Bishop Kevin Doran has issued a pastoral message on the protection of the life of the unborn titled ‘The Gift of Life – A Shared Responsibility’. In his message, Bishop Doran said, ‘the new human embryo is formed at fertilisation, but it is God who breathes his life-giving spirit to create a person in his own image and likeness; entrusted to the loving care of the parents, but created for relationship with Him.’
Bishop Doran, Bishop of Elphin and Chair of the Bishops’ Consultative Group on Bioethics, delivered his pastoral message at a ‘Two Lives, One Love’ meeting with parishioners in the deanery of Strokestown, Co Roscommon. The meeting is the first of a series of information evenings that will take place across the Diocese of Elphin in the coming months, which will aim to explore the life question, and how we can respect life and support women.
In his message, Bishop Doran said, ‘In the summer of 2016, I noticed a pair of swans with their five recently hatched cygnets on the Garavogue river. By the following spring, they were almost fully grown. Their muddy brown feathers had been replaced with new white ones. They had had seemed like “ugly ducklings” but they were swans just like their parents. If something as natural as this can inspire in us a spirit of wonder and awe at the mystery of life, how much more so must the birth of a baby who is of our own flesh and blood.
‘We Christians are by no means the only ones who see the hand of God at work in the formation and coming to birth of a new child. It is something which we share with Jews and Muslims and in varying degrees with people of other religious traditions. From the earliest pages of Scripture we come across a deep awareness of God as the one who calls us into life and into relationship with him, “who forms us in our mother’s womb” (Ps 139) and who chooses us “to live through love in his presence” (Eph 1).
‘Man and woman contribute the biological material out of which the new human embryo is formed at fertilisation, but it is God who breathes his life-giving spirit to create a person in his own image and likeness; entrusted to the loving care of the parents, but created for relationship with Him. Pope Benedict expressed this beautifully when he said: “We are not some casual and meaningless product of evolution. Each of us is the result of a thought of God. Each of us is willed, each of us is loved, each of us is necessary.” I think most parents instinctively know that, even if they can’t always put words on it.’
Bishop Doran continued, ‘Modern embryology now makes it clear that there is no conflict between faith and reason. The new human being which will be born as your baby after nine months, begins at fertilisation.’
Bishop Doran also noted, ‘Both Pope John Paul II and Pope Francis have acknowledged that there are many factors which can influence the decision to have an abortion, and that it can be a painful and shattering decision. Both Popes, while insisting that abortion is always gravely sinful, have assured us that God’s mercy is always available to us when we turn to Him. This surely is the correct balance.’
He went on to say, ‘When it comes to the right to choose, there is a tendency to forget that there is another person involved; a vulnerable person who has no choice and who depends entirely on others for protection. If society accepts that one human being has the right to end the life of another, then it is no longer possible to claim the right to life as a fundamental human right for anybody. A number of EU member states have already legalized Euthanasia. I am convinced that if we concede any ground on abortion, the very same arguments which are now being used to justify abortion will be used to justify ending the lives of frail elderly people and people with significant disability. This is the final frontier. If we cross it, there will be no easy way back.’
Concluding his message, Bishop Doran said, ‘People sometimes talk about prayer as if it were the last refuge. I don’t see it that way. In prayer, we ask for hearts that are in tune with the heart of God. If you are uncertain about how to vote or what to do, I encourage you to pray daily for the gift of Wisdom, and to allow God’s Spirit to be your guide. You will find spiritual resources on www.chooselife2018.ie’
‘Whatever happens in respect of the Constitution, there will continue to be a need to support women, especially women who face challenging circumstances in pregnancy. With that in mind, I am exploring how, beyond the specific activity involved in crisis pregnancy counselling (which is already offered by Cura), we might be able to provide some additional supports which would empower women to choose life, not just for the baby, but for their own sake as well. I would be glad to hear from anyone who has particular expertise or personal experience which might help us to shape this response.
The full text of Bishop Doran’s pastoral message can be found on www.chooselife2018.ie.