20Jun Abortion

After much thought and prayer and reading and listening, I have come to a place where I’ve achieved some kind of peace of mind and soul over the abortion question.
I know that, in all conscience, I cannot say that the deliberate terminating of a pregnancy is always wrong. And here I have to say that I take exception to the language that talks about “killing a baby in the womb”. That kind of language is designed to arouse certain emotions and, for me, it puts pressure on me to “confess” I am in favour of killing babies when that is the furthest thing from my heart. There has been great talk about not allowing emotions to cloud our judgement on this issue so I would ask that the Pro-Life lobby stop using such emotive terms when they promote their cause.
I hope I am a considerate, caring compassionate person who utterly values the dignity of every human being and treats people accordingly. So, although I know I’m not going to win many friends by voicing my earnestly arrived at opinions, I ask that anybody reading this will accept that this opinion is something that I’ve struggled with for a long time.
For me, there are a number of factors to be taken into account.
Something that seems to be forgotten in all of the to-ing and fro-ing about the whole question is the actual implications of pregnancy and childbirth. Those who claim that abortion is wrong in all and every situation don’t seem to have thought ahead as to what a woman going through an unwanted pregnancy and giving birth goes through in those nine months. A lot of us who have had very much wanted pregnancies would have to admit it’s no walk in the park! Pregnancy can be a time of discomfort and pain, loss of self-confidence, raging hormones and wild emotional swings – all taking their toll on our own emotional, mental and physical health as well as on our relationships. And “the agony of childbirth” is so named for good reason. It has often been said that the only reason most women go on to have more than one child is that a blessed amnesia sets in about the agony of giving birth! So what must it be like for somebody who abhors every second and is utterly terrified about the future?
When you say that a woman who has an unwanted pregnancy must allow that pregnancy to become a baby who must be born, just think what you’re sentencing that woman to. (I can totally accept that many women who thought about abortion but went on to have their babies had a change of heart and came to love – or at least put up with – the pregnancy and loved the child by the time of his birth – but can you claim that would always be the case?)
Secondly, who ARE these people who seek abortion? Are they just thoughtless, careless, immoral beings who have no regard for the sanctity and the dignity of human life? Are they girls/women who live a debauched lifestyle of indiscriminate, unprotected sex and who don’t want to take any responsibility for their actions? Is Ireland full of such people and are they only waiting for the opportunity to have clinics on their doorsteps so that they can have regular abortions? Those who don’t want to allow abortions into the country under any circumstances must think so, as they fear we’ll be “opening the floodgates to abortion on demand”.
I mix with quite a variety of people in my everyday life and, while I’m not naive enough to believe no such people exist, in all honesty, I haven’t met too many of them. On the surface, some may seem so, but there’s a strong core of morality in most of the people I meet.
So who does that leave? It leaves girls/women for whom allowing a pregnancy to continue causes them absolute terror, horror and anguish for some reason.
I can think of the young, terribly immature, vulnerable girl, lacking in coping skills and without much self-worth, so needy that she allows her “fella” to “do it to her” (that’s how they often see sex – not an act of mutually desired intimacy!) She’s not yet mature enough to be responsible for her own life, let alone the life of another being. Will you be there for her in the middle of the night when she lies awake terrified about the future – not understanding what’s happening to her body and terrified by thoughts of what’s to come?
I can think of the harried mother of young children, who is already nearing breaking point, who’s already afraid she’s not caring properly for the children she’s got because she’s so over-burdened by life. Another pregnancy may not end her life but it may have dire consequences on her ability to care for her existing children, not to mention another mouth to feed. Will you be there to look after her children one day a week so that she can rest up during this pregnancy? And will you continue to help her care for her children after the new baby is born?
I can think of the rape victim, who knows that the “growth” inside her carries genetic material of the rapist. Will you be there to deal with the disgust she feels – a disgust that leaves her hating her own body?
I can think of the woman who knows that the child growing inside her cannot survive when s/he’s born. Are you going to sit with her as she suffers all the pains and agony of pregnancy and childbirth knowing that it will end with death?
I’m not trying to pull on the heartstrings here – but I DO want people to “look ahead” when they say abortion may never be permissible. The compassionate heart has to ache for them.
But, you say, God has decreed that life is sacred from the moment of conception till it reaches its natural end. Only God has the right to determine who lives. One look at the wars that have been waged “in the name of God” and the executions which have taken place with the blessings of organised religion (thus the” will” of God?) seems to dilute that argument somewhat.
It is never permissible to interfere with the will of God. I agree. But, who is it who discerns the “Will” of God? Is it not the case that, over the centuries, what was deemed to be God’s “Will” has changed – what was once anathema is now accepted as a truth? Although I have absolutely no doubt that those who work to discern God’s will for all religious codes of practice do so with honesty and sincerity and much prayerful reflection, I have to ask how do they reach the decision that they HAVE discerned God’s Will? How do they inform themselves? What sources do they go to in order to reach their decisions?
Scripture obviously has to be the primary source. What clarity do they find there as to when “life” begins?
Is it possible that another source of their information, Tradition – is, in fact, a Tradition that is made up of practices and beliefs that always need to be re-examined in the light of humanity’s deepening understanding of itself?
When they look for the signs of the times, can they conceive of the notion that the dialogue they engage in is only with people who, basically, share the same world-view, and, as such, are bound to reinforce their already existing beliefs?
(Coming from a lifetime of blind acceptance of and attempted obedience to the teachings of the church, I find that I still have to fight my internal voices that scream “You’re being guilty of the sin of pride and arrogance for daring to question!” Paradoxically, that’s what reassures me I’m RIGHT to follow the questions that arise within me! It’s not easy for me to go against the teachings of my church.)
Although I realise that the genetic code for a new human being is present from the moment of conception, I cannot accept that this is now a new life. I truly have the belief that it is POTENTIAL new life and I would love to believe that each potential new life was one that was desired and wanted with hearts filled with love.
But I keep coming back to the cases where, allowing the development of that new life would actually cause serious emotional/physical/psychological and maybe even spiritual damage to the woman going through it. In all conscience, I don’t think I have the right to say “You must go through with it because somebody else has decided it’s God’s will that you do”.
Does that make me a supporter of the killing of babies?
No. I would never, in a million years, support the destruction of human beings. But when it comes to the protection of already living beings over potential lives, I have to come down in favour of those already alive.
Even if I WERE to see the termination of a developing life as a killing, the justice system does not assume that in each and every case the person who has ended another person’s life is guilty of murder. A person has to be tried to determine whether a killing may have been self-defence. Yet we wish to say that every woman who has a termination- no matter what she perceives to be the consequences of allowing a baby to develop inside her- is guilty of murder. No argument for self-defence is ever permissible. Is that just?
It used to be a source of pride to me that I lived in a Catholic country. But that was before I opened my eyes and realised that “Catholic”, in the Irish context, really meant that we hid away and denied anything that didn’t fit in with the “clean-living, pure- we all think with one mind ” picture we wanted to paint of ourselves. Those who had pregnancies outside of marriage were locked up like criminals; children who had nobody to rear them properly were put out of sight in institutions; youngsters who were taught to be totally obedient to their elders were brutally abused by some of those they particularly had to obey and that abuse was covered up by those who should have known better. The list goes on.
I no longer want to live in a “Catholic Country”. I want to live in a country which is accepting of all religions and none – a country where all who sincerely seek the truth feel welcome and valued in their diversity-where no-one feels either superior or inferior because of his/her beliefs.
I want to remain a Catholic, but a Catholic who takes responsibility for my own beliefs – who never again allows somebody else to do my thinking for me and tell me what I must believe . I love my church community – I love the celebration of the Eucharist and the familiarity that the Catholic way of being in relationship with my loving God affords me. But I can never again close my eyes to the realities of the human condition in all its messiness. In the case of termination of pregnancy, I cannot accept that one size fits all, that life begins at the moment of conception and that, from that second on, the potential life has equal rights with that of the already living woman.
I imagine there are a number of women in Ireland today who are hurting badly from the language that is being used by some in the Pro-life campaign. Even if a person felt that the greater good was served by not allowing a pregnancy to continue, it would take a very, very self-assured, strong, confident woman not to be hurt by having a label like “Baby-killer” levelled at her. To you I say this is one Irish Catholic who does not, in any way, stand in judgement over you. My heart goes out to you because it can’t have been an easy decision to make or an easy path to follow.
I fully acknowledge that my views are not in accordance with those of many people in this country. I fully accept that they are emotionally driven – that I have not referred to the objective biological/medical/theological/ethical/moral arguments that have been presented by experts in the various fields during this time of debate and decision making. I think I have heard them all. In the end though, I think it has to come down to each person searching deep within his/her own heart in order to find out where s/he stands on this, one of the most deeply emotionally driven questions we can ever ask ourselves. Ultimately, we are creatures who live by our emotions, aren’t we?

100 Responses

  1. Fr. Kieren

    I cant help but disagree with you. I think that the flaw in your argument is expressed through your distinction between “living beings” and “potential lives”. You recognise that the subject matter is emotive, and yet you then make an unscientific distinction. Let us be clear then, once conception takes place life exists, a living human being exists, that is distinct from both mother and father, although dependant upon them, this life/being has the potential to become a human person, but let us not split hairs, that life/being already exists.
    Like you I feel that the issue of abortion can sadly be reduced to emotive language and arguments, but this does not mean we should distort basic scientific truths. What the argument boils down to is whether or not the life in the womb, a potential human person – regardless of developmental stage, has a lesser right to exist.

  2. Con Carroll

    Jo, Im sure like most men and women who are honest about their views. about the right of women to control their own bodies. we are Compassionate caring people. the right of women to have accurate non scare-mongering information. in which these women are able to empower themselves. when it comes to health issues of birth. termination of foetus I often have to say to myself, what would we who are men know about womens bodies. we men dont become pregenant, carry a foetus in our wombs. we men do have to wait 9 months. yes the ACP. HAS BEEN SILENT. the Conference of Religious of Ireland. statement on the governments bill about the right to life of Mother and foetus has been scare-mongering ignorance disgraceful
    I am pro life, I get angry at obscene economoc policy decisions which have seen over 90 thousand children living in poverty in Ireland. I wish if we could become as angry about child poverty. as we become angry about the right of women to have ternination of their pregancies. I will not condem women. swing a pair of rosaries call women murdereres. calling myself pro-life. we should advice women to seek qualified professional counselling. which includes all options

  3. Nuala O'Driscoll

    You are a brave woman Jo and I am writing in support of your article. I have seven children and I had two miscarriages. I was a loyal and deeply committed Catholic until recent years when, while doing a degree course in theology a veil was pulled from my eyes. I saw the hypocrisy of the Institutional, hierarchical, celibate, male dominated Catholic Church for what it is. Humanae Vitae was the catalyst for me. No words can describe the anger I feel towards these celibate men who determine that men and women cannot use contraception to plan their families.
    Regarding abortion; “In a pluralistic society, where consensus on such an issue does not exist, only the path of political compromise is possible. St Thomas Aquinas said as much over seven hundred years ago” (Catholicism; Richard P. McBrien, page 1011). The Institutional Church should be very careful with its aggressive approach on this very sensitive issue. More than 80% of Catholics ignore the Church’s teaching on contraception, the opinion polls suggest that the majority of Catholics are now following their own consciences in the debate on abortion. It is the woman and the woman alone who should determine whether she can go through with a pregnancy to full term. This is the truth.

  4. Soline Humbert

    @1 Fr Kieren :”Once conception takes place life exists,a living human being exists that is distinct from both mother and father,although dependent upon them …” THEM? Is it not just upon HER, HER BODY? The father does not become pregnant and does not give birth. HIS BODY,health and life are not
    involved,are not at stake in the process.
    I cannot but wonder if men did become pregnant what laws we would have in both church and state?
    For instance,would abortion still carry the penalty of automatic excommunication,while torturing and murdering thousands of children,women and men does not?
    Thank you Jo for your honest,courageous reflection on this issue and sharing some of your own deep soul searching.

  5. Patricia Fitzsimons

    As a doctor practising in Ireland for some 33 years I welcome the current Protection of Life in Pregnancy Bill. It had become increasingly difficult to deal with situations where the mothers life was threatened even by an ectopic pregnancy where the chances of foetal survival are miniscule. In the situation where the mothers life is threatened by the pregnancy there is no question of equal right to life, the rights of the mother take precedence over the rights of the foetus. I believe it will be exceptional if ever, that risk of suicide will be a reason for an abortion. Unfortunately the catholic church’s view in this is consistent with their attitude towards women in the church and in life dealing with contraceptive issues, marital breakdown etc. The Catholic Bishops of Irelands statement that this bill is a dramatic and morally unacceptable change to Irish law is simply not true, it is bringing into law what is already being practised in Ireland and giving protection not previously available to doctors dealing with these matters.

  6. Liam

    Something is either living or it is not living. There is no such category as a “potential life.” An embryo is not part of a woman’s body as is an organ or a limb, it is a distinct and separate person, it is a distinct and separate soul.
    We all have our issues with the institutional, hierarchical church but what we’re talking about here is human life at its most vulnerable stage. It is a matter of social justice that we put aside our own squabbles and stand up for that life. Speak out for those who have no voices.
    I’d wager to say this opinion does not represent the majority viewpoint of the members of the Association of Catholic Priests. If I’m wrong and it does then the situation for Church renewal in Ireland is worse that I thought and it’s a Church that I want no part of. It is not a Church that speaks up for the vulnerable, it is a Church that speaks in terms of domination. It is not a Church of peace and justice for all. It most certainly is not the Church founded by the Prince of Peace.

  7. Joe O'Leary

    Conception does not create an independent human being (the zygote can become twins up to 14 days); no one knows when the continuum reaches the point at which an individual human being exists.

    “Direct killing of the innocent” often occurs in cases of self-defence, and this could be invoked to lessen the moral gravity of abortion in some cases.

    The prolifers would do well to take more account of these apparent grey areas.

  8. Fr. Kieren

    Hi Soline,
    Abortion doesn’t necessary carry the penalty of automatic excommunication, the penalty is incurred only if certain conditions are met ( age, free consent etc…). I always find it strange that fathers don’t seem to be considered in this debate. In a society (UK) when absent fathers are lambasted, they are refused a voice over the subject of their unborn child. Like you I applaud Jo in he fact that she opened this debate, in fact I believe that it needs to be discussed, I don’t agree with her, not because I’m a Catholic or even a priest, but because removing all emotive language it doesn’t in my eyes make philosophical or scientific sense. I don’t think slogans like ‘her body’ helps when the act of abortion is the deliberate destruction of a completely separate and distinction life/being.
    Nuala above speaks of Humane Vitae, and her rejection of the official Church teaching. It is interesting that after growing up in England, and basically accepting the ideal of contraception and aspects of abortions, I after reading and studying Humane Vitae came to the opposite conclusion to that of Nuala. But then again living in England I might suggest that the predictions of Paul VI contained in the document are plain to see.

  9. Colin

    Jo – very moving piece. I wish others of your religion would have the same level of understanding of the complexities of reality. The arrogance of certainty that runs through the anti-choice movement is wearisome.

  10. Raymond McIntyre

    Do we follow the science concerning human life or are we content to live in a land where the value of human life is determined by the emotional state of another.Joseph O’Leary, my learned friend whom I regularly enjoy some web based intellectual jousting with raises the old ”Twinning ” canard in what I would deem to be a lazy attempt(and not refelctive of Joseph’s intelligence) to undermine the fact that a unique individual human life begins at conception.Perhaps some actual science would shed some light on the validity of this truth.Humans not only reproduce sexually but also in rare cases can reproduce Asexually.Such is the ”plasticity” of early embryonic totipotential cells (hence the perceived value of these cells in unethical stem cell research) if one cell becomes ”separated from the early embryo that separated cell has the totipotential ability to form a new individual.That is called Asexual reproduction where a unique human individual can give rise to another unique human individual in the early stages of development in the womb.
    Further studies reveal that monozygotic twinning actually occurs during the first cell division, within 24 hours of fertilization. When the zygote splits, instead of forming two blastomeres, two distinct zygotes are formed, each then developing independently. This would mean that twinning is part of fertilization process, not an event that occurs post-fertilization.

    Personally I prefer to follow the science, following emotions can lead to sad outcomes and gross injustice in this world where the strong try to dominate the weak.

  11. De


    I wanted to write and thank you for your piece. It seems to me that too many people take a simplistic view of abortion (that it is killing babies), without putting themselves in the position of the woman, or asking themselves if they would force their own daughter to continue with a crisis pregnancy.

    Thank you once again for a thoughtful and brave piece of writing.

