Monthly Archives: May 2013

Pope calls for solidarity, walks Corpus Christi procession

2013-05-31 Vatican Radio

“Jesus speaks in silence in the Mystery of the Eucharist,” he said, “and every time reminds us that to follow Him means to come out of ourselves and make of our own lives, not a possession, but a gift to Him and to others.”
“Faced with the neediness of the crowd, the solution of the disciples (in the Gospel) is that every man should take care of himself… How many times do we Christians have this temptation?” he asked his listeners. “We do not care for the needs of others, dismissing them with a pitiful, ‘God help you.’”
But, the Pope told his listeners, Jesus calls us to take action and to respond personally to the needs of others.
“People should not fear solidarity,” he said. “Because [it is] only in sharing… that our lives will be fecund.”
The rain held off all evening and, after the mass, the faithful followed the Pope in a 45-minute candlelight procession with the Blessed Sacrament to the Basilica of Saint Mary Major for Benediction. Thousands of others lined the route on the chilly evening.
In usual custom, the Blessed Sacrament led the procession in a monstrance on a platform truck. Two priests rode in the truck, kneeling before the Blessed Sacrament.
While the two previous Popes rode on the truck, kneeling before the Blessed Sacrament, the 76-year-old Pope Francis walked the entire 1.5-kilometre route, following right behind the Blessed Sacrament.

An Invitation from Bishop Treanor


Your enthusiastic support for the Listening process gave me a sense of great hope and the themes which emerged from the process have over the past few months been considered by Working Groups in the Diocese comprised of your fellow Laity, Clergy and Religious. The fruits of their efforts have resulted in a Pastoral Plan which will be launched in the Waterfront Hall on Friday 27th and Saturday 28th September 2013.

I earnestly hope that Parishioners from every Parish in the Dioceses will attend the Congress as Delegates. The event presents a real opportunity for all of us in the Diocese to strike out on a new path and to renew our commitment.

To close the Congress there will be a celebratory concert in the evening of the Saturday featuring a wide range of talent from the diocese including The Priests. Tickets for the Concert will be available at a cost of £20. Please let your Parish Priest know if you would like to attend.

Thank yo for taking the time to read this and I do hope you will be able to attend the Congress.

Members of the Pastoral Council and the LOFT Group will represent the Parish at the Diocesan Congress but if you might be interested in attending the Congress, please leave your name into the Parish Office by the 14th June.



Catholic TDs should resign, not support abortion – Vatican

A doctor is silhouetted as he walks past a poster showing images of the development of a human foetus. Photo: Reuters/Alessia Pierdomenico

A doctor is silhouetted as he walks past a poster showing images of the development of a human foetus. Photo: Reuters/Alessia Pierdomenico

Asked about the current situation in Ireland Msgr Jacques Suaudeau, scientific director of the Pontifical Academy for Life at the Vatican said: “If the Prime Minister as a Catholic, doesn’t want to impose his belief and the time has come for a more moderate line on abortion, then he resigns.

“If you are faithful to your conviction, then you have to get out,” he said.

He also said that Catholic politicians who support abortion are pushing themselves out of the Church.

Referring to Catholics in political life, he said: “if a politician is being forced to be a formal co-operator with abortion, you leave the party, you get out.”

He warned that politicians cannot hide behind a claim that they are just doing their duty. He said many had forgotten the Nuremberg Defence, a reference to Nazi officers who said they were simply following orders. “If an act is evil and you receive an order to do it then you cannot do it.

“Sometimes people forget Nuremberg. You cannot cover yourself with the cover of party discipline,” Msgr Suaudeau said.

“Generally, if you are well-known and your party is proposing something that goes against your conscience you need to make it known, you need to speak. Maybe they will ask you to abstain, sometimes people understand that you have an objection of conscience’’ he added.

He warned that “Catholic politicians cannot live under two houses when it comes to abortion. You have to take a decision but not many do”.

On the issue of excommunication for pro-abortion Catholic politicians, Msgr Suaudeau said that the issue should be dealt with in private by senior Churchmen.

Bishops, he said, have to signify to politicians in private the wrong headedness of their actions. He added that the Vatican does not like excommunication or talking about it publicly and does this for the sake of the local Church.

However, he added, if you are agreeing to abortion and pushing it you are pushing yourself out of the Church. But you can change and come back.

