By Cian Molloy - 14 May, 2018
A special appeal to young people to act as “Missionaries for Life” is contained in a pastoral letter on human life issued by the Archbishop of Cashel and Emly Kieran O’Reilly SMA.
This weekend, pastoral letters relating to the referendum on Friday 25 May were issued by bishops in three other dioceses – Clogher, Galway and Killala.
Archbishop O’Reilly’s pastoral was clear in its arguments: “The child in the womb is a person with potential not a potential person – as each one of us was when we were in our mother’s womb. The silent infants in the womb call on us, out of our common humanity, to protect them and to give force to that protection by rejecting this proposal being put to us. The unborn child is in the weakest of all positions and is surely most vulnerable.
“Our commitment to life is contained in the Eighth Amendment to the Constitution – a significant indicator of the values we hold as a people.
“For the above reasons I am voting ‘No’ in the coming referendum. It is my sincere hope that a majority of the people of our country will also vote ‘No’ and retain the article in its present form. And with this vote we will reiterate our commitment to life.”
In a “special appeal to our young people”, Dr O’Reilly said: “I am encouraged to see so many of you active in promoting the pro-life message, in colleges, marches and elsewhere. I know you are committed to equality and fairness. Please speak to your family and friends explaining to them why you believe that the life of the unborn baby must be protected. Let your voice be heard now and not just on the day you cast your ballot. In the coming days, I invite you to pray earnestly and to become ‘Missionaries for Life’ so that the people of Ireland will ‘Choose life’. We pray that the lives of all women and their unborn children will always be loved, valued, and respected in our land.”
In Clogher, diocesan administrator Msgr Joseph McGuinness acknowledged that for some conceiving and having a baby is not always a happy event. He said: “Sometimes a pregnancy is unexpected, unwelcome, or even hugely distressing. Sometimes the child may be diagnosed with a serious disability. It is very understandable that at times of pain and distress, even panic, the immediate ending of the pregnancy may seem to be the best, even the only solution. In these circumstances, our hearts go out to parents, and women in particular, who face huge and sometimes frightening challenges.
“The truly compassionate response is always to give to both mother and child the greatest possible care and support in both medical and human terms. We should never forget that before our eyes are two human beings in need of our compassion; two bodies that demand respect. If we see differently, it is because we have one eye closed.”
Msgr McGuinness said the referendum was about women’s rights, and men’s rights and children’s rights because the referendum is about the right of every human being to exist. He continued: “As human beings, we should stand up for the rights of other human beings, especially those who have no voice and no vote. As Catholics, we cannot in conscience vote for something which is directly contrary to the fundamental teaching of Jesus Christ to respect and defend the lives of all.”
In Galway, Bishop Brendan Kelly wrote: “There is something scandalous about presenting ‘termination’ as a first or simple solution. Unwanted and difficult pregnancy is a reality. In the current debate, it often seems we have nothing but abortion to offer distraught mothers. Does this ‘solution’ not let us all off the hook regarding the critical matter of being a truly caring and compassionate society?”
Bishop Kelly concluded his pastoral letter with a call to prayer: “As people of faith in the God of Love, Creator and Father of all, I am asking that we all pray intensely at this time for the strength and courage to live that same self-giving love that Jesus Christ lived. Let us bring that strong love and compassion to all our words and actions in this crucial life-and-death matter. Let our listening be filled with heart-felt care, our words kind and clear and convincing.
“In this month of Mary, let us confidently ask for her help, along with that of Joseph her husband and Jesus their child, that all we do personally and as a people will bring healing and life to all who are fearful, and especially to those who are entirely dependent and innocent.”
In the diocese of Killala, Bishop John Fleming quoted Pope Francis, who said “True compassion does not marginalise anyone, not does it humiliate and exclude; much less consider the disappearance of a person as a good thing.”
“The forthcoming referendum provides us with the opportunity to become what Saint Pope John Paul II referred to as ‘promoters of a new way of looking at life’,” said Bishop Fleming. “This new vision of life in Ireland would be based on respect for everyone and by everyone for themselves and for others.
“During the past half-century the Catholic Church in Ireland has been a leader in a host of caring initiatives such as Cura, Trócaire, Accord, Emigrants, the Bishops’ Drugs Initiative, Care for Prisoners Overseas, Towards Healing, Towards Peace etc. Since 1977 Cura has supported women, and men, who faced a crisis in a pregnancy. It has offered a listening ear, a non-judgmental attitude and support for expectant mothers and for those who had an abortion.
“The Catholic Church welcomes the challenges presented to it as promoters of a new way of looking at life in Ireland today. As the Irish bishops said recently, Article 40.3.3 represents the conviction that all human life is worth cherishing equally. It guarantees the right to life of the unborn child and its mother. To repeal this article from our Constitution would leave unborn children at the mercy of whatever laws might be introduced in Ireland in the future.
“Pray that Ireland will continue to earnestly support and care for the right to life of the unborn child.”