  12. Carol


    Thank you for taking the time to write this. I am an atheist but have lived in Ireland all my life and have many Catholic friends, so I know how much courage this took and how deep you had to look to reach this mindset. And I totally agree with everything you’ve said. I just wish the male-dominated religions of this world would stop making decisions for women and give us the respect we deserve! Personally, I feel religion is a tool used by men to scaremonger, dominate and rule, and its been a liberating experience knowing I answer to no one but myself and my own social morals. Deciding whether to have an abortion is one of the most difficult decisions a woman will ever make but it should always be hers and hers alone. It’s never the quick-fix some would say it is – it’s harrowing and made worse by the fact women from Ireland have to go to England under a veil of shame to have it done. The Catholic church needs to think more of its followers and envelope them with patience, understanding and love – isn’t that what Jesus preached? Sadly, it’s track record is at best poor and at worst truly abhorrent. Brought up a Protestant, I was taught all churches were there to guide, teach, help and not judge – how wrong that was!

  13. Katie Murray

    We as Catholics have a great responsibility to live according to the Gospel of live which Jesus preached. If we are true Catholics we need to realise that every child is a gift from God, who deserve to be on this earth as much as everyone else. We need to support the women who face all types of crisis pregnancies. We also need to support the men too who can be overwhelmed. Abortion is not just about women, it is about men also. It takes two people to make a baby and in the case of an unplanned or crisis pregnancy the love and support we can offer the woman or the couple can go along way.

    With regards your comment about war and murders committed “in the name of God” let us remember that we all have free will, we have been given free will by our Creator which allows us to do good and do bad. God is not controlling, he is love.

    As a young Pro Life woman who is a practicing Catholic I deplore the attempts to demonise every Pro Life person with the same comments. This sensitive subject has to be debated with respect, honesty and without judgement.

  14. Mary

    Dear Jo,

    I second those commentators who have suggested that your article is brave. It is clear that you have examined your conscience and your own religious beliefs most closely on this matter and critically reflected on the important issues at hand. You are truly to be commended for offering a thoughtful and reflective analysis. Thank you.

    I am grateful to hear that Fr. Kieren is supportive of Jo’s intent to open these issues to debate as they do indeed need to be discussed: openly, calmly and respectfully. However, I have a number of comments to make to Fr. Kieren’s observations. In response to Fr. Kieren’s first comment, I would like to say that I respect your right to hold and express religious beliefs, even though I do not share them. However, I do not understand how can argue that Jo’s distinction between a pregnant woman who is already alive and the potential life that is growing inside her, and is dependent upon her, is a flawed argument. How is this an “unscientific” distinction? It is clear that the life that is developing inside the mother is precisely dependent upon her until that life becomes viable and can survive on its own. In this sense that life is a potential life. If you do not like that wording we could say that the life that is emerging into life inside the mother is not an independent life until a certain point of development when it can survive outside of the womb on its own. I disagree with your argument that a life that exists inside the womb of the mother is distinct from the mother because, as I have already explained, that life is dependent upon the mother for existence. Therefore that life is not distinct from the mother. It certainly is, however, distinct from the father. Further to this, it is too simplistic to argue that ‘what the argument boils down to is whether or not the life in the womb, a potential human person – regardless of developmental stage, has a lesser right to exist.’ Why should we agree to bracket out the stage of development of a life that is dependent on another fully developed life in order to become a distinct life? As Joe correctly observes, conception does not create an independent human being and as Soline points out, the father does not give birth and it is not his body, health or life which are directly implicated by pregnancy.

    In response to Fr. Kierren’s second comment, I think it is disingenuous, and potentially insulting to many couples, to suggest that ‘fathers don’t seem to be considered in this debate.’ Fathers are consulted, and a loving partner would offer his opinion but, I am sure, acknowledge that the final decision to continue with a pregnancy must necessarily lay with the mother as it is her, and her alone, who risks her own life and health to bring that life to term and give birth to it. I am not exactly sure what your comment about absent fathers has got to do with this debate about pregnancy. How could an absent father have a ‘voice over the subject of their unborn child’? If a father is not absent then in the best of circumstances he will be consulted, it simply cannot be his final decision as to whether or not the woman chooses to continue with the pregnancy as it is not his life and health on the line. As you are quite aware Fr., there is no decisive scientific or philosophical argument that definitively claims that the life in the womb is completely separate and distinct from the mother. It is the woman’s body, ‘her body,’ that supports that life to a stage whereby it can function on its own. That is a scientific fact.

    I say all of this as a loving mother myself. As a mother, as a woman who has been pregnant, who has never considered abortion as a personal option for myself, I would never, ever, assume to know, or to judge, what any other person would do in circumstances whereby they felt that they could not continue with a pregnancy. Perhaps that is because my life experience has taught me, as Jo so poignantly observes, that life is a messy business. There are ideals and there are realities. It is humane to consider this when considering the choices that others make.

  15. John Smith

    What about the Downs Syndrome child? or what about the child that happens to come along at the wrong time of the year or has a cleft palate or webbed feet or hands? or Simese twins? or who has black hair rather than blonde hair?

    Where and how do you draw the line?

  16. Fr. Kieren

    Hi Mary,
    Thanks for your comments, and I appreciate your points. My comments regarding fathers was in response to the clear assertion made by Soline, I perhaps was a little harsh in my interpretation of her comments, but she did stress the point that it was “her body” whereas in my opening post I attempted to stress both parents.
    I think the debate must rest on the status on the unborn, I do not question that the unborn are dependant upon their mothers (as are newborns), but one must establish is the life/being of the unborn distinct from that of the mother, and if so does that life have the right to exist.
    I have ministered to many women forced or to soften the term, encouraged by partners and parents to have an abortion, and I believe rather than resorting to emotive arguments that can hurt so many, we focus on the moral/legal status of the unborn. I was struck by a phrase I read concerning the debate in Ireland yesterday, and I think it was linked to the Taosioch (sorry about spelling), he seemed to be promoting the current bill while arguing that the life of the unborn should be protected. In England the civil law unfortunately is clear, the unborn has no protection under the law, in Ireland there seems to be a contradiction. Perhaps you can clear it up for me, in Ireland are the unborn protected under the law?
    It also saddens me that the above discussion seems to have divided between men and women.

  17. Fr. Kieren

    Hi again Mary,
    Sorry to post again so quickly.i have just re-read your post. You write about independence of life, and I take your point. But your argument could be logically drawn out, as the philosopher Peter Singer does, to refer to the newborn, the handicapped and the elderly. In fact there is no such thing as true autonomy, we are all dependent upon each other, there is no real thing called the independence of life.

  18. fionnualani dhomhnaill

    I am offend by article firstly because it is presuming that pro life women have not been through these situations. As a mother of nine my first pregnancy at 19 I have seen the compassion of pro life people fist hand all through my life. When I almost became a maternal death because of medical negligence and luckily was saved my my local Hospital and spent months in intensive care recovering from brain Damage it was prolife people who stayed up night after night minding my tiny twins and help look after my 6 other children. At the moment I have the pleasure of joining with these wonderful people witnessing for life in Newbridge every week. I have heard so many wonderful stories from the public, like the wonderful young mother who told me she was conceived in rape and her mother said that she brought her nothing but love , she would be so offend by your description of her being a “growth” inside her carrying genetic material of the rapist. She is a human being and did not asked to be conceived. Or the other young mother that was informed the baby would not live long after birth and was bullied and made feel small by her obstetrician because she choose like 90% of Irish women who discover their baby will not live after birth not to kill the baby that she could feel playing and kicking Inside her, she remembers her time with her baby with great love which is in sharp contrast to the women who aborted these babies that seem so angry. You may condemn others and call them judgmental Jo, but surely depriving a person of their right to life is the most judgemental thing you can do, that is why we voted against the death penalty. Also EVERY treatment to save a mothers life at the moment is not abortion, the aim is to save the mother which can mean the loss of the baby and this is most upsetting of course for the mother. There was a time when beating children in schools was the norm, now there would be outrage if it happened. With the proper support and excellent maternal care there should be a time soon that abortion will be unthinkable.

  19. Tomás Mulcahy

    Jo that is the most compassionate and genuinely christian piece of writing on this issue I have yet seen. Well done. Your empathy is very evident and we can all relate to the people you describe.

    It’s such a shame that the argument degenerates immediately in the comments. Fr. Kieren claims to be using “science” but in fact to define life is, as yet, impossible and hotly debated in science- something Fr. Kieren would be aware of if he was genuine about being a man of science, instead of misusing it as yet another emotive trigger.

    But I am open to correction Fr. Kieren, please cite any references you have to support your point.

  20. Fr. Kieren

    I suppose I could direct you to any biology text book. The fact as you assert that the definition of life ( or the independent start of life if you prefer) is hotly contested, suggests to me, that this lies at the heart of the argument. I am attempting to avoid emotive language, in fact I am not aware that I have used such language, emotive language clouds the discussion and can cause unnessary hurt, and for this reason I refuse to allow certain groups to make appeals in my parish. I also never suggested that I was a man of science, although I attempt to the best of my ability to inform my philosophy through scientific debate. Again the simply question is this: is the life in the womb distinct from its parents, for example does that life have a separate genetic code, furthermore we could nd should then ask does that life exist in the womb, or is the existence of life dependant on birth.

  21. Raymond McIntyre

    With respect to those nice people who continually employ terms like ”grey areas, science has not decided on when life begins, there is no definition of human life, the start of human life is indeterminate”…with the greatest respect please pop down to your local library and ask for any medical textbook on embryology. It will be clear after a few pages that based on a rational secular scientific analysis and discovery that science does indeed make a clear distinction between Life & not Life, between Human Life & non Human Life (ie another species) and for your information a human ”fetus” is actually not a different species to a human baby, teenager,adult or old age pensioner…Someone asked for citations…two follow from Princton a liberal secular university in the USA (there are hundreds more on the link) QED

    “Although life is a continuous process, fertilization is a critical landmark because, under ordinary circumstances, a new, genetically distinct human organism is thereby formed…. The combination of 23 chromosomes present in each pronucleus results in 46 chromosomes in the zygote. Thus the diploid number is restored and the embryonic genome is formed. The embryo now exists as a genetic unity.”
    [O’Rahilly, Ronan and Müller, Fabiola. Human Embryology & Teratology. 2nd edition. New York: Wiley-Liss, 1996, pp. 8, 29. This textbook lists “pre-embryo” among “discarded and replaced terms” in modern embryology, describing it as “ill-defined and inaccurate” (p. 12}]
    “Almost all higher animals start their lives from a single cell, the fertilized ovum (zygote)… The time of fertilization represents the starting point in the life history, or ontogeny, of the individual.”
    [Carlson, Bruce M. Patten’s Foundations of Embryology. 6th edition. New York: McGraw-Hill, 1996, p. 3]

  22. Fr. Kieren

    Can I refer you to Raymond’s (21) post.

  23. Mary

    Hi Father Kieren,

    I appreciate your responses. I understand that you may feel your response on the issue of fathers may have been a little harsh. These are issues that touch each and every one of us at the heart of what we are and, as such, our own responses can be a little emotive.

    I think it is very important to stress the involvement of both parents, both in bringing a life into the world and, ideally, looking after that life once it is in the world. It clearly takes two people to make a baby and having a child is a lifelong commitment. However, as I pointed out, it is only, singularly and exclusively the body of the mother that bears the pregnancy, which invariably poses some risk to her health, at the very least. When that pregnancy is wanted, many women gladly undergo the risks that are a natural result of pregnancy. But I think that we do need to be clear that when we are talking about pregnancy, as we are here, it is ONLY the body, health and life of the mother that is placed at risk.

    I totally agree that this debate rests on the status of the unborn. It is precisely how we define this life which, as you agree is dependent on the mother (who is already alive). In this sense, it is not logical that the unborn can be considered as totally distinct life. I take your point, with regard to Peter Singer (I am familiar with his work). I am persuaded by the argument that no life is totally autonomous and that we are, to a greater or lesser extent, dependent on each other. However, the philosopher Judith Butler has argued this dependence through in relation to precarity. Some lives are more dependent and more precarious than others. For example, in your first post you mention that the unborn is dependent on the pregnant mother, as is the newborn. However, there are degrees of dependence at stake here that cannot be conflated with each other. The newborn is dependent upon the mother, for love, for care, for emotional bonding and so on, but it can be fed by others (its father, grandfather, grandmother, brother, sister, a caring neighbour and so on)and loved by others and so on. The unborn is, until a certain stage of development, completely and utterly dependent on the mother for the sustenance of its existence: that is incontrovertible. We need to be very careful to pay attention to distinctions of dependency.

    I have great sympathy for women who are either forced or “encouraged” to have an abortion by parents, partners, or anyone else. The point here is that no woman should be forced to make that decision by anybody; whether it is to continue with the pregnancy or not. Neither continuance nor abortion should be a matter of force or compromised choice. The difference here is coercion. For example, we are all required to make many difficult decisions in our lives. Being coerced does not allow an individual to make a decision for themselves or to take responsibility for that decision. Any one of us may regret decisions that we have made through life’s long journey. However, taking responsibility for our decisions and choices is only possible if we can make that decision in consultation with our own conscience and with the love and support, not judgement, of those closest to us. I know of women who have regretted having an abortion and of women who did not regret that choice (many of whom were mothers, or became mothers in the future or who simply did not want to be mothers).

    The life of the unborn is protected under Irish law. Article 40.3.3 of the constitution states that ‘The State acknowledges the right to life of the unborn and, with due regard to the equal right to life of the mother, guarantees in its laws to respect, and, as far as practicable, by its laws to defend and vindicate that right.’ When the right to life of the unborn and the mother are equal in law, problems arise (and have recently arisen here in Ireland) when there is a competing right to life. We had a tragic situation here in Ireland where a woman, who was miscarrying at 17 weeks, contracted sepsis, and a termination of the now, sadly, non-viable pregnancy could not be undertaken because of the presence of a fetal hearbeat. The woman died, as by the time the fetal heartbeat ceased, the sepsis had progressed too far. That lady’s name was Savita Halappanavar.

    The debate has not only been divided between men and women on this thread, but been debated amongst them and that is heartening to see. However, we simply cannot pretend that this is a gender neutral issue. It is not. It affects both men and women, but in different and not equivalent ways.

    All of that said, I am loathe to concentrate only on the philosophical and scientific issues raised by Jo’s article. For every philosopher that would make one argument, another will argue from a different perspective. Whilst I think it is correct to resist from using emotive language in this debate, I think the point that Jo is making is that this is an emotional, and a spiritual, issue to be decided, ultimately, by a woman and her conscience. I ask you father, is it a decision that you would have to like to make? I would not. It is, finally, the women concerned who will bear the emotional and spiritual burden for whatever decision she makes. I truly feel it is inhumane for any other human being who does not, or will never have, to make that choice to deny her that choice or to judge her for it. To me, that would be unchristian.


  24. Soline Humbert

    @16 Fr Kieren,to clarify:
    when I questioned your statement that life in the womb was dependent on father and mother, I just wanted to make the point that no man has ever died because of complications in pregnancy or childbirth,and no man’s health has ever suffered because of pregnancy. In that sense it is “her body”,and “not his” which is on the line.It is the woman, and not the man, who is extending what has been described by a theologian as the most radical form of hospitality, for it is within one’s own flesh and is nourished by one’s own blood.A woman’s body is forever changed by pregnancy and childbirth. A man’s body is not.I was not saying anything more, or less, about the role of the man/father.
    For the record nearly 30 years ago I wrote a poem/spiritual reflection on the experience of being pregnant and giving birth to one of our sons ( which was published in the Redemptorist magazine REALITY): I could write it, my husband couldn’t,not because he didn’t love the baby as much as I did, but because he had not gone through the bodily experience. It was my body,not his.
    I hope this clarifies my original point.

  25. Fr. Kieren

    Thanks Soline,
    I was harsh in my interpretation, and apologise.
    Mary, thanks for your detailed reply. I haven’t had time to digest it fully and I appreciate your clarification of Irish law and your mention of the work of Judith Butler. I appreciate the tone of your argument, but I don’t feel ( at first glance) that you fully appreciate my point. I feel that if life is present, regardless of degree of dependence, even outside that womb, then does that life have a right to exist, or is its existence based on its degree of dependence?

  26. Nicola

    I agree that abortion is an extremely emotive issue and applaud the compassion conveyed in Jo’s article. I am in favour of necessary medical interventions to save the life of the mother, precipitated by a physical threat, even if that results in the indirect death of the unborn child. I am not however, in favour of the inclusion of suicidal ideation as a basis of a termination of pregnancy.

