By Sr Bernadette Mary Reis, fsp
A two-day Winter General Meeting of the Irish Catholic Bishops’ Conference concluded on the evening of 5 December in St Patrick’s College in Maynooth. The Bishops released a statement about the topics of discussion which include the recent abortion referendum, Brexit, youth ministry, safeguarding children, and the publication of a book inspired by Amoris Laetitia.
Regarding the recent abortion referendum, the Irish Bishops’ statement says, “We are dismayed that, for the most part, the voices of those who voted against abortion in May’s referendum have been ignored”. Amendments to the legislation proposed after the Referendum seeking requirements that women be adequately informed and prohibiting abortion for reasons of sex, disability or race have been rejected, the Bishops state. They reiterate what they said after their August meeting regarding conscientious objection. No one, the Bishops state, can be forced to participate in or make referrals for abortion. Any law which does not protect women and unborn children has “no moral force”, and therefore, “cannot be supported and would have to be resisted” the Bishops continue. Demonstrating their commitment for upholding the right to life, a delegation of Irish Bishops met with representatives of the pro-life movement in Ireland to consult with them about inaugurating a Council for Life in March next year.
The “risk of deepening political and societal polarisation” is real with the Brexit deadline nearing, the Irish Bishops acknowledge. Fear being generated touches not only society “but also faith communities across the island of Ireland”, they said. In addition, they call on the Governments of Ireland and Britain to maintain the impartiality required by the Good Friday Agreement. The Bishops recognize that “the values of interdependence, solidarity and peaceful diversity” are the answer to the continual building of durable relationships and trust “which have been built up over many years”.
While awaiting the official English translation of the Final Document on the Synod on Young People, the Irish Bishops discussed “how the process of synodality and discernment… might inform and shape the Church into the future, at both local and universal levels”. Irish Bishops are engaging with youth ministries on a continual basis. Archbishop Eamon Martin addressed a group of 50 youth ministers on 3 December and two bishops will be accompanying young people to World Youth Day in Panama in January.
Like most Bishops’ Conferences, the Irish Bishops also took up the issue of the protection of minors in the Church. They heard from John Morgan and Teresa Devlin of the National Board for Safeguarding Children in the Catholic Church in Ireland who updated the Bishops regarding the Board’s national conference in October and other activities.
A Word of Truth and Hope
The Irish Bishop’s Council for Marriage and the Family launched a new book on Tuesday entitled A Word of Truth and Hope, published by Veritas. “It proposes a vision for the family which might shape our response as people of faith and as citizens to the diverse needs and challenges experienced in families in Ireland today”, the Bishops’ statement says. Amoris Laetitia provides the inspiration for the reflections contained in the book which address the same questions about which the Government’s Commission on the Family is preoccupied. Above all, it is an appeal to all people, regardless of religious persuasion, to build what Pope St Paul VI used to call a “civilisation of love”.