Anti-abortion doctor’s address to First Communion Mass defended

Mother walks out in protest saying abortion ‘not appropriate’ subject for children

Bishop Denis Nulty. File photo.  Photograph: Cyril Byrne

Bishop Denis Nulty. File photo. Photograph: Cyril Byrne


A Catholic diocese has defended its decision to allow a doctor to address a First Communion preparation Mass on her anti-abortion views.

Dr Deirdre Gleeson spoke before children from four schools at Carlow Cathedral on Sunday.

In a statement, the Catholic diocese of Kildare and Leighlin said there was a “great tradition” of inviting outside speakers to speak on different subjects including abortion.

Their purpose is to “complement the teaching role of priests” and the diocese added that “before an address is given, content is discussed in advance with a priority given to sensitivity around language and tone”.

Elizabeth, a mother of one of the children present, told RTÉ’s Liveline that she walked out of the Mass.

She said Dr Gleeson started her talk by saying she was aware there were children in the congregation and that she would use the appropriate language.

“That immediately sent alarm bells in my head,” said Elizabeth. “I stood up and left my husband and two children. We were there because my son was making his Communion.

“I felt at a First Communion preparation Mass that this was inappropriate. I did not know that this was coming.”

Later Mass

Another parishioner, Eoghan Murphy, said he and his wife walked out of the later 12.30pm mass when the same doctor began to speak in favour of retaining the Eighth Amendment. He was attending his mother-in-law’s anniversary mass at the cathedral with his wife and 10-year-old son.

He said that when the priest announced that a doctor was going to speak on behalf of the Pro-Life Campaign, he became alarmed.

“My son is a worrier. We hadn’t had the chat with him [about abortion]. We said we will stand up and go outside when the doctor makes her speech,” he told Liveline. “We had the conversation that we planned to have with him outside the cathedral. We had removed ourselves not because of the church’s stance [on abortion] but because of the church’s handling of it.”

Mr Murphy said that when he returned to his pew, two women beside him refused the sign of peace. He also stated that he would have no trouble with the doctor addressing the congregation had it been at the end of the Mass and not in the middle of it.

Copies of a pamphlet entitled Supporting a Culture of Life were distributed at masses in the 56 parishes of the diocese on Sunday. The diocese covers all of Co Carlow and parts of Laois, Offaly, Kilkenny, Kildare and Wicklow.

In his pastoral message calling for a No vote in the forthcoming referendum, Bishop Denis Nulty said he will invite every congregation at Confirmation in the diocese to look at their fingerprints.

“It is a powerful sight. Fingerprints are unique to you. When did they first form? Much earlier than we might imagine,” he wrote.

“Likewise, our own heartbeat, when did it begin? All of this is determined in the womb, long before birth. Indeed, it is written into our genetic code.”

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