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An Abortion in Brazil: The Case that Saved a Life and Divided the Vatican

The Catholic Church condemns any effective contraception, as this “makes the Church fruitful”, providing her with new children through Baptism. However, when this threatens the Church's credibility, Canon Law allows penalties to be relaxed, to avoid what the Vatican calls “scandal” (aka “public relations disaster”). Thus the case of the raped nine-year-old who was carrying twins caused divisions in the Vatican, and Pope Benedict finally had to enforce “fruitfulness”. The article below is updated to 2108 and contains the references, which were omitted from the earlier, published version.

Was Brazil’s “stealth concordat” the price for electing Dilma?

President Lula da Silva needed Church support for his chosen successor, Dilma Rousseff and a concordat was part of the price. To hide this betrayal of Brazilian secularism, there was a secret signing at the Vatican, the Evangelical press kept silent, and bishops lobbied to avoid a congressional debate. Yet once the Vatican got its concordat, the Church attacked Dilma and got a further concession, that she stop insisting that a woman's reproductive freedom was a human right.  

Brazilian media silent about signing of Vatican concordat

In the face of the curious silence of the media, the Brazilian journalist Alberto Dines hosted this TV debate on 25 November 2008 about the concordat secretly signed two weeks earlier. “There were hugs, there were blessings, there were pictures, but no statement on what was dealt with between the President and the Pontiff. In the days that followed the news was trivial, contradictory and clearly deceptive.” *

Concordat: text (2008)

This “legal agreement” (“acordo jurídico”) is a wide-ranging concordat. It permits teaching religion in public schools (Art. 1.1), missionary access to indigenous people in nature reserves (Art. 3) and tax exemptions for the Church (Art. 15). It lends cover to abusive priests by granting the right to clerical secrecy outside the confessional (Art. 13) and makes it impossible to sue the Church for the damage they cause, since this concordat states that they are not employees. (Art. 16.1)

Brazilian groups tell why they opposed the concordat

An alliance of anthropologists, gays, teachers, judges, as well as atheist, Protestant, pro-choice Catholic and Afro-Brazilian religious groups urged Congress in 2009 not to ratify the concordat. They protested that it violates the constitutional separation of church and state and also goes against the values of Brazil which support diversity. Here are translations of some of their statements.

Questions about the concordat

Innocent-sounding measures in the 2008 Brazilian concordat have caused problems in other countries, including Italy, Germany, Slovakia, Poland and Hungary, the Dominican Republic and Malta. And the Brazilian concordat appears to help protect the Church against being sued over abusive priests, which even the Vatican estimates is widespread among the Brazilian clergy.

Concordat introduces sectarian teaching in schools, and missions into indigenous reserves

The Brazilian education law was clearly intended to foster tolerance of the country's religious diversity — not to bring sectarian teaching into state schools, as prescribed by the concordat. Also anchored in the concordat is the right of the Catholic Church to "independent missions".

Military concordat (1989) : text — unratified, but still observed

This concordat embeds Catholic chaplains (and Canon Law) in the military, gives them a central location at the military headquarters and obliges the state to support them. This military concordat is mentioned enigmatically in the 2008 concordat, perhaps a move to get the unsuspecting Congressmen to ratify it retroactively. For the military concordat has a trick clause at the end — in Latin — stating that it comes into effect immediately, in other words, with no ratification by a democratic legislature

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