June 2005 General Meeting Irish Bishops’ Conference

16 Jun 2005


16 JUNE 2005



Following the completion yesterday of the three day June General Meeting of
the Irish Bishops’ Conference in Maynooth, the following statement has been
issued addressing:
1. Pope Benedict XVI
3. Our Children: Our Church
4. Stewardship Trust
5. Preliminary Response to the Report of the Commission on Assisted
Human Reproduction
6. Overseas Aid
7. Meath School Bus Tragedy
8. Northern Ireland
9. World Youth Day 2005
10. Day for Life 2005
11. Publication of MARY, GRACE AND HOPE IN CHRIST by the Anglican
Roman Catholic International Commission
1. Pope Benedict XVI
As this was the first meeting of the Bishops’ Conference since the election
of Pope Benedict XVI on 19th April, the bishops conveyed their good wishes
and offered prayers that that Holy Spirit may inspire and guide him as leader
of the Catholic Church.
Since its establishment by the Irish Bishops, almost 30 years ago, CURA has
provided support and care for women who were pregnant in difficult circumstances,
and for their unborn babies. CURA volunteers have shown generous commitment
to the protection of life and to the needs of the women they serve. We, the
Bishops of Ireland, pay tribute to them and thank them in the name of the
Church in Ireland.  
The controversy of recent weeks arises because of doubts expressed both within
CURA and outside it as to whether it is right for CURA to offer the Positive
Options Leaflet, published by the Crisis Pregnancy Agency (CPA). All of the
agencies listed in the leaflet are legally obliged to provide supports that
will enable the woman to see other options as more attractive than abortion.
The Bishops recognise that the intention of those who favour giving the leaflet
in very specific circumstances is to try to save the life of the unborn baby
and that the experience of volunteers suggests that this may not always be a
vain hope.  The suggestion made in some quarters that CURA volunteers would
give the leaflet in order to deliberately facilitate an abortion is unfounded.
The Bishops also recognise that the concern of those who oppose giving the
leaflet arises from their commitment to respecting and protecting the life
of the unborn child. They fear that this may facilitate a woman in having
an abortion.
The National Executive Committee of CURA has asked the Bishops for guidance
on this complex moral issue.
Having considered the question carefully the Bishops have concluded that some
aspects of the Positive Options Leaflet would need to be changed if it is to
be acceptable. It seems clear that the aim of promoting options other than
abortion cannot be reconciled with:
* presenting abortion simply as an option among others;
* the implication that abortion is a positive option;
* the fact that seven of the nine agencies listed in the leaflet
state that they “will give contact details for abortion clinics,
if requested in a pregnancy counselling session”.
Other important issues arising include the lack of any reference to the right
to life of the unborn child in the leaflet and certain aspects of the question
of referral.
The Bishops have therefore requested the NEC to discontinue the policy of
offering the leaflet and to raise these concerns with the CPA.
The difficulties at CURA have arisen because of the strong commitment on the
part of all concerned to protect the life of the unborn and to care for the
mother. The experience of recent years has shown the danger that the strength
of that commitment can sometimes lead to unfair questioning of the sincerity
of those with whom one disagrees as to the best methods of achieving this end.
The Bishops are confident that CURA can demonstrate that this need not be so.
Conscious of the pain this controversy has brought to CURA, the Bishops ask
all involved in this situation to seek ways of achieving healing and reconciliation
founded on the pro-life commitment which they all share.
The Bishops are convinced that this would also be greatly in the interests of
the wonderful service given by CURA for which the entire Church in Ireland is
so greatly in their debt.
3. Our Children: Our Church
The new national child protection policies and procedures, Our Children: Our
Church, were approved unanimously by the Bishops. The document will now be sent
to the Holy See for approval.
The document expresses the commitment of the Catholic Church in Ireland to the
consistent and determined implementation of up-to-date policies and procedures
which reflect best practice in the area of child protection.
4. Stewardship Trust
As announced at the March General Meeting, the review of the Stewardship Trust
is underway and currently involves detailed consultation with the clergy at
diocesan level.
This review is guided by the Lenten Reflection Towards Healing, which states:
“We are committed to finding and offering ways by which those who have suffered
abuse can explore with competent and compassionate people the steps that might
lead them towards healing. These may involve counselling; there may well be a
need for marriage counselling or family counselling; it may be that a person’s
education has been blighted by the experience of abuse and that some kind of
education provision would help to realise his or her potential; there may be
a need for financial advice or help with various needs, for instance ways of
relieving pressures, financial or otherwise, there may be a place for a financial
recognition of the pain that the person has suffered; there may be issues that
a survivor of child sexual abuse wishes to address about his or her
relationship with God or with the Church.” (Towards Healing – page 18)
The Bishops acknowledged the solidarity that exists between dioceses on this
matter, and, notwithstanding the limited availability of funds, the Bishops
remain committed to supporting dioceses in need.
5. Preliminary Response to the Report of the Commission on Assisted Human
* The most basic of all rights is the right to life which is not qualified by
considerations of race, sex, religion or age.  
* The common good is not simply the good of the state, or the good of
