Bishop Doran: women and babies need us to stand with them

06 Jul 2024

Poster for Rally for Life in Dublin, 6 July (Catholic Communications Office archive)

Homily of Bishop Kevin Doran for the 12.00pm ‘Rally for Life’ Mass at Saint Saviours’ Priory, Dominick St, Dublin
Why are we here?
Many of you have come here to this Mass for Life in previous years.  For some of you, it may be your first time.  It is good for us to be here.  Having listened together to God’s word, it may be a good thing for us to reflect for a few moments on why exactly we are here.

There is, of course, a ‘Rally for Life’ taking place this afternoon.  That is a significant political act, which draws attention once again to the evil of abortion.  No matter how it is dressed up, abortion is an act of violence against women.  It kills unborn babies; thirty-eight thousand of them here in Ireland since the present legislation was enacted.  These are not just statistics; they are innocent human beings, each with his or her own unique identity.

How could it be possible that all of this violence and taking of life would not fundamentally alter the character of our society.  When the law no longer upholds the principle that one person may not freely take the life of another, then the very foundations of our civilisation are shaken.

Our first reading today, which is also used on the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, presents us with the image of the Virgin Mary escaping into the wilderness, pursued by the dragon.  This is not just about the birth of Jesus, it is about the age-old struggle between good and evil.  The Book of Revelation was written by Saint John, probably in the second half of the first century, at a time of crisis, when Christians in the Roman Empire were persecuted for their faith.  It sets out to reassure believers that, in the person of Jesus, good has already triumphed over evil.  There is no need for us to be afraid.  In history, the struggle goes on all sorts of ways, and sometimes evil seems to have the upper hand.  But the victory does not depend on us alone.

Our political action this afternoon is a small but vital expression of our commitment to defend the common good of our whole society.  This is what our politicians are elected to do, and they need the power of our witness.  Women and babies need us to stand with them, and so do men.  Doctors, nurses and pharmacists need our support and encouragement to stand for the truth and to act with integrity.

But I began by asking you why you are here; not just here for the Rally, but here for Mass in advance of the Rally.   Of course, you might say, we come here to pray for women and their babies, and to pray for our society.  Perhaps the first thing we need to do, however, is to pray for ourselves that we may be good people; people of integrity, reflecting the love of Jesus in all that we do.  I invite you to reflect again on our Gospel passage

We will walk, just as Mary walked across the mountains of Judea to be in solidarity with her cousin Elizabeth who was already coming to the end of her pregnancy.  But it is good for us to have confidence that we are not walking on our own.  We bring more with us than just ourselves.  Mary carried Jesus in her womb as she walked.  It is important that as we walk, we carry him in our hearts.

The Gospel offers us a verbal snap-shot of two women, Mary and Elizabeth rejoicing together in the gift of life.  Why is it that, in our society, we hesitate to rejoice in the gift of life.  Of course, it is not always easy to see pregnancy as a gift, but could it be that our society is becoming conditioned to see pregnancy as a problem?  Perhaps, as we listen to God’s Word, we need to ask ourselves how we might be able to contribute to the development of a more positive and welcoming attitude towards pregnancy and childbirth.

The Gospel story of the Visitation is all about being present.  For some women, pregnancy is a lonely time and we often hear that abortion is a lonely choice.  There are people around them, but there is nobody with them.  Let’s face it, our society is so focused on making abortion available that we have no formal process for even asking a woman why she feels she needs to make this choice.  Is there some way in which we could be with women and walk with them from early pregnancy, through the birth of their child and into infancy, in a way which would not be intrusive, but which would reassure them that they are not on their own.

So what I am saying is this: we certainly need to change the law and change the practice and change prevailing attitudes in society.  But our prayer always has to begin with a desire for our own hearts, our own attitudes and our own actions to be purified.  I think that is why we are here.  At the end of Mass, then, we are sent out on mission into the world, with the encouragement to “Go in peace, glorifying the Lord by your life”.

Before I finish, I want to suggest to you, as I have suggested to others, that we need to make the connection between abortion and euthanasia.  Of course there are differences in the human experience, but the ideology is the same, the absolute right to choose, the primacy of personal autonomy and that fact that, once it is accepted in practice, it simply grows out of control.  We in the Council for Life of the Bishops Conference have recently produced a thirty-minute video called Through the Valley to encourage people to reflect on how we care for people in critical and terminal illness.  It is on our own social media and also on the iCatholic platform.  I encourage you to look at it and to share it widely. Through the Valley!

  • Bishop Kevin Doran is Bishop of Elphin and Apostolic Administrator of the Diocese of Achonry.  Bishop Doran serves as chairman of the Council for Life of the Irish Catholic Bishops’ Conference.