The Catholic hierarchy is set to bring its concerns about proposed legislation for limited abortion directly to the Government politicians whom it has criticised harshly.
A bilateral meeting between the
church and Government Ministers is scheduled for next week as part of an
ongoing “structured dialogue” process, while the Irish Catholic
Bishops’ Conference will appear before the Oireachtas health committee
on Thursday morning.
The Government has been taken aback by the language used by bishops as
the debate on abortion continues. The four Catholic Archbishops of
Ireland have said that if what was being proposed became law, “it would
pave the way for the direct and intentional killing of unborn children”.
Bishop Leo O’Reilly of Kilmore described it as the “first step on the
road to a culture of death”. Thursday will be the final day of three
days of public hearings before the committee involving legal and medical
personnel, religious representatives and groups advocating
anti-abortion and pro-choice positions.
The committee, chaired by Fine Gael TD Jerry Buttimer, aims to gather
information to help the Government in the drafting of the Heads of Bill
following the decision to legislate for the restricted introduction of
abortion based on the finding of the Supreme Court in the X case in
1992. Legislation will be supported by ministerial regulations.
Documents released under the Freedom of Information Act show a bilateral
meeting between the Catholic Church and the Government was proposed for
Thursday, January 17th, as part of the “structured dialogue” between
the State and churches, faith communities and non-religious groups.
The meeting is now expected to take place the following day, with the
special Cabinet meeting on jobs currently pencilled in for the Thursday.
The agenda for the church-State bilateral has yet to be finalised but is
expected to include abortion, as well as school patronage and the
divesting of Catholic-run schools to other patron bodies. Recent unrest
in Northern Ireland and pressures facing families during the recession
may also feature.
A Government spokesman said: “It’s expected the issue of the
Government’s plan to proceed in relation to dealing with the A, B and C
judgment will be discussed.”
The plenary meeting of the structured dialogue process was hosted by
Taoiseach Enda Kenny in his office on May 19th, 2011, and was attended
by Catholic primate Cardinal Seán Brady, along with senior
representatives of other Christian churches, plus Muslim, Jewish, Bah’ai
and humanist communities.
Cardinal Brady told the meeting each group present would have particular
issues that could be addressed in future bilateral meetings with
Government, and made clear what his priority would be.
“I know that with many others in the room today, the Catholic Church
will want to examine the implications of the recent European Court
judgment on ‘ABC v Ireland’ for the right to life of the mother and
unborn child in Ireland,” he said. “With many others we will seek to
explain why respect for the inalienable right to life, from conception
to natural death, is a fundamental human right and essential to the
The judgment in the X case permitted abortion when there was a
substantial risk to the life, as distinct from the health, of the
mother. The ruling that a threat of suicide could be accepted as a
substantial risk has continued to cause difficulties for a number of
Fine Gael TDs.