For love of Louise

Jennifer Kehoe rejected abortion for a daughter who defied the odds,
writes Paul Keenan
Louise and jennifer Kehoe. Photo: Colin O'Riordan

Louise and jennifer Kehoe. Photo: Colin O’Riordan

The first hint of her daughter’s condition came during a routine scan at the early stages of Jennifer’s pregnancy.

“When something showed up, which was a cyst on the brain, the nurse’s face wasn’t right,” Jennifer recalls, “and then the scan of the heart didn’t look too good either.”

The worrying wait for an expert obstetrician followed, during which Jennifer, in the company of her husband, John, worked mentally through their avenues of response to a potential worst-case scenario.

“Nobody thinks it’s going to happen to them,” Jennifer says. “This was my sixth baby. It was a surreal moment. This isn’t really happening. My first thought was Down Syndrome and because there was a hole in the heart my thoughts were how we would fix this and bring our baby home.”

Things were set to become even more surreal for the expectant parents, however.

Having considered the scan results, showing both a diminished cerebellum in the brian and tricuspid atresia (the absence of the heart’s tricuspid valve) the obstetrician informed Jennifer and John: “Well most people would go to England.”

“It was not as blunt as ‘you should have an abortion’,” Jennifer recalls, “but abortion was so far from our train of thought.”

In the midst of the shock, Jennifer says, it was John who rationalised things best at that moment.

“He was shocked but his acceptance of events was immediate. He had worked in the heart unit in Crumlin. He has seen sick children. His attitude was that this child was conceived this way so we will do whatever it takes to help her reach her potential and love her. He was so calm.”

Such a demeanour now became important for the path that lay ahead. Resolved to ignore advice abhorrent to them both, Jennifer and John now faced those tests made necessary by the earlier scan. But here, for the first time, their decision was met with a heartening response.

“There was a chromosomal test to look for major conditions and after that we got an appointment with a cardiologist,” Jennifer explains. “The judgment from the cardiologist was ‘I give this baby a very good prognosis’. When we spoke of our hope that this was a good sign for the future, the cardiologist added: ‘If you don’t have hope you have nothing.’”

Even so, miscarriage – suffered by Jennifer previously – was still a possibility which haunted her through the pregnancy’s early days. She describes the time in which “I prepared to face my grief”. And at the same time, “I wanted to get the baby to 24 weeks so she would at least have a birth certificate”. As time passed, such thoughts gave way to the hope that Louise would indeed survive.

A new foetal scan of the brain confirmed that the unborn Louise had Dandy-Walker syndrome, setting Jennifer immediately on a research trawl of documents and online sources for more information.

“My reading of the condition in texts promised the probability of major disability and pointed to high mortality rates. It was awful.”

But then Jennifer came across a Youtube clip on Dandy-Walker, showing children who have the condition.

“They were such beautiful children,” Jennifer says, “not at all what I had been reading about in medical papers.”

Added to this, the cardiologist gave great options in relation to Dandy-Walker, including heart transplant.

Unfortunately, the obstetrician once again proved less than positive, reminding the parents that young hearts were not so readily available.

“That really took the wind out of our sails again,” Jennifer says, remembering too that even though she and John had already chosen to name their child Louise, the obstetrician would not use the name, or even refer to the ‘foetus’ as a ‘baby’. It still clearly hurts Jennifer.

Conversely, however, Jennifer is effusive in her praise for the staff at Crumlin Children’s hospital in Dublin.

“The first thing staff at Crumlin asked was the baby’s name and referred to her as Louise from then on,” she says pointedly.

When the time came, Jennifer goes on, the birth of Louise was “such a peaceful event, and so lovely”. Happier yet, there were no early indications of any problems, and Louise, being a good feeder from the outset, was cleared for home after just five days.

A necessary heart operation followed within weeks, but, according to Jennifer “aside from that, Louise needed no help, and is what is commonly described as a ‘quick’ child in all things. Jennifer points out too that she is good natured, “but you won’t get the better of her”.

Looking back now, to a point where Louise was, in some quarters, a candidate for a termination, Jennifer reveals that one of the strongest feelings she personally experienced was of “being judged”.

“We both felt judged and things that were said about the lack of hope for Louise’s safe birth barely hid a contempt.”

Now, with Louise flourishing and because of her condition, “I have friends all over the world, linked by Dandy-Walker.”

It is a joyful outcome tempered by one factor, however.

“I have not met one who was not advised to terminate,” she says sadly. “Some were even called irresponsible for going ahead with their pregnancies.”