    I don’t believe that any of us are ‘pro-death’. Even on the Pro-Choice side of the debate, most are not in favour of abortion but believe the choice should be the mother’s alone. I am also of the opinion that no one agrees with the killing of a child in any circumstances. The core issue at the centre of this debate is the determination of when human life begins. If we do not believe life begins at conception, when does it? Is it gradual or decisive? Is it post-viability or at birth? Such arguments can have us tied up in legal, scientific, moral and philosophical knots. If we cannot agree, we must err on the side of caution, particularly when the matter at hand is life and death.

    I believe human life begins at conception. At this time a unique human being with a completely separate and distinct genetic code, comes into existence. From this moment on, the embryo is ontologically no different from a foetus, baby, toddler, child, adolescent, adult or geriatric, terms we use to describe humans at various stages in our development. We do not change from non-human to human on this journey.

    I do not believe the Catholic Church’s position on this is from an anti-woman, mysoginistic point of view. I firmly believe in the sanctity of all human life and this is what the Church is upholding. I have great sympathy for women in difficult situations as I had my own son at a young age but as Christians we must help women in these dire circumstances and treat all women who have had abortions with the utmost empathy and compassion, dispensing with the judgementalism.

    The life of unborn children must be defended. They have just as much a right to life as any of us. We cannot uphold the rights of certain citizens by subordinating the rights of others. This is not the hallmark of a civilised society.

  27. ger gleeson

    As a male, practising catholic, and parent, may I sincerely congratulate Jo O’Sullivan, on her compassionate and realistic post on this most serious and emotive subject. This, as Jo points out, is not a black and white issue.
    I am no Theologian, Medical expert, Politician or Legal expert, so I can only give my opinion based on my understanding of Gods will for us. Yes, God wishes us to cherish life from conception to natural death. That said, did he wish a young lady to die, because of my Churches understanding of his command? I am totally ashamed of my church because of this horrific incident. No one will ever convince me that her death was due to something other than our misunderstanding of Gods will. One death in these circumstances, is simply one too many.
    Politician’s I would say, do your duty to protect all life, and make sure that Legal certainty is copper fastened.

  28. Mary

    Hi Fr. Kieren,

    I think the sticky issue for me, is that I cannot consider the unborn ‘regardless of degree of dependence,’ that was, essentially, the trajectory of the points that I made. We can debate ad infinitum whether life begins at conception, at implantation, at viability or at birth. All perspectives have their own validity. However, to clarify, my own position is whilst the unborn exists, its existence is, until a certain point, exclusively dependent on the mother who is sustaining that life’s development with her nutrients, blood, oxygen (etc.) until such a point that that life can survive without her. To further clarify, the unborn exists but I cannot equate its right to existence with the mother who is a sentient and conscious adult engaged in complex emotional, cultural, social relations. The mother may have other children who love her, are dependent upon her and so on, not to mention others who love her and rely on her. At present, the Irish constitution equates the right to life of the unborn with that of the mother. However, the ambiguity that arises here is when these two ‘rights’ are in conflict. In other words, do we save the unborn or the mother if the pregnancy is putting her life at risk. The converse to this argument is, do we forsake the life of the mother if her health is endangering the unborn? If the unborn is at such a stage of development that it could not survive outside of the womb, then it will die too. Hence there is no logical position from which to argue that the life of the mother should be forsaken as this would not ensure that the unborn is developed enough to survive without her. However, unless the mother’s life is already at risk, she can survive without the unborn.

    So, this is not simply a case of whether or not the unborn has a right to exist, or if its existence is based upon its degree of dependence. Rather, it is a case of whether its existence can be EQUATED with that of the mother whose survival is not dependent on it.

    These are, obviously, problematic ethical issues to which there is no easy scientific or philosophical resolution, as in the case of a person who is dependent on a life support machine for the continuance of life. I would never deny the dignity of life. However, my own family were placed in an extremely difficult situation when we were asked to consider withdrawing life support from a family member as the medical experts confirmed that the person on life support would cease to exist if life support was withdrawn and, furthermore, had no chance of survival without such life support as there was no brain function compatible with “independent” existence. Yet, this person existed and was alive, but being kept so artificially. We have already discussed the question of degrees of dependence, which are varied and complicated. Yet they cannot be ignored. Such dilemmas are impossible, yet decisions need to be made. As I have already mentioned, I am sympathetic to the argument that we are all variously dependent on others. However, whilst one may rely on a machine for a certain level of functioning, there seems to me that there is a vast degree of difference in relying (for example on a dialysis machine) to relying on a life support machine. Or, demanding of another person that they support my life at the expense of their own.


  29. Sheelagh Hanly

    Most of those supporting this bill make negative remarks about the Catholic Church or cover up of sex abuse or even the Church’s attitude to women. Abortion is not about the Catholic Church; it is a human rights issue. The issue is the direct targeting of the baby in the womb and nothing else. The Galway death was used by pro abortion lobby to further it’s own agenda. It is time for the truth which is most abortions are not done to save anyone’s life, nor for women who are laden down with too many children or poverty. Most abortions are not done for rape or incest and only facilitate these crimes against women by disposing of the baby. When a girl goes for treatment after being raped, part of the treatment is to prevent conception taking place and this treatment is available for rape victims. I am surprised that the Association of Catholic Priests don’t seem to put much trust in the Words of Christ “Whatever you do to the least of these, you do to me”. A little vulnerable dependent baby could fit that description.

  30. Nicola

    Hi Ger

    My understanding is that the Church does not object to necessary medical procedures to save the life of the mother, even if it indirectly results in the unfortunate death of the unborn child, where every effort has been made to safeguard both mother and baby.

    I presume (forgive me if I’m wrong) you’re referring to the tragic death of Savita Halappanavar. Like you, I was deeply saddened to hear about her death and the circumstances surrounding it. However, in these extremely difficult situations, the Church does not expect that both mother and child should die. In a medical emergency, all necessary treatments should be afforded to the mother.

    According to ‘Choose Life 2013’ Newsletter, the Bishops state that ‘The Church does not teach that the life of a child in the womb should be preferred to that of a mother. However, because a baby in the womb is voiceless, some would have us believe that she or he is less human or less deserving of life.’

    In this regard, as a practicing Catholic, I am not ashamed of the Church and am proud of how vociferously she defends all human life at all stages.

  31. Fr. Kieren

    Hi again Mary,
    Sorry about my late reply as I have been at a Lourdes fundraiser. Thank you for your points. I suppose I am writing from an English perspective, as somebody who has observed the scandal of the abortion act. From my perspective I don’t want to see in Ireland what we have here. David Steele the promoter of the abortion bill pushed the bill through by claiming ( as we now know falsified statistics regarding backstreet abortions) that the bill would reduce the abortion rate, but in hindsight has only increased it. I worry that the Irish people have not learnt the lesson that is easily observed from across the sea. My point is very simple does life have the right to exist. Examining the bill presented to the Irish parliament, as it currently stands, the law in Ireland will permit abortion more freely than that of England.

  32. Fr. Kieren

    What saddens me regarding this discussion is that I an English priest with some if not all agreement with the goals of the ACP is the only one of my brethren (I may be mistaken) who has chosen to stick his neck out regarding this subject. The silence of the the clergy connected to the ACP is hard to stomach. I appreciate the thoughts and points of many of those who have contributed so far to this discussion, but why has McDonagh, Flannery et al remained silent. The ACP are quick to make statements regarding false accusations, the seal of the confessions, and the right of certain priest theologians to dissent from Church teaching. But where do they stand? Has the cat caught their tongue?

  33. Wendy

    If I could add another perspective. Think of a deeply unconscious person, perhaps in a coma or just anaethesised.. They are unable to communicate, are totally dependent on others for care and feeding and for continued existence. It could be said they have a ‘potential’ life in the same way as an unborn person is. If care is continued they will make a complete recovery. If not, they cease to exist. What if the care given was viewed as too difficult to maintain and caused emotional and financial hardship to the family? What if the thought of the long recovery process where the person would need prolonged handfeeding, being taught to walk and talk, incontinence, was just too much to continue with the ‘potential’ life and care was stopped. Again, i am talking here of a person who will eventually make a complete recovery. Their future existence depends on others.

    I think this perspective is analageous in lots of ways to the unplanned pregnancy. One difference is that the person in the coma has had life before and her personality has been known and so maybe people have come to love her, and so are willing to go to extreme measures to make sure she recovers. The unborn baby’s personality is unknown. Yet, if the baby is allowed to continue and makes it to be born, it too will be loved (hopefully by the family, but if not, by someone). The baby who was once seen as an ‘impossibly difficult’ eventuality will be loved and cherished beyond anything.

    I am not a Catholic, but i’m married to one. I don’t think of abortion from a Catholic perspective, but from a human rights one. The old adage that it’s a woman’s body makes no sense to me. Surely it is the body of another also. It might even be a female! We have all, every one of us, been a ‘potential’ life who have made it to be born and reared, thanks to the continued efforts of others. I am glad I survived. Women who feel they just can’t cope with an unplanned pregnancy need help, love and support. I know that i, and many others, would be prepared to be at the coal face with these women and help them for as long as it takes. Maybe a new order of nuns needs to come into existence with a special charism of looking after young children to give their mums a break. What a wonderful thought!

  34. Brendan Cafferty

    It is a sign of its great maturity when ACP can host this piece from Jo a woman, and the heavens do not fall,though I have seen some comments from the usual suspects on Twitter along the sort of lines of “we knew it all the time “. She speaks of the agony of childbirth in normal situations and how much worse this may be when a woman carries the genetic material of her rapist, or having to go through it when she knows her foetus is already dead.How many people mostly men I may add would tell their daughter or sister who has been raped by a violent maniac that she must go full term and cherish the child of her rapist ? And this new minimal legislation has arisen from the notorious Art 40.3.3 which was foisted on us in 1983 by many from the so called religious right who played opportunistic and weak politicians off against each other.Then we had the Supreme Court ruling of 1992 which leaves us where we are today,like it or not. And Two further Referenda in 1992 and 2002 failed to roll back the suicide clause,though in 2002 left and right combined to defeat the questions posed. So “hoist on your own petard” comes to mind. And on top of the SC ruling (which is the law of the land) we have ECHR ruling in the ABC cases which further forces legislators hands.

    Again well done to ACP for running this piece by Jo.

  35. Mary

    Hi Nicola,

    You might want to read this: http://www.irishtimes.com/news/taoiseach-not-making-sense-according-to-senior-cardinal-at-vatican-1.1437289. The article details comments made by Cardinal Raymond Burke, Prefect of the Vatican’s apostolic Signatura. Here is an extract:

    ‘Asked for his views on the death of Savita Halappanavar, he said: “The death of Savita Halappanavar is indeed tragic. It is, however, contrary to right reason to hold that an innocent and defenceless human life can be justifiably destroyed in order to save the life of the mother.
    “The Irish people, and especially the Irish Government, should be very alert to the kind of argumentation which will be used by the secular media and by secular ideologues, in general, claiming that the destruction of the new human life in her womb could have saved the life of Savita Halappanavar and, therefore, would have been justified. Such an argument is absurd in itself. Even though, if the reports are correct, Savita Halappanavar requested an abortion, her request would not have made it right for the law to permit such an act which is always and everywhere wrong.”’

    ‘Always and everywhere wrong,’ those are the Cardinal’s words. I understand this to mean that there are no circumstances at all under which it is permissible to save the mother at the cost of the unborn. This does not seem compatible with your understanding in which ‘the Church does not object to necessary medical procedures to save the life of the mother, even if it indirectly results in the unfortunate death of the unborn child.’

    Here we have a problem. In the case of Savita Halappanavar, earlier medical intervention – an abortion of a pregnancy which was already being miscarried – may have given Ms. Halapannavar a better chance at survival. Because of the presence of a foetal heartbeat, an abortion could not be administered to her, even though the pregnancy was no longer viable and the unborn in her womb could not survive outside of the womb.

    The report into the death of Savita Halappanavar acknowledges that there were procedural deficiencies in the treatment of Ms. Halappanavar. However, the report also found that there was an ‘over-emphasis on the need not to intervene until the foetal heartbeat stopped and not enough emphasis on the need to focus on monitoring and managing the risk of infection.’ The chairman of the inquiry, Prof. Sabaratnam Arulkmaran, commented that ‘Delaying adequate treatment including expediting delivery in a clinical situation where there is prolonged rupture of the membranes and increasing risk to the mother can, on occasion, be fatal.’ See: http://www.irishtimes.com/news/health/report-identifies-multiple-failures-in-treatment-of-savita-halappanavar-1.1427332?page=2. And for the full report : http://cdn.thejournal.ie/media/2013/06/savita-halappanavar-hse-report.pdf.

    The Cardinal’s claim does not support your comment that ‘In a medical emergency, all necessary treatments should be afforded to the mother.’ Cardinal Burke explicitly states that we need to be ‘very alert to the kind of argumentation’ that claims ‘the destruction of new human life in her womb could have saved the life of Savita Halappanavar.’ Whereas the chairman of the inquiry argues that the delay in adequate treatment including expediting delivery (abortion, termination of pregnancy) increases risk and can, on occasions, be fatal to the mother. Surely the Cardinal is suggesting that even in the case when the life of the mother is at risk, even in this case, abortion is not justifiable.


  36. Siobhan

    Firstly, let me say that for any woman who is pregnant and scared, bewildered etc, it’s worth contacting either http://www.Cura.ie or http://www.life.ie , for support. Very often, decisions, irrevocable decisions, are made in the grip of emotions, and it’s very important to have an opportunity to air such emotions in a safe environment and gain some perspective. Even where there is no abortion decision being made, such organisations can be very helpful and supportive.

    For women suffering from post abortion regret, there is also help available which can be accessed via the website http://www.womenhurt.ie

    For the rest of us, it might be very instructive to read the testimonies on the womenhurt website.

  37. Wanderer

    Everyone has an opinion and that’s all I see here, opinions. Which is all any of us can give really. People have various takes on this matter – different perspectives. I don’t see anyone crying for the death of children though.

    This is like everything else in life. None of us know what the hell we’d do till we ourselves are in that position.

    The rest is so much waffle and hot air.

    I can only see a cry here to support life. Life in all its manifestations.

    Maybe I am wrong. I thought I heard a senior woman gynaecologist from India speak on the radio last year, saying that the interventions carried out in that particular case were those she herself would have carried out.

    And I can give incidences, as vociferously as needed, where the Catholic Church has not, and does not, defend human life at all stages. Where it has contributed to the deaths of others – certainly ‘before their time.’

    As the Americans would say, “Go figure !”

  38. Wanderer

    This is really perhaps not relevant.

    I was chatting about the ‘theory’ of evolution with some rather traditional/fundamentalist Christians who read the bible pretty literally.

    Discussion on science complementing rather than at odds with religious belief/faith.

    Seems to allow for a much broader idea, concept, of God perhaps. Evolution.

    That we might have evolved over millions or billions of years.

    It has given me a far greater respect for all life – especially the ‘lesser’ life forms. If we evolved from apes or anything else – I don’t find that insulting to humanity or to God. Life IS life.

    “The heavens (and the earth) declare the glory…. ”

    Then it made me wonder that we theoretically evolve from a single cell organism. Life itself beginning with single celled organisms.

    Food for thought in that.

    On the topic above I agree that it should be the woman’s decision. Jo you have been honest and done some soul searching and I am sure I agree with so much of what you are saying. Maybe all of it.

    Coercion is not the way.

    Supporting life as much as any and all life can be supported – in all ways. Maybe one day we will realise that if there ever truly is a Christ ian society.

    The Catholic Church states its beliefs, doctrines, dogmas etc – which are not all, or always compatible with life, life supporting, enhancing or enriching for some members of the human race.

    Nothing is black and white. There are many grey areas and I think we need to look to those too if we really might become truly pro life – in all its manifestations – life, that is.

    Single celled organism might not have been as ‘simple’ as previously thought.

    “We tend to think of protists (single-celled organisms) as ‘simple’ and humans as ‘complex’ — but the Naegleria genome shows us that much of this complexity arose really early in evolution,” said Scott Dawson, assistant professor of microbiology at UC Davis.”


  39. Mary

    Dear all,

    I am very appreciative that the ACP has given the space for all of the varied opinions and beliefs collected here to be expressed. It is clear, also, from all the comments posted here that this is an issue that prompts honest folk to genuinely soul search. I find myself very much in agreement with Wanderer in valuing all life forms, regardless of so-called or purported complexity or simplicity, the points are elegantly proposed. I also agree with Wanderer’s comments that ‘Everyone has an opinion and that’s all’ and ‘None of us know what the hell we’d do until we ourselves are in that position.’ I also welcome Brendan Cafferty’s observations which relate directly to the last post by Fr. Kieren.

