Repealing 8th Would Undermine Rights of All - Bishop Doran
Taking away the right to life of unborn children undermines everyone’s right to life, Bishop Kevin Doran has warned. In a pastoral letter to Catholics in his diocese of Elphin, Bishop Doran said the same arguments being used to justify abortion will be used to justify ending the lives of frail elderly people and people with significant disability.
The Church has always taught that the deliberate taking of innocent human life is gravely sinful. Modern embryology now makes it clear that there is no conflict between faith and reason. The new human being, born after nine months, begins at fertilisation. The genetic identity of the new child is already there from the very beginning. Everything else is simply natural development.
“On the roads and in the workplace, there is a growing awareness in Irish society of our shared responsibility to cherish the gift of life. Against that background, it is difficult to understand why anyone would suggest that abortion should be legalised. Both Pope John Paul II and Pope Francis have acknowledged that there are many factors which can influence the decision to have an abortion, and that it can be a painful and shattering decision. Both Popes, while insisting that abortion is always gravely sinful, have assured us that God’s mercy is always available to us when we turn to Him. This surely is the correct balance.
“The responsibility for abortion does not, of course, lie with the woman alone. As Pope John Paul II wrote, each one of us has a share of responsibility for the decisions we make or for our failure to decide.”
Acceptance of abortion now will pave the way for other attacks on human life in the future, the bishop cautioned. “If society accepts that one human being has the right to end the life of another, then it is no longer possible to claim the right to life as a fundamental human right for anybody. A number of EU member states have already legalised euthanasia. I am convinced that if we concede any ground on abortion, the very same arguments which are now being used to justify abortion will be used to justify ending the lives of frail elderly people and people with significant disability. This is the final frontier. If we cross it, there will be no easy way back.”
With regard to the current proposals on abortion if the 8th Amendment is removed, Bishop Doran pointed out that they are significantly more liberal than the current law in Britain, where slightly more than one in five unborn children are aborted every year. “In Britain, all abortion is theoretically on the grounds of health, but the extension of the health ground to include risk to the mental health of the mother provides, in practice, for abortion on demand.”
Expressing concern that GPs would be expected to provide abortions under the government plans, Bishop Doran said this “would radically change the ethos of medicine, which was always about healing the sick and preventing disease. Abortion has nothing to do with healthcare. There is nothing in the job-description of your family doctor that would suggest, even for a moment, that he or she should be involved in taking human life. Some doctors may accept this, but many will be greatly troubled by it and they need our support.”
“Most people I meet seem to be quite clear that the unborn child is indeed a human baby. People struggle to balance this essential truth with the need to be compassionate; and that’s a good thing, because we do need to be compassionate. But where does true compassion lie? Is it compassionate to a woman in challenging circumstances to say:‘Maybe you should consider ending the life of your child in order to ease your pain or trauma’. Is there nothing better that we could do?
“Compassion is a feeling of deep sympathy or sensitivity. It is morally good if it moves us to act in solidarity with somebody else, but that action has to be consistent with the truth. Some well-meaning people may consider voting to remove the Eighth Amendment for the sake of compassion, but if the intention of that vote is that human babies would be aborted, I would ask:‘how can that not be gravely sinful, since it is so clearly in conflict with the truth?’”
Looking beyond the referendum, Bishop Doran concluded by pointing out that there will continue to be a need to support women, especially women who face challenging circumstances in pregnancy. “With that in mind, I am exploring how, beyond the specific activity involved in crisis pregnancy counselling (which is already offered by Cura), we might be able to provide some additional supports which would empower women to choose life, not just for the baby, but for their own sake as well. I would be glad to hear from anyone who has particular expertise or personal experience which might help us to shape this response.”
Irish Episcopal Conference. January 28.