Statement by Archbishop Michael Neary concerning the equal protection of the right to life of mothers and unborn children
Issues in General Election 2016
I am mindful of the many important issues which are being raised by voters and candidates in the run up to voting day for the general election on 26 February: unemployment and especially amongst our young people, emigration, rural crime, flooding, homelessness, housing, poverty; the quality of our education system; medical services; and the many challenges facing our farmers, all of which greatly affect the dignity of life for many families and individuals across our country.
Each human life is unique from conception until natural death
Of critical importance in any society is the unique value placed on each human life from the moment of conception to natural death. If life is not fully respected and protected then the very basis of our society is weakened. The Eighth Amendment guarantees the right to life of the unborn and the equal right to life of the mother.
Regrettably, some of those standing for election have declared their intention to work to remove this protection from our Constitution and laws. This simplistic approach to the most significant of issues is not only an outright attack on the unborn, but an affront to the charter of human rights enshrined in Ireland’s basic law.
If an unborn child has a life-limiting condition, it would be inhumane to withdraw the protection of the Constitution to their right to life. In this most significant of centenary years it is more pressing than ever “to cherish all the children of the nation equally” whether unborn or born, and irrespective of a child’s health status.
Broader than a faith issue
Just as education must be ‘student-centered’ so society must be ‘people-centered’. This is about life and basic human rights. It is not an exclusively ‘Catholic issue’.
Being pro-life in contemporary Ireland means, more and more, being counter-culture, being radical. However we cannot ignore the consequences of abortion for the unborn, for the voiceless. At this time we have a crucial responsibility to our future generations. Permitting abortion in difficult cases is like pulling a loose thread in a garment. There may be no definitive point at which the unraveling can be stopped.
Compassion for crisis pregnancies
Ireland’s social progress ought to be measured by how effectively we care for the most vulnerable amongst us, for example, a woman facing a crisis pregnancy. We should offer mercy, not judgement, in these situations. CURA’s 180 counsellors support women and men who face crisis pregnancies. Extending compassion, and providing tangible and creative resources to women experiencing crisis pregnancies, should be the ambition of all public policy makers.
Placing a culture of life at the centre of Election 2016
In his address to the United Nations in New York in 2015, Pope Francis said:
“The common home of all men and women must continue to rise on the foundations of a right understanding of universal fraternity and respect for the sacredness of ever human life”.
As part of a conscientious engagement by citizens, I invite voters to ask their constituency candidates whether or not they support the sacredness of every human life, and to provide clarification about defending the weak and those who are easy to otherwise dismiss, and whose constitutional protection is now at risk.
Let us remember in our prayers the unborn child, and all who will be elected to the next Dáil and Seanad Éireann so that, as national public representatives, they may work in a self-confident way for the greater good of all and for a genuine culture of life where every citizen, especially the most vulnerable and including the voiceless child in the womb, is valued and protected.
Archbishop Michael Neary is Archbishop of Tuam