Church concerned about being 'caricatured as inhuman'
ANALYSIS:The style was different but the substance much the same at the joint Oireachtas Committee on Health and Children hearing in the Seanad yesterday where Catholic Church representatives were concerned. There was no talk of imminent “culture of death” in Ireland. No quotes from the pope, Cardinal Brady, even the papal nuncio. No gauntlet thrown down.
Instead Bishop Christopher Jones appealed for help in dispelling “the huge confusion in terminology out there about abortion”. It, he explained, was “deliberate killing” of the foetus, while “intervention where the child died is not abortion”.
The bishop, who chairs the Catholic bishops’ Council for Marriage and the Family, said this was “a vital moral distinction”. What was needed, therefore, were “appropriate guidelines which continue to exclude the direct and intentional killing of the unborn, or. . . ” – yes, he called for one – “ . . . a referendum to overturn the X case judgment.”
That 1992 Supreme Court judgment he described as “morally unacceptable”.
Fr Tim Bartlett, from the secretariat of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference, was concerned about caricature.
“Don’t caricature people in the church as somehow inhuman, unfeeling,” he said, reminding legislators that people in the church had “nieces and nephews who might have to deal with these situations”. He said that, of all those he knew, “no woman has ever called me a misogynist”.
This may have been a response to chafing comment from some Senators. Ivana Bacik, for instance, questioned “the right of clerical males and celibates to pronounce on the rights of women” and suggested the church worked from an assumption of “the innate deceitfulness of women, and misogyny”.
It may also have been a response to Senator Mary White’s comment that “if priests were allowed marry and have daughters they might feel differently if they were raped or abused”.
Or to Senator Imelda Henry, who asked Bishop Jones what the master of Holles St hospital Dr Rhona Mahony, who doesn’t want to go to jail, should do. The tone among Mná an t-Seanaid suggested they were not for turning. Similarly among Mná na Dála present. Marcella Corcoran Kennedy TD asked Bishop Jones and Fr Bartlett how many women had been consulted in the Catholic Church.
Regina Doherty TD thought “the Catholic Church option is no option as it leaves both lives at risk”. And Catherine Byrne TD felt the previous three days had been “the most enlightening of my public life” during which she had thought more of herself “as a mother than as a legislator”.
There were contributions from some male politicians too but the terseness of some women’s contributions stood out. As striking was the scarcity of women among those representing the religions and those with none. Of the 11 representatives, the only women were Heidi Good of the Methodist Church and Jane Donnelly of Atheist Ireland.