Most Rev John Fleming, Bishop of Killala and President of Cura on Saturday 4th February 2006 at the 29th Cura Annual Conference in Dundrum House Hotel, Co Tipperary

04 Feb 2006





For almost thirty years Cura has cared for all those who are affected by a
crisis in their pregnancy and our motto ‘Cura cares’ has made Cura synonymous
with caring. During all these years Cura volunteers have extended a caring
hand and a listening ear to those who experienced deep trauma in their lives
and you have brought many of them through to a place where they felt secure,
made decisions with which they could live and were able to face the future
with confidence. Henri Nouwen, in his book Out of Solitude, puts words on the
work which Cura has done during all these years.
‘When we honestly ask ourselves which person in our lives means the most to
us, we often find that it is those who, instead of giving advice, solutions,
or cures, have chosen rather to share our pain and touch our wounds with a
warm and tender hand. The friend who can be silent with us in a moment of
despair or confusion, who can stay with us in an hour of grief and bereavement,
who can tolerate not knowing, not curing, not healing and face with us the
reality of our powerlessness, that is a friend who cares.’

During all these years Cura has placed its focus on those in crisis. It has
developed its organisation into a service which has centres all over the
Republic and it stretches it’s helping hand into Northern Ireland. It has
provided counselling in its Centres and schools awareness programmes for
our young people. Policies, procedures and structures have been put in place
which continue to be developed and updated to ensure the operation of a
quality and professional service provision. As a caring organisation CURA
has given exceptional service in a fully selfless way.

I think it is fair to say that Ireland has seen greater social change in the
past thirty years, since Cura was founded, than at any time in its history.
As a country we have made a significant move from being a largely rural
society to becoming an urban one; we have gone from an economy which was
termed agricultural to a one which is now seen as industrial. We have also
moved from a relatively uncomplicated way of life to having a highly
sophisticated lifestyle in a modern age.
We have seen the mass emigration of the 50’s and 60’s reversed to give way
to the opportunities which so many foreign nationals now find in our land
as they make Ireland the country of their adoption. Social inclusion challenges
us to be more open as a nation and our concern for those on the margins of our
society demands that we look with a caring eye in unsuspecting places for those
in need. As a significant player on the European stage we feel the need to
be thoroughly modern in every aspect of our lives. This has brought with it
many challenges also, not least in the area of secularisation, a materialistic
approach to living and the place of religion in our lives. In particular we
have seen the role of the Catholic Church in this country go through a period
of enormous change as well. All of this creates the new context in which
Cura offers its service. It calls for a reassessment of the way in which
we work and live. It affects each of us as individuals and as Cura volunteers
and it presents us with a great challenge. We will have an opportunity to
explore some of these challenges during this Conference.

Change challenges. It calls for openness on the one hand and it calls for
consistency on the other. In particular, change causes us in Cura to constantly
review and examine our organisation and our practice. In the midst of the
great change which surrounds us we must ensure that, while we remain faithful
to the ethos of Cura and to the vision which inspired its birth, we must also
be sure that the service we provide is appropriate to the needs of clients
who now find themselves in the midst of this great change also.

Pastoral care of those who come to us is our duty. In us they must find the
caring face of Christ and through us they must be helped to reach a place where
they can recognise Him in their lives and feel secure in His love. This is,
inevitably, a task which can be difficult and far from clear at times.

In an organisation where listening, understanding and being supportive are
the tools of our trade, as volunteers we too need to listen, understand and
acknowledge the enormous change which has taken place in our society and
continues to take place in our midst, especially in the context of the work
of CURA. In life there are many grey areas which force us to live with a
degree of uncertainty. This is especially true in a time of great change.
Our experience of life is never tidy and living with this challenges each
of us in different ways, from those who find it easy to those who find it
almost impossible.

The task which faces us at present is that of ensuring that the ethos of CURA
is faithfully rooted in the new and changed circumstances in which we find
ourselves. Using an analogy from the world of gardening, the soil around us
has been changed and we face the task of ensuring that the tender plant of
Cura, planted in the soil of the late 1970s, will now adapt itself to its new
surroundings and continue to flourish. The concerns of the gardener are our
concerns too. The grey areas for decision face us also. The questions, if,
but, should and will, are ours and the inevitable visit by a friend who asks
“why did you do it this way” is ours also. In all of this good advice, careful
thinking and good listening are essential if our plant is to flourish into
the future. However, like the gardener we too know that it is now unrealistic
to expect the plant to continue to grow in the soil in which it was first

Let me name and address issues of particular concern to us today. Some volunteers
have found difficulty with the distribution of the Options leaflet. I acknowledge
this. I respect your difficulties and I give you the assurance that steps have
been taken to examine and address them. This is a complex issue, especially in
the area of moral theology, and it has been referred to the bishops for discussion
and decision. A process is in place where all the aspects of the leaflet are
currently being examined and a decision will emerge in due time. However, time is
needed to examine this issue fully and properly and I ask for your continued
patience in this regard.

