By JOHN L. ALLEN JR.
São Paulo, Brazil
Cardinal Norberto Rivera Carrera of Mexico City, the place where recent debates over communion for pro-choice Catholic politicians formed the background to Benedict XVI’s Wednesday comments aboard the papal plane, said today that the pope “only repeated what we bishops already had said.”
Rivera is in São Paulo for the pope’s visit to Brazil, and will also be in Aparecida to take part in the General Conference of the Bishops of Latin America and the Caribbean (CELAM).
Rivera told NCR that he did not know what impact the pope’s comments have had in Mexico City, because he’s been in Brazil since the story broke. He insisted, however, that Benedict’s statement did not amount to “anything new,” but was rather a repetition of the position taken in Mexico City.
On April 24, legislators in Mexico City voted to legalize abortion during the first 12 weeks of pregnancy in the city’s public hospitals. The law does not require private hospitals or clinics to perform abortions.
At the time, the Archdiocese of Mexico City issued a statement indicating that doctors and nurses who perform abortions, as well as the lawmakers who support abortion, were to be considered excommunicated. Pressed by reporters at the time, Rivera said that he had not excommunicated anyone, nor did he plan to do so.
Sources said what Rivera meant is that by virtue of their involvement in abortion, the doctors, nurses and lawmakers had instead excommunicated themselves.
By way of inference, Rivera's response today seemed to mean that Benedict had affirmed this position.
Rivera said that based on what he gathered from Mexican press accounts, there was some confusion about the pope’s position because during his airborne press conference, he gave two different answers to essentially the same question.
The first time a Mexican reporter asked him about excommunication, he spoke in positive terms about the beauty of life, and the need to have confidence in the future. Only when pressed by an Italian reporter did he respond specifically to the question of excommunication for politicians who support abortion rights, saying that it was not “arbitrary,” but based on the law of the church.