By Sarah Mac Donald - 17 February, 2016
“If life is not fully respected and protected then the very basis of our society is weakened,” one of the country’s top prelates warned in his pre-election message on Tuesday.
Archbishop Michael Neary of Tuam said it was regrettable that some of those standing for election have declared their intention to work to remove the pro-life 8th Amendment from the Constitution.
“This simplistic approach to the most significant of issues is not only an outright attack on the unborn, but an affront to the charter of human rights enshrined in Ireland’s basic law,” he criticised.
He also warned that if an unborn child has a life-limiting condition, it would be “inhumane to withdraw the protection of the Constitution to their right to life”.
He appealed, “In this most significant of centenary years” that all the children of the nation be cherished equally, whether unborn or born, and irrespective of a child’s health status.
Archbishop Neary said concern for the rights of the unborn was broader that a faith issue, stating “This is about life and basic human rights. It is not an exclusively ‘Catholic issue’.”
The 8th Amendment guarantees the right to life of the unborn and the equal right to life of the mother.
Being pro-life in contemporary Ireland means, more and more, being counter-culture, being radical, Dr Neary suggested.
However, he stated, the consequences of abortion for the unborn could not be ignored and Irish society at this time had “a crucial responsibility to our future generations”.
Warning that permitting abortion in difficult cases was like pulling a loose thread in a garment, he observed, “There may be no definitive point at which the unraveling can be stopped.”
“As part of a conscientious engagement by citizens, I invite voters to ask their constituency candidates whether or not they support the sacredness of every human life, and to provide clarification about defending the weak and those who are easy to otherwise dismiss, and whose constitutional protection is now at risk.”
His views were echoed by Bishop Kevin Doran in his pre-election message which was also released on Tuesday.
In it the Bishop of Elphin said he found it “very difficult to see how any Catholic could, in good conscience, vote for a candidate or a political party whose policy it is to legalise abortion.”
He stated that children diagnosed with a fatal foetal abnormality like any other child are entitled to the support of proper peri-natal hospice services.
He urged voters to press candidates seeking their vote on their stance on abortion and suggested that they do it not only on the doorstep but also on social media.
“The right to life is a fundamental human right. Respect for life is one of the key indicators of a civilised society,” he stated in his message.
Noting that in recent months there has been talk of removing the right to life of the unborn from the Constitution, the bishop said this had tended to focus on babies with life-limiting conditions.
Much of what is presented in the public debate as fact is actually quite misleading he warned.
“Some babies who are seriously ill only live for a very short time, while others live significantly longer.”
Dr Doran added, “For a Christian, however, there is no such thing as a life without value. For as long as they live, children with life-limiting conditions are entitled to be loved and cared for like any other child and their parents are entitled to the support of proper peri-natal hospice services.”
While some political parties and individual candidates have made no secret of the fact that they favour the widespread availability of abortion, others have begun to talk about “assisted suicide” he highlighted.
“We need to convince our politicians of the importance of supporting and promoting a culture of life that recognises the unique value of every human person, and we need to actively support those who do,” he said.
Elsewhere he noted that one of the mantras of this election campaign is that “it is all about the economy”.
He said this is true, provided Irish society remember that the economy is primarily about people, not just money.
Other key issues which Archbishop Neary said were being raised by voters and candidates in the run up to voting day included unemployment and especially among young people, emigration, rural crime, flooding, homelessness, housing, poverty, the quality of our education system, medical services, and the many challenges facing farmers, all of which greatly affect the dignity of life for many families and individuals across our country.
Bishop Doran urged voters to quiz candidates on include the A&E crisis, youth unemployment, a resolution to the refugee crisis, the persecution of Christians in the Middle East, as well as the housing crisis which he said was contributing to family breakdown.
He said the next government needs to prioritise the resourcing of organisations such as Accord, the Catholic agency for Marriage and the Family, which had seen its funding drastically reduced, while demands for its services continue to increase.
“Previous cuts in this area have been detrimental to the wellbeing of families and should be reversed,” he said.
The Bishop warned that more families are becoming homeless in Ireland now than at the height of the economic crisis, while the National Asset Management Agency, on behalf of the State, holds an enormous portfolio of property, much of it in the form of houses and apartments.