Tuesday, January 08, 2013

Church to air abortion concerns

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.

Restricted abortion

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.”

Plenary meeting 

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 common good.”

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.

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