Our day to day pastoral experience teaches us that even in the hardest of hard cases society cannot forget that human life is sacred and always deserving of our utmost protection, compassion and care. The Catholic Church teaches that the duty to care for and protect human life extends equally to a mother and her unborn child in all circumstances.
Having met with many parents whose unborn child with a life limiting condition has lived for hours, days, weeks and even years bringing immense happiness, we are profoundly shocked and disturbed at the Judges words that such children are ‘doomed’. The Judge compounds this by saying that ‘there is no human life to protect’. By any human and moral standard these children are persons and our duty to respect and protect their right to life does not change because of any Court judgement.
It is profoundly disquieting that the decision of the High Court in Belfast has effectively weighed up one life against another and said to our society that the life of some children is more worthy of our protection, love and care than others. Vulnerable and innocent children who suffer from a life limiting condition, and children who have been conceived as a result of the trauma of a sexual crime for which they bear no responsibility, will no longer be afforded the protection of the law to vindicate their inherent right to life. To deliberately and intentionally take the life of an innocent person continues to be gravely morally wrong in all circumstances.
The judgment itself draws attention to the contradiction and illogicality of laws that call for “no discrimination against those children who are born suffering from disabilities such as Down’s Syndrome or spina bifida” but then permit “selective abortion so as to prevent those children with such disabilities being born in the first place”. In this regard we draw attention to the words of Pope Francis: “How can we genuinely teach the importance of concern for other vulnerable beings, however troublesome or inconvenient they may be, if we fail to protect a human embryo, even when its presence is uncomfortable and creates difficulties? If personal and social sensitivity towards the acceptance of the new life is lost, then other forms of acceptance that are valuable for society also wither away” (Laudato Si, n. 120).
We are committed to a culture of equal compassion and care for a mother and her unborn child. We share with others the belief that the direct and intentional killing of an unborn child can never be a humane, compassionate or appropriate response to the complex and sensitive circumstances of a difficult or crisis pregnancy. The Church will continue to consider the full implications of the judgement of the High Court in Belfast and of any appeal which may follow.
Archbishop Eamon Martin, Archbishop of Armagh
Bishop Noel Treanor, Bishop of Down & Connor
Bishop Anthony Farquhar, Auxiliary Bishop of Down & Connor
Bishop John McAreavey, Bishop of Dromore
Bishop Liam MacDaid, Bishop of Clogher
Bishop Donal McKeown, Bishop of Derry