By Cian Molloy - 05 January, 2020
"As Catholics we are unapologetically pro life and are proud and honoured to stand up for the voiceless," said the Tullamore Parish Facebook post that prompted an apology.
Tullamore Parish in Co. Offaly has deleted its entire Facebook account after publishing a post on Christmas Eve about IVF treatment being inconsistent with Catholic teaching. The post was criticised by the Minister for Health, Simon Harris.
The Facebook post came five days after Minister Harris announced that €2m will be used to give couples access to fertility treatments including in vitro fertilisation, a medical procedure that is inconsistent with Catholic teaching and which results in the destruction of human embryos and zygotes.
The post, which accompanied a picture of Jesus in the womb captioned “He’s on His Way”, said: “Let us continue to pray for life. We pray for couples struggling to naturally conceive life and who are avoiding IVF treatment.
“The process of IVF damages embryonic stem cells and thus life and is therefore totally incompatible with our Catholic faith. For all believers in God, all life is sacred at all times.”
In the UK, IVF treatment results in the destruction of 170,000 ‘surplus’ human embryos each year, according to a 2015 Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority report.
The Tullamore Parish Facebook post continued: “As Catholics we are unapologetically pro life and are proud and honoured to stand up for the voiceless and the vulnerable unborn persons whom we are called to love, cherish and to bring closer to God. Thank you God for the gift of our life. May our lives give glory to you and inspire others to protect life.”
Nevertheless, within a week, the parish apologised for the pro life post and deleted its Facebook account. This move followed criticism by those who see no problems with IVF treatment, including Minister Harris, who said: “The comments were, I am sure unintentionally, extremely hurtful to many families who are struggling with fertility issues.
“I thought and certainly hoped we had moved to a point as a country that this sort of inappropriate interference in decisions that individuals and couples make about their own lives would be left to them.”
A section of the Tullamore Parish website home page now reads: “A post published on the Tullamore Parish Facebook page on Christmas Eve concerning IVF has caused great distress to many members of our parish community and beyond. For hurt caused we apologise.
“Matters concerning fertility are sacred and sensitive, and all children are cherished and God-given, this is the essence of the Christmas message.
“The parish understands the great suffering experienced by mothers and fathers who long for a child. At this time, we offer our pastoral and prayerful support to all parents and expectant parents.”
No spokesperson from the parish was available to provide comment to CatholicIreland.Net, but we were told that Bishop Thomas Deenihan of Meath was not involved in the decision to remove the Facebook post and delete the account.
The campaign group Human Life International (HLI) issued a statement expressing disappointment that the parish “felt compelled to apologise for speaking the truth”.
“Whilst in no way minimising the suffering entailed by infertility, people deserve to know that IVF causes grievous loss of human life, is seriously offensive to God,” said HLI executive director Patrick McCrystal. “Almost half of embryos used to help…women conceive through in vitro fertilisation are thrown away during or after the process. No-one is pointing out this horrendous loss of life, and how the technological manipulation of the creation of human life is in severe conflict with the Creator’s plan.
“Any parish must be free to discuss, advance and inform parishioners on Catholic Church teaching without being attacked by politicians and the media.”