Hierarchy declines to rule out excommunication of TDs and Ministers who back abortion Bill
Bishops to concentrate on mobilising faithful to pressurise TDs and Senators
Some of the large crowd at the Rosary procession in Knock, Co Mayo on Saturday where a National Vigil of Prayer for Mothers and their Unborn Babies took place. The theme of this special Vigil was ‘ “Choose Life: We Cherish Them All.” shows . Photograph: John McElroy
The Catholic hierarchy will not mount a legal challenge to the Government’s planned legislation on abortion.
Bishops will instead focus their attention on trying to mobilise support among Catholics for their stance by having them lobby their TDs and Senators in the run-up to the vote on the legislation which is expected to take place in July.
The hierarchy have also left the threat of excommunication hanging over the heads of Catholic members of the Dáil who vote for the so-called abortion legislation in its current format.
The newly installed Bishop of Limerick Brendan Leahy, speaking to reporters at a National Prayer Vigil for the Right to Life of Mothers and Babies in Knock on Saturday, dismissed the notion of a legal challenge to the Protection of Life During Pregnancy Bill.
Replying to a question in Irish, the bishop said: “That is not planned at all. But we are making a serious choice right now and we have to think about the decision to be made . . . we have the Gospel of Life and that’s the most important thing”.
Cardinal Seán Brady refused to be drawn on the consequences for either Catholic Ministers who introduce the legislation or those TDs who vote for it as it stands.
Asked if a TD who voted for the legislation as published would not automatically be excommunicated and should not therefore present himself/herself for Holy Communion, Dr Brady replied: “That is down the line at the moment, as far as we are concerned. It [our job] is to convince the electorate first of all and the legislators to change”.
Pressed on the matter, Dr Brady said that the exact legislation that would be introduced was not yet known.
“We know what the [church] law is about excommunication about abortion, that’s a fact. But, as I say, the most important issue at this moment is to win the hearts and minds of the people of Ireland”, said the cardinal.
He described the proposed legislation as morally unacceptable and suggested that it may amount to evil.
Dr Brady was responding to a question asking if it was also morally unacceptable for a Catholic legislator to introduce it.
“We’re trying to persuade them not to introduce it. We have to, in addition to do good, we also have to oppose evil and to oppose a law that would take away fundamental rights from people – [it] should be opposed.”
The message from yesterday’s event in Knock was that human life was very precious and that any attempt to destroy human life was unacceptable morally.
‘Change of mind’
“We are planning to mobilise in the sense of make people aware of the issues, the very important issues that are at stake in this debate and in that way that they would influence those who they can influence, namely the legislators.
“But it’s a shared purpose. The legislators legislate for the common good. We do not think that abortion can form part of the common good at any stage and therefore we are trying to campaign to bring about that change of mind,” he said.
The cardinal agreed that the job of legislators was to legislate, “but I don’t think they have power over life, none of us have absolute power over life”.
He added: “They say they have got it from the people, but the people cannot give something that they haven’t got themselves, namely the power over life.
“We have certain power over our lives, but not when we come into life or when we end life.”
Saturday’s vigil of prayer was attended by an estimated 4,000 people. The organisers had been hoping for an attendance of up to 10,000.