The results of such ‘irresponsibility’ continue to smile from the Dandy-Walker Alliance website today, giving added power to Jennifer’s personal opposition to Ireland now legislating for abortion.

“When something becomes legal,” she warns, “it becomes an expectation and then becomes a duty. That is the danger in making abortion legal.”



What is Dandy-Walker?

Dandy-Walker Syndrome is a congenital brain malformation involving the cerebellum (an area at the back of the brain that controls movement) and the fluid filled spaces around it. The key features of this syndrome are an enlargement of the fourth ventricle (a small channel that allows fluid to flow freely between the upper and lower areas of the brain and spinal cord), a partial or complete absence of the cerebellar vermis (the area between the two cerebellar hemispheres), and cyst formation near the internal base of the skull. An increase in the size of the fluid spaces surrounding the brain as well as an increase in pressure may also be present. The syndrome can appear dramatically or develop unnoticed. Symptoms, which often occur in early infancy, include slow motor development and progressive enlargement of the skull. In older children, symptoms of increased intracranial pressure such as irritability, vomiting, and convulsions, and signs of cerebellar dysfunction such as unsteadiness, lack of muscle coordination, or jerky movements of the eyes may occur. Other symptoms include increased head circumference, bulging at the back of the skull, problems with the nerves that control the eyes, face and neck, and abnormal breathing patterns. Dandy-Walker Syndrome is frequently associated with disorders of other areas of the central nervous system including absence of the corpus callosum (the connecting area between the two cerebral hemispheres, and malformations of the heart, face, limbs, fingers and toes.



Testimonies of Dandy-Walker

“We went from being devastated by the in utero Dandy-Walker diagnosis to being filled with hope and optimism for our son and our future as a family. Ryan is such a blessing in so many ways.” – Eric and Andrea.


“At 16 weeks gestation, we were given the option to terminate our little Abby due to Dandy-Walker syndrome. This little girl has every chance to live a happy, fulfilling life. More education is greatly needed for parents and physicians, so every Dandy-Walker kiddo has a chance. Please learn and share to help more children, like Abby, light the lives of so many as she does today!” – Rick, Leigh and Grace.


Samuel entered the world with his ventricles dilated almost eight times the norm. He had seven shunt revisions and five other surgeries before he was 3 ½ years old. At eight years old, he is a bright, articulate little boy who will enter third grade this fall. – Brian and Lisa.


“During our 28th week of pregnancy, an ultrasound showed areas of fluid on our baby’s brain. We were told that she had Hydrocephalus caused by Dandy-Walker. We were given a description of her symptoms and wide and frightening range of possible outcomes. After 10 weeks of agonizing wondering, our beautiful baby girl was born. She has a shunt and some physical delays that she is overcoming. She is the greatest thing that ever happened to us!” -Joel and Caryn.


“At 23 weeks we were told by our perinatologist that our baby would be the slow Uncle or Aunt and we should strongly consider terminating. We didn’t. Today we have a beautiful, healthy little boy named Mathew. While we don’t know what challenges the future holds our lives have been blessed by a precious gift.” -Ryan and Shayna.


After finding out that our unborn child had Dandy Walker we were heartbroken! We decided that God was in control and no Doctor was going to decide the fate of our child. Two and a half years later he is happy, healthy, and thriving!! He is a miracle and truly a gift from God. -Tommy and Holli


Five years ago Tess was born with both Dandy-Walker and Hydrocephalus. It was scary for our family and we had no idea what to expect. Today she is a happy, healthy, five year old getting ready to start kindergarten! She’s overcome some challenges and amazes us every day with all she accomplishes. There is no doubt she can do anything she sets her mind to! Don’t let anyone tell you what your child can’t or won’t do, many children with Dandy Walker defy their prognosis every day! –Terri


“We didn’t know about Carter’s DW until he was 7.5 months old…Our happy baby with captivating blue eyes has grown into a sweet and tenacious boy who amazes us with his zest for life and determination on a daily basis. We don’t know what the future holds for him, but we end each day knowing that Carter is happy and thriving and the best Carter that he can be. There’s not much more we can ask for than that! -Doug and Lisa


“Samuel entered the world with his ventricles dilated almost eight times the norm. He had seven shunt revisions and five other surgeries before he was 3 ½ years old. At eight years old, he is a bright, articulate little boy who will enter third grade this fall.” – Brian and Lisa