When the NEC decided that the leaflet should be distributed it followed the moral
guidance which it received at that time. However, this issue proved to be even
more complex than was appreciated at the time and it has now been referred back
to Bishops’ Conference who asked that CURA discontinue using the leaflet for
an interim period and work with them in addressing their concerns in relation
to the leaflet. This is being done. Numerous meetings between representative
groups from the Bishops’ Conference and the NEC have taken place. We have been
involved in dialogue with the CPA and we are at an advanced stage in terms of
clarifying and addressing the issues of concern.

The particular difficulties experienced by some volunteers in the Letterkenny
Centre are also being addressed. A process of facilitation is in place which,
with God’s help, will bring healing and reconciliation for all involved. Again,
many meetings have taken place on this issue. A comprehensive discussion of
the issues involved has also taken place and a mutual understanding on many
aspects of these has been reached. I am confident that, supported by a continuation
of the goodwill experienced so far by all sides, we can achieve a resolution
of this.

However, in both these areas, our work is at an important stage and I ask you
to respect our reluctance to discuss it. Words, no matter how carefully chosen,
could damage the process which is in place.

Finally let me say that plans are also being made to address issues of decision
making, communication etc within the organisation. Let me acknowledge the
extraordinarily difficult circumstances in which all of you, the volunteers,
have worked during the past year. The work of CURA touches the lives of people
at a sacred and a sensitive level. It carries with it, therefore, great interest
in the public arena and leaves us all subject to comment and debate. I acknowledge
the legitimate interest of the media and the general public in the affairs of CURA.
However, the work of CURA also carries with it great importance at the level of
the individual and of conscience and it needs a private, safe space also in
which to do this work.

Moral guidance in relation to the work of CURA is the responsibility of the
Bishops’ Conference. The guidance and support of the bishops, as teachers and
guardians of the ethos of CURA, is valued and respected. CURA, as an agency
of the Bishops’ Conference, has always been and continues to be, faithful to
its direction and loyal to its guidance. From the moral point of view, the
work of CURA takes place in some of the most complex and difficult areas of
life, where the certainty of the black and white is not always available.
Those of us who bear the responsibility of moral guidance in particular need
both the time and the space in which to examine all the aspects of the issues
involved and then make decisions which will reflect the unchanged ethos of CURA
and allow CURA to flourish in the changed circumstances in which we work.
I ask, therefore, for your continued patience and support as we do our work
and I offer to you the appreciation, support and encouragement of both the
Bishops’ Conference and the NEC of CURA, as you continue to do your work.

Let me also place on record my appreciation and the appreciation of the Irish
Bishops’ Conference of the work of every one in CURA, you the volunteers, the
NEC and the staff of the National Office. Your dedication, commitment and
loyalty to the work of CURA during the past difficult twelve months is greatly

Our difficulties have been to the forefront in the past year. However, I
believe that, with God’s help, they will be the instruments used by God to
reshape Cura and prepare it for another generation of outstanding service.

+John Fleming
4 February 2006

Further information:
Martin Long Director of Communications (086 172 7678)
Brenda Drumm Communications Officer (087 233 7797)
Noreen Keane PRO CURA (087 2701088)
Charlotte Keery PRO CURA (086 2368380)


* More than 200 CURA volunteers from 16 national centres are in attendance
at this conference which runs from Friday 3rd February to Sunday 5th February
at the Dundrum House, Hotel, Co Tipperary.

* CURA (Latin for ‘care’) was established by the Irish Bishops’ Conference
in 1977 to provide a caring and compassionate service to women who felt unable
to cope with an unexpected pregnancy.

* CURA provides a range of services supporting women faced with a crisis
pregnancy, including crisis pregnancy counselling, pregnancy testing,
information and support and post abortion counselling.

* During 2005 CURA received 9,000 phone calls and 3,382 personal callers
visited its 16 centres throughout Ireland.

* The CURA helpline is: 1850 622 626 (Open from 9.30am-9.00pm Mon-Fri and
10.00am – 5.00pm on Saturday)

* Speakers at the conference included:
The Archbishop of Cashel and Emly, Dr Dermot Clifford;
The President of CURA, Dr John Fleming, Bishop of Killala;
Mr Gus Murray, Director of Counselling and Psychotherapy Training
Programme at the Cork Institute of Technology; and
Ms Rosie Coakley, Social Worker in Adoption, HSE, Limerick.