Church of Ireland bishop supports repeal of Eighth Amendment

Bishop of Limerick says repeal is ‘entirely consistent’ with COI view on abortion

Church of Ireland Bishop of Limerick Kenneth Kearon: said the Church of Ireland was opposed to abortion on principle, but accepted exceptions have to be made in the case of where a mother’s life is at risk, where the baby will not survive or where rape and incest have been involved. Photograph: Limerickleader.ie

Church of Ireland Bishop of Limerick Kenneth Kearon: said the Church of Ireland was opposed to abortion on principle, but accepted exceptions have to be made in the case of where a mother’s life is at risk, where the baby will not survive or where rape and incest have been involved. Photograph: Limerickleader.ie

 

A Church of Ireland bishop has said that he intends to vote to repeal the Eighth Amendment in the constitution.

Bishop Kenneth Kearon, the Bishop of Limerick and Killaloe, said supporting repeal is “entirely consistent” with the Church of Ireland’s views on abortion as it opposed the original referendum in 1983.

In February, the Church of Ireland archbishops of Armagh and Dublin, Dr Richard Clarke and Dr Michael Jackson, issued a joint statement on the Eighth Amendment.

They stopped short of calling for repeal directly, but said they favoured a modification of article 40.3.3 in “such a way that allows for the Oireachtas to have legislative responsibility to address termination of pregnancy, any rights of the unborn and the rights of the pregnant woman within clearly defined boundaries and parameters”.

In a letter to his diocese, Bishop Kearon said the Church of Ireland seldom takes an official line on any issue especially on ethical issues where personal responsibility and conscience are paramount.

“Instead the church offers guidance and help to those making decisions while respecting the rights of all to differ from that advice and to decide freely according to their own conscience,” he explained.

Making exceptions

Bishop Kearon said the Church of Ireland was opposed to abortion on principle, but accepted that exceptions have to be made in the case of where a mother’s life is at risk, where the baby will not survive or where rape and incest have been involved.

He said modern biology supports the contention of some of the early fathers of the Christian churches, St Augustine and St Thomas Aquinas, that life does not begin at conception.

“We find speculation about the beginning of life, often equating it with ensoulment (when the soul enters the body) or with the time when the mother first ‘feels life’ or movement, all of which are stages long after conception has taken place,” the bishop said.

“Modern biology which recognises that very many conceptions do not continue on through the various stages of development to become births but are ‘lost’, does appear to support this line of thinking also.”

However, the bishop said he had “greater concerns” about the draft legislation which would allow for termination on any grounds up to 12 weeks.

‘Ethical argument’

He said the argument for the 12-week limit was based on the availability of abortion pills on the internet and so by making it legal, it opens the possibility of medical supervision and assistance. “That is hardly an ethical argument,” he suggested. He proposed that legislators take a “pragmatic approach to termination of pregnancy”

He suggested looking for legislation which permits termination when the life rather than the health of the mother is at risk. Abortion could be permitted in cases where the baby will not survive, the bishop suggested, but not on grounds of disability.

“Hopefully any such cases would be rare, but provision does need to be made for them,” the bishop concluded. “Legislators are in a difficult position at this time, and most are courageously seeking to approach this issue in a responsible manner. They deserve our prayers and our support at this time. So far the debate has been serious and respectful, and let’s all try to keep it that way.”

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