“During our 28th week of pregnancy, an ultrasound showed areas of fluid on our baby’s brain. We were told that she had Hydrocephalus caused by Dandy-Walker. We were given a description of her symptoms and wide and frightening range of possible outcomes. After 10 weeks of agonizing wondering, our beautiful baby girl was born. She has a shunt and some physical delays that she is overcoming. She is the greatest thing that ever happened to us!” -Joel and Caryn

Catholic politicians should oppose abortion legislation

Church leaders should fight abortion legislation pastorally, not politically,
writes Cathal Barry

Primate of all Ireland Cardinal Sean Brady’s failure to rule the threat in the future has contributed further to the already widespread confusion. When asked at the recent National Prayer Vigil for Life in Knock if a TD who voted for the legislation as published would not automatically be excommunicated and should not therefore present himself/herself for Holy Communion, he replied: “That is down the line at the moment, as far as we are concerned.”

Archbishop of Dublin Diarmuid Martin, however, has tried to avoid the threat of excommunication. He has said he feels communion should not be politicised and believes it “should not become a place of debate and contrast and be used for publicity reasons by anyone”.

Similarly, Bishop of Limerick Brendan Leahy said he “would prefer to go down the avenue of dialogue with that politician, ask him or her why did you come to that decision, what were the factors involved”. He too spoke of his “nervousness at politicising the Eucharist”.

Cardinal Brady did get one thing right in Knock earlier this month when he said: “It [our job] is to convince the electorate first of all and the legislators to change.”

Rather than uttering empty threats and fighting politics at the altar rails, Church leaders should now concentrate all their efforts on preventing the current draft abortion legislation becoming law, pastorally. After all, excommunication is medicinal penalty; its purpose isn’t to be punitive.

Fr Michael Mullaney, Professor of Canon Law at St Patrick’s College, Maynooth told The Irish Catholic this week excommunication “ceases when the person who incurs it repents of their action or sin and seeks to reconcile him or herself with the Lord and the faith community of the Church”.

“The purpose of excommunication is to highlight the gravity of a sin or offence and to foster in a person the need to be reconciled to God and the faith community,” he said.

While confusion over excommunication will undoubtedly continue in the coming weeks, it is important to note that the Church teaches that Catholic politicians have a moral obligation to oppose legislating for abortion, even if it is not in keeping with their party’s political stance.

In 2002, Pope emeritus Benedict XVI, then Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, wrote a ‘Doctrinal Note on Some Questions Regarding the Participation of Catholics in Political Life’.

The note asserts that Catholic lawmakers have a “grave and clear obligation” to oppose legalised abortion and other attacks on the right to life. Indeed, here the Church said it was “impossible” for a Catholic to promote such laws.

According to the note, “a well-formed Christian conscience does not permit one to vote for a political programme or an individual law which contradicts the fundamental contents of faith and morals”.

The doctrinal note pointedly told Catholic lawmakers that they cannot put aside Church teaching when it comes to making decisions in their capacity as elected officials.

Rather, the document states, elected officials who are Catholic should advance Church teaching. Elected officials must toe the Church line on such issues as abortion, it says.

In harmony with Church teaching, the document purports “that those who are directly involved in lawmaking bodies have a grave and clear obligation to oppose any law that attacks human life. For them, as for every Catholic, it is impossible to promote such laws or to vote for them.”

The integral good of the human person, which is impacted by the issue of abortion, is linked to the moral law, which Catholics are to commit themselves to uphold, the document says.

The Church holds that no Catholic may claim that “the autonomy of lay involvement in political life” allows him or her to support policies that counter the ethical precepts that are rooted in human nature and which belong to the natural moral law.

The actual position of the Catholic Church is that any law legalising the direct killing of an unborn child is an unjust law that violates the natural law and is, therefore, no law at all.

Similarly, Benedict’s predecessor Pope John Paul II wrote in his 1995 encyclical letter, Evangelium Vitae, that laws which authorise and promote abortion are “radically opposed not only to the good of the individual but also to the common good; as such they are completely lacking in authentic juridical validity.

“Disregard for the right to life, precisely because it leads to the killing of the person whom society exists to serve, is what most directly conflicts with the possibility of achieving the common good,” the Pope said.

“Consequently, a civil law authorising abortion or euthanasia ceases by that very fact to be a true, morally binding civil law.”

Abortion is a crime which no human law can claim to legitimise, John Paul II wrote.

“There is no obligation in conscience to obey such laws; instead there is a grave and clear obligation to oppose them by conscientious objection,” he said.

