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Irish Bishops’ Conference voter guide ignores life, marriage, and euthanasia

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DUBLIN, May 19, 2014 (LifeSiteNews.com) – Pro-life advocates in Ireland have denounced a statement for voters by the Irish Catholic Bishops’ Conference as “insipid” and out of touch with reality for omitting any mention of the country’s pressing moral issues on the family and human life.

The statement, issued ahead of the European Parliament and local elections, mentioned “the fundamental values of human life” but gave no definition of these, and made no mention, even in coded language, of abortion, euthanasia, or “gay marriage.”

This omission is all the more shocking since the passage of Ireland’s recent bill legalizing direct abortion for the first time in the country’s history, and the increasing pressure to redefine marriage.

Liam Gibson, the representative of the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children for Belfast in Northern Ireland, told LifeSiteNews, “They don’t seem to be aware of the crisis in Ireland.”

“Like the rest of Europe, there is an ongoing struggle in Ireland surrounding each of these non-negotiable issues. There is no recognition that abortion in the Republic was legalized last year and that marriage and the family are under continual attack,” he said.

“It doesn’t seem to matter how bad things get, the penny just doesn’t seem to drop,” he added.

The bishops cited Pope Francis’s Apostolic Exhortation, Evangelii Gaudium (The Joy of the Gospel), as the basis of their points, saying, “we encourage all voters to exercise their democratic franchise based on an informed conscience.” This document, they said, calls for a “greater penetration of Christian values in the social, political, and economic sectors.”

Listed among the primary concerns for voters are “the pressing issues of youth employment and unemployment, social protection, income and working conditions,” which “have a major impact on family life.” The document said that the EU’s social and economic policy “needs to ensure that growth is balanced with environmental sustainability to ensure fair distribution of the earth’s resources,” as well as “fairness, equality, and social justice” in the EU’s dealings with developing nations.

“The plight of those migrants who have lost their lives in recent months while attempting perilous journeys to Europe by sea is a stark reminder of the extremes of inequality we continue to tolerate in our world,” it says.

The first issue listed in the guide, ahead of “human dignity” is this goal of “European integration [that] has not yet been fully realized.” The document shows a strong support for the so-called “European Project,” the goal of the EU of “ever closer union,” that the bishops called “a vision of peace and reconciliation founded on solidarity and mutual respect.”

“Indeed, the Christian vision of the dignity of the human person is one in which the European Union finds its values reflected and supported,” it states.

Gibson directly refuted this, saying, “Sadly not only is the Christian vision of human dignity not supported by the European Union, it is increasingly obvious that the EU is vehemently opposed to it.”

He said the document reflects none of the most pressing priorities of Irish political life, that he said, “has become very hostile towards the Church, any Church intervention on any issue whatever, whether it’s the family or human life. This is something which the statement from the Irish Bishops Conference seems to ignore.”

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The refusal of many Irish bishops “to acknowledge the depth of crisis in Irish society is actually hastening the end of Catholic culture in this country,” Gibson continued. “This can most clearly be seen with the problem of pro-abortion politicians receiving Holy Communion. This will inevitably become a source of scandal for all the faithful.”

SPUC’s Dublin representative, Pat Buckley, told LifeSiteNews that the anonymous voters guide stands in stark contrast with a letter by the Bishop of Down and Connor in Northern Ireland, Noel Treanor, who strongly highlighted the priority of opposing abortion and other direct attacks on human lives.

Buckley called the voters guide “a big disappointment at such a critical time in Ireland’s history.” He said Bishop Treanor’s letter “offers guidance in the formation a sincere Christian conscience in the run-up to the forthcoming elections.”

Treanor bluntly listed the priorities that Catholic voters should hold as “the right to life,” “upholding the special value of marriage between a woman and man as the foundation of the family,” “promoting justice, social inclusion and concern for the poor,” and “promoting peace and reconciliation.”

These, he said, are taken from “Catholic social teaching based on respect for the inherent dignity and equality of every person.”

“How we vote is ultimately a matter of personal conscience.  As with every act that has moral consequences, we are called to inform our conscience,” Bishop Treanor wrote.  “With many issues, this is a matter of legitimate technical debate and sincere political difference.”

“With other issues, however, such as the right to life of every innocent person from conception to natural death, the values at stake are so fundamental that they can never be undermined,” he said.

Gibson said he is also “greatly relieved” to see Bishop Treanor’s statements, “especially since I had a very amicable meeting with him May 2 to discuss the proposed public consultation on abortion law in Northern Ireland.”

Bishop Treanor noted the passage of the abortion law in the Republic of Ireland, saying it had “made the direct and intentional killing of the unborn child lawful in Ireland.”

“With great courage, some public representatives exercised their right to freedom of conscience on this issue of fundamental human rights and voted against the enforced policy of their party, which was to support abortion.” He noted that neither local councils nor the European Parliament have “direct responsibility” for abortion law in Northern Ireland, “the influence of local councillors and MEP’s on our understanding of public morality and its relationship to law and policy, is significant.”

Gibson said it is “a pity that Bishop Treanor’s guidance wasn’t used as the basis for a statement for Ireland as a whole.”

“Hopefully, voters in the Republic will get the opportunity to hear what he said on the right to life and the defense of the family based upon authentic marriage,” Gibson said.

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