At the Summer 2018 General Meeting of the Irish Catholic Bishops’ Conference, which concluded yesterday 13 July in Saint Patrick’s College, Maynooth, bishops announced plans to establish a new Council for Life. The role of the new council will be to advise and advocate for the Catholic Church in Ireland on a consistent ethic of life and care for those most at risk.
Praying for Ireland during their meeting, bishops remembered mothers, fathers and their unborn children, and especially mothers experiencing crisis pregnancies.
In their statement following the meeting, bishops said, ‘With the repeal of the Eighth Amendment a new situation now exists in Ireland. It is essential for us as a Church which cares passionately about the gift of life, and wants to support both mothers and their unborn children, to seek better ways of responding to this new and very challenging reality. We intend to establish, by March 2019, a new Council for Life whose role will be to advise and advocate for the Catholic Church in Ireland on a consistent ethic of life and care for those most at risk. In preparation for the establishment of this Council, bishops will consult with those already committed to, and engaged with, upholding the sanctity of life in Ireland.
‘We wish to acknowledge and pay tribute to all those who campaigned and voted to protect the lives of both mothers and their unborn children in the recent referendum. We appreciate that this is not an easy position to hold in our contemporary culture. We are seriously concerned that making abortion so freely available will desensitise people to the value of innocent human life and will result in more abortions in Ireland.’
They continued, ‘During the referendum debate we heard many stories of immense pain and distress experienced by women who found themselves in a crisis pregnancy. Their stories touched us all. Often they felt overwhelmed and very alone. In the aftermath of the referendum it is clear that we all need to foster a culture of care, a society of support, so that when a woman finds herself in a crisis pregnancy she may find practical assistance and care.
‘The word “compassion” was regularly used in debates leading up to referendum day. We feel that it is important to recognise that those who worked for the retention of the protection of the right to life of the unborn in our Constitution did so out of a spirit of compassion for both the pregnant mother and her unborn child. True compassion is at the heart of the Christian Gospel and it continues to motivate us. It values and protects every human life from conception to natural death.’
Bishops added, ‘For healthcare professionals, the right of conscientious objection must be respected. It would be a great injustice to require doctors and nurses to participate, even by referral, in the provision of services which would be a serious violation of their conscience. This would only be “a way of pretending to respect freedom of conscience while actually requiring one person to cooperate in what he or she sincerely believes is the wrong-doing of another. Such a presumption is at variance with the right to conscientious objection” (cf. Code of Ethical Standards for Healthcare, Dublin: Veritas, 2018, 8.19).
‘We encourage politicians who courageously defended the right to life of the unborn child before the referendum to continue to do so as a matter of principle.’
The full statement following the Summer General Meeting of the Irish Catholic Bishops’ Conference can be found on www.catholicbishops.ie.