CURA Annual Conference 2003 – Texts of addresses by Archbishop Sean Brady and Bishop Colm O’Reilly

21 Feb 2003


Issued by the Catholic Communications Office on behalf of CURA

Strictly embargoed until 7.30pm on Friday 21 February 2003


Texts of Addresses by Archbishop Sean Brady and Bishop Colm O’Reilly

‘Responding to Changing Times’ is the theme of the 26th CURA Annual Conference, at the
Fairways Hotel, Dundalk, from Friday 21st to Sunday 23rd February 2003. The Conference
will be opened this evening by Brid Rogers, Deputy Leader of the S.D.L.P.

Most Rev Sean Brady, Archbishop of Armagh and Most Rev Colm O’Reilly, Bishop of Ardagh
and Clonmacnois and President of CURA, will speak at the opening ceremony this evening.

The texts of their addresses are included herewith and are strictly embargoed until
7.30pm on Friday 21st February 2003.

21 February 2003

Further information:
Ms Mairead Curran
087 243 9340


I am very pleased to be able to join with CURA tonight to wish you all well at your
Conference here in Dundalk and to acknowledge the very important contribution CURA
makes to life in Ireland today.

CURA is available to all women who find themselves unhappily pregnant – whether
single or married. I unreservedly recommend its caring, supportive and positive
response to all in need of practical help and emotional support in facing an
unwanted pregnancy.

Since its inception in 1977, CURA has always defended the right of every child to
be born and to receive from society its consequent human rights. The organisation
began as a telephone counselling service. Today, the services of CURA are available
in 17 centres nationwide and last year its 350 plus volunteer workers received almost
7,000 telephone calls and met face-to-face with 4,000 personal callers.

To all of you at the coal face who provide compassionate care and practical support
for reluctant and panicking parents-to-be, and their extended families, I say a very
sincere thank you on my own behalf and on behalf of all those whom you have helped
over the years.

CURA believes in the right of every infant to be born and loved. It does not and
cannot ever regard abortion as a way of coping with a crisis pregnancy. All of us
here gathered tonight were at one time “precious fruit of the womb”. There is no
one as vulnerable or as defenceless as a child in its mother’s womb. Children in
their mothers’ wombs are very much at the mercy of their parents’ decisions and
actions, and of the attitudes and values of society outside of the womb. Very
recently a friend of mine, who is a parent himself with young children, was
telling me about current story lines in “Eastenders” and “Coronation Street”
and about the questions his children asked him when Kat and Laura in Albert Square
discovered themselves to be pregnant, not to mention how Maria in “Coronation Street”
coped when she discovered herself to be carrying the child of her friend’s boyfriend.

Unlike the “soaps” that so many of us in modern society watch, CURA is a beacon of
hope. In providing care for all who seek assistance with an unplanned pregnancy,
CURA is following the example of Christ who not only spoke words of compassion and
hope to those in distress but also offered them practical help. The Church through
organisations like CURA stretches out welcoming, healing and caring hands to ensure
that the infant in the womb and the expectant mother, and father, and all concerned
are loved and helped during and after a crisis pregnancy.

I wish you well in your deliberations and pray God’s grace and blessing on all of you.

Most Rev Sean Brady
Archbishop of Armagh and Primate of All Ireland



The spire on O’Connell Street, still without a really memorable name, was finally topped
or capped, or whatever the appropriate word is, on the 21st of January. When the final
stage of the construction was postponed again and again, I felt irrationally disappointed.
However, the waiting did one positive thing for me. An image for the sacredness of life
was created in my mind.

The spire is made up of six sections. Putting the last one in place was a really tricky
business. Not only did it involve getting it up 120 metres from the ground but also this
final piece was the most important one of all to the entire structure. It was this one
that would hold the entire monument together. You may recall that we were told that, if
the last piece could not be put in place, then the one immediately beneath it would have
to be taken down again.

