Catholic bishops to set up ‘Council for Life’ following Yes vote

Not respecting conscientious objections of medical staff a potential ‘great injustice’

The bishops  have called on politicians “who courageously defended the right to life of the unborn child” before last month’s abortion referendum to continue to do so “as a matter of principle”. Photograph: Tom Honan

The bishops have called on politicians “who courageously defended the right to life of the unborn child” before last month’s abortion referendum to continue to do so “as a matter of principle”. Photograph: Tom Honan

 

The Catholic Bishops have responded to the decision to liberalise the State’s abortion laws by announcing plans to set up a “Council for Life” to promote an ethic of care for those most at risk.

The bishops also said “it would be a great injustice to require doctors and nurses to participate, even by referral, in the provision of [abortion] services which would be a serious violation of their conscience”.

They called on politicians “who courageously defended the right to life of the unborn child” before last month’s abortion referendum to continue to do so “as a matter of principle”.

In a statement following their summer meeting, which concluded in Maynooth on Wednesday night, the bishops said that “with the repeal of the Eighth Amendment a new situation now exists in Ireland.

“It is essential for us as a church which cares passionately about the gift of life to seek better ways of responding to this new and very challenging reality.

“We intend to establish, by March 2019, a new Council for Life whose role will be to advise and advocate for the Catholic Church in Ireland on a consistent ethic of life and care for those most at risk.” In preparation for this council “bishops will consult with those already committed to, and engaged with, upholding the sanctity of life in Ireland,” they said.

‘Culture of care’

“In the aftermath of the referendum it is clear that we all need to foster a culture of care, a society of support, so that when a woman finds herself in a crisis pregnancy she may find practical assistance and care,” they said.

However, they noted how “the word ‘compassion’ was regularly used in debates leading up to referendum day.” It was important to recognise that those calling for a No vote “did so out of a spirit of compassion for both the pregnant mother and her unborn child”, they said.

The bishops also reaffirmed their position that the current reference to blasphemy in the Constitution is largely obsolete. A referendum on removing the provision on blasphemy from the Constitution is expected to take place in October. They said they were supportive as the current situation could “give rise to concern because of the way such measures have been used to justify violence and oppression against minorities in other parts of the world”.

However, they said it was “vital to ensure that the rights of individuals and communities to practice and live out their faith openly are protected by law”.

Expressing “deep gratitude to parishioners, priests and religious” all over Ireland for donating €29.1 million to aid agency Trócaire last year, they pointed out how this helped “bring support and relief to 2.8 million people throughout the developing world”.