‘Please just make it stop!’ Minister responds to bishop’s comments on contraception

Simon Harris tweets that religion ‘will not determine’ health policy after Bishop of Elphin says contraceptive ban ‘ignored for too long’

Catholic Bishop of Elphin Kevin Doran said the ‘contraceptive mentality’ in society was linked to the ‘surprisingly high number’ of people in favour of same sex marriage. Photograph: Cyril Byrne

Catholic Bishop of Elphin Kevin Doran said the ‘contraceptive mentality’ in society was linked to the ‘surprisingly high number’ of people in favour of same sex marriage. Photograph: Cyril Byrne

 

Increasing access to contraception is, and will remain, public health policy, Minister for Health Simon Harris has said.

He was responding to comments by Bishop of Elphin Kevin Doran who said the principles of the papal encyclical Humanae Vitae, which banned artificial means of contraception, “have been ignored for too long” and need to be presented in a “fresh way”.

Speaking at an event in Dublin on Saturday, the bishop said it was “lopsided” to regard marriage as “simply a loving relationship” in which procreation was regarded as “an optional extra”.

“Humanae Vitae teaches that every act of intercourse should be open in principle to the gift of life, but also that it’s perfectly legitimate for married people to make use of the married cycle both to achieve pregnancy and to avoid it,” he said.

Responding on Sunday, Mr Harris said increasing access to and availability of contraception “is and will remain public health policy”.

“In fact I have established an expert group to examine how we can better do this and how we can ensure that all those who want to access contraception can do so,” he said.

The Minister noted religion played “an important role for many Irish people on an individual basis but it cannot be allowed to determine health and social policy in our country any more”.

Mr Harris said that, in order to examine how voluntary health service providers interact with the State, he had established a review group led by former secretary general of the European Commission Catherine Day.

“I expect this to report to me in the coming weeks,” Mr Harris added. “In my view we need to have a national conversation about how best to address these issues.”

The Minister had earlier tweeted in response to Bishop Doran’s remarks: Please just make it stop! “Increasing access to & availability of contraception is and will remain public health policy. Religion plays an important role for many on an individual basis - but it will not determine health and social policy in our country any more. Please get that.”

Fine Gael senator Catherine Noone, who chaired the Oireachtas Committee on the Eighth Amendment, tweeted that it was “long overdue” that the Catholic Church “is kept out of sex education”.

“How about some empathy & basic common sense for people’s daily realities & struggles,” she said.

Redemptorist priest Fr TonyFlannery, who has been banned from public ministry by the Vatican, said the “really sad” issue was “that Kevin Doran was ever made a bishop in the Church in Ireland”.

He said Bishop Doran’s remarks were “really frustrating” for other members of the Catholic Church.

“I just can’t understand how anybody thought it was a good idea to make Kevin Doran a bishop,” he said.

Bishop Doran was speaking at an event organised by the Nazareth Family Institute, which organises Catholic pre-marriage courses and “marriage enrichment” courses. It is connected with the Community of Nazareth, which describes itself as a “lay, charismatic, covenant community” based in south Dublin.