Vote No to honour women who stood up to moralising, says archbishop

Repeal would ‘bring about a radical change to our broad pro-life culture’

Archbishop Diarmuid Martin has urged parishes to hold “a special moment of prayer for life” over the weekend. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill / The Irish Times

Archbishop Diarmuid Martin has urged parishes to hold “a special moment of prayer for life” over the weekend. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill / The Irish Times

 

Christians must be pro-life when it comes to the unborn and those who are vulnerable at the end of their lives, Catholic Archbishop of Dublin Diarmuid Martin has said.

Referring to the referendum on May 25th, he said “it seems incongruous that just as medical science allows us to understand much more about the evolution of the baby in the womb and his or her originality and unique identity that we should simply throw out all Constitutional protection of the unborn child. For that reason I will be voting No.”

The archbishop also recommended that over the coming weekend every parish in the Dublin archdiocese “hold a special moment of prayer for life” at a time of each parish’s choosing to coincide with “the Feast of Pentecost, dedicated to the protection of life”.

In a statement on Thursday, he asked “the Catholic community in the archdiocese of Dublin to join in moments of prayer in the coming days in each parish.

“I ask you to invoke the spirit of Jesus to touch hearts and commit our society to be pro-life in defending the lives of unborn children and in supporting women and men in the challenges they meet in accepting the joy of parenthood.”

For too long “a mentality was common in Ireland in which single mothers were ostracised and humiliated. This narrow moralistic culture was often sadly enhanced by the attitude of the church.

“It was women who stood up and challenged that culture and affirmed their desire and right to be able to keep and give love to their children. We owe a debt to those women who, then and now, [are a] witness to life. It is still not easy to be a lone parent and we have to create an environment to ease the obstacles and burdens of lone parents and their children,” he said.

‘Future legislation’

The Eighth Amendment “ought to have been accompanied by an appropriate legislative framework to assist doctors in dealing with complex situations. This is still possible,” he said.

Repealing the amendment was “not about permitting limited abortion. It would bring about a radical change to our broad pro-life culture. It would end any Constitutional protection whatsoever for the unborn.

“Proposed future legislation would permit abortion without restriction up to 12 weeks, but also permit abortion on physical and mental health grounds up to six months,” he said.

In future it would be possible, “that small minority parties of a coalition government could demand that abortion legislation be extended as part of a programme for government.

“Future legislation regarding abortion could become the sole prerogative of an Oireachtas in a future culture that could be desensitised if abortion became more frequent. This has been the experience in many other countries,” he said.

Repealing the Eighth Amendment in such circumstances “ would be a point of no return”, he said.

Fr Laurence Flynn, prior of the pilgrimage centre at Lough Derg, Co Donegal, has asked that people join him in prayer “that the protection offered by the Irish Constitution to unborn human life may not be set aside”.

Pray also “for mothers and fathers of children still in the womb, and especially for those whose unborn child may be particularly vulnerable because of difficult circumstances in which its parents find themselves,” he said.

Evangelical Christians

Evangelical Alliance Ireland, which represents evangelical Christians and organisations in the Republic, has also called for retention of the Eighth Amendment.

In a statement, it said “we are opposed to the imposition of religious dogma through State compulsion or legislation. However, the protection of unborn children is a human rights issue and should not be viewed as simply a matter of church and State separation or of religion versus secularism.”

Choice was “important and to be cherished, but we also have an obligation to protect those who are powerless and unable to make choices that directly affect their futures. There is no provision under international law or any major treaty for anyone to have a human right to an abortion” it said.

It continued that “the preamble to The Convention on the Rights of the Child (one of the core international Human Rights instruments) states that the child needs special safeguards and care, including appropriate legal protection ‘before as well as after birth’. It further states, within its articles, that prenatal medical care is a basic human right for children (thereby implicitly recognising that human rights start before birth).”

It said “we suggest that human rights are too important to be left to the mercy of political expediency, and should be enshrined in the Constitution.”

The Irish people were being asked “to relinquish any say on this vital human rights issue and to give career politicians an unlimited number of undated legislative blank cheques”, the alliance said.