The Eighth Amendment


Sir, – The article about the abortion referendum by Brendan Butler of We Are Church is most puzzling (Rite & Reason, February 20th). We Are Church proclaims its commitment to renewal of the Church on the basis of the Second Vatican Council and the theological spirit derived from it. In Gaudium et Spes, section 51, the Council Fathers taught that “from the moment of its conception life must be guarded with the greatest care while abortion and infanticide are unspeakable crimes”.

Nevertheless Mr Butler appears to believe that the legal protection given to unborn children by the Eighth Amendment and the spiritual penalties against abortion in canon law are both to be deplored. Mr Butler does not tell us whether or not he believes abortion to be wrong but he certainly does not want it to be prohibited by law – either the law of the State or that of the Church. So how then is life to be guarded from the moment of its conception? Perhaps Mr Butler thinks that he theological spirit derived from Vatican II must be opposed to what the Council. It would be of interest to know if this is indeed the case.

The Eighth Amendment protects life from conception but belief in the value of life is not the exclusive preserve of Catholics; indeed one fears that all too many Catholics do not accept their Church’s teaching on this subject. I accept the teaching of Vatican II on abortion without reservation but I did not need the Council to tell me that the deliberate destruction of innocent life is wrong. That truth I realised as a child long before I was received into the Church. – Yours, etc,