“In the case of an intrinsically unjust law, such as a law permitting abortion…it is therefore never licit to obey it, or to take part in a propaganda campaign in favour of such a law, or vote for it,” John Paul II said.

Whether they face excommunicated or not, Catholic politicians in Ireland must re-examine their consciences if they are considering supporting this legislation. Rather than worrying about the prospect of being refused Communion at Mass, TDs should concern themselves with combating the immoral legislation at hand.

Catholic politicians are now faced with the decision to legislate for the deliberate killing of the pre-born child in the womb. Can a Catholic politician live with that?

When does human personhood begin?

A philosophical analysis challenges the pro-choice position,
writes Prof. William Reville.

Conception is the start of a continuum of an individual human life that ends eventually in death. Under normal circumstances the unfolding along the biological continuum is automatic and self regulating

Some of the various successive stages along the continuum are termed – zygote – embryo – foetus – baby – child – teenager – adult – elderly person. The transitions between these stages are gradual and smooth – there are no sharp lines of demarcation. The human continuum is qualitatively very different from the sperm and egg cells that precede it and the corpse that succeeds it.

The developing entity is unambiguously alive and biologically and genetically Homo sapiens from the moment of conception and at every point along the continuum it has the human properties characteristic of and appropriate to that stage. The full human essence is present everywhere along the continuum.  The full human genetic instructions are already present in the zygote and these instructions play out, in interaction with the environment, to guide development along the human continuum. The foregoing facts convince me that this human continuum is special enough, even at its earliest stages, to merit sufficient respect that it not be deliberately killed, but not everyone agrees with me with this.

There is universal agreement that it is morally wrong to deliberately kill a human anywhere along the human continuum after the baby stage. The reason for this concensus is that everybody agrees that beyond the baby stage of the continuum you are dealing with a human person and civilised standards everywhere label and condemn the deliberate killing of a person as homicide. But many people sincerely believe that personhood does not exist before birth and consequently that killing an embryo or early stage foetus under circumstances where continuing the pregnancy would cause serious distress to the mother, is permissible and is certainly not homicide.

Personhood is typically thought of as the capacity to do various things that are characteristically human – think, know, feel, remember the past, anticipate the future, etc. Obviously the zygote and the early embryo cannot do these things – these behaviours automatically arise later along the continuum. The pro-choice argument is that at the earlier stages of development in the womb, although the foetus is undoubtedly alive and biologically human, it cannot feel physical pain and is not yet a person.

At first glance this seems to be a substantial argument in favour of the pro-choice position but I believe that it fails under philosophical analysis. I am persuaded by the analysis of this position put forward by the American Catholic theologian and philosopher Peter Kreeft. Kreeft claims that the personhood argument is based on functionalism and confuses being with doing. He argues that personhood is present everywhere along the human continuum, beginning with the zygote.

The pro-choice position views the early embryo and foetus as a potential person but not yet an actual person. Personhood is defined as the ability to do certain things as itemised earlier. But if the foetus is only a potential person, what is it actually? Kreeft says the foetus is a person because the proper definition of something is a definition of its essence, not a description of its behaviour. Being is actual, functioning is potential. Potential refers to behaviour and not essence. Thus, according to Kreeft’s analysis, a zygote or a foetus is a person who is a potential musician, swimmer, singer, etc. (Human Personhood Begins at Conception by P. Kreeft, Medical Ethics Monograph, Castello Institute, Virginia, USA).

Functionalism claims that some human beings are not persons because the quality/capacity of their behaviour is not ‘sufficient’ to qualify them as persons. This is a dangerous philosophy. Who decides what is ‘sufficient’? Obviously the decision is made by the stronger and, human nature being what it is, nature, reason and justice can be replaced by artifice, prejudice and power. When it is in the self-interest of powerful people to kill other people, whether they be foetuses, heretics, ethnic groups, or whatever, they can simply define their victims as non-persons because they do not meet certain criteria.

Functionalism is seeping throughout modern society. People are defined more and more by what they do, not what they are. We are bombarded with reports and statistics that speak of engineers, teachers, nurses etc, not men and women who design and build bridges, teach students and nurse patients. This trend is exacerbated by the decline of the institution of the family. The family is the only social institution where you are valued for what you are rather than what you do but, in the developed world, half of all traditional families based on marriage run onto the rocks of divorce. The family, where we are valued for our being, is being replaced by the workplace, where we are valued for our function. Functionalism encourages modern society to replace the traditional ethic of ‘the sanctity of life’ with the ethic of ‘the quality of life’. This already has big implications for both ends of the human continuum – abortion and euthanasia. But who is to decide when the quality of a life is so low that the life is no longer worth living and where have we heard that chilling phrase “lives not worth living” before?

