Taoiseach refers Cardinal to Constitution over abortion comments made in Knock
Áine Ryan and Michael Commins
TAOISEACH Enda Kenny has made it clear to the country’s top Catholic priest, Cardinal Seán Brady, that he will be ruled by ‘the Constitution’ and not Canon Law’ where the debate over introducing abortion legislation is concerned.
Mr Kenny was responding to comments made by Dr Brady at a National Prayer Vigil for the Right to Life of Mothers and Babies held in Knock on Saturday. The vigil was attended by up to 5000 people who have concerns about the proposed Protection of Life During Pregnancy Bill.
Speaking afterwards to reporters, Dr Brady said he did not think that legislators ‘have power over life, none of us have absolute power over life’. When asked if a Catholic politician who voted for the proposed legislation would be automatically excommunicated, the cardinal said this was not part of the church’s plan at the moment.
“We know what the law is on excommunication about abortion, that’s a fact. But as I say, the most important issue at the moment is to win the hearts and minds of the people of Ireland,” Cardinal Brady said.
Describing the proposed legislation as morally unacceptable, he said the hierarchy would try to persuade Catholic legislators not to vote for it.
“We’re trying to persuade them not to introduce it. We have to, in addition to do good, we also have to oppose evil and to oppose a law that would take away fundamental rights from people.”
He confirmed the church was planning to mobilise to make people aware of the issues and to thus influence the legislators.
“But it’s a shared purpose. The legislators legislate for the common good. We do not think that abortion can form part of the common good at any stage and therefore we are trying to campaign to bring about that change of mind,” he said.
The cardinal agreed that the job of legislators was to legislate, “but I don’t think they have power over life, none of us have absolute power over life”.
He observed that people do not have power as to ‘when we come into life or when we end life’.
Meanwhile, the recently installed Bishop of Limerick, Brendan Leahy said there was no plan by the Catholic hierarchy to mount a legal challenge to the Government’s legislation on abortion.
The main speaker at the Mass, Bishop Leahy said Ireland was one of the safest countries in the world for women to give birth. The proposed new legislation would fundamentally impact on the way people perceive the safety and sanctity of children in the womb, he said. He was accorded a standing ovation at the end of his address.
Former Taoiseach, John Bruton, whose wife Finola, a Westport native, did one of the readings during the Mass, was among the big congregation. Afterwards, Mr Bruton expressed major reservations about the inclusion of the ‘suicide threat’ as grounds for abortion in the proposed legislation.
The first day of the official 2013 season was held on Sunday with a large crowd attending the Tuam Diocesan Pilgrimage and also the Waterford and Lismore Pilgrimage. Yesterday (Monday), many pilgrims journeyed to the Shrine for the visit of the relics of St Therese of Lisieux, the French saint who has a special place in the hearts of many Irish Christians.
SPEAKING to RTE the following day, the Taoiseach, also in Knock for the unveiling of a statue to the late Monsignor James Horan, said: “As I explained to the cardinal and members of the church, my book is the Constitution and the Constitution is determined by the people.”
He continued: “That’s the people’s book and we live in a republic and I have a duty and responsibility, as head of Government, to legislate in respect of what the people’s wishes are. Those wishes have been determined and set out by the Supreme Court, which determines what the Constitution actually means.”
Mr Kenny also said it was time to bring ‘clarity and certainty’ to the issue
“It is a matter for Ireland and for its people. We live within the parameters of the Constitution and strictly within the confines of the law, and that’s where the heads of the bill are entirely focused – within the Constitution and within the law.