Belfast Telegraph

Cardinal's plea on abortion debate

Cardinal Sean Brady has appealed for calm and reasoned discussions on the issues of abortion and same-sex marriage.

The Primate of All Ireland said the Catholic Church believed a referendum on abortion was possibly the only solution on dealing with the controversy.

He said he wants people to listen to each other and accept the arguments being made in debates. But he warned the church will oppose any attempt to legislate abortion through a media campaign and by lobbying public representatives and providing resources to priests to preach on the topic.

"We would want to inform people of the ills of abortion," said Cardinal Brady.

A 14-member expert group on abortion is due to report back to Health Minister James Reilly on the implications of a 2010 European Court of Human Rights ruling on Irish abortion laws. It found the state had failed to implement existing rights to lawful abortion where a mother's life is at risk, and that the state violated the rights of a woman with cancer who said she was forced to travel abroad to obtain an abortion.

The Government has also been called on to legislate for abortion in special circumstances as dictated by the 20-year-old 'X case' Supreme Court ruling and allow abortion if the life of the mother or unborn child is under threat. But successive governments have failed to act.

Minister for Communications Pat Rabbitte said he had no objection to the Cardinal stating the church's views on the sensitive and complex issues and making its position clear. But he said he was surprised at the Primate's reference on lobbying and canvassing politicians. "I think it would be a retrogressive step to go back to the days of the Catholic church dictating to elected public representatives how it should address an issue," he added.

On gay marriage, the Cardinal said marriage, between man and woman, is the most favoured situation in which children are reared. "We want to enhance that and have that accepted," he told RTE. "We feel that to call it gay marriage weakens the traditional notion of marriage, which is so important in society."

Elsewhere the pro-marriage, pro-religion think-tank The Iona Institute claimed Minister Rabbitte's remarks were an attempt to rob the Church of the democratic right to lobby. Spokesman Dr John Murray said the minister's comment was actually retrograde. "First of all, lobbying is not the same as dictating," he said.

"Secondly, why should business organisations, or farming organisations, or trades unions be allowed to lobby politicians but the Churches cannot do this? Seeking to deny the Churches, and their members, the same right as belongs to every other group in society is deeply undemocratic."

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