the majority; it must take into account the good of all, collectively
and individually, including human embryos.
A human embryo is an individual human being. Every human person began life
as an embryo, and that life continues uninterrupted until death. Human rights
derive from the nature of the human person, and respect for the human person
implies respect for these rights. Human rights are, at the same time,
constitutive elements of civil society and its order. The uncontrolled
application of techniques of assisted human reproduction, as well as
undermining the fundamental rights of the individual, risks causing
unforeseeable and damaging consequences for civil society.
The recent report made to Government by the Commission for Assisted Human
Reproduction raises many important issues, and it is our intention to respond
more fully to this report in due course. For the moment we wish to refer
particularly to that most basic of all rights, namely the right to life,
which is not qualified by considerations of race, sex, religion or age.
The Bishops wish to state quite categorically that the recommendation of
the Commission that “the embryo formed by IVF should not attract legal
protection until placed in the human body” is unacceptable. No commission
report can change the reality that the right to life belongs to all,
irrespective of race, sex, religion or age.
This is not simply a matter of Catholic teaching. It concerns the common
good of our society. While it is a responsibility in which all citizens
have a share it is the specific responsibility of government, one which
cannot be delegated to any other agency or commission. The common good is
not simply the good of the state, or the good of the majority; it must
take into account the good of all, collectively and individually, including
human embryos.
Advances in genetics and embryology serve to confirm that every human embryo
is an individual human being. There is certainly no scientific or philosophical
basis for distinguishing between an embryo in the womb, and one in a glass
dish or in frozen storage. The recommendation of the Commission that “the
embryo formed by IVF should not attract legal protection until placed in the
human body” appears, therefore, to have a purely utilitarian and pragmatic
motivation, namely to ensure that embryos are available for research, and
to allow for the selective disposal of those embryos which do not measure
up to certain standards. The notion that “the end justifies the means,”
if accepted in principle, has implications which extend far beyond the
issue of assisted human reproduction.
The Bishops urge legislators to continue to afford legal protection to all
embryos, irrespective of age or location. The Bishops note that such a
decision would have implications for other recommendations contained in
the CAHR report. It would preclude simply allowing embryos to perish or
using them for research.
“All human beings, from their mothers’ womb, belong to God who searches
them and knows them and knits them together with his own hands, who gazes
on them when they are tiny shapeless embryos and already sees in them the
adults of tomorrow whose days are numbered and whose vocation is even now
written in the “the book of life”.  – Evangelium Vitae, 20
Note: Evangelium Vitae (The Gospel of Life) is an Encyclical Letter of Pope
John Paul II and was published on 25 March 1995.
6. Overseas Aid
The Bishops noted with concern indications given in the Oireachtas yesterday,
by Minister of State at the Department of Foreign Affairs, Mr Conor Lenihan
T.D., that the Government is actively considering 2015 as the target date
for the 0.7% of Gross National Income for overseas development aid. The
reason given was that this is now the target date for most other EU countries.
However, this is far removed from the Government’s original target date of
2007 and this extension is in effect a rebuff to the poorest nations. In
order to achieve the United Nations Millennium Development Goals by 2015,
it is necessary that total aid budgets be doubled in the immediate future.
By setting the target date at 2015, the Minister is admitting that Government
will not be making the necessary effort to achieve the goals in time.
This development is particularly disappointing given the current international
effort being made towards a major breakthrough in the battle against poverty
and in relation to debt and trade.
7. Meath School Bus Tragedy
The Bishops conveyed their prayerful support to all those who suffered in
the school bus tragedy in Co Meath on Monday 23 May 2005.
8. Northern Ireland
The Bishops discussed the current situation in Northern Ireland and expressed
the hope that the forthcoming marching season would take place in a peaceful
They also expressed the hope that coming months would see a resolution of
the current impasse in relation to the restoration of devolution and an end
to paramilitarism and criminality.
9. World Youth Day 2005
World Youth Day 2005 will be celebrated in Cologne, Germany from16th -21st
August. This is the 20th anniversary of the event which was initiated by
Pope John Paul II.
The theme of this year’s gathering in this the Year of the Eucharist is:
‘We have come to worship Him’.
A number of Bishops will be attending with young people from their dioceses.
The Bishops intend to publish a pastoral letter entitled Building Faith in
Young People
to mark this year’s World Youth Day in August.
The Bishops offer their prayers and good wishes to all those who are travelling.
10. Day for Life 2005
The Bishops are concerned about life through all its stages. The Day for Life
2005 will be celebrated on Sunday 2nd October 2005 and the theme chosen for
this year is Cherishing the Evening of Life.
In the Encyclical letter “Evangelium Vitae” (1995), Pope John Paul II proposed
that a Day for Life be celebrated each year in every country. Since 2001 the
Irish Bishops’ Conference has celebrated a Day for Life in October covering
euthanasia, suicide and other life themes.
11. Publication of MARY, GRACE AND HOPE IN CHRIST by the Anglican Roman
Catholic International Commission