    Fr. Kieren, to address your concerns regarding the situation on abortion in Ireland. I appreciate that you are writing from an English perspective, but the context of abortion in England and Ireland are not comparable. The proposed legislation for the Protection of Life During Pregnancy Bill encompasses very particular circumstances. Abortion in this case is proposed only where there is a direct threat to the life of the mother and when a woman presents with suicidal ideation solely due to pregnancy. In the first case a woman must be assessed by an obstetrician/gynaecologist and a second relevant specialist must jointly agree that termination is the only treatment that will save the woman’s life. In the second case the assessment process will require three specialists: an obstetrician/gynaecologist and two psychiatrists as well as, if possible, the woman’s GP. These guidelines are exceedingly stringent. It is not being suggested that abortion is a treatment for suicide. Experts reporting to the Oireachtas committee all testified that there is no treatment for suicide, only various modes of intervention. I do not see how the current proposals will ‘permit abortion more freely than that of England.’ I listened to two full days of the hearings at the Oireachtas where experts from all relevant medical fields gave their opinions. In each case the obstetricians/gynaecologists all testified that once the unborn was viable then best practice would prevail, that being induced labour. My understanding is that under UK law abortion can be carried out if:
    1. There is a risk to the life and/or the mental or physical health of the pregnant woman. Risk to health is not included with the proposed Irish legislation, only risk to life.
    2. There is a risk to the physical or mental health of the children that the woman may already have. There is no provision for the needs of the woman’s children who are already born in the proposed Irish legislation.
    3. There is a significant risk that if the child is born s/he would have a serious physical or mental disability. There is no provision for this in the proposed Irish legislation.
    Indeed, this new bill does not cover Fatal Foetal Abnormality (where there is no chance of the unborn surviving outside of the womb) or cases where the pregnancy is as a result of rape or incest. So, let us be clear that this is very limited legislation. Therefore, comparing England to Ireland is not really equating like with like in this circumstance.

    I have already addressed the question ‘does life have the right to exist.’ The problem is that this point, if considered as an axiom, simplifies the reality that in the case of pregnancy there are two competing rights. As I have already said, to allow a conscious, sentient woman to die, to cede her right to life for that of the unborn is, to me, unthinkable, because this waiving of the woman’s right to life denigrates the dignity of the human being in the world who is already engaged in extended familial and social relations.
    Personally, my opinion is that it is just as ethically reprehensible to force a woman continue with a pregnancy that she absolutely does not want – most especially if that pregnancy is as a result of rape or incest – as it is to force a woman to terminate a pregnancy that she does want.


  40. Jennifer Kehoe

    There are many many points which could be addressed in this piece but it would take another article to do so. I am just going to pick up on the last point that we are creatures who live by emotion. I couldn’t disagree more with such a life view. Our emotions are subjective, volatile, reactive and not always correct in their judgement of situations or people. To act upon our anger, inappropriate attractions, desire for revenge, comfort, escape are all recipes for getting ourselves into a right pickle!
    A Christian, and since this is a ‘priest’s’ website , a Catholic is rather called to live not by our emotions but rather to master our emotions and live according to the Gospel as proclaimed by Christ and His Church. We each cannot personally acquire the entire learning and wisdom accumulated by the 2,000 year collective teaching and writings of the Church which sometimes requires us to swallow our pride and live with a level of docility that maybe the Church in actuality knows more than us and like a wise and loving mother has our best interest at heart and is truly guided by The Holy Spirit as promised by Jesus ” I am with you always, even unto the end of the world.”
    If this is true then we are called to live not by our emotions but by the truths of the Catholic Faith, as taught by the Catholic Church. To fly with the two wings of Faith and Reason. There is no mention of the emotions or feelings. If we lived only by our feelings, most of us would never even bother getting out of bed in the mornings as let’s face it, we rarely FEEL like getting up.
    Love, fidelity, forgiveness and living by Faith are all decisions…acts of the WILL, not based on the fleeting and unreliable judge of emotion.
    Abortion is wrong therefore the Catholic Church teaches it. It is not wrong BECAUSE the Catholic Church teaches it.

  41. wiliam o'b

    I appreciate the article and the comments which it has generated. Some are clearly philosophical and scientific and some clearly emotional. All of these must be considered since human beings are made up of all of these aspects and even more.
    However I wonder if we should not back up a bit and look at the church’s definition(s) of marriage itself and of sexuality. Today the Church demands that all sexual activity be focused on procreation, that no sexual act is allowed which cannot produce life. Have we overstated the case? Is the expression of love between two individuals not paramount? Is the giving and receiving of sexual pleasure not primary?
    We allow (demand) the marriage of elderly individuals who wish to share a home and marriage bed yet are clearly incapable of generating a new human being. We teach the “Billings method” of pregnancy avoidance with its complicated program of temperatures and the relegation of sexual activity to schedules, but refuse to allow a chemical or surgical method that achieves the same end. Should we not be looking to allow other methods of preventing pregnancy? Certainly there are scientific means of preventing ovulation as well as the production of sperm. These methods have long been banned by the church and yet used freely by most Catholics. The limiting question should be concerned with the effects (or side effects) of the drugs and procedures on the person’s body.
    If we reconsider the purpose of sexuality, the resulting questions become myriad, for example does this then allow for homosexual activity?;activity outside marriage? Do we then allow any sexual activity because it gives pleasure? Should there be any restrictions placed on sexual activity?We seem to be mired in the question of abortion, and yet have failed to address the real questions of the purpose(s) of human sexuality and the complete human being.

  42. ger gleeson

    Hi Nicola @30.
    “My understanding is that the church does not object to necessary medical procedures, to save the life of the mother even if it indirectly results in the unfortunate death of the child, where every effort has been made to safeguard both mother and baby”. I concur with your understanding Nicola. Now can we honestly answer the question, WHY DID SAVITA HALAPPANAVAR LOSE HER LIFE? In my opinion the words of that poor medical professional, said it all. “Because we are a catholic country, we cannot terminate in the present circumstances”. I do not blame that lady for saying those words. That was the ethos of the hospital, and the Medical professionals observed the rules. If our church were clear in their “medical intervention rule” then they did not convey it very clearly to those who tended Savita.Two live human beings entered that hospital. One on her feet, the other in her womb. Both exited dead. Was this Gods will? Not in my book. Again I state that the rules of my church governing childbirth played a major role in the death of Savita. Never again must this happen in my country. Another thought has come to me. Over the years, was this the only death of a woman (mother) because we are a “catholic country”? Jesus is still weeping. Within my church the compassion of Jesus has been replaced by rules and regulations composed by a few MEN. Is no other human being, male or female, inspired by the Holy Spirit other than the chosen few? I wonder?
    Dr Patricia Fitzsimons at 5. Thank you. Your post is clear and to the point.
    Fr Kieren @32. “Why has McDonagh, Flannery et al remained silent”. Who knows Fr Kieren. Maybe they have a different view to the church’s teaching, and consequently are worried in case they will be booted out of the ONE TRUE CATHOLIC AND APOSTOLIC CHURCH, of which they have devoted so much of their lives as priests. Maybe they are worried about the roof over their heads. You don’t need to worry about that Fr Kieren, do you? No priests as committed to the institutional church as you are, has anything to worry about.
    Mary @35. Thank you for the comments of Cardinal Burke. He and his ilk have destroyed MY CHURCH. If I say anything else then my post will not be published.
    To all who have a different view to mine and others on this issue, I thank you sincerely, for not advising that we should join another church. I think most if not all contributors will remain with our church for the long haul. With all its problems, we are privileged to belong.

  43. Tom Kearns

    Jeremiah 1:5

  44. Soline Humbert

    What can happen when one is at the coal face of making hard life and death decisions http://ncronline.org/news/peace-justice/nun-excommunicated-allowing-abortion

  45. David CJ Conroy

    I have to say that I find this article rather alarming and upsetting. How does it occur that in an era where we have all the information at our fingertips, one can still come across people that don’t accept proven medical truths such as the fact that human life begins at conception and from then on is a human being.

    This article is so lengthly and disjointed I will make but a few points.
    It’s true that the issue is full of emotion and we are right to have an emotional response when it comes to life or death issues.

    I became a father at 20 years of age in a very difficult situation. I wasn’t married and my girlfriend lived in a different country. A right mess of a situation. My girlfriend was terrified of the future and so was I.
    I have always been a faithful Catholic and as such, despite my failings and the complications of the situation, my thoughts were how was I going to support my girlfriend as the father of our child.

    Emotions were flying in early weeks of our daughters life in the womb. I cried a lot, wondering how the hell I was going to be a father when I hadn’t even finished college yet. I wanted to have an established career before getting married and having kids but as life would have it, it didn’t turn out the way I planned. It’s easy to see how a panicky young lady would lead herself to the emotional decision that abortion was the only option to escape being judged by those around her or to prevent her future being ruined.
    As time passed and our daughter was getting bigger in the womb, things became clearer of what we would do next and the situation didn’t seem so desperate as in the first few weeks of having learned of the pregnancy.
    We now have a beautiful little girl who’s coming up to three years old and my girlfriend and I are getting married.
    If we had of chosen an emotional decision to end the life of our daughter we would have made a big mistake and we’re glad that we chose life.
    It’s wrong to say that men shouldn’t be involved in the abortion debate because a man plays a vital role in the creation of life.

    I am right in saying that men have a particular responsibility to step up to the plate as fathers and support their partners in choosing life for their children regardless of the situation. A real man will lay down his life for his family at the expense of his own comfort.

    Abortion is never the right answer in any situation and I find it very distressing that a website with “Catholic” in the name would be promoting a practice that intentionally and brutally ends the life of an innocent child.
    Jo O’Sullivan says she doesn’t like terms like “the killing of a child” etc but that’s exactly what it is and any emotionally functional human should be rightly distressed by such a practice. No amount of convincing oneself that a child in the womb is not a human will ever change the truth.

  46. fionnualani dhomhnaill

    Hi Ger, I the question about Savita earlier on, but this site took it down, Inducing a baby when the mother already miscarrying and has an infection is NOT an abortion and it is done here all the time. Her death was caused by medical negligence and had nothing to do with abortion. At the same time as crowds gathered all over the world to mourn Savita a young lady was dying after contracting a superbug during an abortion. It took her 5 weeks to die an agonising death but there were no candlelit vigils and it was not even mentioned in the Irish papers her name was JESSIE MAY BARLOW. Abortion is never compassionate it kills a baby every time and the mother some of the time, it also destroys mothers mentally often for the rest of their lives. Only last week Belgium legalised the murder of disabled born children, this is the next step will the ACP remain silent also when it comes to this.

  47. Wanderer

    Having begun to understand the idea of Church as a Hospital – a place where suffering is alleviated and healed.

    I find even more that I like this idea.

    Sin – to be sinned against is to be wounded. By the wounds of Jesus real healing is achieved. And by ours too I believe in very real ways. When one part of the Body hurts – the Body hurts, and like living bodies – the rest of the Body comes to aid, alleviate the suffering of the part/s wounded and permits true healing.

    We should all try to live believing this perhaps ? When one part hurts – ALL others come to the aid of that part hurting, wounded; as all the rest of the Body is truly hurting and wounded too.

    And never allow it to be about certain kinds of wounds more serious than others. Some wound/ed more than others.

    All should come together as the true Body of Christ in healing those parts of that same Body that are hurting, wounded.

    Bodies, Church, organisational/hierarchy – Catholic Church divided – cannot stand. All come together to alleviate and heal all suffering in the great Hospital that is Christ’s Church – the Wounded Healer’s True and One Church.

    Isn’t that what we all want – pray for. I hope so.

    God bless all here and thank you for sharing your thoughts from your hearts on this.

    The source of real healing – the heart.

  48. Anne

    I see that my comment was removed because it spoke of the reality of abortion. I only named the methods used in abortion because abortion takes a human life and does so without mercy or compassion towards the baby who feels terrible pain. We have to speak the truth and it is tragic when the ACP deny people the truth. So many women are broken and have committed suicide because they had abortions. I met women who told me they had abortions and that they were never told the truth and how painful their lives are now. And you and those who are pro choice are supporting that. Do you Jo or the ACP really know what you are talking about. Because I don’t believe anyone who has seen the reality of all the methods of abortion, could still say this is right. I am so glad that 80% of Doctors in Italy now refuse to perform abortions because they have woken up to what they are actually doing. Thanks be to God. I suppose this comment will not be published either.

  49. Mary

    Dear all,

    To David CJ Conroy’s comments @ 45. Yours is indeed a heart-warming story. However, there are a few points that I would like to address. You say that ‘Abortion is never right in any situation.’ Can I ask you if you are absolutely opposed to abortion in the case where there is a significant risk to the life of the mother if the pregnancy were to continue? Also David, I don’t think this website, or Jo’s article, is “promoting” abortion. I find it admirable that the ACP are providing a forum for honest and open debate where we can all appreciate, deliberate and respectfully respond to each other’s views. I also find phrases such as “killing of a child” to be questionable. Firstly, because not everyone believes that a zygote or a foetus is the same as a baby or child born or alive in the world. Secondly because “killing” implies a very deliberate action/intention of death, whereas the intention may actually be to save the life of the mother.
    To Fionnuala’s comments @ 46. Yes there was medical negligence in the terrible case of Savita Halappanavar’s death. However, as I mentioned in my comment @35, the Chairman of the inquiry has asked for clarity with regard to guidelines about the expedition of delivery. The problem is that expedition of the pregnancy did not happen in the case of Savita Halappanavar (whether that expedition is inducement of abortion) because of the presence of a foetal heart beart. Delay in expedition of the pregnancy that Savita was miscarrying was a contributory factor in her death.

    Also, I am fairly sure that one of the commentators here suggested that the comments that I posted by Cardinal Burke may have been taken out of context when they were published in The Irish Times. However, I cannot find this comment now. Here are the two original articles from The Irish Catholic and the Catholic Voice which include Cardinal Burke’s full comments : http://www.irishcatholic.ie/20130620/news/taoiseachs-not-a-catholic-politician-statement-is-nonsense-vatican-cardinal-S34658.html and http://www.catholicvoice.ie/features/2013/02/01/to_decriminalise_abortion_is_a_contradiction_of_the_most_fundamental_principle_of_the_legal_system. Ger Gleeson @ 42, you may find these interesting.


  50. Nicola

    Hi Mary.

    I had previously read the article you referred to in The Irish Times quoting Cardinal Raymond Burke. It is quite correct that the Catholic Church bans abortion to save the life of the mother. However a mother’s life may be saved by a surgical procedure that does not directly attack the unborn baby’s life. Abortion is the direct targeting of the unborn child’s life.

    There are circumstances such as an ectopic pregnancy, where a mother’s life may be in conflict with the life of her unborn child. In such a situation, the principle of ‘double effect’ applies. This development states that physicians must do everything in their power to save both the mother and her child. In an ectopic pregnancy case, the removal of the Fallopian tube will result in the unfortunate death of the baby but these scenarios are not defined as abortions.

    Hi Ger

    I absolutely agree with the need for clarity for medical personnel as to when they can intervene to save the mother’s life. Every effort must be made to prevent tragic deaths like Savita’s from happening again.

    Hi Fionnualani

    I share your concerns and am deeply worried about recent developments in Belgium where it is proposed to legitimise euthanasia for children with disabilities. This is extremely disturbing. I have posted a link below:


    Fr. Kieran

    May I applaud you on your input to this discussion. I’d love to hear from others in the religious life regarding this matter.

    May I also add that despite differing opinions, I find the manner in which this debate is conducted on this forum as thoroughly refreshing. I’ve been involved in other online discussions on this emotive, sensitive issue, where it quickly descended into personal attacks and no longer dealt with the issue at hand. Thank you all for your contribution.

