Among Catholics, excommunication is a scourge, an extreme punishment. The best an “excommunicant” can hope for is success and long life on earth, because they face a grim afterlife–which brings me to a tragic story, posted by Digby from Oliver Willis (both of whom are linked to this site). This story ties me in knots.
A nine year-old Brazilian girl, raped by her step father, conceives twins. A petite child just two years past the “age of reason,” (a point at which the Catholic Church deems that souls can accrue actual sin), the girl’s mother worries that her giving birth to twins may be fatal. Doctors advise the mom that her fears are well founded–if the babies reach full term and her 9-year old daughter delivers them, she could indeed die. Distraught, the girl’s mother consents to abort the twins. As a result, the Catholic Church excommunicates the mother as well as the doctor who aborts the babies–YET IT DOES NOT excommunicate the rapist/stepfather.
Now, right-to-life or not, this is BS. The church chooses to diminish the value of the raped child, give the criminally depraved “parent” a pass, and punishes the mother and those who saved the life of the sexually violated daughter by taking the twins.
Excommunication separates active Catholics from those scorned by church leaders. It casts souls aside, ostracizing them as if they are “unclean,” beyond redemption. They are the lepers of the church. They may never again participate in the blessings bestowed on the church’s faithful. To true believers, it is the ultimate earthly punishment, for it means they are refused all the benefits of church membership, the grace, the intercessions that the church provides.
These are difficult decisions, yet in the Bible, God reserves the right to judge–for Himself. The Catholic Church says its Pope is God’s manifestation on earth. Through him and his minions (the hierarchy of the church), God’s judgment can be administered here on earth. Those who commit sins against the church can be excommunicated-denied grace provided by the church’s sacraments, like communion. Catholics are taught that this grace is an integral part of their preparation for the afterlife. Grace is like a sacred, protected IRA–build up more grace and enter Heaven sooner or under more favorable terms. While grace is not the sole determining factor on whether or not a soul enters Heaven, it affects HOW a soul is treated after the flesh it occupies becomes dust.
The hypocrisy inherent in this whole process is absurd. The Bible says that judgment is God’s and God’s alone, yet men, bestowed God-like power on earth by the Catholic Church, speak for God in ways that can affect ones eternal salvation.
As a practicing Catholic, I find the Church’s judgment applied in the aftermath of this tragedy offensive. If saying so makes me vulnerable to the slings and barbs of church faithful, so be it. I guess that as church hierarchy, these men are doing what they believe they must. But men are fallible. And judgment is God’s, not man’s. For the record, it also pisses me off that I can refer to the Church’s leaders as “men.” We need women priests desperately, yet the Church refuses to modernize.
The longer I live, the more I reject the Church’s claim that heaven’s gates open only to baptized Catholics. I know and have known too many righteous non-Catholics to accept this.
If this makes me a “Cafeteria Catholic,” excuse me while I go back for another ladle of gravy. At times like this, it’s truly hard for me to admit that I support a church that behaves in this manner.