By Susan Gately - 30 December, 2018
Any sense that abortion is a progressive step for our country, for what we stand for as a nation, is misplaced, says Bishop Brendan Leahy in end of year reflection.
While legislation now provides for abortion, it is not primarily what we want and our moral compass must steer us in an entirely different direction, the Bishop of Limerick has written in a letter to the people of his diocese.
Looking back to 2018 – the high point of the papal visit, and the undoubted low for many people of the passage of the “referendum to remove the fundamental right to life of the unborn” – Bishop Brendan Leahy said that notwithstanding the result of the vote, he believed “no one, or at least very few, willingly voted primarily for the abolition of the life of the unborn child in the womb. So, regardless of what way anyone voted and the reasons people had for voting as they did, it now behoves us all to do our part to make sure that abortion is not the default response that characterises people in Ireland when crisis pregnancies arise.”
We must think of the possibilities of life and the love it can bring, wrote Bishop Leahy in his letter of 27 December. “We must think of the potential that the unbridled joy of birth can bring. How that moment, when the mother cradles the child for the first time can wipe away any sense of crisis, replacing it with that maternal instinct and life-long commitment to love and nurture. Even for those born with the starkest prognosis, knowing them, if only for a short while, surely has potential to be better than not knowing them at all.”
There will always be difficult decisions to be made, wrote the Bishop of Limerick, but “we cannot let the child be swept away lightly when making these hard decisions”.
Bishop Leahy thought many of those who voted to repeal the Eighth Amendment would not identify with the “almost triumphant celebration” at the introduction of abortion legislation or the “indifference that this celebration may suggest there is in Ireland to the child in the womb”.
“I would appeal, therefore, for a basic sense of decency in our rhetoric around the introduction of abortion into the State,” he continued. “Convinced though many may be that it is a positive step in terms of women’s rights, any sense that abortion is a progressive step for our country, for what we stand for as a nation, is misplaced.”
On the issue of conscientious objection, he said it was “outrageous” to contemplate that doctors would be forced to perform or contribute to abortion against their will. “Forcing them not to choose life would be a most inglorious watermark for this country.”
It has long been established that above any state law, there exists an unwritten divine law, what is sometimes called natural law, that recognises we are endowed with rights such as the basic human right to life. Peace in our conscience can surely only be achieved by obeying it, he said.
Addressing public representatives, he reminded them that they represented both those who voted for abortion and the “many who find its introduction deeply distressing”. He appealed to them to “keep their focus wide”.
“And above all, I urge those in crisis pregnancies to choose life. To choose a glorious possibility.”