The is a guest post by Deacon Nick Donnelly. It first appeared in Catholic Voice and is published here with permission of the editor, to whom we are grateful.
On the first anniversary of Ireland joining the ranks of countries fostering the culture of death Deacon Nick Donnelly asks what is stopping the Irish bishops from naming Enda Kenny’s role in legalising abortion. The scandal of this silence becomes more acute as a result of evasions over Dublin’s Mater Misericordiae University Hospital agreeing to co-operate with abortion and the prospect of other Catholic hospitals following suit. Deacon Nick notes that, there is the very real danger for the bishops that their prolonged silence will be interpreted as meaning something they don’t intend, such as, their acceptance of the political status quo about the legalisation of abortion.
One year ago, on the 30th July 2013, President Michael D. Higgins signed Enda Kenny’s abortion plans into Irish law to the silence of the Catholic bishops of Ireland. One year since a coerced majority in the Dail passed the bill which commissioned the intentional killing of babies in their mothers’ wombs. The bishops have remained silent about those Catholics who actively participated in legalising abortion.
Most likely, no court in the world, either secular or ecclesial, will hold Higgins, Kenny and the other pro-abortion politicians to account for their role. But one day Patrick Higgins and Enda Kenny, like the rest of us, will stand before a higher court. Then, at the moment of death, we will receive Almighty God’s individual judgement, and at the end of the world, humanity will receive God’s universal judgement. If anyone of us dies unrepentant and in a state of mortal sin – and co-operation in commissioning abortion comes under the category of grave matter – then they will be sentenced to an eternity in hell.
Pope Francis’ warned the Italian Mafia, “There is still time not to end up in hell, which awaits you if you continue on this road. You had a papa and a mamma. Think of them, weep a little and convert.” This equally applies to other groups organising the murder of innocents, including President Higgins and Taoiseach Enda Kenny. “Weep and convert”.
On this first anniversary of Ireland joining the ranks of countries fostering the culture of death, the Catholics of Ireland are still waiting for their bishops’ response to the role of fellow Catholics in legalising abortion. The brief statement issued in October 2013 by the bishops’ following their Fall meeting thanked those who respectfully campaigned against the legislation and ‘acknowledged those national public representatives who did so at great political risk to themselves’. But their statement made no reference to the role played by Enda Kenny and other Catholic politicians in legalising the intentional killing of babies in their mothers’ wombs. Instead, the bishops’ made a general defence of the sanctity of life without making any reference to the details of Enda Kenny’s ‘Protection of Life during Pregnancy’ Act:
‘Bishops reiterated “to legislate for abortion does not make it morally acceptable, and the direct and intentional ending of the life of an unborn child, at any stage of pregnancy, is always gravely wrong.”’
After waiting eight months for the bishops to speak critically about self-described devout Catholic Enda Kenny and the other pro-abort Catholics, faithful Catholics were deeply disappointed to read the headline in the Irish Independent, ‘Bishop urges pro-life groups to stop ‘screaming’ over abortion’. Instead of a critical assessment of the moral responsibility of politicians, the newly appointed bishop of Derry, Donal McKeown, decided that rather than holding Enda Kenny to account he’d criticise the pro-life movement. Bishop McKeown was reported as saying, ‘You can’t hate people into loving life’, and ‘screaming at one another is not acceptable from people who are pro-life’. This is an unfair, and inaccurate, caricature of the majority of people committed to the Irish pro-life movement, who need encouragement, not chastisement, from their bishops. Faithful Catholics are still waiting for their bishops’ response to those who personally commissioned the killing of the unborn.
The bishops’ determined silence is also apparent in the failure of the Irish Bishops’ Conference’s voters guide to mention abortion, or euthanasia, or same-sex ‘unions’, ahead of the European and local elections. In stark contrast Bishop Noel Treanor, the Bishop of Down and Connor in Northern Ireland, issued a powerful pastoral letter prior to the election emphasising the importance of opposing abortion and other direct attacks on the sanctity of life. Bishop Treanor referred to the Republic of Ireland’s legalisation of abortion, saying it had ‘made the direct and intentional killing of the unborn child lawful in Ireland.’ He continued, ‘With great courage, some public representatives exercised their right to freedom of conscience on this issue of fundamental human rights and voted against the enforced policy of their party, which was to support abortion.’
So, what is stopping the Republic’s bishops naming Kenny’s role in legalising abortion? Some have suggested that many of the bishops nurse a traditional loyalty to the Fine Gael party which inhibits them speaking out against Kenny. Others suggest that their silence originates in a paralysing phobia of the Irish media that has relentlessly held them to account during the serial child abuse scandals. At a time when the bishops need to challenge those Catholics involved in laying the foundations of a pro-abortion culture in Ireland their institutionalised deference to politicians and the media has apparently rendered this whole area taboo.
