Belfast Telegraph

Abortion: We won't quiz couples on their stance- Protestant Churches

By Victoria Leonard

Protestant Churches in Northern Ireland have indicated that they would not interrogate couples wishing to marry about whether they support abortion.

And women hoping to be wed in a Protestant church are unlikely to be asked if they have undergone the procedure.

It comes after a Newry priest reportedly warned a couple that advocating abortion could mean their wedding not taking place in a Catholic Church.

According to BBC Radio Ulster's Nolan Show, Father Damien Quigley told the couple he had been asked to marry that "promotion or advocacy" of abortion could also lead to him not being able to officiate at the ceremony.

The Catholic Church has not clarified its official position.

Methodist spokesman Rev Roy Cooper, a former president of the Methodist Church in Ireland, said that "in my years as a parish minister, preparing couples for marriage, I have never asked them such a question nor do I think I would".

He added: "The Church has a right to educate people in such matters but never has the right to instruct them how to vote, nor would I have wanted or needed to have asked how they voted on such an emotive question as abortion."

He said at least one of the couple asking for marriage had to be a member of the Methodist Church.

"We would also require that they would attend a marriage preparation course organised by the minister in whose church they wanted to be married.

"This course would cover a wide area but would not be intrusive except where one of the people had been previously married. The Church's teaching on marriage would be explained and the requirements of the marriage service itself would be discussed."

A Presbyterian spokesperson said marriage in their Church was "non-sacramental".

"While our Church would have a high and biblical view of marriage, such issues would not normally form part of a minister's discussion with a couple," he said.

A Church of Ireland spokesperson said one party had to be a member of the Church, or one in communion with it, and "both parties would need to be content to be married according to the rites and ceremonies of the Church, as set out in the Marriage Service and the Church's Marriage Regulations".

"The Church of Ireland informs the conscience of its members through its teaching but it is not the Church's position to ask its members to vote or advocate in a particular way.

"Marriage is regarded as a pastoral issue in the Church of Ireland and any issue raised by a couple will be addressed as a pastoral matter in the first instance."

In Baptist Churches, it is understood that the decision to marry a couple would be left to the discretion of each minister. However, it is believed that advocating for or undergoing an abortion would not necessarily prevent a couple being married within Baptist Churches.

Belfast Telegraph

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