DUBLIN, August 29, 2012 (LifeSiteNews.com) – Sean Brady is the Cardinal Archbishop of Armagh and Primate of All Ireland, but according to Ireland’s Labour Party he should have no right to engage in any campaigning against legal abortion in the country.
In a recent RTE interview the cardinal had been asked what the Church would do if the government decided to work towards legalizing abortion, to which the cardinal responded that it would lobby politicians, launch a “media campaign,” and write a pastoral letter on the issue.
In response Labour Party Communications Minister Pat Rabbitte told the state broadcaster RTÉ that he was “somewhat surprised at the Cardinal’s reference to lobbying and engaging with, canvassing, public representatives and so on, on the matter.”
“I don’t have any objection to any of the churches stating its position and making it clear, but I think it would be a retrogressive step if we were to go back to the days of the Catholic Church dictating to elected public representatives how they should address an issue.”
The Labour party, the junior partner in Ireland’s coalition government, is alone among Ireland’s political parties in openly calling for legalisation of abortion.
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Cardinal Brady had also said this weekend that any attempts to overturn the country’s constitutional protections for unborn children would be “vigorously and comprehensively opposed” by many in the Church.
Speaking at a school opening in Co. Waterford on Friday, Cardinal Brady said it is “important as a Church that we prepare with others to defend the equal right to life of a mother and child against any effort to introduce abortion to a country which is one of the safest places in the world for mothers who are expecting a child.”
“The debate about these issues is about to intensify in our country over coming months. It is important that we all have the courage to make our voices heard. It is important that we do justice to the logic and human reason behind the values we hold.”
Meanwhile, Rabbitte is in hot water with other members of the coalition government and pro-life leaders who say he is attempting to quash debate and muzzle the majority Catholic opinion. A dozen members of the coalition majority party, Fine Gael, have countered Rabbitte’s comments, saying that the Church is as welcome to lobby for its interests as any other group in Ireland.
Junior finance minister Brian Hayes said, “Dictating is one thing, lobbying is another.”
“They do have a right to make their points of view known on all issues. But people shouldn’t engage in a lobbying campaign in a vacuum where there’s no report or proposal. But Catholics, Jews and Muslims all have a right to lobby,” said Hayes. He was referring to the awaited report from the government-appointed “expert panel” on the question raised by the 2010 European Court of Human Rights ruling that said the Irish government must clarify under what circumstances women have a “right” to a legal abortion.
The Labour party, and other pro-abortion elements in government, have used the decision as a pretext to call for total legalization. But Catholic spokesmen and lay pro-life leaders, including Cardinal Brady and numerous pro-life legislators, have pointed out that the ECHR decision specifically declared that the government is under no obligation to legalize abortion under the provisions of the European Declaration of Human Rights.
Responding to Cardinal Brady’s suggestion that the question cannot be settled without a referendum, Hayes said there is no “public appetite” for another referendum, but supported members being given a free vote.
“This is an issue for people’s individual conscience. The option of a free vote is something a mature parliament should be able to do more often.”
The pro-life Iona Institute said that it was Rabbitte’s comment that was “retrograde” in its attempt to imply the Church has no democratic right to lobby.
“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.”