Learning is defined in the philosophy of education as, “A change in behaviour as a result of some experience.”
Due to a decision by 3 judges on the X case and abortion, we the Irish citizens and politicians may well have to make life and death decisions soon that will have serious consequences for our people for generations to come.
Let me share with you three memories on the abortion debate:
In 1967 I was working in an industrial parish in Scotland. I recall well what happened.
Fr. John Symons was a lecturer in Drygrange Seminary in East Scotland. He was friendly with the Liberal MP for Midlothian, David Steele. Steele assured the Catholic Bishops via Fr. John that his new bill was merely to stop the tragic deaths resulting from “back street abortions.” Somehow the hierarchy and all of us were misled and said little or nothing to mobilise the people or stop the bill. (Since 1967 this Act of Parliament has now taken over 6 million lives. Surely this is another holocaust.)
A year later, I recall the Christian population of Scotland having protest marches in public parks in Glasgow and in Edinburgh. It was too late. We had failed to shepherd the holy innocents as we trusted that politicians, liberal or not, would know better.
Secondly in 1981 the hunger strike in Long Kesh prison took ten prisoners’ lives. More people died in the riots, protests and violence that followed.
At our Friday night prayer meeting while the hunger strike was at its worst we had our usual prayer meeting in one of the prison’s H Blocks. There a young republican prisoner prayed, “Lord, forgive us. Give eternal life to the thousands of babies murdered last year in England. Bless their mothers with forgiveness and healing.”
A long silence followed. It took me a few seconds to realise he referred to the children aborted that year. While the entire world was focused on the ten dead or dying men on hunger strike that summer, very few of us gave a second thought to the children aborted. I will never forget that evening.
On 5th April 2013, the 6pm RTE News covered the national doctors’ debate and votes on the abortion issue. The news reports show that there were three attempts to introduce abortion, again by using the thin edge of the wedge. Thankfully the Irish doctors strongly defeated all three motions. They took pro-life decisions each time.
These men and women are dedicated carers and defenders of our health and lives. That is their vocation.
Let this vote of the doctors be an inspiration and a guide to politicians. The public need to understand that what we call “the act of two effects”, saving the life of the mother, while regrettably and indirectly resulting in the abortion of the child, has always been the morally acceptable position held by Church and state in Ireland.
Ultimately all of us need to respect and reverence human life from conception to natural death. Catholics would hold that there was a profound morally wrong decision made on the X case ruling. It would be an even a greater tragedy if that wrong became a basis for change in law or constitution that would ultimately lead us to follow Britain in having abortion on demand.
Learn from the experience of some of us who have met so many troubled souls suffering from the consequences of abortion.
Another important point to be made on this issue is this. Even if our secular state and its politicians were to permit abortion in Ireland as in GB, it is paramount that our Catholic people still see direct abortion as the deliberate killing of a child and a seriously morally wrong act. This may seem self-evident to those of us who have worked as priests in GB.
However, if for some ninety years, the Church has virtually piggybacked and depended on state legislation on this issue, it is quite possible that some people would conclude that morality on this issue is what the state allows.
The good that may result from such legislation is that there will be a clear demarcation line evolving between the dock of the state and its worldly values on the one hand, and the bark of the Church with its Christian values on the other. In that sense good will come out of evil. The challenged Church will recover, be somewhat smaller but will clearly stand for Christian values.
(Rev) Neal Carlin,
(Director, White Oaks Rehab. Centre),