As Ireland approaches its referendum to repeal the constitutional amendment which gives equal status to both an unborn child and the mother carrying it, Ireland’s Catholic bishops stepped up their campaign to retain the eighth amendment.
Church of Ireland bishops, on the other hand, have said they support repealing the eighth – but have concerns about the legalisation of abortion which may follow.
In a series of letters across different dioceses bishops warned of an abortion culture and that a successful repeal would even pave the way for euthanasia and eugenics.
— Cork's 96FM (@Corks96FM) October 18, 2016
The Bishop of Cork and Ross Dr John Buckley said in a pastoral letter read out at all masses in 68 parishes in his diocese: “We can be sure that if a society decides that human life is disposable at its beginning, it will not be too long before it decides the same for human life at its end…human life is sacred and precious…this is true in every moment of life from its first beginning to its natural end.”
The Bishop of Kildare and Leighlin Dr Denis Nulty said repealing the Eighth Amendment would create an “abortion culture” in Ireland which could lead to the advent of eugenics, with serious implications for those with disabilities.
In a pastoral message read out in all 56 parishes in the diocese which covers all of Carlow and parts of Laois, Offaly, Kilkenny, Kildare and Wicklow, Dr Nulty said he did not agree that a pregnant woman has a right to choose whether or not to proceed with her pregnancy.
Life begins at conception, he said. “We are walking with our eyes closed into an era of eugenics, unwilling to look where we are going but still continuing on.”
The Bishop of Raphoe Dr Alan McGuckian said in a message to Mass-goers in his 33 parishes that in no circumstances – serious illness or even after rape – is a termination justified:
“A mother may be informed her baby faces serious challenges or is perhaps terminally ill. She might be pregnant as a result of rape. In such cases recommending abortion might seem like a gesture of compassion. Even in those tragic cases the unborn child needs to be loved and cherished.”
— Andrew McGowan (@BerkeleyDean) October 20, 2015
Conversely, the Church of Ireland Bishop of Limerick and Killaloe Kenneth Kearon said supporting repeal is “entirely consistent” with the Church of Ireland’s views on abortion as it opposed the original referendum in 1983.
He said the Church of Ireland is opposed to abortion on principle, but accepted that exceptions have to be made in the case of where a mother’s life is at risk, where the baby will not survive or where rape and incest have been involved.
He said he had “greater concerns” about the draft legislation which would allow for termination on any grounds up to 12 weeks. His statement followed similar remarks by the Church of Ireland archbishops of Armagh and Dublin Dr Richard Clarke and Dr Michael Jackson.
The Church of Ireland Bishop of Cashel, Ferns and Ossory Michael Burrows last month said he will vote to remove the incorrigibly flawed legislation – just as he and the church of Ireland opposed it in 1983.
Bishop Burrows said: “I will be voting for Repeal because I believe, as I did in 1983, that the text of the Eighth is incorrigibly flawed.”