Irish Bishops Disappointed with Referendum Result

Issue Statement Responding to Criticisms of Their Position

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DUBLIN, Ireland, MARCH 14, 2002 ( The Catholic bishops´ conference of Ireland expressed disappointment in the wake of last week´s referendum on abortion.

The bishops favored a change in the Constitution that would have closed a loophole allowing abortions for women who claim they are suicidal because of their pregnancies. The chang was narrowly defeated.

In a statement published Wednesday, the bishops expressed their position on the referendum and responded to critics.

«We believe that human life is sacred from the moment of conception, and that a primary function of law is to protect the most needy and vulnerable human beings, including the unborn,» the bishops say. «We are, therefore, disappointed at the result of last week´s Abortion Referendum which effectively leaves the judgment of the Supreme Court in the ´X Case´ as the authoritative legal interpretation of Article 40.3.3 of the Constitution.»

«We also regret the low turnout of voters on polling day, as it is clearly unsatisfactory that such a fundamental issue should be decided by a small percentage of the electorate,» the statement says.

It continues: «We vigorously refute the analysis of our Statement of December 12, 2001 implying that the Bishops of Ireland have somehow compromised Church teaching on the sacredness of human life in the interests of political expediency. Our Statement clearly indicated that the proposed amendment would strengthen legal protection for the unborn only after implantation in the womb. However, we were satisfied that the proposal did not in itself deny or devalue the worth and dignity of the human embryo prior to implantation. Our position, therefore, is absolutely consistent with the universal teaching of the Catholic Church, and we confirm that our Statement of December 12 was fully endorsed by the Church authorities in Rome.»

«It has been suggested,» it adds, «by some commentators in the media that the unanimous position of the Bishops regarding the proposed Constitutional amendment was in some way linked to the contribution which religious congregations have agreed to make to the Governments Compensation Scheme for victims of child abuse. We wish to place it clearly on record that this suggestion is absolutely untrue and has no basis in fact.»

«The Catholic Church in Ireland will continue to teach that human life is sacred from the moment of conception,» they add. «As Bishops, we will consistently preach ´The Gospel of Life´ (Pope John Paul II). We will continue to encourage our priests and people to keep reaching out with compassion to women faced with crisis pregnancies. In this regard, we wish to commend the valuable work of Cura, an agency founded by the Irish Bishops 25 years ago, which assists up to 12,000 women each year, and to assure its staff and volunteers of our continuing confidence and support.»

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