Bishop Doran Draws Large Crowd at F&L Meeting
Despite it being the hotest day of the year, a large crowd turned out recently to hear Bishop Kevin Doran of Elphin speak on “Every Human Life a Gift: Defending the Pro-Life Amendment,” at a meeting organised by Family & Life in Athlone.
Bishop Doran reflected on how the horrors of the Second World War led to the emergence of a new appreciation for human rights and a commitment to their defence. This led, in 1948, to the proclamation of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. “One of the first articles of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights is that ‘everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of person’. That right to life is the basis for the exercise of any other right.” That “everyone” includes unborn children, whose humanity is confirmed by our growing scientific understanding of the beginnings of human life.
“It is sad and terribly inconsistent,” Bishop Doran said, “that, in a world which places such a huge emphasis on equality, organisations such as the United Nations and Amnesty International, which have done so much to promote human rights, should actively seek to set aside the right to life of the unborn child.”
During his presentation, Bishop Doran focused in particular on children with life-limiting conditions. “They are being used, shamelessly,” he warned, “by certain activists in the media and by some politicians as a pretext for liberalising the law on abortion.”
“The use of words like ‘fatal’ or ‘lethal’ imply that there is some clarity about the outcome and that death is imminent and inevitable. The reality is that every case is different and that, some babies will die before birth, and others will live for just a few hours, while some will live for significantly longer.
“While it is obviously very distressing for a woman to know that the baby she is carrying is very seriously ill, foetal abnormalities do not of themselves constitute a threat to the life or health of the mother. By contrast, many parents of children born with life-threatening conditions speak of how important it was for them to have the chance to care for their child until death naturally occurred. As it happens, I had the privilege just this evening to spend some time with a family whose five year old child is in the final stages of such an illness. Needless to say, they are very sad, but deeply grateful for the gift of their little child, who has been such a focus of love in their lives. Can I ask you to pause with me in quietness for a few moments, to remember them in prayer.”
The Bishop spoke of others who discovered that their baby’s prognosis was actually better than they had originally been given to understand and recommended his listeners to read about their stories on the websites of One Day More and Every Life Counts.
“From an ethical point of view, the situation of a child with a life-threatening illness is quite similar to that of an adult in the advanced stages of motor-neurone disease. If abortion were to be considered acceptable in the case of unborn children with life-limiting conditions, then we would have to accept, logically, that euthanasia would also be the norm for any person in the advanced stages of Motor-Neurone disease, Parkinson’s, or indeed cancer. By contrast, the response of a civilised society is to offer palliative care which includes, warmth, tenderness, nutrition and hydration, as well as the appropriate management of pain.”
Affirming that abortion in the case of a baby with a life-limiting condition is based on acceptance of the principle that there is such a thing as a human life without value, Bishop Doran warned that the same principle informed “the mass murder of hundreds of thousands of so-called ‘undesirables’” in Nazi Germany.
“Every human life has meaning and value, because every person is created by God for eternal life. In the meantime, one of the particular challenges facing parents of unborn children with life-limiting conditions is that there is only one neo-natal hospice in the whole of Ireland to respond to their needs. The promotion of a culture of life would include a greater provision of neonatal-hospice services, to support parents in caring for their sick children until natural death. This is something towards which we can and should all work and I would call on the Government to take action on this without delay.”
Bishop Doran went on to explain the importance of the Pro-Life 8th Amendment, how it came about, and what its enduring value is. He recalled that he had been among those who campaigned in favour of the amendment in 1983.
“Looking back now, I have no hesitation in saying that we got it right. I am convinced that thousands of lives have been saved and, notwithstanding the large numbers who travelled to England over the years, a great number of women were culturally supported in not choosing abortion.
“There are, of course, pregnancies which present significant difficulties for all sorts of reasons, emotional, medical and economic, but ‘hard cases do not make good law’.”
Bishop Doran then went on to explain certain aspects of the Supreme Court’s 1992 decision in the X Case, a decision which he said was “logically flawed in many respects and which completely misinterprets the 8th Amendment.”
“The Supreme Court, instead of interpreting the Constitution, seems to have gone beyond it and changed its meaning, which it is not the competence of the Court to do. The Court should have respected the stated intention of the vast majority of the Irish people, and might usefully have made reference to the principle of double-effect, which allows for all necessary medical treatment for the mother.”
Considering the campaign currently underway to repeal or change the 8th amendment, Bishop Doran reminded the audience that just as there is no such thing as being just a little bit pregnant, there is no such thing as a little abortion.
“Every abortion is the taking of an innocent human life. The proposal to repeal the Pro-Life amendment is about widening the grounds for abortion. No matter what alternative form of wording may be proposed, the intention will be that more babies die.”
The Bishop said he believes the government’s proposed “Citizens’ Assembly” is “nothing more than a smokescreen, by means of which the Government wants to distance itself from the political consequences, by pointing the finger towards some other group”.
In closing, Bishop Doran urged those present to arm themselves with the facts and to talk to their neighbours about the issue in a respectful manner, “just as you would about the All Ireland or the weather. This is not a time to be shy and retiring.”
Irish Episcopal Conference. July 21.