortion was a sensible decision taken by the adults in her life in order to save her life. Without even knowing it, we automatically apply Aristotle’s definition of Practical Wisdom in order to come to these decisions. Moral skill allows us to know what is right and moral will allows us to do what is right, often in spite of what the rule book, society or our family says we should do. Rather than apply practical wisdom, however, the Catholic Church has chosen stupidity and hatred in the form of excommunication.

Excommunication in every practical sense of the word means nothing to a non-religious person such as myself. In the Roman Catholic Church, it is merely a formal announcement (not usually made public) that someone is no longer allowed to receive sacraments other than reconciliation. Reconciliation is the act of asking a priest for forgiveness and paying penance. Penance is usually the recital of a few well-rehearsed prayers such as the Hail Mary and the Our Father. If you’ve been really, really bad you can only be reconciled by the Pope himself. Otherwise, you can more than likely be reconciled by the local archbishop. Hallelujah!

Though excommunication may seem like a silly consequence to people like me, to someone who is religious and who relies on the Catholic Church as their community and a major source of support in times of difficulty, I can imagine that excommunication is a cause of great shame and may create a sense of hopelessness and confusion as well as loss of self esteem. For them, excommunication from the Church is the same as being sentenced to hell.

I know all of this because I am a Roman Catholic. I should say that though I am not a practicing Catholic, I have not yet been excommunicated. Apparently, I am in good company; other non-practicing, non-ex-communicated Roman Catholics were Adolf Hitler, Benito Mussolini and Augusto Pinochet who each managed to avoid being excommunicated from the Church while they were alive.

I can’t argue this from a biblical standpoint. I am not a Christian and I can’t even pretend to know the bible. In my own opinion, religion has been and continues to be a tool used by men for centuries to carry out atrocities upon groups of people they hate. Unfortunately, women have always fallen into that category. Some will argue that just as religion has been used to carry out atrocities, it has also been used to carry out good. Well, I am sorry, but I do not believe that the end justifies the means. I’m sure that Hitler, Mussolini and Pinochet did nice things for people they liked on the same day as they were ordering the murder and torture of others. I also believe that the people who do good in the name of religion would do good without the existence of religion. However, some people who carry out evil in the name of religion would think twice about doing so without the support of their religious leaders and followers.

This is not a rant against religion, and I apologise if it seems that way; it is a rant against this ugly act against this family and a plea for humanity to apply a little practical wisdom each day in spite of rules of law, religion or society.


  1. Oh how I enjoyed reading this! Thank you Jodi for your gentle reminder of practical wisdom. I wonder what came of the step-father/perpetrator/rapist/pedophile/pervert/sicko, was excommunicated too? Can he absolve himself with mantras while thumbing his rosary? Or has he now joined the esteemed company of Hitler, Pinochet and Mussolini?

  2. The step-father was not excommunicated. His crime was a lesser one, as, according to the big RC, it did not result in ending a human life.


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