The scandal of their silence becomes more acute as a result of evasions over Dublin’s Mater Misericordiae University Hospital agreeing to co-operate with abortion. The Mater is one of the hospitals explicitly mandated to kill babies under Kenny’s law. Fr Kevin Doran, a member of Mater’s Board, had warned before legislation came before the Dail that it was inconceivable that a Catholic hospital would co-operate with Kenny’s plans to introduce abortion to Ireland. However, in September 2013 the Board of the Mater ignored Fr Doran and issued the following statement: ‘The Mater Hospital has carefully considered the Act. The Hospital’s priority is to be at the frontier of compassion, concern and clinical care for all our patients. Having regard to that duty, the Hospital will comply with the law as provided for in the act.’
The Mater Misericordiae hospital’s statement not only implicitly rejected the Catholic Church’s categorical condemnation of abortion, but also attempted to justify their co-operation by claiming that it was an expression of their ‘compassion, concern and clinical care for all our patients.’ What about compassion, concern and clinical care for their most vulnerable of patients, unborn babies threatened with abortion?
No official response has been issued by the Archdiocese, but Archbishop Diarmuid Martin, President of Mater Misericordiae University Hospital, gave a response of sorts when questioned by the Irish Independent. He defended the hospital’s pro-life ethos, ignoring the fact that the Board of the Mater had just abandoned it. The Irish Independent reported:
‘He said that though he was president of the hospital he had no powers in the governance of the hospital. And he paid tribute to the Mater hospital’s “great tradition of caring for very difficult pregnancies and doing it well within the ethos of the hospital over years”. He said he would be seeking further clarifications on the exact meaning of the hospital’s statement last week.’
For the past nine months Archbishop Martin has remained silent about any clarification he has received from the hospital, but in the meanwhile Fr Doran has resigned from Mater’s Board saying,
‘I can confirm that I have resigned because I can’t reconcile my own conscience personally with the statement, largely because I feel a Catholic hospital has to bear witness. It’s about bearing witness to Gospel values alongside providing excellent care.’
In July 2014 the Irish Catholic reported that a spokeswoman for Archbishop Martin confirmed that there was ‘no update’ on discussions between the archbishop and the nuns who own the Catholic-run hospital. This followed news in March 2014 that talks between the Mater and Archbishop Martin were “ongoing” on ‘how the institution would comply with an abortion law while retaining its Catholic ethos.’
As Archbishop Martin remains silent, one bishop has had the courage to speak out against the Mater’s decision to be an abortion provider – the Right Rev James D. Conley, the Bishop of Lincoln, Nebraska. Bishop Conley is very clear about the meaning of Mater’s statement:
‘By all accounts, Mater Hospital will abandon its commitment to the gospel in favor [sic] of a false doctrine of “compassion, concern and clinical care.” But there is no compassion in the direct killing of children. There is no concern for patients when mental health is treated by violence. In recent weeks, we’ve heard a great deal about the pastoral openness of Pope Francis. It is exciting. But there are those who would distort the Holy Father’s message: those who would confuse love for laxity. Compassion is not undemanding permissiveness. Mercy is not an enemy of truth.’
Bishop Conley’s criticism of a Catholic hospital abandoning the fundamental principle of the sanctity of life is what faithful Catholics expect from their bishops – a defence of the truth – but the Irish bishops remain silent. It is possible that there are prudential reasons why the Irish Bishops’ Conference, and individual bishops, have said nothing substantive since the Houses of the Oireachtas and the President of Ireland legalised abortion a year ago. It maybe is that they have concluded that Enda Kenny’s government, and the media, are so virulently anti-Catholic and anti-clerical, that if they say anything it will only make matters worse. It is also possible that the bishops are working behind the scenes to persuade Enda Kenny and Catholic hospitals to pull back from the precipice of intentionally killing babies in their mothers’ wombs.
However, there is the very real danger for the bishops that their prolonged silence following their brief Fall statement will be interpreted as meaning something they don’t intend, such as, their acceptance of the political status quo about the legalisation of abortion. This danger is compounded if they remain silent over Catholic hospitals agreeing to act as abortion providers. Their failure to act over child sexual abuse by clergy seriously damaged the bishops’ moral authority, but their failure to stop Catholic hospitals providing abortions will be the destruction of the Irish church’s tenuous moral authority in the lives of many Catholics. If Catholics know that Catholic hospitals are aborting babies what hope is there that they will listen to the Church’s moral teaching on contraception, IVF, sex outside marriage, gay marriage? The bishops’ silence will be heard as acceptance, even agreement, with Mater Misericordiae hospital’s willingness to perform abortions. Our Lord Jesus Christ has warned about the dangers of scandal to the faithful which all in authority in the Church should consider:
‘But anyone who is the downfall of one of these little ones who has faith in me would be better drowned in the depths of the sea with a great millstone round his neck. Alas for the world that there should be such causes of falling! Causes of falling indeed there must be, but alas for anyone who provides them!’ (Matthew 18:6-7).
Finally, St Maximus the Confessor cautioned that silence concerning divine truth for the sake of peace and unity is a denial of truth and is a ‘thorough separation from God, and not a unity with God’. The bishops may gain for themselves a sense of peace and unity by their silence, but at a very great cost.
Deacon Nick Donnelly, founder of the suppressed blog Protect the Pope.