By Ann Marie Foley - 14 June, 2018
“It is essential for us as a Church which cares passionately about the gift of life, and wants to support both mothers and their unborn children, to seek better ways of responding to this new and very challenging reality.”
The Irish Catholic Bishops’ Conference (ICBC) intends to establish a new Council for Life to advise and advocate for the Catholic Church in Ireland on a consistent ethic of life and care for those most at risk.
The bishops expect it will be set up by March 2019. In preparation for the establishment of this Council, bishops will consult with those already committed to and engaged with upholding the sanctity of life in Ireland.
‘‘With the repeal of the Eighth Amendment a new situation now exists in Ireland. It is essential for us as a Church which cares passionately about the gift of life, and wants to support both mothers and their unborn children, to seek better ways of responding to this new and very challenging reality,” the ICBC said in a statement at the conclusion of its Summer 2018 General Meeting at the Columba Centre, Saint Patrick’s College, Maynooth.
It acknowledged all those who campaigned and voted to protect the lives of both mothers and their unborn children in the recent referendum.
“We appreciate that this is not an easy position to hold in our contemporary culture. We are seriously concerned that making abortion so freely available will desensitise people to the value of innocent human life and will result in more abortions in Ireland,” the ICBC said.
During the referendum debate, there were many stories of immense pain and distress experienced by women who found themselves in a crisis pregnancy, according to the ICBC. In the aftermath of the referendum there is a need to foster a “culture of care”, “a society of support” so that when a woman finds herself in a crisis pregnancy she may find practical assistance and care.
While the word “compassion” was used on all sides in debates leading up to referendum day, the bishops stated they recognised that those who worked for the retention of the protection of the right to life of the unborn in the constitution did so out of a spirit of compassion for both the pregnant mother and her unborn child.
“True compassion is at the heart of the Christian Gospel and it continues to motivate us. It values and protects every human life from conception to natural death,” the ICBC stated.
The ICBC also said that for healthcare professionals the right of conscientious objection must be respected. They said it would be a “great injustice” if doctors and nurses are required to participate, even by referral, in the provision of services that would go against their conscience.
Quoting the Code of Ethical Standards for Healthcare (Dublin: Veritas, 2018), they said that this would only be “a way of pretending to respect freedom of conscience while actually requiring one person to cooperate in what he or she sincerely believes is the wrong-doing of another. Such a presumption is at variance with the right to conscientious objection.”
The ICBC urged politicians who courageously defended the right to life of the unborn child before the referendum to continue to do so as a matter of principle.
The ICBC has been told by the national executive council of Cura that it is to cease operations. Cura has been compelled to close due to the decrease in demand for its services and the accreditation requirements associated with the new regulatory environment for counselling.
Bishops acknowledged the valuable contribution that Cura has made over the years in its support of expectant mothers, fathers and their babies. Since its establishment in 1977, Cura staff and volunteers have operated a national helpline and provided counselling and information services to help women facing crisis pregnancies. Since 1996, when aggregated records were introduced, Cura managed 163,400 face-to-face and telephone counselling sessions with clients over the 21-year period up to 2017.
Bishops praised the pro-life contribution of Cura staff, volunteers and clients over its 41 years of operation.