As part of the Irish Catholic Bishops’ Conference summer meeting, the bishops announced that they will create the Council for Life. The purpose of the council, which will be established in March 2019, will be “to advise and advocate for the Catholic Church in Ireland on a consistent ethic of life and care for those most at risk” following last month’s vote to legalize abortion in Ireland. The bishops wrote in a joint statement, “It is essential for us as a Church which cares passionately about the gift of life, and wants to support both mothers and their unborn children, to seek better ways of responding to this new and very challenging reality [legal abortion].”
In their statement, the bishops addressed the needs of Irish women. While the pro-abortion campaign used many stories of crisis to push for repeal, the bishops point to the fact that the crisis is the situation and not the pregnancy; women’s needs are met by supporting them and their children, not by taking the lives of the preborn children. They wrote, “In the aftermath of the referendum it is clear that we all need to foster a culture of care, a society of support, so that when a woman finds herself in a crisis pregnancy she may find practical assistance and care.”
The bishops also defended the right of conscientious objection for healthcare workers. According to the bishops, “It would be a great injustice to require doctors and nurses to participate, even by referral, in the provision of services which would be a serious violation of their conscience.” They write that requiring referrals for abortion would be “a way of pretending to respect freedom of conscience while actually requiring one person to cooperate in what he or she sincerely believes is the wrong-doing of another.” Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar announced last week that Catholic hospitals throughout Ireland would be required to commit abortions. Varadkar claimed that individual doctors and nurses would be exempt from aiding in abortions “based on their consciences or their religious convictions,” but if all hospitals are required to commit abortions, it seems evident that there will not be the full right to conscientious objection that the bishops call for.
Leading up to the establishment of the Council for Life early next year, the bishops said they “will consult with those already committed to, and engaged with, upholding the sanctity of life in Ireland.” Several organizations like Save the 8th campaigned in support of the Eighth Amendment to the Constitution, which recognized the equal right to life of the preborn baby and the right to life of the mother.