Pastoral Letter in defence of unborn human life by Bishop John Buckley, Bishop of Cork & Ross
Very Reverend and Dear Father,
The Government is proposing to introduce legislation for the first time in Irish history which will provide for the direct and intentional ending of the life of innocent human beings. Few other actions of a Government undermine our values as a people more profoundly. It is always gravely wrong to deliberately end or destroy a human life or to facilitate this through legislation. On Saturday last, tens of thousands of women, men and children gathered in Dublin to express their support for the equal right to life of mothers and their unborn children.
Every human life is sacred. Every human life is precious. “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you” (Jeremiah 1:5). Biology and technology show that an individual human life begins at conception. The child in the womb must enjoy the same human rights as all other people, among which is the unassailable right of an innocent person to life. Human rights derive from our very nature as human beings. There is no such thing as a human right to end the life of an innocent human being.
The Bill is not necessary to ensure that women receive the life-saving treatments they need during pregnancy. The medical treatment of mothers whose lives are in danger is always morally permissible even if this results in the unintended death of a child in the womb. The Catholic Church has never taught that the life in the womb should be preferred to that of the mother. Current law and medical guidelines in Ireland allow nurses and doctors in Irish hospitals to apply this vital distinction in practice. People supporting abortion are blurring the distinction between medical intervention and an abortion which is the direct ending of the life of the unborn child.
The Government is under no obligation to legislate for the X case. It is certain, as has happened in all other countries, that over time this legislation will be interpreted in an ever more permissive way. There is no such thing as a restrictive abortion regime. Every citizen, not just people of faith, should be deeply concerned.
There is no clinical research or textbooks in psychiatry which support the idea that abortion is an appropriate treatment for suicide. The vast majority of psychiatrists at the recent hearings, regardless of their pro-life or pro-choice leanings, testified that abortion was never an appropriate, never mind a necessary, treatment for pregnant women with suicidal intent. The Government is not listening to the views of those who oppose abortion. It is indeed a tragedy for our society when we regard the deliberate destruction of a completely innocent person as a cure or a morally acceptable response to the preventable death of another person. If, for example, a woman threatened suicide because she believed herself unable to care for her recently delivered baby, I am certain that she would not consider ending the life of the baby.
We are conscious that some mothers today are facing difficult or crisis pregnancies and also that, during the current debate, people who have had, or who have assisted with abortions, may be re-living what happened in the past. We must always support women who find themselves in crisis pregnancies. The pro-life commitment of the Church is reflected in her compassion for those who so often regret having had an abortion and in our understanding of those who are facing difficult decisions.
Our public representatives should remember that they are voting for a Bill without limits and that there is no opt-out clause for Catholic hospitals and healthcare workers. Not even Britain, with its permissive abortion laws, goes this far. Also, those public representatives who represent us, through the mandate we have conferred on them, are not allowed to exercise their right of freedom of conscience in relation to how they vote on this issue. No one has the right to coerce people to act against their conscience. This is the foundation of a free and civilized society. I recall the words of Saint Thomas More, Chancellor of England: “I die the King’s good servant, but God’s first”. We admire the courage of this brave man. People should exercise their right to make their views known respectfully to those who represent us and leave them in no doubt where they stand on this issue.
I am also asking you to pray for mothers and their unborn babies that they will continue to be protected, cherished and safeguarded from all harm and that our legislators will provide clarity in the form of guidelines for current medical practice that do not envisage the direct and intentional killing of the unborn and which will be legally, medically and morally acceptable.
Praying the Lord’s blessing on you and all at this particular time.
Bishop of Cork and Ross.
For media contact: Father Tom Deenihan Tel 021 4301717, and Catholic Communications Office Maynooth: Martin Long 00353 (0) 86 172 7678