  51. Mary

    Dear Nicola,

    Thank you for your comments. I completely concur with your observation that the debate that has taken place on this forum has been refreshing due to the respect afforded to all perspectives. I am no medical expert and do not really see the point of arguing at great length over medical definitions or indeed non-medical definitions. It is my understanding that abortion simply means the ending of a pregnancy prior to viability, whether that is by spontaneous abortion (miscarriage) or medical intervention (a variety of surgical and non-surgical procedures). So, it would seem that you are defining abortion as intervention with the deliberate intention to end the life of the unborn and making a distinction between such procedures and interventions whereby the intention of which is not the intentional destruction of the unborn. I am afraid that I do not agree with this distinction. A medical procedure that results in the loss of life of the unborn, if performed with the intention to save the life of the mother is, it seems to me, an abortion as it is the termination of a pregnancy prior to viability. You offer the example of procedures for ectopic pregnancy. In which case, I guess you are referring to the surgical processes known as Salpingectomy (removal of a fallopian tube with the pregnancy)and Salpingo-oophorectomy (where one or both ovaries are extracted as well as one or both fallopian tubes). Such procedures still involve, to the best of my understanding, the removal of the fertilized egg and hence the end of any chance of survival for the unborn. So this, it seems to me, is a semantic issue as these procedures still refer to the deliberate removal of the embryo in order to preserve the life of the mother. As I say, I really am no expert in legal matters, but I do think that clear distinctions need to be made in such important matters where the life of the woman is at stake.

    All best,


  52. Pat

    I have to wonder if people have read the proposed legislation when I see comments about elective terminations. The legislation states clearly that abortion is illegal except under very limited circumstances and defines the unborn in very clear terms as being from the point of implantation. It also limits the place and protocols for allowing a termination to save life. In time I believe this law will be seen as wise and a real protection against elective terminations.
    This morning at mass I had to suffer a very traditional lecture and warnings about the developments in Holland and the UK with the dangers of euthanasia thrown in to further rouse emotions. I was also told that to be for Christ I had to accept this misinformation or disagree with this view and be against Christ.
    Well I am for Christ and I disagree with his traditional view. I feel abandoned by a church that demands total obedience. Would that the church be as forceful about addressing the estimated 700 annual suicides or homelessness or poverty rather than the absolute medical necessity of termination.
    Christ with me, Christ before me, Christ behind me
    Christ in me, Christ beneath me , Christ above me
    Christ on my right, Christ on my left…..

    Whether the church allows or not!

  53. Fr. Kieren

    Hi Mary,
    Sorry, busy weekend.

    I appreciate the differences between Ireland and England regarding the proposed abortion bill, my argument is, to my knowledge, the Irish bill has less restrictions (ie time limit, as I understand it there isn’t one) than the abortion bill over here. The proposed bill also leaves itself open to vague interpretation regarding the issue of being suicidal (I don’t mean to belittle suicide), but it seems to me that it potentially could become a form of abortion on demand, how can ‘sucicidal’ be defined. We need to remember that there is a basic legal premise that asserts that a badly written bill, even if it is the result of good intentions, still becomes a bad law.

    I don’t know how to respond to your comments above. The ACP have I believe a responsibility to make a public statement regarding this issue. I can’t in this discussion remember defending the institutional Church, nor have I quoted bishops, cardinals or popes. If I was an atheist, (thank God I’m not) I would still take the philosophical position I do now, being against abortion is not reserved to Catholicism. So my advise to you, if you dont mind me offering it to you, is to get off your high horse and stop reading in your own hang ups with the Church into what I am saying. If you would like me to argue from the Catholic institutional position I am quite happy to do so.

    Anyway, I think perhaps today we can all reflect on the meaning of today’s feast day. It is interesting to recall that the witnesses to the Lord are often those despised, oppressed and voiceless in society; women, children, lepers and in the case of today the unborn. Do we have the right to devalue the life those who are valued by the Lord. Just something to think about.

  54. Tomás Mulcahy

    (Posts 21 and 20) To Raymond and Fr. Kieren, genes are not life. It is far more complicated than that- life is a process, not an object or collection thereof. If it were as defined as you imply then we would not be having this debate. Here is a good jumping off point for the debate on what constitutes life:

    Fr. Kieren I don’t know what, if any biology text books you read, but as you will see from following through on the above link it is not simple. For example “It is a challenge for scientists and philosophers to define life in unequivocal terms”. And when I say “follow through” I mean that the wiki has a good set of links for your research. I don’t intend the wiki as the definitive word on the subject. It is not so simple.

    Raymond that Princeton link is just a list of definitions of the terminology used in embryology. There is no definition of life there. See above.

    Again, I suggest that you (both, now) are merely using the word science as a tactic to lend weight to what is actually only your point of view. If you want to be scientific, you need to use evidence not rhetoric. Your argument is an example of confirmation bias. The moral and philosophical arguments are far more honest, stick to those.

  55. Mary

    Hi all,

    First I will address the points that Fr. Kieren (@ 53) has made in relation to previous comments posted here. I am sure that you do appreciate the differences between England and Ireland on the proposed abortion legislation. With regard to your concerns about (i) the termination of pregnancy once that pregnancy is viable, (ii) suicidal ideation and (iii) bad law. On the first two points, I refer you to my comments @39. I spent two days listening to the evidence of medical and legal experts called before the Oireachtas hearings on this proposed legislation.
    1. With regard to time restrictions on the expedition of pregnancy, the medical experts (obstetricians/gynaecologists) confirmed that once a pregnancy is viable best practice will be followed, that best practice being the inducement of labour with the aim of saving two lives: that of the unborn and that of the mother. We must be very clear that this legislation proposes intervention solely when the life of the mother is at risk, not her health. There must be a direct threat to the mother’s life before any intervention can be countenanced. This law forwards a legal obligation on behalf of the medical experts attending to the pregnant woman as two experts (one an obstetrician/gynaecologist and another relevant medical expert) must be in agreement before any intervention can be made.
    2. With regard to suicidal ideation. I am sure that you do not mean to belittle suicide. However, it is clearly stated that three medical experts – one obstetrician/gynaecologist, two psychiatrists as well as, if possible, the woman’s GP – must agree that the woman’s suicidal ideation is solely as a result of the pregnancy (i.e. evidence of suicide ideation prior to pregnancy will not be considered within this remit). I do not believe that there is anything vague about the proposal for suicidal ideation at all as I have faith in medical experts who make diagnoses and interventions on a daily basis with the benefit of their expertise. This is what these individuals are trained to do and I feel that they are best situated to be informed on this matter. Minister of Health James Reilly has announced that he has the authority to suspend any institution whereby there is a suspicion of abuse of practice (all abortion statistics will be supplied to him). There is currently an obligation on psychiatrists to be able to assess risk of suicide in cases that do not involve pregnancy and they do this on a daily basis. Are we to suggest that their judgement is only flawed when it comes to pregnant women? If this is not the suggestion, then is the argument that women will systematically lie, go through the harrowing process of being assessed by three medical experts when they are in crisis already, in order to secure an abortion? Or are we suggesting that trained psychiatrists cannot make informed decisions about whether an individual is genuinely suicidal or not? The only irrefutable proof of suicidal ideation is suicide. In the case of a pregnant woman, this results in not one death but two.
    3. With regard to bad law. It is bad law making indeed when successive governments have failed to provide legal guidelines for medical professionals in this regard for over 20 years. It is 20 years since the issue of suicidal ideation in pregnancy was put before the Irish public in two referenda. In these two referenda the Irish public voted for the inclusion of the suicide clause. Successive governments have failed to address this issue. If we cannot get a law right, after 20 years deliberation, then it is the law makers themselves who are to blame.
    If you do not mind me saying so father, I think your comments to Ger @ 53, are unnecessary on this forum where every contributor’s comments have been thoughtful and restrained. Do you think it is fair to accuse Ger of “hang ups”? However, I am sure that Ger can answer for himself.
    To Pat @ 52, I totally agree with you on the subject of reading the proposed legislation. There is no suggestion of elective termination, a far better term than “abortion on demand” which is a misnomer anyway. When we speak of caesarean sections we call those not deemed medically necessary “elective” not caesarean on demand. This proposed legislation offers no legal framework whereby any pregnant woman can be offered an elective termination/abortion. NONE, because the only abortions that will be carried out will be in circumstances where there is a direct threat to the life of the mother. I am sorry that you feel abandoned by your church and lectured at mass. What this demonstrates to me, is that this issue should be left to the individual consciences of those that it directly affects. Compassion and understanding is what is needed for those in need, not judgement.

    To Tomás @54, I agree that life is a process. However, I fully respect that not everybody does. You are right, in my opinion, to stress that science and “belief” should not be confused.Equal respect should be afforded to those who believe and do not believe that there is a distinction between unborn and born life. The point is that there will always be in disagreement on this issue as it is, precisely, a matter of belief. The issue, of course, in Ireland is that there is an equal RIGHT to life and this raises the problem of distinctions in whether life is a process or not. There is, however, a distinction made between born life and unborn life. I believe that in Irish law, a human life is life from birth.

    In my opinion, if a woman decides to forsake her own life for that of the unborn (and this matter only arises once a pregnancy is viable, because until that point the foetus cannot survive without her), that is her prerogative and nobody should force her to do otherwise. However, if a woman decides that she wants to live, then nobody should condemn her to die.

    To everyone else, please feel free to read the link that I attach below. It is an interview with the parents of Savita Halappanavar, published in today’s Irish Times. If anybody does read it, I would be really interested to know whether they could look into the eyes of these grieving parents and tell them that they know what they would do in these circumstances. When I say this, I do not intend to make an emotive appeal. To me, this is an issue of conscience.


  56. Fr. Kieren

    Hi Tomas,
    I don’t put much stock in Wikipedia, as it is easy to find contradictions, as you yourself affirm, please see link and read under genetics
    I believe that at conception, life begins, that is genetically distinct from both parents, that life is dependant of course on its mother, but that life is clearly distinct. My genetics as they are today existed from the moment of my conception, therefore genetically I am the same being as I was in the womb.

  57. Joe O'Leary

    “the old ”Twinning ” canard… to undermine the fact that a unique individual human life begins at conception.”

    How can it be a unique individual if it becomes twins in 3 cases out of 1000?

    “Humans not only reproduce sexually but also in rare cases can reproduce Asexually.”

    So the second identical twin is a clone; thus cloning is natural?

    “a unique human individual can give rise to another unique human individual in the early stages of development in the womb.”

    But human individuals do not give rise to other human individuals. If this account is true at all, it shows that the zygotes are not individuals in any recognizable sense, surely.

    “How does it occur that in an era where we have all the information at our fingertips, one can still come across people that don’t accept proven medical truths such as the fact that human life begins at conception and from then on is a human being.”

    A zygote that can twin is not a single, individual human being, but the potential for a single or a plurality of human beings sharing its genetic make-up. And if the second twin is cloned rather than sexually conceived, how much later than the first twin does this occur? The twinning process can happen up to 14 days, I think (I beg clarification on this); if so, one twin would be conceived 14 days after the other, on the cloning model, it would appear. Curioser and curioser.

  58. Nollaig M. Ní Mhaoileoin


    Jo, as a woman I would like to refer to some points in your letter.
    At the heart of the problem is the understanding of the ‘personhood’ of the newly conceived embryonic baby. You understand ‘potential’ and ‘developing life’ only. This is the crux of the matter. Abuse of language has confused many people. The personhood of the baby is most definitely present from conception with the genetic code intact from the beginning, even when the conceived becomes a twin. You refer to your conscience. At the end of the day the guidance to the judgements we make will only be as reliable as the thoroughness of the homework we did to inform our conscience. How do we view the overall picture? There are three persons involved, the man, the woman and the baby. How do we make a decision about abortion? What is abortion? It is only when we can see what abortion really is and its after-effects that we will really understand. What causes a woman to want to destroy life within her? One factor is the man in question doesn’t want to know. Why is the man in question so easily airbrushed out of the picture? Blessed John Paul II in his encyclical on the Dignity of Woman states that it is time for society to make the man responsible for his actions. Rape falls into this category. Abortion is not a cure for rape but proves to be a double rape. You refer to Scripture and Tradition. The understanding of Tradition has two levels. One level is called Apostolic Tradition and it is unchangeable. The second level is an Organic Tradition that grows and develops. So it is not just the latter that is in question. When decision-making Jo we have to use our reasoning combined with our Faith in God, basing our decision-making not on emotions, but using logic, Scripture, Tradition and Natural Law, combined with Compassion, Love and Mercy. You end your piece by writing that ‘ultimately we live by our emotions? May I suggest that you read St.Edith Stein’s book on Woman. She will advise you on emotions. She is brilliant! You feel you have made your conscience decision about abortion. Truly find out about the true position of the separate life of the baby in the mother’s womb, a separate entity. Truly find out what abortion really is. Be brave and open up ‘Priests for Life’ webpage. May I suggest a reading of the original Hippocratic Oath, an oath created in pagan times by Hippocrates, which indicates the power of natural law within humanity.To end,each person from embryonic baby to adulthood, we are all Spirit/Flesh beings with a soul and an invitation to eternal life. We enjoy autonomy but only our Creator has the right to give life and to take life. Wars as you mention, come down to sin, lust, greed and our free-will, which God will never interfere with, as Christ shows in the Gospel when the people walked away from His teaching on His Body and Blood. He didn’t run after them saying, ‘I didn’t mean that!’ Neither will He run after those who opt to knowingly choose abortion. We are all free to choose life or death. Awesome!

    Nollaig M. Ní Mhaoileoin

  59. Jo O'Sullivan

    I must confess that my heart was in my mouth when I posted the original article. Part of me was screaming “Don’t do it! You’ll just bring the wrath of the nation down on you! Keep your views to yourself – they’re nobody’s business but yours!” I’m glad I didn’t listen to that part of me (even if a lot of you wish I had!)
    Where the discussion here has been most helpful to me is that it has afforded me the chance to read and digest honestly-arrived at views of – forgive me if I cause offence here – ORDINARY people. So much has been said that I can’t always recall who said what, but I’ve read and thought about it all. I can’t possibly respond to everything, but this is how I see things now.
    Liam and a number of others speak of protecting the most vulnerable, those who cannot defend themselves. I would suggest that we have to start with the most vulnerable who are already sentient human beings rather than those who may become sentient. The women in the cases I describe are surely “most vulnerable”.
    David (@45), your story is really heart-warming and if all men were like you, we might never have to have this debate at all. I think that the theme running through most of the scenarios I painted in my original piece was that the men involved actually DIDN’T “step up to the plate”. Apart from the situation where the foetus was going to be unviable outside the womb, the situations I described arose primarily because there was NO support/ responsibility coming from the man. If there were, it is very likely the woman would have a very different perspective on the situation.
    Fionnuala (@18), I’m sorry if you felt I was” presuming that pro life women have not been through these situations”, I had no such intent. I deliberately put “growth” into inverted commas when talking about the case of rape precisely to indicate that the victim of rape might see it that way. Of course I would never see the lovely girl you describe as a “growth”! You talk about the apparent anger of women who had aborted babies with fatal foetal abnormalities as opposed to the woman who remembers her unborn baby with love (and that’s lovely to hear). Could it be the case that their anger has nothing to do with guilt or regret but is caused by the demonising of them by some prolifers who see them as baby-killers? Could it be that they feel betrayed by a country that criminalises them and forces them to travel outside of their home to avail of terminations? You say that “With the proper support and excellent maternal care there should be a time soon that abortion will be unthinkable”. I too would love that to be the case – but it would involve a massive change in society and I don’t see any evidence that we’re heading that way! No rape; no vulnerable young girls being taken advantage of; no women left to raise and nurture children on their own for a start!
    And Katie (@13) I tried to ensure that I claimed SOME within the prolife lobby were using judgemental, hurtful, language – not ALL of them.
    Nicola, your view seems to echo that of my best friend, She and I share all our experiences and dilemmas, great and small. We’ve obviously come to different places on this particular issue, but we still share that mutual respect because each of us knows that the other one has searched her own heart to reach that decision. I feel you and I give each other the same respect.
    Mary and Kieren, thank you both in a particular way for your dialogue. You’ve both always taken the time and trouble to digest what the other has said and give your considered response. And I don’t intend to minimise anyone else’s contribution by that remark. Kieren, I share your disappointment (and frustration) that other clerics have remained silent -( and, by the way, I don’t concur with Ger’s assessment of you)
    Jennifer @ 40, forgive me for saying so, but I think you’ve made a rather simplistic interpretation of my comment about us being creatures who live by our emotions -it’s probably my own fault in that I didn’t explain what I meant by it! Of course I don’t mean to suggest for a minute that we are driven to action by our immediate emotional reactions. We are much too complex and our brains are much too developed for that. What I SHOULD have said is that, at the deepest level of our beings, I believe that our emotions call the shots – those basic positive and negative emotions which our thinking, rational brains then makes sense of and formulates our decisions as to how we should proceed. If we weren’t emotional beings, why would we want a God of “Love and Compassion” – why not a God of “Logic and Reason”?
    Wendy (@33), I was really taken with your analogy – your suggestion that we think of the unborn as being someone in a deep coma who will make a full recovery. It certainly gave me pause for thought. But then I carried it a bit further. If I were asked to care for such a person how would I react? If I realised that I alone would be responsible for this person twenty four hours a day every day, no matter what other responsibilities I might have, my priority would have to be to those I was already responsible for and I would say “No”. Further to that, if I was being TOLD that I HAD to care for if the person in the coma and if it were someone I had negative feelings towards (for whatever reason), if I had no say in the matter, then I would baulk completely and would ask where MY human rights were in this instance.
    Mary, you have put a lot of things into words for me! Like you, what I can’t, in conscience, tolerate or support, is the coercion of women – either to continue with or to end a pregnancy (just look back to my follow up on Wendy’s analogy!) It cannot be right to coerce vulnerable girls/women – they are among the “most vulnerable IN society. The unborn is not actually IN society so the existing vulnerable person has to take precedence.
    And this statement of yours tallies with my own views in other crisis pregnancy situations. “To further clarify, the unborn exists but I cannot equate its right to existence with the mother who is a sentient and conscious adult engaged in complex emotional, cultural, social relations. The mother may have other children who love her, are dependent upon her and so on, not to mention others who love her and rely on her.”
    I think the most important lesson of all is that each one of us can only perceive the world through our own perspective. I can FEEL I am right and I have the whole truth on my side, but I can never KNOW that and it behoves me to listen with an open heart and mind to as many differing voices as I can so that I can “walk a mile in their shoes”. It may sound a bit strange, but I totally respect the conclusions that Kieren and Nicola and Fionnuala and so many others here have come to . I know your consciences have lead you there. I just can’t agree with you.
    I also know our loving God loves each of us – even when we don’t agree with each other. Anyone of you with more than one child will be able to relate totally to that, I’m sure!
    Thank you.

