I grew up in the 1970’s and 80’s and eventually my mother had six more children. We are all grown up now and my parents are grandparents. I joined the Capuchin Order in 1987 and after 10 years of study and post-graduate study, I was ordained to the Priesthood in June 1997. I am currently assigned to our Capuchin Friary in Church Street, Dublin 7, where I am Parish Priest in the Parish of Halston Street and Church Street.I am Pro Life. I believe that the direct killing of an unborn child is always wrong. As a priest this should be obvious. But first, as a human being I am Pro Life. My late cousin, Brendan Shortall was PRO of the Pro Life Amendment Campaign in 1983. My mother was active in Pro Life during that time too. I believe that the unborn child has an equal right to life as the life of its mother.
I believe that zealous Pro Life and Pro Choice debate which lead to disrespect of the other is unhelpful. I am far more inclined to be impressed with someone who attempts to put across their point in a respectful and reasoned way. Slagging matches lead to more anger and more distrust of the other side.
I believe the unborn child needs a voice. She or he is growing and developing as unique human being inside the womb. Nature gives the baby the desire to live, grow, and thrive. One of my sisters is expecting a baby, an answer to prayer. The ultra sound scan photos are greeted with great joy and enthusiasm at home when she comes over after a hospital visit. We can even see who this little one looks like. My mother and my other sisters love to feel the baby move and kick and we are looking forward to the baby being born.
The Church teaches that all human life is sacred from the moment of conception to the moment of natural death. I hear opinions where the Church is told to keep quiet about this, because it’s in the news media and in editorials these days. The Church doesn’t have a good historical track record regarding Child Safeguarding. We stood by while some priests and religious criminally abused children and others were complicit in the cover up of the abuse to protect the institution. But it is also emerging in the U.K. that some television and radio stars and personalities were sexually abusing children and that institutions (Media for example) knew about this and covered it up. All abuse; sexual, physical, mental, and neglect in all forms is a societal problem. The Church in Ireland now has a most robust child safeguarding policy. It is in place in all Diocese and Religious Congregations. It is frequently under review and evolving so that best practice can be second to none. It is audited by safeguarding designated personnel in each Diocese and Congregation and is accountable to the NBSCCC and the law of the land.I would argue that the Church has a very positive track record in the areas of social justice and being at the vanguard of working with the poor and the marginalised. You only have to look at Christian and Catholic Missionaries all over the world in the developing countries highlighting injustices. Closer to home we have Church run homeless centres, social justice action groups, and organisations to assist the needs of the most vulnerable. We can still speak for those most in need and we must.
All of us were once unborn and we needed protection and nurturing. This is a basic human right for the unborn child in the womb. Should not our Irish government, the first to introduce a Cabinet Minister for Children, speak for its most vulnerable citizens who literally have no voice? I pray our elected officials will fight to protect all human life and give equal right to life to the mother and the unborn baby. I would hope that this published Heads of Legislation which is to be debated in due course in Dáil Éireann and Seanad Éireann will be shelved in favour a Constitutional Referendum.