From today, and every week, I invite you to read a newsletter Choose Life 2018 prepared for parishes by the Catholic Communications Office. The newsletter promotes the Church’s position on unborn human life and encourages family discussion on this important subject.
I appreciate, of course, that engaging in any conversation around the upcoming referendum is not easy for people. While I too find it difficult to talk about it, nevertheless the Gospel and my conscience convince me that I am obliged to speak.
In short, the possible repeal of the eighth amendment and introduction of a liberal regime of abortion in Ireland that allows abortion in some cases, not just up to 12 weeks, but also right up to the point of birth, is a pivotal moment for our society and how we cherish life in this country. In Britain, where abortion was introduced with the conviction that it would only be in exceptional cases, today one in five pregnancies end in abortion.
I invite you to be missionaries for the cause of life. It is a noble cause to uphold the sacredness of human life.
I know there may be some hearing my words who have had an abortion or know someone who has. They may find the current public discussions upsetting. To them I say I do not wish to upset. Remember Jesus’ words: “do not let your heart be troubled; trust in God”, the God who loves you immensely and whose mercy embraces you like a mother.
Much needs to be said about the implications of the repeal of the eighth amendment. I hope the newsletter will help clarify points in the coming weeks. But this week I would like to make one main point – that with all our discussions around the amendment and legislation and what way politicians are going to vote, we can become so distracted that we end up desensitised to the preciousness of the unborn baby.
It is right to attend with empathy and care to the difficult situations of women faced with challenging circumstances around pregnancy. There are many very articulate voices doing so. We do indeed need to love both mother and baby in pregnancy, but I believe that in our public commentary at the moment we are often forgetting the unborn baby.
And we are talking about a baby. Make no mistake about it. It is a baby. There is probably none of you who at some stage have not heard excited declarations of “we’re having a baby”. We’ve celebrated in that joy. We’ve prayed for the healthy pregnancy, that everything would be ok. Even in our celebrity culture, when news breaks of high-profile pregnancies, the media speaks of “she/the couple are having a baby”.
I know from conversations with pregnant women, with couples, of the sense of wonder, joy, excitement, nervousness of what lies ahead. All about the child in their womb. Indeed, many decide not to tell others until they have had their first scan, often because of the nervousness around getting that first glimpse of their baby in the early scan, of finding out is he or she healthy. I’ve had it relayed to me about almost holding their breath with nervous anticipation to hear that everything is ok.
It all speaks of “your baby” because that is exactly what is developing: a baby.
New technology is making it easier to “see” the humanity of a growing unborn child in a way we never before in history could see. Medical centres in major American cities can now perform surgeries to remedy genetically abnormal unborn babies while they’re still in the womb.
I invite you, then, to be missionaries for the cause of life.
It really is important for us to affirm that what’s in the womb are babies that are just not born yet. They are not potential persons but persons with potential; they are developing humans.
Let’s continue to pray for one another.
(This pastoral message was read out at all Masses in the Diocese of Limerick over the weekend of ¾ February 2018)