  60. ger gleeson

    Just a few comments in relation to posts already published.
    @46 Fionnualani. If this was a black and white issue we would not be putting our positions in print. Neither would Jo O’Sullivan and all the other contributors. Like every other catholic I have thought long and hard on this subject, and have come to the conclusion that those Medical professionals, in that hospital ward or delivery room, must not lose valuable time by looking for a catholic, or legal textbook when faced with life or death situations. They must be allowed to carry out their onerous responsibility unhindered. Please read again Dr Patricia Fitzsimons post at @5 above which I fully agree with. God have mercy on Jessie May Barlow. I believe however that her horrific story, is not really related to the situation we are discussing in this country.
    @ 34 Brendan. I think you and I would give like answers to many, if not all of the questions you pose.
    @49 Mary. Thank you sincerely for your valued contributions. That said, I respectfully request that you refrain from quoting comments made by Cardinal Burke in any future contribution. I had a heath scare some years ago, and when I read his comments which you provided, my blood pressure hit the roof, and it is only in the last few hours I have come back to being half normal. Thank you.
    @ 52 Pat. “I am for Christ and I disagree with the traditional view”. I am with you Pat. Thank you.
    @32 and 53 Fr Kieran. Congratulations Fr Kieran, for stating that as far as you knew ( and I) you were the only priest who STUCK HIS NECK OUT ON THIS SENSITIVE ISSUE. As a traditional priest your comments were as controversial as a member of the public shouting UP DEVELARA at a Fianna Fail meeting. I presume you are English and if you do not understand the message I am sending to you, Google Fianna Fail and DeVelara and educate yourself in a piece of Irish history. In simple language, you stated what the church wanted you to state. (Hope your neck is still in good condition). Yes Fr Kieran I am certainly on my High Horse on many issues related to MY CHURCH. That said, would you prefer that I walked away from MY CHURCH, as thousands have done in recent years in both my country and yours? And no Fr Kieran, I do not want to cross swords with you on your understanding of the Catholic Institutional position on this issue. We did have an issue before on whose church it was, “Gods, Yours, Mine, Ours etc. I really could not go through similar again.
    Finally Fr Kieran, with all the problems surrounding our church in this country in recent years, our priests are still held in high esteem by our people. Respect for the dignity of the person and his position comes natural to our people. When addressing any of our priests would you kindly afford them due courtesy and respect. So in future using the letters Fr in front of McDonagh and Flannery would be very much appreciated. I a simple member of the laity should not be lecturing you Fr Kieran on this subject, should I? Then of course you may do things differently in England.

  61. Raymond McIntyre

    Sorry Tomas, my Princton citations all contain detailed references to a host of Embryology textbooks.Life as defined by your Wikipedia link is obviously a category that the self contained & self directed organisms known as the human zygote & human embryo falls into perfectly well, so thanks for the reinforcement.
    It really is beyond scientific doubt as to when human life begins.It begins at conception when a new unique human individual comes into being.If ”it” is not of the human species can someone tell me what species ”it” belongs to? A living thing is either alive or it is not alive.This living being is either of the human family and species or ”it” is of another species (currently unknown to science)
    The world famous feminist Naomi Wolf is honest even if I disagree with her conclusions.Only with honesty can we find a starting point for dialogue and I believe that Naomi Wolf at least delivers that point of departure for a true dialogue…among other things she says in this 1995 essay in the New Statesman…”Many pro-choice advocates developed a language to assert that the foetus isn’t a person, and this, over the years, has developed into a lexicon of dehumanisation.”

  62. Joe O'Leary

    Of course at some stage a foetus becomes a person — but no one has discovered exactly when, as far as I know. For a short period the church, contradicting centuries of previous understanding, said the foetus is a person from the moment of conception. But this seems to be untenable. One poster above says the foetus is a person even if it can become twins: a weird definition of personhood. Fanatical exaggerations have greatly weakened the Christian efforts to discourage and curb the evil of abortion.

  63. Fr. Kieren

    Sean McDonagh has a weekly piece in one of our national Catholic papers, he never uses the title ‘Fr’ himself, and so I follow his own practise. In my parish I am known as Fr. Kieren and hence post as such. Yes I remember an earlier discussion with you regarding the nature of the Church, and yes we disagreed. However, this is another subject completely, and is not only a Catholic one. You describe me as a traditionalist priest, how little you know me, and I’m sure my parishioners would be equally amused by your assertion.
    As I have stated above, this sensitive subject, courageously brought to discussion by Jo, is not and should not be reduced to a Catholic thing, this has been attempted over here. However, the ACP have I believe a responsibility to clearly make a statement concerning this subject. I would ask the following of the leadership of the ACP: 1. Are you afraid of the bishops? (I don’t think you are). 2. Are you afraid of losing support amongst Irish priests? (Perhaps). 3. Are you afraid of losing support amongst some of the laity? (Perhaps).
    Finally Ger, do you actually believe priests address each other as Father, my respect of Flannery and McDonagh, is based on the fact that they are human beings, not on the fact they are priests, or theologians I happen to disagree with.

  64. Raymond McIntyre

    The famous French geneticist Jermoe L. LeJeune( who found the gene responsible for Downs syndrome), while testifying before a US Senate Subcommittee, asserted:
    ”To accept the fact that after fertilization has taken place a new human has come into being is no longer a matter of taste or opinion. The human nature of the human being from conception to old age is not a metaphysical contention, it is plain experimental evidence.”
    You did not come from a zygote….You once were a zygote.
    You did not come from an embryo…You once were an embryo.
    You did not come from a fetus….You once were a fetus.
    You did not come from an adolescent…You once were an adolescent

  65. Tomás Mulcahy

    Fr. Kieren, may I remind you that I did state that the wiki was merely a jumping off point, not the definitive word. If one applies critical judgement, which is the scientific thing to do, it is clear that that particular wiki is accurate. Regardless of ones views of wikipedia, the links in the wiki, that I suggested you follow, are accurate sources.

    You are incorrect on the stability of your genes- gene mutation is common (and often normal) and sometimes fatal e.g. cancer:

    Raymond, the LeJeune reference is argumentum ad auctoritatem. There is no consensus on what constitutes life. Follow the wiki links to see the evidence for yourself. Can you please explain how a zygote is “self directed”? The dependence on the mother has already been debated here. Your definition of a “detailed reference” seems rather odd to me, given that it is just a list of definitions. Furthermore, a single book does not constitute robust evidence. One needs to research widely to reduce the error margin.

    Again, if one is going to use science then one must at least try to be scientific. That means taking the time to research and providing evidence for your points. Again, stick to the moral and philosophical arguments, it is more honest.

  66. ger gleeson

    Fr Kieren@ 63. “Sean McDonagh has a weekly piece in one of our national Catholic papers, he never uses the title of “Fr” himself, and so I follow his own practice”. YOU DID NOT FOLLOW HIS OWN PRACTICE Fr KIEREN, YOU ADDRESSED HIM AS MC DONAGH, AND HIS BROTHER PRIEST AS FLANNERY. No, I do not believe that priests call each other “Fr” in private conversations, but I also do not know any priest (other than you Fr Kieren), who would address fellow priests by their surname’s in any medium similar to this website. If you still believe you are right Fr Kieren, why not address me in future as Gleeson, and other contributors by their surnames. That said, I of course could be wrong on this issue. There are, and have been different cultural differences between the people of this land and our nearest neighbours. This could just be another one.
    I am a proud lay ACP member, and I would like to give you MY PERSONAL ANSWERS to the three questions you pose. I stress I do not answer for the ACP. To each of your questions I would answer a clear No. I know many of the priests of the ACP (Not personally) and I truly believe that if they comment on the Protection of life in Pregnancy Bill, and their point of view does not tally with official church teaching, then they could finish up in the same position as Fr Roy Bourgeois, and many others. I think I could house at least 2 priests (with my wife’s permission), but what about the rest? Not a nice thought.
    I think our little tiff has finally become civil Fr Kieran. Maybe we should quit while you or I are ahead. Other contributors I am sure are tired of our bickering. Let us agree that there is an issue which needs to be further discussed, argued, and guidance from the Holy Spirit sought. I am sure we will have no disagreement on that.

  67. Fr. Kieren

    Hi Ger,
    I wasn’t aware we were having a tiff, yes a disagreement perhaps, but not a tiff. I regret that you believe my use of the surnames of Tony and Sean was disrespectful that is and was not my intention. If I was referring to them in a formal writing work I would normally use their surnames, and after quoting Sean in manly essays in the past, I am sorry but it is my habit of using surnames. I should have made that clearer.
    We have had an honest disagreement in the past, which has resulted in you unfortunately making an assumption about my ministry, and my churchmanship which is false.
    Regarding this debate, I agree with you that I don’t think the leadership of the ACP are afraid of the Bishops, but I wonder if the ACP was to represent the opinion of its membership (clerical), then it is likely that it might mirror that of the hierarchy regarding the Bill. Perhaps the delay in the response of the ACP leadership is that they are canvassing the views of the members. I hope I am correct. Furthermore, I wonder if there could be a division between the ACP and members of ACI over this subject.
    I don’t think this subject has any bearing on our previous disagreement, and I think we should simply discuss the subject at hand. Our previous discussion was in the past, and to my memory it remained civil although we strongly disagreed with each other.
    I have never intended to be uncivil to you, but I am saddened and to be honest a little miffed that the ACP so quick to comment on other subject matters have not commented on this one.
    In the future if you want me to refer to you as Gleeson I am happy to do so, you in turn can call me Mullarkey, I wouldn’t be offended at all. But to be clear, I don’t feel that the ACP should automatically be defended when to my ears the silence is speaking volumes, especially when the silence is being filled by the rhetoric from Cardinals and Bishops not so much from Ireland but from across the larger pond.

  68. Lloyd Allan MacPherson

    The legitimacy of abortion is a situation where we ask ourselves a very important question. Under what circumstances would I have rather not been born into this world? I have a really hard time answering this question because in my heart of hearts, I tell my self that I could have overcome any odds and that is something that people don’t want to hear. I also don’t appreciate anyone making that decision for me. We can ask the unborn fetus this question because at some stage we were all a part of this cycle. I think that we can all agree it has less to do with the wants and needs of the two parents. Personally, I choose any odds, any time, any place. Push me out into the harshest of situations and the most terrible of climates. I’ll make my way. But for the love of God, please don’t ever make that decision for me because I’ll make you regret it. I’ll make you question it every day of your life. Are there any of you who would decide differently? Ger, Fr. Kieren – I’d love to hear your personal takes on this? Is there anyone who would disagree with my statement?

  69. Joe O'Leary

    “”The human nature of the human being from conception to old age is not a metaphysical contention, it is plain experimental evidence.” You did not come from a zygote….You once were a zygote.”

    If “I” am an identical twin, can I say that I was the zygote before the twinning occurred? How can “I” have existed then if that zygote became two separate individuals?

    More broadly, to say that “I” was once a foetus, neglects to note that the foetus is not a self-sustaining being. It is like saying an oak was once an acorn — it is only a half-truth.

  70. ger gleeson

    Lloyd Allen Mc Pherson@68. You ask very profound questions Lloyd. I will respond within a few days. A little family matter I am attending to is taking me longer than I anticipated. Thank you for your invitation to comment on this very sacred matter.

  71. Raymond McIntyre

    Tomas with respect you have lost the scientific argument as Professor Jerome Lejeune says.So as you search for a conscience salving justification for supporting abortion you reach towards metaphysics and carefully selected philosophical rouses.Meanwhile people of faith are routinely rounded on by atheists for, as they see it abandoning reason and science in debate.Then when people
    of faith employ the cutting edge science in this debate we’re asked by you to ”stick to the moral and philsophilical arguments” obviously you feel as an
    abortion proponent that you are on weak ground when science is employed to defend innocent human life.That gives me enormous hope for the future.Thank you for the feedback and debate.

  72. jpelham

    Ms. O’Sullivan: Your taking “exception to the language that talks about ‘killing a baby in the womb’ [because it] is designed to arouse certain emotions” is of course well-founded. For the same reason we could take exception to the pro-life tactic of displaying pictures of aborted babies. And those “certain emotions” might generally be collected under the headings of horror and revulsion, yet should we be spared those emotions if we are in fact living complacently (more or less) in the midst of the monstrous evil that prompts them?

  73. Tomás Mulcahy

    1. Can you provide evidence of how I have “lost the scientific argument”? An answer to the question ” Can you please explain how a zygote is “self directed”?” would suffice.

    2. Can you point out where I have used “metaphysics” or “philosophical rouses”? I respectfully suggest that is a straw man argument.

    3. There is also the cherry picking. The full context of the suggestion is that you to stick to the moral and philosophical arguments “because that is more honest”.

    4. Lejeune is not “the cutting edge” as you suggest, given that his main work was done in the fifties and sixties.

  74. Lloyd Allan MacPherson

    So, Joe @69, I’d like to hear you address my question @68? Personally, I think this is the only way you can choose whether you are for or against. Again, push me out in the worst of times. A rapist father? I’ll deal with it. The mother could have died of complications during childbirth? It was her duty to do all she could to ensure I saw the light of day. This may sound selfish, but I really don’t think we can have it any other way. All these arguments amount to nothing. If you can clearly identify one circumstance that you’d prefer to not have been born, you have denied yourself the potential that exists in each of our spirits to overcome adversity.

  75. Kevin Walters

    Who creates life? Who lights the candle within the womb? Why did God make me?
    My penny catechism gives me the answer to know Him to love Him and serve Him.
    God has made man in his own image and man carriers Gods image in his seed and he is responsible and must give account for what he does with it, and all his actions in this matter must be bound to his conscience.
    Man was made for God not God for man

    O’ little candle burning in the night
    Who did light your pure white light?
    Was it Mothers joy, Fathers delight?
    One warm and tender loving night
    Or was it Adams apple, there sensual delight
    That set you a burning in the night
    I’m a little candle burning in the night
    No one can see my pure white light
    Cane and Salome are the idiom of the day
    They would have my form melt away
    O’ little candle in the night
    You have an angle ever bright
    Guardian of your blazing wondrous light
    Lit from above ever shall you reflect His Love
    Herod reigns, Rachel weeps no more
    Hearts of seasoned wood doe’s God abhor
    As seasoned wood weeps no more
    @ 3, Nuala O’Driscoll

    More than 80% of Catholics ignore the Church’s teaching on contraception,
    . I saw the hypocrisy of the Institutional, hierarchical, celibate, male dominated Catholic Church for what it is

    I would add to your statement that many have accepted the teaching of Humanae Vitae but sadly left the church, as their own consciences created an intolerable position in their hearts and in some cases divided husband from wife and in other cases wife from husband, creating great discord in many relationships. Others have ignored it and continued to justify their own opinions in contradiction to church teaching. This is what one of the guests at the wedding feast did, (Matt 22:11) He was an affront to God, a garment had been freely provided but he did not want to wear (own) it (humility) he wanted to be accepted on his own terms, in his own image (ego) He was gagged, (his opinion no longer to contradict (offend) God) bound hand and foot and thrown into the darkness
    Recently I decided to read Humane Vitae as I had never actual read it before, you cannot help but be taken aback by its beauty and acknowledge the truth conveyed within it.
    Taken from the document
    “No statement of the problem and no solution to it is acceptable which does violence to man’s essential dignity; those who propose such solutions base them on an utterly materialistic conception of man himself and his life.
    For man cannot attain that true happiness for which he yearns with all the strength of his spirit, unless he keeps the laws which the Most High God has engraved in his very nature. These laws must be wisely and lovingly observed.
    What is written above cannot be disputed, to darken the light of Christ in any way is to betray him, but we can wear the garment of humility (St Bernard-Humility a virtue by which a man knowing himself as he truly is abases himself) before our Father in heaven and in this knowing and acknowledging our own limitations and sinfulness retain the dignity of a human being striving to fulfil the Commandments and teachings of Gods holy church. Repetitive sin (which we all carry in our fallen nature) can only be nullified by living in a state of humility which is continual contrition.