So, in summary, the individual human person begins suddenly at conception, ends suddenly at death and in between gradually develops his/her personal behaviours. The early embryo is a person with potential not a potential person.

William Reville is an Emeritus Professor of Biochemistry and Public Awareness of Science Officer at UCC.

We cannot simply roll over and legislate for abortion


People have all sorts of reasons for the things they do. Sometimes they are generous reasons and sometimes they are selfish. Some people believe that, by having an abortion (or enabling someone else to have one), they are acting responsibly and even solving a problem for other people.

On the other hand, many people have abortions simply because being pregnant interferes with their life-style. Some doctors see abortion as part of their care for their patients, but others do it simply to make money. It is certainly better to be motivated by generosity and compassion than by greed and selfishness. But no action can be good or morally justified on the basis of intention alone (just because “I meant well”).


Some actions are always objectively evil (or wrong in themselves), no matter what our reasons are for doing them. This is because they conflict with reason or truth. One of these is the deliberate killing of the innocent, which conflicts with the truth about human dignity. This is why the Catholic Church and indeed many other groups and individuals regard abortion as fundamentally immoral.  It is true that, following an abortion, some problems may be resolved.

These apparently ‘good’ consequences do not change the fact that what was intentionally done, the heart of the action, was fundamentally immoral. The end doesn’t justify the means. It is worth remembering also that morality is not just about what happens (the external consequences); it is about what I become through my decision to make it happen or to condone it, or even my failure to prevent it.


Actions don’t happen in a vacuum. There are always circumstances. In the case of abortion, the mother may be very young; she may be frightened, or poor or under pressure from other people. An inexperienced doctor might be faced with a sudden emergency and, without thinking it through properly, might abort the baby.

The level of personal freedom involved determines the level of moral responsibility. A woman acting out of fear would be less responsible, for example, than an experienced medical professional who is probably better informed and less emotionally involved.

The important thing to remember is that while they can be mitigating, the circumstances cannot turn a fundamentally bad action into a good action.

Medical treatment

From both a practical and a moral point of view, there is a vast difference between abortion and medical treatment. It would be truly awful if people were to support the legalisation of abortion in the mistaken belief that it is necessary for the care of women in pregnancy. Nothing could be further from the truth. The following examples may help to explain this.


a) Cancer of the cervix

The treatment for cancer of the cervix during pregnancy is the same as it would be at any other time. It doesn’t ignore the reality of pregnancy or the well-being of the unborn child, but it is realistic about what it is possible to achieve. In early pregnancy, the baby would be unlikely to survive even if the mother’s treatment were to be delayed, whereas the woman’s life would be placed at great risk.

Medical treatment, involving surgery, medication or a combination of both must be the priority. Objectively it is not an abortion because the target is the disease, not the baby.

While the foetus inevitably dies, the intention is to save whatever life can be saved. If cancer were diagnosed later in pregnancy, once the baby is viable outside the womb, the pregnancy would be ‘terminated’ by delivering the baby early with the intention of saving both lives.


b) Ectopic Pregnancy

An ectopic (or tubal pregnancy) happens when the fertilised ovum doesn’t travel down into the womb. It can be quite dangerous for the mother and often requires surgery which results in the death of the embryo. This, like the previous example, is justified under what is known as the principle of ‘double effect’ because the bad effect is not intended, and is not disproportionate to the good effect, and because the mother’s life is saved by the treatment of her fallopian tube and not by the destruction of the embryo. There are also chemical treatments for ectopic pregnancy which involve directly destroying the embryo.

While the end result seems to be the same for the embryo, these treatments using metathrexate are morally unacceptable because they actually target the embryo directly.


c) Ecclampsia

Another common problem during pregnancy is ecclampsia (associated with high blood pressure). This is unpredictable and can be very dangerous if it is not properly managed.

