Homily of Bishop Fleming at the Killala diocesan pilgrimage to Knock for ‘Day for Life’: ‘Choose Life! Every human life is beautiful, every human life is precious’
• Launch of dedicated website chooselife2012.ie with material for parishes and two videos comprising insightful and brave personal testimonies of parents discussing human life in the womb and the need to protect life
• Month of Prayer for the unborn starts today – Catholics asked to pray the Choose Life! prayer each day for one month until 6 November, the Feast of All the Saints of Ireland
• Public representatives are asked to Choose Life!
Too often abortion is talked of as if it offers a ‘solution’ to difficult or tragic circumstances … however the deliberate taking of innocent life can never be the basis for a genuinely humane or compassionate solution. Moreover, international experience shows that once abortion is introduced, even for apparently very restricted or limited situations, it becomes more widespread than was first intended – Bishop Fleming
‘Choose Life!’ – this is the campaign call of the bishops of Ireland today and each day. ‘Choose Life!’ is the 2012 Day for Life theme and over the next month the Catholic Church will raise public awareness that every human life is beautiful and that every human life is precious.
In the coming weeks our Government will decide how to respond to a 2010 judgment of the European Court of Human Rights with regard to the interpretation of Article 40.3.3 of our Constitution given by the Irish Supreme Court some twenty years ago in what is known as the ‘X case’. The manner in which it responds could allow for the introduction of pro-abortion legislation for the first time in Ireland. The Irish bishops, therefore, are calling on Catholics all over our country to make their opposition to abortion known to our public representatives so that the safety of all children in the womb will be preserved in our country.
Our Constitution recognises ‘the right to life of the unborn and, with due regard to the equal right to life of the mother, guarantees in its laws to respect’ that right. The clear intention of the Constitution, therefore, is to protect and cherish equally the lives of both the mother and her unborn child. In fact, Ireland, without abortion, is recognised as one of the safest countries in the world to be a pregnant mother. This is something about which we should be proud and is a tribute to the excellent care provided by staff in our hospitals who can treat both a mother and an unborn child with equal dignity and respect as persons in their own right. Clearly, if the life of the mother is threatened, by illness or some other medical condition, the care provided by medical professionals will make sure that she receives all the medical care needed. In a small number of cases, however, the treatment given may unintentionally result in the death of the unborn child. But in such cases the life of the child is never directly and intentionally taken and everything is done to save the life of the child. The key moral issue, therefore, for Catholics is that the life of the unborn can never be taken intentionally.
Our Catholic faith has a very clear view on the dignity of the human person, human rights and, in particular, the right to life. For those who view life through the lens of their Christian faith, our bodies are sacred; temples of the Holy Spirit, created in the image of God Himself and redeemed through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. For Christians who live their lives as lives of faith, the human body and the human spirit are one human person; a totality which deserves absolute respect from the moment of conception to that of natural death. For us, our bodies are not our own to do with them what we will. Our bodies come from God, are created in God’s image and destined for eternal life with him in heaven. This is our faith and this is what distinguishes us from those who do not share our faith.
We all enjoyed wonderful moments this summer as we watched the Olympic Games and the Paralympics taking place on our neighbouring island. So often as we watched, on each podium stood a human being whose body and spirit had been fine-tuned, trained and disciplined to reach that moment of glory. For me, those images captured the essence of the Christian view of the dignity of the human person as created in the image of God, designed for his glory, disciplined for perfection and worthy of the greatest respect and admiration. Those iconic moments in London stood in sharp contrast to so many other images of the body presented to us nowadays; in the exploitation of the innocence of the young through magazines, in the degradation which is available on the internet and in the destruction of the human person through the abuse of drugs and alcohol.
Ireland has, I fear, lost a good deal of our Catholic view on the dignity of the human person. Scenes of drunkenness on our television screens highlight the loss of respect which some people have for their own worth and dignity, as well as for others. Scenes of the destruction of human life in the conflict in Syria, on the desert fields of famine in Africa or of the homeless in cities such as Dublin, Cork or Limerick all cry out to us for help in restoring dignity to life and to those who suffer. They also call on us to choose life and reject all that is contrary to it.
Young parents freely admit that the first ultrasound scan of their baby in the womb is the emotional experience which lasts a lifetime, one which words cannot express. Their joy is on the same level as that of their parents on the day they were born, in a time before our great advances in modern technology and genetics. These advances confirm that the baby in the womb is the same person that appears at birth and grows into a loved son or daughter who in turns becomes father or mother, grandfather or grandmother. From the moment of conception each of us has developed as a human being, not into a human being. To be clear: the child in the womb is not a ‘potential’ human life, but a human life with potential.
Too often abortion is talked of as if it offers a ‘solution’ to difficult or tragic circumstances. Bishops point out in our Choose Life! pastoral message which has been circulated to all 1,360 parish in Ireland today, that the deliberate taking of innocent life can never be the basis for a genuinely humane or compassionate solution. Moreover, international experience shows that once abortion is introduced, even for apparently very restricted or limited situations, it becomes more widespread than was first intended.
