.- Cardinal Alfonso Lopez Trujillo, president of the Pontifical Council for the Family, offered clarifications yesterday on a string of stories claiming that he had “officially excommunicated” the doctors who performed the first legal abortion in Colombia on an 11 year-old girl. Trujillo told Colombian network CARACOL, that neither he nor the Holy See has issued any formal declaration of excommunication, but that the Vatican has been clear that those who perform the horrible act excommunicate themselves.
Several media sources had picked up on statements Trujillo made in an interview on Colombian radio network RCN, in which he said doctors who performed the first legal abortion in Colombia on an 11 year-old girl have incurred excommunication. Stories began to fly that Trujillo had “officially” excommunicated the doctors and the media juggernaut began to roll.
What Trujillo said, via telephone, was that the girl who had undergone the abortion “fell into a web of evildoers.” The penalty of excommunication for such an act is automatic, he stated, noting that abortion “is a death sentence against a human being,” and therefore it carries a proportionate penalty.
Immediately the secular press, misunderstanding the Cardinal’s comments and the Church’s teaching, began contacting those involved in the abortion.
The director of the Simon Bolivar Hospital, Hector Lemus, who authorized the abortion, responded to the reports on Trujillo’s comments saying, “I am a public official who obeyed a norm of the Court. The procedure was carried out by the hospital, not by a person. As head of this medical center, I assume responsibility, and thus I ask that my employees not be excommunicated.”
Stevenson Marulanda, president of the Colombian Medical College, speaking for himself, called the excommunication “exaggerated and radical.”
However, Dr. Sandra Rocha, one of the experts who led opposition to the legalization of abortion, understood Trujillo’s comments and said, “The only thing the cardinal has done is reiterate what is spelled out in canon 1398 of the Code of Canon Law of the Church. An act of moral gravity took place and was punished for the purpose of bringing about repentance. He has every right to proclaim that,” she stated.
Dr. Rocha refers to the fact that the Catholic Church considers excommunication a serious ecclesiastical penalty resulting from a grave sin. Excommunication, according to the Church, can only happen after a willful decision on the part of an individual, to remove themselves from communion with the Church by committing an act which is seriously at odds with Catholic teaching. In other words, excommunication occurs automatically, based on the choice of the individual.
While the Church hierarchy sometimes issues statements acknowledging that someone has excommunicated themselves, statements which always draw tremendous public attention, the decision of excommunication has already been made by the individual.
Trujillo said his remarks merely acknowledged that performing an abortion is such a grave sin and that his comments were not an official Church announcement of the excommunication.
But, that is not to say a formal statement will not follow from the Church. Last May Cardinal Pedro Rubian Saenz, Archbishop of Bogota, announced the excommunication of the justices of the Constitutional Court who voted in favor of legalizing abortion, as well as of those who promoted it.