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Exclusion of pro-life views from NI debate criticised

By Sarah Mac Donald - 12 January, 2015

Archbishop Eamon Martin smilingArchbishop Eamon Martin has urged Irish catholics to “witness courageously to a culture of life” as he criticised the exclusion of ‘pro-life’ arguments from the debate in Northern Ireland over possible changes to its abortion law.

In his homily on Sunday at the baptism of a number of children at St Patrick’s Cathedral in Armagh, the Primate of All Ireland said the Church would mount a “robust defence” of the right to life of mothers and unborn babies diagnosed with fatal foetal abnormalities.

He said catholics should question their politicians over where they stand on this issue.

He also warned that Northern Ireland’s Minister for Justice’s consultation document “proposes that totally innocent and terminally ill babies in the womb will no longer have an absolute right to life”.

The Archbishop warned that under David Ford’s proposals for the ‘Criminal Law on Abortion: Lethal Foetal Abnormality and Sexual Crime’ children diagnosed with fatal foetal abnormalities wouldn’t have the “right to all the care and medical support that we would expect and wish for any child or adult who is terminally ill”.

A delegation representing the Church is due to meet the Minister for Justice and his officials this week to discuss their dissatisfaction with the consultative document.

Archbishop Martin said the delegation would be “unapologetic” in calling for quality peri-natal and post-natal hospice care and of counselling for those faced with the trauma and anxiety of having a terminally ill unborn child.

In his homily, the Archbishop said the Catholic faith brings with it a responsibility to build a culture of life, “where every person is worthy of the very best care and utmost tenderness” and he underlined that this was especially true of the most vulnerable and most defenceless persons.

He criticised the “throwaway” culture which weighs one life up as more important and worthy of protection than another, and which would even discard the right to life of the most vulnerable.

The comments are likely to noted by the Government in view of recent calls for the abortion law south of the border to be amended to deal with cases of fatal foetal abnormalities.

In December, the Minister for Health, Leo Varadkar expressed support for abortion in the case of fatal foetal abnormality.

Speaking in the Dáil during a debate on a private members’ bill tabled by Independent TD Clare Daly, the Minister said the contentious abortion legislation introduced in 2013 “forces couples to bring to term a child that has no chance of survival for long outside the womb if at all”.

He said “I do not believe anything is served by requiring women or couples to continue with such pregnancies should they not wish to do so when there is no chance of the baby surviving.”

Though he said he was in favour of change to the Eighth Amendment, Minister Varadkar added that the current Government has no mandate to change the current law, and that it would have to be done by referendum.

Elsewhere in his homily on Sunday, Archbishop Martin told the parents of the children being baptised, “I imagine that for any mum or dad, there is no more awesome and inspiring sight than to gaze in wonder at your new-born child, this new person which God has placed into your arms to nurture and to love? Your child is sacred. Your child is unique,” he said.

He added that in deciding to have their child baptised, they had chosen to offer their little one the “beautiful gift of faith in God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit”.

“What a challenge and responsibility it is to teach and explain to your own child the values of the Gospel of Christ, especially nowadays in a world which often promotes attitudes contrary to the Gospel,” Dr Martin commented.

Though he underlined that baptism does not bring some instantaneous change whereby, as if by magic, we suddenly become committed followers of Jesus.

“Being Christian involves a lifetime journey of renewing over and over again our commitment and friendship with God. It is a voyage of discovery, during which we make many choices; we learn every day what it really means to be a follower of Christ,” he said.

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