As Christians, we are called on to show practical care and solidarity for those who suffer, especially for those who are experiencing pregnancy as a crisis in their lives. In 1977 the Irish Bishops’ Conference established CURA to ensure that any woman who was unhappily pregnant, for whatever reason, had ready access to compassionate understanding and expert support. The services of CURA are available in sixteen centres throughout our country for both crisis pregnancy as well as post-abortion counselling and support.
Conscious of God’s constant, providential care for all of us, bishops have decided to hold, from today, a special ‘Month of Prayer’ to celebrate the child in the womb. This period of prayer begins today the Day for Life and the Feast of Our Lady of the Rosary, and it will end on 6 November, the Feast of All the Saints of Ireland. Prayer cards are available in the parishes and along with other material on www.chooselife2012.ie . Priests have been asked to say this prayer at all Masses during this month and families are encouraged to do so at home.
Our public representatives now face a critical decision. They can either uphold the right to life of both the mother and the child in the womb, or they can choose to introduce abortion legislation to Ireland for the first time, with all the tragic consequences this will have.
Faced with this decision, bishops ask our public representatives to make a positive choice: every human life is beautiful, every human life is precious – Choose Life!
Notes to Editors
• Day for Life 2012 is celebrated by the Church in Ireland today Sunday 7 October 2012. Bishop John Fleming is Bishop of Killala and represents the Irish Catholic Bishops’ Conference to the two Bishops’ Conferences of England & Wales, and Scotland, on ‘Day for Life’ matters. The theme for Day for Life this year is Choose Life!: Every human life is beautiful, every human life is precious.
• For more information, please visit the new dedicated site www.chooselife2012.ie and on social media (Choose Life 2012 on Facebook, and @Chooselife2012 on Twitter and on YouTube). Summary of key points from bishops’ Choose Life! message and awareness campaign:
– From the moment of conception, every human life is beautiful, every human life is precious and every human life is sacred.
– Government does not have to provide for abortion in Ireland to comply with the ruling of the European Court of Human Rights.
– Legislating for abortion denies the humanity and dignity of the child in the womb and violates the most basic human right of all – the right to life.
– It is never necessary to target the life of the baby in the womb to save the life of the mother. Ireland, without abortion, is consistently one of the safest countries in the world in which to be pregnant.
– Many women who have had abortions speak of their deep regret, and research also confirms the harm that abortion can cause women.
– International experience shows that once abortion is legalised, even in apparently very limited situations, it becomes more widespread than was first intended.
• ‘Day for Life’ today also marks the beginning of a dedicated Choose Life ‘Month of Prayer’ which runs from 7 October to 6 November which is the Feast of All Saints of Ireland. A special prayer card has been created for this initiative, which includes a ‘Prayer for the Child in the Womb’ and ‘The Precious Life of the Unborn Child’. Also visit www.chooselife2012.ie or www.catholicbishops.ie to view two important videos. The first video is an educational resource which presents a thoughtful and positive presentation of some of the themes addressed by the ‘ChooseLife2012’ initiative. It comprises insightful and brave personal testimonies of parents discussing their experience of human life in the womb. In addition a separate short video message from ‘Norma’, the woman in the Roe vs Wade case in the United States which was responsible for introducing lawful abortion in the USA. Norma has now become a pro-life activist. Also on www.chooselife2012.ie please download:
– Day for Life 2012 A4 poster
– Day For Life Pastoral Message
– Day For Life Pastoral Message in Irish
– Day For Life Pastoral Message in Polish
– Choose Life: Prayer for the Child in the Womb
• Day for Life was initiated by Pope John Paul II, to encourage the Catholic Church worldwide to promote and celebrate the sacredness of life. In his 1995 Encyclical Letter, Evangelium Vitae (The Gospel of Life), the late Pope John Paul II proposed that “a day for life be celebrated each year in every country.” The primary purpose of this day should be “to foster in individual consciences, in families, in the Church, and in civil society, recognition of the meaning and value of human life at every stage and in every condition” (EV #85).
• Day for Life is the day dedicated to celebrating the dignity of life from conception to natural death. Since 2001, the following themes have been chosen to celebrate the annual ‘Day for Life’:
2001: Proclaiming the Gospel of Life
2002: End of Life Care – ethical and Pastoral Issues
2003: The Wonder of Life, celebrating the 25th anniversary of the Pontificate of Pope John Paul II
2004: Life is for Living – A Reflection on suicide
2005: Cherishing the Evening of Life
2006: Celebrating the life and presence of people with disabilities in the Church and in society
2007: Blessed is the fruit of your womb – dedicated to protecting all human life
2008: Mental Health – mental ill-health can happen to anyone
2009: Focus on suicide, particularly the pastoral dimensions of this difficult and sensitive subject
2010: Focus on the meaning of Christian death
2011: A call to solidarity and hope in difficult times.
2012: Choose Life! Every human life is beautiful, every human life is precious
For media contact: Catholic Communications Office Maynooth: Martin Long 00353 (0) 86 172 7678