Ecclampsia is associated with the second half of pregnancy and normal treatment includes the early delivery of the baby, together with medication to control the hypertension. There is, therefore, no conflict between the treatment of the mother and the survival of the baby.

d) Severe Bleeding/Infection

Infection or severe bleeding in the womb obviously places both the mother and the baby at risk. If the pregnancy is sufficiently advanced, the baby will be delivered and the mother will be treated immediately and there is a good prospect of saving both lives. If the pregnancy is not that far advanced, the mother has to be treated for the infection or the haemorrhage. The death of the foetus as a side effect of treatment is foreseen but not intended. Since it is not intended, it is neither illegal nor immoral. If the doctor were to directly target the unborn, that would be different, but there is no medical reason for doing so.


e) Suicide ideation

Finally, we must address the question of the risk of suicide in the case of women who may be depressed or anxious during pregnancy. A woman might consider suicide because of a pregnancy but, if her life is at risk it is from herself not from the child in her womb. The appropriate response to the mother’s crisis is to treat her depression or anxiety, through counselling or medication. Abortion, even if it could be morally justified, is not a treatment for depression. The evidence actually points to its being, in its own right, a cause of depression.

The law of the land (the 1861 Act – passed by a Protestant Parliament) and the teaching of the Catholic Church actually have much in common. Both prohibit any action which is done with the “intent to procure a miscarriage” i.e. a deliberate abortion. Neither the Church nor the State prohibits medical treatment which is intended to save life, even if it is not possible to save both lives, provided only that no life is disregarded or deliberately ended. Ultimately the practical decision on the day has to be a medical one. In Ireland, the result is that, without abortion and thanks to the quality of medical care, we have one of the lowest levels in the world of maternal death.

Expert Group

The report of the Government’s Expert Group is presented as a response to the judgement of the Supreme Court in the X case, and subsequently the judgement of the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR).

At the outset, I would question the jurisdiction of the ECHR in this matter because abortion is not a human right. The finding of the Supreme Court in the X case was, at most, that under certain circumstances abortion may be a civil right. Civil rights are not human rights.

More important, however, are the various options presented by the Expert Group, because they all propose the legalisation of abortion, whether by ministerial order or by legislation. No consideration seems to have been given to the possibility that the State could respond to the judgement of the ECHR by seeking to reverse the judgement of the Supreme Court in the X case.

This would, of course involve a further referendum. The present Government seems committed to holding a range of referenda, so there is no reason why a referendum on an issue of such importance should not be facilitated.

X case

The people of Ireland, in the eighth amendment to the Constitution (1983), acknowledged the right to life of the unborn, and the equal right to life of the mother. In its decision in the X case, the Supreme Court, in effect, argues that the right to life of the unborn child is not really equal to the right to life of the mother. An argument like this could validly be used in respect of other rights because there are quite clearly some human rights, such as the right to education, from which an unborn child cannot benefit. The right to life is, however, a precondition of the exercise of any other right at any time in the future.

Mr Justice Finlay maintained that the threat to the life of the mother (which was a matter of speculation or at best probability), carried greater weight than the threat to the actual life of the unborn (which was certain). His judgement also failed to take account of the fact that, while the pregnancy was the circumstances in which the young woman in the X case found herself (through no fault of her own), the risk to her life was not from the child in the womb but from herself.

Mr Justice McCarthy acknowledged that the magnitude of risk applying to the mother would always be less than that applying to the child to be aborted. Then, in spite of that, he went onto say that abortion is envisaged by the eighth amendment, and used the expression “with due regard” as if it in some sense cancelled out the expression “equal right to life”.

Mr Justice Egan interprets the terms “with due regard for the equal right to life of the mother” and “as far as practicable” to mean that an abortion will not in every possible circumstance be unlawful. His conclusion does not follow logically from the premises.

In reality, the above phrases simply acknowledge that, despite the best efforts of the State to carry out its responsibility, the unborn will sometimes die, whether naturally, through medical complications, or through some human agency which is beyond the reasonable control of the State. To acknowledge that the unborn may die, and that the State may be helpless in the face of this death, is fundamentally different to suggesting that it may ever be lawful for the unborn to be killed. Once again, the key issue is that of intention.

The Supreme Court, instead of interpreting the Constitution, went beyond it and changed its meaning, which it is not the competence of the court to do. The court should have respected the stated intention of the vast majority of the Irish people, and might usefully have made reference to the principle of double-effect, which allows for all necessary medical treatment for the mother.

The basis for the decisions in both the X case (1992), and subsequently the C case (1995), would seem to be the very strong public sympathy for the young women concerned who were pregnant. The ground-swell of compassion was perfectly valid and understandable in both cases, but what is not understandable is that judges of the Supreme Court should allow the emotionally charged atmosphere to obscure one of the essential facts, namely that the unborn child also has rights, both under natural law and under the Constitution.