    In Christ

  76. Mary

    Dear Lloyd Allan MacPherson,

    Can we be very clear here that Jo O’Sullivan is speaking specifically of the abortion debate in the context of IRELAND where the proposed legislation, entitled Protection of Pregnancy in Life, is being debated right now. The issue at stake is to legislate for intervention in pregnancy when the life of the mother is so threatened by that pregnancy that she will DIE. These are the circumstances that frame Jo’s original post. Mostly all of the contributors have acknowledged that this debate is an emotive, and emotional, one. I acknowledge this too, yet until now I have aimed, in all my comments here, to address the issues raised by Jo rationally. I have left emotion aside, until now that is, but I must, in conscience answer the issues raised by Lloyd @ 68 and @ 74
    So, it is with this very specific Irish context in mind and the highly emotional issues raised by Lloyd that I reply . To summarise, here are some of the points raised by Lloyd:
    @ 68 ‘Under what circumstances would I rather not have been born into the world?’,’ ‘I tell my self that I could have overcome any odds,’ ‘I also don’t want anyone making that decision for me.’
    @ 74 ‘Again, push me out in the worst of times. A rapist father? I’ll deal with it. The mother could have died of complications during childbirth? It was her duty to do all she could to ensure I saw the light of day.’
    Do you demand of your mother that she sacrifice her own life for you? No equivocation, does your right to life supercede the right to life of your mother? If that is so, would you have been able to look into the eyes of any woman, be that your mother, your daughter, sister, aunt, female friend, female neighbour, and say my life is more important than yours and it is your duty to die for me?
    Do you call yourself a Christian? A follower of that man who demanded that nobody die for him but, rather, who sacrificed himself for US?
    I will answer your question Lloyd. Under no circumstances would I demand that any woman should die. That is playing God with the life of another. Under no circumstances would I have looked into the eyes of my own mother and said you should die to save me. This is what is at stake in this legislation: legal clarity with regard to medical intervention to save the life of the mother if, and only if, the continuance of pregnancy will cause her death. Can we be very clear about that?
    When a woman dies, it does not only mean that her life has ended. Others who love her also suffer grief and distress, and this raises a further issue. Could I look into the eyes of her husband, her other children if she has them, her mother and her father and say that this woman – your wife, mother, daughter – must die and your grief will be overcome in time because she had a duty to save this unborn life. Again, no, I could not.
    So, within the Irish context, the issue of rape is a non-starter because there is no provision for the termination of pregnancy in the case where a woman has been raped. Yet, since you have brought this issue into the debate, then I will answer it.
    When you address the issue of rape, it is interesting that you mention that you could deal with having a rapist for a father, but there is no mention of bearing the burden of being the daughter or son of a woman who has been raped. Other than, that is, demanding of that woman, who has been violated in the most profound sense and whose “rights” have been eradicated, that it is her duty to bring you into the world. Would I look into the eyes of that woman, that woman who could be my own mother, and say Yes I demand that you give birth to me. Again, the answer is NO.
    I am a mother and I am the daughter of my own mother. As a mother and as a daughter I say NO, I would not force any woman to forsake their life for me and I would not demand of any woman that she be forced to give birth to the child of a rapist. You may say that you could bear the burden of being the child of a rapist. As a woman and mother, I know that I would find that a hard burden to bear. Can you say that you could bear to look into your own mother’s eyes and tell her that regardless of her own feelings that it was her duty to bring you to life even though her rights have already been so profoundly transgressed?
    But, as I say, abortion in cases of rape or incest is not covered in this proposed legislation. This legislation seeks to provide medical guidelines for doctors faced with the tragic case when a woman’s life is so gravely at risk that she will die, either due to medical complications or by the threat of self-destruction. Why is this legislation being proposed? Because a fourteen year old girl was raped by a neighbour and became pregnant and suicidal as a result.
    The people of Ireland were asked to vote, not once but twice, on whether or not this brutalised girl, raped and suicidal, should be allowed to have an abortion, so that her life might be saved. Unfortunately, her ‘potential’ to ‘overcome adversity’ was not as buoyant as you optimistically prophesise.
    A young girl, nearly the same age as my own child, had been raped an impregnated by an adult male that she thought she could trust. Thankfully, the people of Ireland listened and they voted, not once but twice, for that girl’s life.
    So, in answer to your question ‘Is there anyone who would disagree with my statement?’ I say YES I DO and so do the majority of the people of Ireland. However, I remind you, that abortion in cases of rape is not included in this legislation. What this legislation covers is saving the life of the mother if, and only if, her life is in direct threat of extinction. The majority of the population of Ireland do not see themselves in the role of Pontius Pilate who thought he could play God. They do not want to see mothers being condemned to die.

  77. Joe O'Leary

    Again and again I find male egoism run riot in discussion of abortion. I remember a young man who said if a girl gets pregnant its “tough s-t”. Mary’s reply to Lloyd is brilliant.

  78. Nuala O'Driscoll

    Kevin @75: The depth of my knowledge of conception, pregnancy, miscarriage, birth, nurturing seven children, being in a loving marriage for thirty five years gives me the authority to have an opinion and to make an informed decision. Pope Paul VI was wrong when he chose the report of the minority conservative commission against the majority commission who proposed to change the traditional teaching on contraception. The reason he chose the minority report was because the ‘infallible’ teaching of the Church could not possibly be brought into question. I know more about contraception within the context of a loving marriage than Pope Paul VI hence I have excommunicated myself from the Church, as St. Thomas Aquinas said, ‘anyone upon whom the ecclesiastical authority, in ignorance of true facts, imposes a demand that offends against his/her clear conscience, should perish in excommunication rather than violate his/her conscience’ also John Henry Newman said, “sublime, unlooked-for doctrine, yet most true! To every one of us there are but two beings in the whole world, myself and God’. I love my new found freedom, now I have the best of both worlds, I can live my life as a disciple of Jesus of Nazareth without the shackles of the institutional male dominated church.

    Also I would like to thank Mary, your comments and explanations have helped me enormously.

    I would also like to thank the ACP for allowing me to contribute as I am not a paid up member.

    Nuala O’Driscoll.

  79. ger gleeson

    Lloyd Allan Mc Pherson @68, you invited me to comment on your post, and so I will. You, like all contributors Lloyd have thought long and hard on this emotive and sensitive subject, and you have stated your point of view clearly and with deep compassion. That said Lloyd; you have focussed on simply the life of the child. What about the Mother? Prior to this response I wrote down many pointers to explain my position, but then Mary @76 beat me to the punch, and any reasons I would give for my position, would fall far short to Mary’s contribution, which I support 100%.
    On a personal point to Mary. I have read all your contributions on this subject Mary, and been honest I feel absolutely ashamed of my church, that you, and many other women, are not allowed to make decisions, at the top table of this MENS ONLY CLUB. Jesus is still weeping.

  80. Jo O'Sullivan

    Lloyd, I had to read your piece a few times because I honestly couldn’t understand that somebody would ask such a non-question. Your question just doesn’t make sense to me because, if you had never been born, you obviously wouldn’t actually be a sentient human. To me your question is akin to thinking of the role you played in the 1916 Rising (I presume you’re not old enough to have been born then!) or the role you WILL play in the year 2216. If you don’t exist, you don’t know you don’t exist so it’s “Saothar in aisce” (useless work) to even ask the question “of the foetus” in my opinion.
    But, to honour your question as if it WERE a real question, you say a person would, in all and every circumstance, prefer to be born than never to have been born. I’m sorry to say I have met severely depressed people who might disagree with you. I conclude from your writing that you are a reasonably balanced, intelligent and educated man – the kind of person who lives life proactively and reflectively – possibly the kind of person who has dealt with adversity and come through as a stronger person. Before anyone screams at me, I don’t mean this as a generalisation, I don’t want to sound as if I’m “tarring everybody with the same brush”. But I DO know more than a few disturbed people who had very difficult starts in life, who came from very dysfunctional background and who have never been able to move beyond their troubled backgrounds – whose lives progress from one disaster to another and who WOULD claim “I wish I’d never been born”. And some DO mean it – the consequences are tragic. And by the way, the people I’m describing would look blankly at you if you told them they were denying themselves the potential that exists in their spirits to overcome adversity.
    You claim a woman has a duty to continue with a pregnancy even if it means the destruction of her own life – I find that deeply disturbing. But I think Mary has said all I’d wish to say about that part of your piece.
    The piece I have to comment on is ” But for the love of God, please don’t ever make that decision for me because I’ll make you regret it. I’ll make you question it every day of your life.” Do you seriously wish that every woman who had an abortion SHOULD regret it every day of her life? What kind of compassion is that? Even the most strident prolifers I know would show compassion to women who have had abortions. Your attitude (if I have interpreted you correctly) appals me.
    I’ve always tried to walk in the shoes of the person whose views are different from my own – I’ve already said that I respect the views of the likes of Kieren and Nicola et al. But, Lloyd, if I’ve understood properly what you’ve said on this issue, I don’t want to walk in your shoes.
    Is it indicative of anything that you only requested the views of men?

  81. Lloyd Allan MacPherson

    Jo, I appreciated the article and Mary, I’ve heard this rhetoric concerning my point of view many times before. Was this an attempt to change it or to perhaps advise everyone who may frequent this site that I have no idea what I’m talking about? It’s my opinion which certainly offends those who fear uncertainty. People who fear uncertainty usually come out of the woodwork on abortion issues because they themselves can’t imagine being emotionally inequipped to deal with a pregnancy (men and women included). I live in a “legal by request” zone so I’m sure all of you have great experience with this subject. Where I live, abortion is commonplace. My point of view was not born out of the stages up to and including the abortion, like Jo’s article points out. My opinion also was formed in the post abortion experience that I’ve had. So I applaud Jo for presenting her opinions up to and including the abortion itself. Maybe next time you can dig a little deeper and include the horror/guilt that many women feel after having an abortion, no matter the circumstances. I’m sure this is a normal after effect. These feelings do exist and can have a great impact on the female psyche. I know because two women very close to me live with these feelings daily. My opinion, just as anyone else’s exists for a reason. I’ve searched my heart for years and the most unoffensive question I can ask is the one I’ve posed to you all. I now understand that this makes me a chauvinist and a terrible person for doing such a thing but it at least let’s me know where people stand. I no longer ask people whether they are for or against abortion. I immediately go to the follow up question under what circumstances would they themselves prefer not to have been born. It might be a little too rich for some of you to think that there are people who would prefer to have been born than not, no matter the situation. In all my years discussing this subject, I don’t recall anyone ever saying that they’d never want to walk in my shoes so definitely a first for this site.

  82. Kevin Walters

    Nuala what I am try to say is, rather than justifying our actions it is better for our spiritual wellbeing to walk before our Creator in humility, when we do this we can neither go astray or be afraid. When we are driven to rebel through what we perceive as injustice anger can take hold of the heart, this is a negative force which impedes us from forming a full relationship with Jesus Christ, if you look at Jesus of Nazareth with honesty these words well come to mind ”Forgive them father for they know not what they do” If you do this the thorns of anger and bitterness what shackle your heart will fall away the rose (your heart) will be covered in dew drops the sweet fragrance of self-knowledge will fill the senses and for the first time in your life you will fully know true freedom/ love (Jesus Christ).
    Pope Paul VI was not wrong when he chose the report of the minority conservative commission against the majority commission who proposed to change the traditional ‘infallible’ teaching on contraception but sadly he did not convey The Gift of Love (Divine Mercy) to the laity and in not doing so has damaged the Church immeasurable.
    This gift of love (Divine Mercy) can only be accepted in Trust and humility (St. Bernard- Humility a virtue by which a man knowing himself as he truly is, abases himself.) This includes acceptance of our own human frailty and sinfulness. We are judged on our intentions if good (honest) we walk in good conscience, which forms our relationship with our Father in heaven as revealed by his beloved Son Jesus Christ
    God in the incarnation gave of himself out of love to save that which had been lost. All of us, clergy, laity, married, divorced, gay, the crippled, the lame, the bad, the good, we (The lost) are all flawed and sinful. But we have ALL been called to partake in the Wedding feast but when the Master comes will he find our hearts ( which are broken, sinful, and lost,) now contrite, blest, and wearing the wedding garment of humility. (Holiness)
    kevin your brother
    In Christ

  83. Nuala O'Driscoll

    I also find your comments @68 alarming. I also find them puzzling when I compare them to your comments on another thread, ‘Seeing is not believing: loving is,on 3rd April.

  84. Mary O Vallely

    ” But for the love of God, please don’t ever make that decision for me because I’ll make you regret it. I’ll make you question it every day of your life.”
    Lloyd’s words seem to me to be written out of a deep, deep passion and anger almost and we do not know the background so it is easy to misinterpret. I don’t see him as lacking in compassion. I don’t see anyone on this site as lacking in compassion. This subject is hugely emotive, so emotive, so heartrending that I could not even begin to get involved in online discussion. I just ask us all to hold each other in our hearts and not to make judgements on written words, words put down perhaps in haste and with strong feeling.
    There is no one here who is not hurting over the topic of abortion and no one who does not feel compassion for any woman faced with an unwanted pregnancy. Too much emotion can cloud our judgement perhaps. To all who have contributed so far thank you for your courage in speaking out as you see it. God loves us all as Pope Francis reminded us yesterday, “tutti, tutti!” 🙂

  85. Tomás Mulcahy

    No Mary, I do think that is definitely a lack of compassion, though it is certainly emotional. There doesn’t seem to be any empathy there at all.

    Lloyd you criticise the fear of uncertainly, yet your most contentious point is a selfish craving for certainty: the expectation that it is a mother’s duty to die in giving birth to you. Did you really mean that?

    In my experience what women feel post abortion in Ireland is the fear of finger pointing, and the guilt that is loaded on them by others, not from themselves. They are repulsed by the current “pro-life” poster campaign- ironically they feel their guilt dissolving when they see those.

  86. Mary

    Dear all,

    Thank you all most sincerely for your considered responses to this most emotive of topics.

    The first part of my reply is for Lloyd who@ 68 raised a specific question: ‘Under what circumstances would I rather not been born into this world?’. As I consider this question to be prompted from consultation with your ‘heart of hearts,’ I responded specifically and honestly in turn. This is despite the fact that I take this question to be, rhetorical or perhaps tautological would be a better term to use. Jo @ 80 has already voiced her perplexity with regard to the context in which this question is asked and I concur with her.

    The question is rhetorically tautological because it conflates two states: born and unborn. You state that we can ‘ask the unborn fetus this question because we were all at some stage part of this cycle’ (@ 68). However, in my consideration this assertion is incorrect because it collapses the state of being born (a state which we all currently occupy as born adults in the world) into that of being unborn (a state which we all were once but which we have no consciousness, sentience or memory of). Therefore the question is rhetorical because it is premised upon a fallible tautological assertion due to the premise that we were all an unborn foetus at some point and can therefore speak for the foetus that we were. In other words, we cannot ask the unborn foetus that we were what the answer would be to the question because we are asking this question from the position of having already been born. The conflation between two non-correlative states of existence creates a tautological argument because when we can ask this question of the unborn (even though there is no unborn who can answer this question) it is the already born who answers it. In this sense, no useful information can be truly extracted from the question because the question is premised upon an unverifiable assumption that is posed as a verifiable truth.

    Now, despite having reservations about the tautology of the argument, I took your enquiry to be serious and sincere and I answered you very directly and honestly. To remind you, I said that I (who can, after all, only answer as an already born adult who is both a daughter and mother) would not demand that my mother forsake her own life for me. This was an honest response to what I consider to be an honest question.

