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Irish Catholic charity receives criticism over ‘neutral’ position on abortion referendum

Dorothy Cummings McLean Dorothy Cummings McLean Follow Dorothy

DUBLIN, May 24, 2018 (LifeSiteNews) – The Irish branch of a charity renowned for its care of the poor has taken a “neutral” stance on the vote to repeal Ireland’s pro-life Eighth Amendment, a critic alleges.

The Society of Saint Vincent de Paul (SSVP) in Ireland is under fire for telling its members that it would not be advising them how to vote in Friday’s referendum, saying that this was a “personal decision for each member, based on their own views.” A “Yes” victory is expected to lead to abortion on demand in what was once a staunchly pro-life country.

Dr. Daniel Holmes of Limivady, Londonderry wrote to The Belfast Newsletter to protest the “hands off” approach of the Irish branch of the famous Catholic charity.

“Despite the Society's formal rejection of any notion of abortion, the [SSVP] in Ireland, North and South, has conspicuously avoided taking a firm public stance on the abortion referendum,” he wrote.

Holmes, a retired lecturer, is perturbed that that SSVP will not offer help to Catholics truly confused as to how they ought to vote in the referendum.

“[The SSVP] will not issue definitive and clear advice to its members and volunteers when Catholics at large in what has become post-Christian Ireland are painfully seeking advice and instruction on what their church teaches and directs as they approach the polling booths on May 25th,” he continued.

In a letter to The Irish Catholic, the president of the SSVP in Ireland, Kieran Stafford said that “as a registered charity” the Irish branch of the SSVP was “constrained by law from involvement in political campaigns which are not aligned to our charitable objectives.”

Holmes objected that “the public condemnation of the killing of the child in the womb might well be regarded as one of the most ‘charitable objectives’ imaginable.”

The ... government [of the Irish Republic] has declared its intention of acquiring legal rights to the lives of the unborn,” Holmes stated, “and if the [SSVP] does not visibly proclaim its opposition 'in both actions and words', as its own Constitution directs, then it is submissively rendering unto Caesar the things that are God's. I write here out of concern because this Christian charity, so much admired by myself as a practising Catholic since childhood, has miscalculated here very badly.”

In an conversation with LifeSiteNews, Holmes pointed out that the President General of the International General Council of the SSVP, Renato Lima de Oliveira, had made a stirring statement in defense of the lives of the unborn, to which the Irish branch had “paid lip service” by circulating it when it was published but was now ignoring.

“What follows... is a declaration...which the SSVP in Ireland paid lip service to and then ignored in suffocating circumspection and conscious silence. It is tragic to witness this,” Holmes told LifeSiteNews. “If their members are not advised and instructed, the SSPV has left [them] in a pro-choice polling booth.”

De Oliveira had stated that the defense of life was an “absolute commitment” for the SSVP.

“The defense of life and family is an absolute commitment for the Society of Saint Vincent de Paul (SSVP),” he wrote. “We are a lay Christian organization present on five continents, defending the sanctity of life and the values of the gospel and involved in a continuing battle against all forms of poverty.”

De Oliveira indicated that the legalization of abortion was sad and reaffirmed the SSVP dedication to the “defense of life.”

“We have witnessed with sadness, worldwide, many initiatives of groups that defend the legalization of abortion,” he stated.

“We reaffirm our position of defense of life, not only as a Christian duty but, above all, as an attitude to the sacredness of the life of the human being. We defend every stage of life and all the difficulties that it may encounter. We reject all arguments, threats and mechanisms that are contrary to life! We will not build a just society, of peace and prosperity, by admitting the right to murder human beings, especially the most vulnerable and innocent of them,” De Oliveira continued.

“It is not and will never be a cause that we can defend, accept, tolerate, or relativize. We also believe that there is no coherence or rationality in this form of thinking. Nobody - nations, systems of governments, and non-religious activist groups - can deny the right to life to other human beings.”

The President General stated that Vicentians are “eternal and indefatigable defenders of life” and that they cannot give up this task.  

“Our mission is to promote the dignity of the human. And that means, above all, recognizing the inviolable right to life, from fertilization to natural death,” he concluded.

The media spokesperson from the Irish branch of the SSVP directed LifeSiteNews to the following statement by Kieran Stafford:

As on previous occasions, where there have been referenda or elections, the Society of St. Vincent de Paul will not be issuing advice or comment to its membership as how to vote in the forthcoming Referendum.

It should also be understood, that the Society of St Vincent de Paul is a registered charity and is therefore constrained by law from involvement in political campaigns which are not aligned to our charitable objectives.

However, although we will not be issuing advice or comment to our members for the reasons outlined, the Society of St Vincent de Paul would emphasise to its members and supporters throughout Ireland, that it is a lay Catholic organisation, strongly committed to the values of Catholic social teaching and as set out in our constitution/Rule our activities are fully supportive and consistent with Catholic teaching and morals.

The Irish referendum regarding the repeal of the pro-life Eighth Amendment will take place tomorrow between 7 AM and 10 PM Irish Summer Time. LifeSiteNews is asking readers to pray and fast during polling hours for the preservation of the right to life of the unborn child in Ireland. Currently the unborn child and his or her mother enjoy equal rights under Irish law.

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