- Dear brothers and sisters in the pro-life cause… you proclaim prophetically to the world the Gospel of Life – that every human life is a precious gift from God – including the lives of all mothers and their unborn children. In an Ireland where the right to personal choice has been elevated above the fundamental right to life itself, you say “Choose Life”.
- As people who cherish life we cannot fail to be moved by the personal stories of so many women in Ireland who feel isolated in pregnancy, and who feel neglected and alone in their distress. Desperate situations like these do not go away no matter how widely available abortion is made.
- During the referendum campaign there were many calls and promises of help for women in crisis, but it seems that a mother in distress is often left feeling that her only option is to choose to end the life of her unborn baby girl or boy. Every woman deserves all the love, support and resources she needs to bring her child into the world.
- We will continue to seek dialogue about how a respectful and life-supporting environment can be created for every person in Ireland, at every stage and in every state of life.
For the past few days the first reading at Mass has been taken from the prophet Amos who proclaimed the word of God more than two and a half thousand years ago. Like many of the prophets, Amos’ message was a call to conversion. Amos was a “voice for the voiceless”, alerting people to the plight of the poor and the needy, and to those who are easily forgotten, exploited and rejected. He proclaimed his message in season, and out of season, despite criticism and banishment.
The prophets were experts at reading the signs of their times through the eyes of God. Their task was not so much about telling the future, as “telling the present”, and pointing courageously to the ways in which people could serve God more faithfully and make their world a better place.
Every Christian is called to be “prophetic”. Through baptism we all share in the priestly, prophetic and kingly offices of Christ. At the end of every Mass, we are sent out with the words: ‘Go, announce the Gospel of the Lord’; or, ‘Go in peace, glorifying the Lord by your life’. Another way of saying that might be: ‘Go and be prophetic in the world’.
The Catechism puts it very powerfully: “Lay believers are in the front line of Church life; for them the Church is the animating principle of human society. Therefore, they in particular ought to have an ever-clearer consciousness not only of belonging to the Church, but of being the Church, that is to say, the community of the faithful on earth (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 899).”
Dear brothers and sisters in the pro-life cause, you act prophetically when you speak the truth about life before your families, your neighbours, your friends and co-workers. You do this not only by words, but also by the testimony of your life. It does not always mean ‘crying out or shouting aloud in the streets’ – although sometimes, on days like this, that is important and effective. More often you act prophetically by quiet and courageous witness, by sharing your story or experience. Change and conversion frequently results from humble, compassionate listening and heart-to-heart, person to person, dialogue.
You proclaim prophetically to the world the Gospel of Life – that every human life is a precious gift from God – including the lives of all mothers and their unborn children. In an Ireland where the right to personal choice has been elevated above the fundamental right to life itself, you say “Choose Life”. In season, and out of season, you keep reminding society that every human life is beautiful; every human life is sacred; every human life is precious.
Often you face setbacks, because the pro-life message is counter-cultural, and is falsely portrayed as negative, “anti-women”, “anti-choice”, or lacking in compassion. Sometimes, as in the recent decision of the United States Supreme Court on Roe v Wade, there are hopeful and encouraging signs that the context is shifting and that the rebuilding of a culture of life is possible. We know, of course, that the right to life is not given to us by any Constitution or by any law. All human beings have it ‘as of right’, whether we are wealthy or poor, healthy or sick, young or old, born or unborn.
As people who cherish life we cannot fail to be moved by the personal stories of so many women in Ireland who feel isolated in pregnancy, and who feel neglected and alone in their distress. Sadly and shockingly, the number of abortions in Ireland – which had been falling prior to the referendum – has increased significantly since the repeal of the 8th amendment and subsequent legislation.
During the referendum campaign there were many calls and promises of help for women in crisis, but it seems that a mother in distress is often left feeling that her only option is to choose to end the life of her unborn baby girl or boy. Every woman deserves all the love, support and resources she needs to bring her child into the world, but where is the compassion and accompaniment for a woman in crisis that was promised? There are many questions surrounding the legislation introduced three years ago: Why do increasing numbers of women feel they have no other option than abortion? What options, other than abortion, are offered to women during the important three-day reflection period? What are the main causes of distress to a mother and a father in a crisis pregnancy and which supports, other than abortion, are offered?
Unfortunately we know very little about the answers to these questions because such information is not routinely gathered. Those who raise these important questions are often labelled as “anti-choice”, or “against women” and are culturally “cancelled”, while the operation of Ireland’s abortion regime remains largely cloaked from public scrutiny.
The prophetic voice will not be silenced. We will continue to seek dialogue about how a respectful and life-supporting environment can be created for every person in Ireland, at every stage and in every state of life. We will keep on witnessing to the truth that a culture of life and love and care that embraces everyone – especially the most vulnerable – offers the greatest hope for humanity and its future. We will continue to advocate that “both lives matter”, and that mother and child in a crisis pregnancy have a right to a humane and life-affirming outcome, for both. We will keep seeking loving and supportive protection for every mother in distress and for every child in the womb, including those diagnosed with a disability or life-limiting condition.
This is the prophetic message that we proclaim. We do so because we believe in love, and in truth, that all human life is sacred and that Ireland and the rest of the world will one day come to accept this truth. Meanwhile we continue to do our best to change the narrative through dialogue and by testifying, in season and out of season, to the Gospel of Life. In this we are conscious of our own sinfulness and failures in witness; we hold in prayer and commend to God’s loving embrace the women and men who have felt no other way out of their distress than through abortion; and we carry close to our hearts the countless babies whose lives and boundless possibilities have been lost.
- Archbishop Eamon Martin is Archbishop of Armagh and Primate of All Ireland.
- This homily was preached during 12.00pm Mass today at Saint Saviour’s Church and Dominican Priory, Dorset Street, Dublin. Following Mass a public praying of the Rosary will take place as the congregation proceeds to Parnell Square ahead of the start of the 2022 Rally for Life. The prayer intention of the Rosary will be for an end to abortion in Ireland and for God and Our Lady to bless the Rally for Life.
For media contact: Catholic Communications Office Maynooth: Martin Long +353 (0) 86 172 7678 and Brenda Drumm +353 (0) 87 310 4444.