The Bishops welcomed the publication by the Anglican Roman Catholic International
Commission (ARCIC) of its document on Mary, Grace and Hope in Christ.
The document is published in the name of ARCIC with the permission of the
Anglican Communion Office and the Vatican’s Pontifical Council for Promoting
Christian Unity. It has been published with the hope, on the part of the
official Church authorities, of further discussion.
The early part of the document emphasizes what is held in common – to be
found in the early Councils, by the Fathers of the Church, particularly in
recognition of Mary as Theotokos – God-bearer. It looks too at Marian devotion
and what were once seen to be excesses to be challenged by the Reformers.
The document examines the definitions of the Immaculate Conception and the
Assumption of Our Lady and how these are viewed within the two traditions.
As regards the Immaculate Conception, paragraph 59 states:
We can affirm together that Christ’s redeeming work reached
back in Mary to the depths of her being, and to her earliest beginnings.
This is not contrary to the teaching of Scripture and can only be understood
in the light of Scripture. Roman Catholics can recognize in this what is
affirmed by the dogma – namely ‘preserved from all stain of original sin’
and ‘from the moment of conception’.”
As regards the Assumption, paragraph 58 states:
We can affirm together the teaching that God has taken the
fullness of her person into his glory as consonant with Scripture and that
it can only be understood in the light of Scripture. Roman Catholics can
recognize that this teaching about Mary is contained in the dogma.”
While these two affirmations deal with the content of the dogmas they do
not of course deal with the authority by which they were defined. This
question of authority is looked at and the conclusion is reached (par. 78):
We affirm together that this agreement, when accepted by our
two communions, would place the questions about authority which arise from
the two definitions of 1854 and 1950 in a new ecumenical context.”
(cf. par. 61 -63)
Often perceptions rather than realities can lead to inter church tensions
and we hope that this document will help to remove such tensions. We would
hope that the document’s treatment of Mary and in particular its clear
recognition and acknowledgement of the unique mediation of Christ, will
be a major contribution to inter Church dialogue.
Finally, in paragraph 65 we read that, ‘the twentieth century witnessed
a particular growth in convergence as many Anglicans were drawn into a
more active devotion to Mary and Roman Catholics discovered afresh the
Scriptural roots of real devotion.’
It is our prayer that such a convergence will continue to grow in the
twenty first century.
16 June 2005
Further information:

Martin Long Director of Communications (086 172 7678)
Brenda Drumm Communications Officer (087 233 7797)