State response

Given that, in both the X and the C cases, the State seemed disposed to believe that the mother was subject to grave pressure, and likely to commit suicide, the question arises as to how else the State might have carried out its responsibility of care, other than by consenting to and, in the C case, formally participating in an abortion.

Two questions in particular arise in respect of these cases

What resources were made available, and what specialist agencies were approached to provide on-going counselling and care for the mother, with a view to reducing or removing the risk of suicide?

What consideration was given to the possibility that the abortion, in itself a violent act, may have added significantly to the trauma of the mother in either case. What kind of post-abortion care has she, the mother, received in either case?


I appreciate that, circumstances such as the recent death of Savita Halappanavar, place politicians under enormous pressure. It is not my wish to add to that pressure. I would point out, however, that the judgement in the X case has ramifications which far exceed anything that might be required to provide appropriate medical care for women during pregnancy. It would be very unfortunate if politicians, in an attempt to respond compassionately to the death of Savita, were to see the legalisation of abortion as a solution.

A Government which by definition has responsibility for the common good cannot, in my view, simply roll over and legislate for abortion, since the common good cannot be achieved by any means which undermines the good of the individual.

I am asking public representatives not to implement the report of the Expert Group but to seek an alternative response to the ECHR which would equally respect the right to life of mothers and their unborn children.

Previous governments have presented us with follow up referenda in which the option was a little abortion or a lot of abortion.

I am calling for a referendum which allows the people the opportunity to exclude abortion altogether.

This should be accompanied by legal clarification of how medical treatment to save the life of the mother can be provided under existing legislation even when, as an unintended consequence, the unborn child would die.

This piece first ran in The Irish Catholic on January 3, 2013

UNICEF report: See the child before the disability

2013-05-30 Vatican Radio

Abid Aslam is the Editor of the UNICEF report.“They have dreams they have the dreams to fulfill those dreams and as we’ve shown in the report, given a fair chance contribute to the vitality of their families and their communities.”
But the findings also show that children with disabilities are often the most marginalized and they are among the most at risk of abuse and neglect, especially if they are institutionalized . Also noted is the fact that girls fare worse than boys and are less likely to receive food and care.
So what can be done to make the lives of these children better?According the UNICEF, summoning political will is crucial.
So far only a third of all nations have ratified and implemented the Convention on the Rights of Children with Disabilities. The report recommends that all nations make a commitment to doing this.In order to fight discrimination that prevents children from reaching their full potential the document urges everyone from governments and the private sector to communities to play their part.

Lombardi: Note on daily Mass Homilies

2013-05-30 Vatican Radio

Pope Francis, he said, wants to retain the familiar atmosphere that characterises the daily Mass, which is typically attended by a small number of the faithful. “For that reason,” Fr. Lombardi said, the Holy Father has specifically requested that the live video and audio not be broadcast.
The Pope’s daily homily, Fr. Lombardi said, is delivered spontaneously, and not from a written text, and in Italian – a language Pope Francis knows well, but which is not his mother tongue. An integral, or official, text, would necessarily have to be transcribed and slightly reworked, given the differences between a written work and the homilies’ original oral form. In short, he said, there would have to be a revision by the Holy Father himself – but this would clearly result in something that differs from what the Holy Father intends in his daily homily.
Father Lombardi went on to explain how the Holy See has resolved the question:
“We must insist on the fact that, in all of the Pope’s activities, the difference between different situations and celebrations, as well as the different levels of authority of his words, must be understood and respected. So, for the Pope’s public celebrations or activities, broadcast live on television and radio, the sermons or speeches are transcribed and published in full. During smaller, more familiar celebrations and functions, we have to pay attention to the character of the situation, and the spontaneity and familiarity of the Pope’s remarks. The solution respects both the intention of the Pope and the nature of the morning Mass, on the one hand; and, on the other hand, the desire to give the wider public the opportunity to hear the message of the Holy Father even in such circumstances.
“And so, after careful consideration, it seems the best way to make the richness of the Pope’s homilies accessible to a wide audience, without altering the nature of his remarks, is to publish a detailed summary, rich in direct quotations that reflect the genuine flavour of the Pope’s expressions. L’Osservatore Romano undertakes this responsibility every day. Vatican Radio, on account of the nature of the medium, offers a shorter synthesis, including some of the original sound, while CTV offers a video clip corresponding to one of the audio inserts published by Vatican Radio.