If they can't stand the heat, they should get out of the kitchen.
Politicians complaining about the level of verbal abuse that they are
experiencing from pro-choice and anti-abortion lobbyists are pathetic.
Gael's Minister of State Lucinda Creighton claims that she has received
vicious personal and threatening correspondence from both pro-life and
pro-choice groups. She should give it to the gardai and get on with
Creighton wants "a rational debate", and reportedly
believes that respect for people's opinions on abortion has been lacking
so far. This is fudge. Years have passed since people voted in a
referendum and the Supreme Court made it clear what was needed. What has
been lacking since then has been decisive government.
Fine Gael Minister of State, Michael Ring, last week reportedly got an
email accusing him of murdering his future grandchildren. If a single,
extreme email is enough to make national news, and to influence how
deputies vote, then it is a reflection on the political system.
decision by senior Catholic bishops to go high profile on abortion over
the Christmas break has unnerved some Dail deputies, who for years have
funked the abortion problem.
Faced now with a choice, some politicians
will again choose the back door to England.
It would be nice to
think that Fianna Fail and other Opposition parties are not as easily
spooked by extremists as some Fine Gael deputies seem to be. But Fianna
Fail has yet to prove that it is not lurking in the long grass itching
to return to its old opportunistic form. And its stand on abortion
legislation will be revealing in that context.
Deputies are far
too easily influenced by lobbying. They need to govern more in the
national interest, and pay attention to what most citizens think when it
comes to a choice between letting a woman die or permitting a
Abortion is an appalling and depressing
issue, especially when the public already has more than enough to bother
it. The issue only surfaced because one woman died horribly in Galway.
Politicians cannot continue to turn a blind eye.
And senior churchmen are not helping matters by using language that is seldom less than self-righteous.
Irish politicians are well-paid to make hard decisions, and if they
think that this is bad then they should have lived through the Civil
War. In fact, if they are not getting more hassle on issues other than
abortion then it is only because people find the Dail irrelevant.
deputies really think that the unemployed, emigrants, people in
negative equity and those who cannot get proper social services or bank
loans feel less strongly about such issues than they do about the
The return to form by senior Catholic bishops has
been simplistic . This is a church hierarchy that pays lip service to
broader spiritual needs but is constantly unable to reform itself so as
to engage convincingly with people who are alienated from its church.
it comes to what Cardinal Sean Brady called in his Christmas message
"the need for meaning and purpose in life – elements which are
absolutely essential to human happiness and fulfilment," his decision to
use that message as a political platform was counterproductive.
Brady is generally regarded as a decent man, but one whose authority is well past is best-before date.
least Brady did not go as far as the Bishop of Kilmore, Leo O'Reilly,
who claimed in Christmas week that passing a law to regulate the
constitutional right to abortion where a mother's life is in danger
would be "an irrevocable change" and the "first step on the road to a
culture of death".
But Brady has upped the ante for politicians by
stating that any abortion legislation is "a defining moment regarding
Ireland's attitude to respect and care for human life" and by implying
that any such law would amount to "the deliberate destruction of another
human life". Is he claiming that no pregnancy ever creates a real risk
of suicide or death by other means?
And even the Pope's ambassador
to Ireland joined in last week. Papal Nuncio Archbishop Charles Brown
said that 2013 would be an important one "for the sanctity of human life
in Ireland and in other nations as well".
His reference to other
nations is a reminder of how the Vatican has long regarded Ireland. It
was a breeding ground for missionaries, made more fertile by the
suppression of contraception, and a Catholic bulwark among
English-speaking states that were mainly Protestant.
use hyperbole to obscure clear choices. Should we not allow abortion in
Ireland where a woman's life is really at risk? Should we never allow a
woman who is brutally raped or raped by an abuser to terminate her
pregnancy? Do we provide a compassionate option when the embryo is
unviable or so seriously damaged that it has no prospect of a
The Catholic Church has never entirely ruled
out the taking of life. There are circumstances in cases of war and
self-defence where it justifies it.
In the United States, on
Archbishop Charles Brown's home turf, there has been no sustained
onslaught by bishops on those who support the death sentence, no threat
that politicians who support it will be excommunicated because of their
attitude towards human life.
Spinning is part of any heated
debate, as both sides grapple with complexity. Some of those who argue
for abortion facilities in Ireland would indeed go much further than
others and in effect provide abortion on demand. But if human life
begins at conception, then no person has an unqualified right to choose
to end it.
This was possibly what the papal nuncio was getting at
when he quoted a convoluted statement by Pope Benedict: "Neither is it
just to introduce surreptitiously into legislation false rights or
freedoms which, on the basis of a reductive and relativistic view of
human beings and clever use of ambiguous expressions aimed at promoting a
supposed right to abortion and euthanasia, pose a threat to the
fundamental right to life."
But the absolutist language of
Catholic bishops is itself ambiguous, cloaking as they do in pious
simplicities a complex choice between life and death.