It was while all this was being discussed on the airwaves, that the connection between
the spire and human life in its entirety came to mind. After Christmas, you see, there
were very disappointing, not to say alarming, things being reported about human life.
An announcement was made on the 28th December that the first successful human cloning
had been achieved. You will recall, of course, that much cold water has been thrown
on that particular claim since then. At that time too the media were beginning to look
to the year ahead and placing bets on what the year would hold. They predicted that a
war on Iraq was on the cards. And in addition to these forebodings the New Year began
with a series of murders in Ireland. Four murders were reported on the first three
days of January. Yes, Dublin was about to have an impressive monument erected on its
main city street. But, meanwhile, the world seemed to be intent on demolishing the
supports for human life.

Holding life in high esteem and respect has something in common with the building of
the spire. All of life is sacred and all of its different parts share in that sacred
nature. A veteran broadcaster of the 1960’s called Malcolm Muggeridge who discovered
Mother Teresa of Calcutta experienced a particular moment of inspiration in Lourdes.
Looking into the eyes of a terminally ill but serene woman he came to the conclusion
that “if all of life is not sacred, then none of life is sacred”. A very distinguished
and respected American churchman, Cardinal Joseph Bernardine, frequently used a particular
phrase which summed up his thinking in a similar way. He was a long-term promoter of
something that he called “a consistent life ethic”, making a case for protection for
life in the womb and questioning use of the death penalty. In a document of the Second
Vatican Council of nearly forty years ago that idea was summed up in a single sentence.
In that historic statement the Church condemned a long list of attacks on life beginning
with murder and abortion and ending with forcing people to work in inhuman conditions.
So, to be truly pro-life, you must be solidly for all that protects and rigidly against
all that undermines the sacredness of human life. Like the spire on O’Connell Street all
our arguments for life are interdependent; all would fall if one part were taken away,
one moment of life not considered worthy of defence.

I mentioned the fact that the final section of the spire to be put in place is the one
that holds the entire structure together. What is it that holds the sacredness of life
together? It is surely the general attitude of society that guides the actions of
individual people faced with particular decisions. When respect for life unravels,
humanity can descend to quite appalling barbarity.

There was one notorious example of this in the extermination of the Jews under the Nazis
in Germany. One man’s particular task was to take charge of the trains carrying these
unfortunate people to their final and awful destination. He organised the trains with
supreme efficiency. His efficiency led to the swift extermination of literally millions
of people. When he was eventually tried for his crimes, the prosecuting counsel asked
him a question. The lawyer posed it because he was curious. He asked why it was that
he had expended such energy, devoted himself so single-mindedly to so destructive and
evil a task. His answer was that he had not achieved the level of education that would
normally entitle him to be promoted in the German Army. He felt that if he did this
job with ruthless efficiency he would get promotion. The lesson seems to be that where
respect for life is gone you need little reason to commit even the most awful of crimes.

In our world where life is threatened on many fronts where does CURA make a difference?
There are many things that we might like to do but cannot. It is not the task of Cura
to respond to the immoral use of modern technology to tamper with life. Neither, of
course, are we in any way responsible for reclaiming the streets for law and order and
reducing the violence that leads to loss of life. But it is the task of Cura to be a
witness to the sacredness of life at its most frail and vulnerable stage. We continue
to keep before society the ideals in which we believe. Think about the spire with a
bright light at its pinnacle. Everyone who contributes to the saving of life is holding
a precious light aloft.

Cura celebrates its Conference in 2003 in County Louth where we remember St Brigid,
whose memory is associated with fire, a fire that her followers believed they must
keep alight. Her cloak, legend tells us, spread and spread until it covered the plains
of Kildare. The symbol stands for her great influence rather than any territorial
power surely. We hope that CURA’s influence like Brigid’s cloak will continue to spread.
Through its faithful service and the selfless dedication may our volunteers continue
to hold aloft the spire of life telling the world that to us that all of it is totally

+Colm O’Reilly
21 February 2003