Today we celebrate the Holy Spirit whom we describe in the Creed each week as the “Giver of Life”. We have five days left to do all that we can to protect that Gift of Life. I want to acknowledge the generosity of all those who have worked so hard, through the toughest of winter weather, to proclaim the Gospel of Life in the streets and from door to door.
There is one thing that still remains to be done and that is for every Catholic of voting age to go out and vote next Friday, unless you are prevented from doing so by ill health. Abstaining on a matter of this importance is not really an option. I encourage parishioners to consider offering a lift to neighbours who may otherwise may have difficulty getting to the polling station.
Every person is obliged to vote in accordance with the judgement of his or her Conscience. Conscience is not just a feeling or an opinion. It is a judgement, using the God-given gift of reason, and taking into account all the relevant facts. For Catholics, the formation of Conscience is guided by the Word of God and involves giving careful attention to what the Church teaches.
The Church teaches that, “human life must be respected and protected absolutely from the moment of conception” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2270). While the mercy of God is always there for all who turn to Him, the deliberate taking of human life is always gravely sinful.
The proposal to remove the Eighth amendment cannot be separated from the stated intention of the Government to legalise abortion, which is the deliberate taking of innocent human life. This is why, as your Bishop, my guidance is that you would vote No, as an expression of real compassion both for women and for their unborn children. That compassion, in order to be authentic, must then be reflected in our practical and emotional care for women, for children and for families. I would want any woman or couple in difficulty to feel that they can approach the diocese for support.
The following facts may help you to form your judgement of Conscience:
- Without abortion, Ireland is a world leader in healthcare for women and their babies. No matter what you may hear, women do not die because of the Eighth Amendment. Ireland has one of the lowest levels of maternal mortality in the world. This is a fact based on international research carried out by the World Health Organisation.
- The Government has outlined the kind of legislation it proposes to introduce in Ireland. Based on the experience of similar legislation in England, this change would result in the deaths of thousands of unborn babies every year, most of whom would be perfectly healthy. The official statistics in England and Wales show that one in five pregnancies ends in abortion and over 185,000 abortions are carried out each year.
- Following the Supreme Court ruling on 7 March 2018, if the Eighth Amendment is removed, unborn babies will be left with absolutely no constitutional protection.
- Without the Eighth Amendment, the well-being of women and their unborn babies would be left in the hands of whatever group of politicians happens to hold the balance of power at any particular time.
If, after all of this, you still remain unsure, I would urge you to vote NO, because this is a matter of life and death.