    It is a pity that @ 81 you seem to consider my and other’s responses to your points as ‘rhetoric concerning my point of view many times.’ Whilst I can only speak for myself, I think if you read back over the responses, commentators have striven to take your questions seriously and answer them as best we can. Do you take issue with any particular points that have been raised, as I do not think that anyone intended to imply that you ‘have no idea what you are talking’ (Lloyd @81).

    As to the issue of uncertainty that you raise @ 81. You write ‘It’s my opinion which certainly offends those who fear uncertainty. People who fear uncertainty usually come out of the woodwork on abortion issues because they can’t imagine being emotionally inequipped to deal with pregnancy (men and women included).’ There are many here who have spoken elegantly and eloquently with regard to the uncertainties they experience in relation to the issue of abortion. However, there are uncertainties that you do not address: the uncertainty of being a pregnant women who is the one responsible for bringing the unborn to term and the uncertainty of risking your own life in order to do so. Profound uncertainties then, most especially the uncertainty of facing your own possible death as a pregnant mother who is risking her life for the sake of the unborn. I experienced this uncertainty myself because I am a mother and I have been a pregnant woman who risked her own life and health for her child as does every single woman who gives birth. Each woman who has gone through pregnancy and childbirth faces these uncertainties in relation to their own mortality and the mortality of the unborn. I am in no doubt that others who have not gone through this process can, indeed, imagine these uncertainties. I also consider that any woman who has been pregnant, and anyone who can imagine the experience of pregnancy and childbirth, can place themselves in the position of a woman and/or her partner who feel inequipped to deal with the uncertainties of childbearing. What none of us can do is make a decision FOR that pregnant woman based upon our imaginings or own experiences.

    @ 81 you also mention the ‘post abortion experience that I [you] have had.’ I assume that you are talking about the post-abortion experience that women that you know have had. I know of ‘many’ women who, as you observe with compassion, experience ‘horror/guilt’ (@ 81) after an abortion. However, this experience of some women is not the experience of all women and it is not the only ‘normal after affect’ (@ 81) in such circumstances. Yes, the experience of having an abortion ‘can have a great impact on the female psyche’ (@ 81) and I am moved by the fact that you know two such women that this has impacted upon. However, so does the experience of being forced to remain pregnant, being forced to carry a pregnancy which is the result of a rape (and I bring this up because you mention rape earlier) and being forced to carry a pregnancy to term when the unborn has absolutely no chance of survival outside of the womb, have a profound affect on the female psyche. I also know of women, personally, who have experienced a range of emotions after abortion; some of these women experience profound relief. I hope to have compassion for them all.

    I have tried to take all of the points that you raise very sincerely. I appreciate that they are raised as a result of searching your own heart. Having searched my own heart, I must tell you that I would not ask, never mind demand, of any other individual that they risk their life for me. To risk or forsake your life for another is a gift that one can choose to bestow, and should never be elevated to the level of demand or duty. That is my honest opinion.

    When Joe @77 writes that ‘male egoism runs riot in discussion of abortion,’ I think he means (please correct me if I am wrong Joe), that it is incorrect for any man to assert his right to life over that of the pregnant woman. Similarly, I think it is implicit in Joe’s response that it is wrong for any woman to assert this right too. However, it is an imperative of biology that it is women, and exclusively women, who risk their own life in pregnancy and childbirth. Every day millions of women take this risk, but it is my opinion that they should do so voluntarily, not by force.

    As far as I can make out, nobody commenting on this issue has mentioned male chauvinism, except you. I believe that what many people are striving to emphasise is that only women experience abortion and pregnancy and, as such, in the most final analysis it is women who should be supported, loved and cared for so that they can make the right decision for themselves. In the context of Ireland, this means allowing women whose life is put in severe risk by pregnancy to make their own decision, in consultation with their loved ones and their medical practitioners, whether they choose to live or die.


  87. Lloyd Allan MacPherson

    Tomas, @85 I believe what I believe for a reason. Abortion is and always will be morally dubious in my mind no matter the application. Unfortunately, it’s a door that I’d rather keep firmly closed rather than open slightly. Where there is a margin for error, I normally always side on the natural process. I’m sorry if this offends some of you but to say that there is a lack of compassion and understanding is not accurate. There is a lot of talk on the matter but I’m certainly having a hard time finding substance from your posts Tomás. And again, I applaud Jo’s contribution here but her “I can think of…” statements are more “I know of…” statements in my life. A sister, a best friend, a neice and an ex-fiance, all very dear to me had to face this situation and that is where I base my feelings on this matter. Abortion became a reality I thought long and hard about at the age of 16 because my best friend in high school was seriously contemplating it. The most extreme of this belief is knowing that if you commit to a process of non-intervention, that it is all encompassing. Yes, it is the one I firmly put my trust in but would never expect to sway anyone’s opinion on this issue. So to answer the question on whether I would look at these people and explain my beliefs to them the answer is yes. Do I support these people no matter what their decisions are – without a doubt. I’ve never refused to walk in their shoes, either.

  88. ger gleeson

    Fr Kieren @67. In my post @66 I requested that we should move on, but then you again responded, and so I feel I must again make my position clear on two important issues. That said, I feel truly embarrassed that we are still communicating on these issues.
    In this country Fr, the dignity and respect of those we are writing to or about, is sacred. We simply do not address people by their surname. This is very basic manners Fr Kieren, and all that I have requested you to do is simply write the letters “Fr” in front of the names of McDonagh and Flannery, next time you are referring to them. No Fr Kieren, I do not want you to address me as Gleeson in future, as if you did you would insult me, and simply display your ignorance as to how we address each other, at least in this country. I am not sure why we are still communicating on this issue after four days. Maybe it is a cultural thing? But as the old saying goes “Do in Rome as the Romans do. Good manners, respect and civility cost nothing.
    In relation to you being miffed, because the ACP has not made their position known on this emotive and sensitive issue, I have already offered my personal opinion on this. I and any other lay person can state their point of view clearly on this issue Fr Kieren. As is clear from the posts already submitted, there are differing views. The priests of the ACP and other priests are not allowed to have a different opinion than the institutional church. If you Fr Kieren took a different stand on this issue to the church’s teaching, would you put your thoughts in print? There are many priests in this country Fr Kieran, who are priests in name only. After 40 and more years of faithful priestly ministry, they have been stripped of their priestly duties, and are lucky to still have a roof over their heads. In recent years when priests were falsely accused of sex abuse, by their actions the institutional church found them guilty, before a court or enquiry could decide their innocence or guilt. Those priests were fortunate that they had the ACP to support them. There are other priests in the same situation and the ACP is supporting them. This is the institutional church Fr Kieren, full of THEIR rules and regulations and little sympathy, humanity or Christ’s compassion, for those who may question the ONE HOLY CATHOLIC AND APOSTOLIC CHURCH. No Fr Kieren, the church will never take the roof from over the heads of my family, but I am not so sure of those “dissenting “ priests. Fr Roy Bourgeois situation is deeply etched in my memory.
    Now can we please move on???
    Nuala @78. A truly wonderful post. You clearly outline the serious issue we laity (Women and Men) have with the church’s teaching on this issue.
    Finally to all contributors, and with hopefully the Moderators permission, could I suggest you all purchase the current edition (summer) of Reality, a Redemptorist’s publication. There you will find an article written by a lady called Gaby Roughneen entitled “Women poverty and the church”. It is undoubtably the finest article I have read on the inequality of the sexes within our church, and the loss our church is suffering because of this. Again as a Male, I feel ashamed.

  89. Lloyd Allan MacPherson

    So, I guess what I’m saying, being that I’ll never have the ability to make this decision for myself, is that I stand with women who believe in a pregnancy with no medical intervention and I see this is the most natural choice. Obviously, there are people here who couldn’t find the compassion to stand with them as I’ve clearly outlined in my examples, or stand with me advocating for them, rather. Again, I’m pro-choice but that also includes accepting women who feel that abortion is never an option and who opt for pregnancies with no medical intervention. My statements echo their sentiments perfectly. I hope that answers some of your questions, Mary and Jo. Again, I may not know what I’m talking about because this topic is gender biased but I feel if society is first advocating for the rights of women who believe in childbirth without medical intervention, “legal on request” locations would be in the decline and not “the norm”. Sometimes people advocate when truly they haven’t really pinpointed where they stand on the issue, which is a sad state.

  90. Jo O'Sullivan

    Lloyd, I think perhaps we are “divided by a common language” here. I now suspect that what each of us has said and what the other has heard has been down to using language differently. I must confess I have found your postings on this issue difficult to understand – a fact I take complete responsibility for, it’s not your fault if I’m being a bit obtuse!
    I’d imagine f we were sitting face to face over a cup of coffee, we’d understand each other much better – I could keep asking “Do you mean…?” until the penny dropped! When I said I didn’t want to walk in your shoes, it was in the context of thinking you WISHED that every woman who went through an abortion SHOULD suffer daily regret. I now understand and appreciate that that was not how you intended your statement to be understood. I appreciate that you are a person of deep compassion and I apologise if I accused you of being otherwise. Thank you for taking the trouble to help me walk in your shoes – for revealing your personal experiences. I can totally respect your viewpoint.
    My comment about you only asking for responses from men was a cheap shot and I can see how you felt you were being accused of chauvinism – I have to admit that was my intent. I’m ashamed of that and I am sorry.
    This is the most difficult moral/ethical issue I have ever had to consider and I know that I will never be in a place where I’m quite certain that I’m in the right about it. But then I cannot be certain anybody else is completely in the right either! That’s why I respect the individual’s own soul-searching and “conclusions”. What I have trouble with is people who don’t question their own attitudes/beliefs – who take a position once and for all and close the door to any further exploration. Each and every person who has contributed to the debate on this site has my respect.
    On a somewhat lighter note, can I say that Mary, I found your “Rhetorical, tautological” piece head meltin’! For those of you not familiar with Irish (Dublin?) slang, when we encounter something that confuses us or that we find difficult to understand, we claim “It’s meltin’ me head!” Please take this in the spirit it is intended Mary – I appreciate the trouble you’ve taken all through this debate and I DID eventually get to grips with it, but I’m not always comfortable around what I’d call academic language so I struggled with it.
    God bless.

  91. Fr. Kieren

    As you said, and I agree with you, let us move on. My desire has always been to attempt to respond to Jo, without using insulting or hard words, also I was attempting to not refer to the arguments of the Church, as I see this issue as something that cannot be confined to Catholicism. Furthermore, whilst understanding your argument, I still feel that I must publicly challenge the silence of the leadership of the ACP.

    I agree with you regarding priests who have had false accusations against them, it does seem harsh, but sadly there now exists a sense of guilty until proven innocent. Of course there are priests who have disagreed with the teaching of the faith. I have to be honest with you, if I held views contrary to those I have promised to keep and teach, I would leave the priesthood. But then again the priesthood has never been about having a roof over my head.

    Finally It was interesting that the Catholic press over here mentioned that the ACP have just made a series of comments regarding the revised translation. That’s great i suppose, and it is a worthy subject to express a view on, but it hardly shows that the ACP are really in touch with the main controversial issues of the day.

  92. ger gleeson

    Thank you Fr Kieren, and best wishes.

  93. Lloyd Allan MacPherson

    Jo, no offense taken and there’s no need to apologize. This is a subject that hits close to home for me. While I often appreciate getting involved in a conversation regarding such an emotional topic, I always play my cards in a way to draw out those with the most passion involved. Unfortunately when that happens, it leads to a lot of expression but that is what I thrive on – other people’s opinions. My hat’s off to Mary O’Vallely for almost seeing through what point I was trying to get across knowing that it wasn’t lacking in compassion but mostly angered. This anger is that the women who seek no medical intervention are never spoken of in these forums. Those people, I truly feel may understand the nature of the cosmos and how certain paradigms can have disasterous results when tampered with. This is not to say that those who choose differently do so in vain. That was never my point. I apologize for drawing out this emotional side however, I often find the impact it has on people is a positive one and those women who choose to act without intervention can somehow possibly become less forgotten. I’m not proud to say I live in a “legal by request” zone and I’ve always promised myself that if I were lucky enough to speak to people concerning it, I would gladly stir the pot, shake things up and then finally reveal what it is I believe.

  94. Rory Connor

    Jo regarding your comment
    …… who ARE these people who seek abortion? Are they just thoughtless, careless, immoral beings who have no regard for the sanctity and the dignity of human life? Are they girls/women who live a debauched lifestyle of indiscriminate, unprotected sex and who don’t want to take any responsibility for their actions? Is Ireland full of such people and are they only waiting for the opportunity to have clinics on their doorsteps so that they can have regular abortions?
    For the sake of argument let us suppose that in Ireland – as everywhere else – the introduction of “limited” abortion is duly followed by abortion on demand. Will you revisit this issue and make some comments about the behaviour of women who follow up casual sex with casual abortions? Because the only people who seem to have done so in other countries are those who came over to the anti-abortion camp. Most of the other proponents of limited abortion seem to go with the flow i.e. the more abortions that are carried out, the more “tolerant” their own attitude becomes – although that tolerance rarely extends to apologising to those who predicted this from the beginning !

  95. Eddie Finnegan

    Have Fine Gael canonists explained that their four excommunications were all ‘latae sententiae’? The Deputies all excommunicated themselves.

  96. Darlene Starrs

    I read Jo’s entry and all 95 comments…It took me about 2.5 hours.
    This thread came out very well crafted with all of the contributions. Abortion is not a topic I gravitate to, as I have only known 2 Catholic women who had abortions and they were both ridden with guilt, but, worse than the guilt, each of them thought, that they would never see heaven and the face of God when they passed on. The Lord moved me, I believe, to minister to both women with as much compassion as was required, but, I’m not sure either women will ever really recover. Hopefully, they found better council than I could have been. I understand what Lloyd is suggesting because I too come from Canada. There is a perception on the part of many Canadians I’m sure that women can and do have abortions because pregnancies are inconvenient. I’m not sure the perception is justified. I certainly hope not. Your discussion on this website was well worth reading and I thank Mary in particular for sharing her knowledge and obvious competency on the subject of Abortion in general and specifically how it is being legislated in Ireland. Abortion is one of the many issues around death and dying that pose such great moral and spiritual dilemas.

  97. Nuala O'Driscoll

    A potent cocktail once politics is thrown into the equation. Going against party rules whether it is a political party or ones religion generally leads to self-excommunication. In legislating for all the people of the country, the Taoiseach might very well be inviting excommunication from both. He has my support.

  98. Clare Hannigan

    I would like to thank ACP for providing a forum for people to express their sincerely held views on this subject without fear of condemnation. I accept the teaching of the church that all human life is sacred and that the right to life starts at the moment of conception. However I am saddened by how this teaching was expressed by practices of the church in the past. It is only in very recent years that the church has acknowledged the spiritual needs of parents whose babies died through miscarriage or stillbirth. In the past in Ireland stillborn babies were sometimes buried in unmarked graves in fields and ditches because their parents were prevented from burying them in consecrated ground. In the past single pregnant women sometimes left Ireland, not to have an abortion, but because they had chosen to give birth to their babies in secret rather than bring condemnation from the church on themselves and their families. The prayer for life asks for prayers specifically for babies in the womb and for legislators and doctors caring for pregnant women but does not ask for prayers for women and young girls facing a crisis pregnancy perhaps as a result of rape or because of cancer or some other serious mental or physical health issue. I do not think we can claim to be pro-life unless we are equally concerned for the wellbeing of the mother.

    With regard to the fate of politicians who support this legislation – will evidence collected and circulated using covert electronic surveillance equipment and other forms of technology be accepted by the bishops as grounds for excommunication. In April of this year the Irish Independent published an article entitled Abortion Tapes Sting which told how a pro-life activist purporting to be pro-choice made secret recordings of conversations with two TD’s. I do not recall hearing any condemnation of this practice.

  99. ger gleeson

    “It is only in very recent years that the church has acknowledged the spiritual needs of parents whose babies died through miscarriage or stillbirth”. It is also only in fairly recent years that the NEVER, NEVER LAND CALLED LIMBO, WAS DROPPED. I simply cannot understand how the church did not know the hurt that it caused to parents on these and other issues. Thank you Clare.

  100. Nuala O'Driscoll

    The Church remains curiously silent about teachings that become inoperative, like Limbo. In Humanae Vitae it teaches that it is greviously sinful to use artificial contraception to plan your family but the Church does not openly preach this because the small numbers who remain faithful would walk away. The publication of Humanae Vitae was and is the reason that the sacrament of penance is almost obsolete. The Church cannot admit it is wrong because it teaches that it is infallible. I appreciate your article Clare.

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