Don't vote for pro-abortion candidates, urges Church
The Catholic Church has urged the Northern Irish electorate against voting for candidates who support abortion.
It also called on those elected to Stormont on May 5 to refrain from supporting laws permitting same-sex marriage.
In a pastoral reflection published yesterday, bishops also lambasted the previous Assembly for its failure to tackle childhood poverty, and appealed for the parties to make it their top priority in the next term.
They said: “The last Assembly failed to address the issues of poverty, social need and economic recovery in any systemic or long term way.”
They added that it was “morally and politically inexcusable that some 20 years after the Agreement, Northern Ireland still experiences the widest gap on these islands between the haves and the have nots, and that this gap is widening further”.
The bishops said they expected to see growing pressure on MLAs for reforms to Northern Ireland’s restrictive abortion law.
“The moral issue here is not whether what is proposed is abortion ‘on demand’ or some form of so-called ‘limited’ abortion,” they added.
“From a moral point of view, there is no such things as ‘limited’ abortion.
“The medical prognosis for the life of a child in the womb, or the extent of that child’s disabilities, is no more morally relevant than it is when considering an adult who faces the diagnosis of a life-limiting condition.”
The bishops also reiterated their support for traditional marriage as “the best and ideal place for children”.
“We make a special appeal to those standing for election to the next Assembly to reflect on the importance of the family based on marriage between one man and one woman as the foundation and cornerstone of society and therefore deserving of special recognition and protection in policy and law,” they said.
Northern Ireland is the only part of the UK or Ireland where civil marriage is denied to same-sex couples.
It has been rejected five times by the Assembly.
Although the majority of MLAs voted in favour of introducing gay marriage when it was debated for a fifth time last year, the proposal fell because unionists who opposed the move deployed a controversial voting mechanism to veto it.
Yesterday, prominent gay rights activist Peter Tatchell called on the next Assembly to overturn the ban on same-sex marriage.
“Marriage equality is now an election issue,” Mr Tatchell said. “For many years the DUP opposed the right of same-sex couples to adopt children, the introduction of civil partnerships and the holding of LGBT Pride parades in cities like Belfast.
“It (the party) is currently the main obstacle to the legalisation of same-sex marriage.”