Msgr. Barreiro, during a visit to Milwaukee in late July, told your Catholic Herald that “two sad imprecisions” by Archbishop Rino Fisichella, president of the Pontifical Academy for Life, received international attention and needed the correction provided “by many pro-life organizations.”

Referring to an article written by Archbishop Fisichella for the March 15 issue of L’Osservatore Romano, Msgr. Barrerio said, “He accused Archbishop (Jose Cardoso) Sobrinho of not taking proper pastoral care of this girl; he made unclear statements that could be eventually understood that in extraordinary circumstances in which the mother was in danger, an abortion could be permitted.”

The priest called it “very unfortunate that Archbishop Fisichella wrote that article. I don’t have any doubt that he did not have the intention of teaching the wrong doctrine, just that his drafting was imprudent.”

Archbishop Sobrinho, whose resignation as archbishop of the Archdiocese of Olinda and Recife Pope Benedict XVI accepted July 1, the day after the archbishop’s 76th birthday, had told local media that abortion was always a sin and that canon law stipulated that anyone participating in an abortion, including the doctors and the girl’s mother, would automatically incur excommunication.

Archbishop Fisichella criticized the archbishop’s statement, writing that the girl “should have been defended, hugged and held tenderly to
help her feel that we were all on her side.”

The archdiocese responded with a statement that noted, “All of us … treated the pregnant girl and her family with extreme charity and tenderness. … All efforts were focused on saving all three lives.”

According to Msgr. Barrerio, Human Life International provided the Holy See, in particular the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, “ample evidence” that Archbishop Sobrinho “had taken due pastoral care of this girl.”

“He made a declaration to the press as a last resort effort to save the lives of those two twins the day before the abortions were committed. He just told the press that if the medical doctors do it, they will receive automatic excommunication,” the priest said. “He remembered what is in canon law; he did not impose excommunication because in cases like that the local ordinary does not impose excommunication; it is by the force of the law that excommunication descends upon the person who does the deed.”

On July 11, the CDF issued a statement that, in Msgr. Barrerio’s view, clarified the actions taken by Archbishop Sobrinho.

“One, it clarified that the archbishop of Recife acted very well with serious pastoral zeal. Second, never is an abortion permitted. Absolutely never under any circumstances,” he said.

A third clarification from the CDF addressed an “unfortunate comment made by a Vatican press representative” regarding therapeutic abortions.

“It clearly states there is no such thing as a therapeutic abortion. You cannot do an abortion, even in extraordinary circumstances where the mother is at risk. Nowadays those are very rare circumstances,” he said.

With reports from Catholic News Service