A number of friends contacted me yesterday to tell me that in their parishes the priests saying Mass did not mention that it was the Day for Life, nor referred to the Bishops's letter nor that it was the beginning of a month of prayer for the pro-life cause in Ireland. Indeed, they tell me, their priests were silent on the issue. What a disappointment, indeed what a scandal! As the biggest battle for life is beginning in Ireland, these servants of Christ close their mouths and utter not a word!
Why were they silent? Was it the case that they did not know it was the Day for Life? Are they unaware that the government is contemplating the introduction of abortion? Do they not know that the Bishops of Ireland have produced what I think is their best Pastoral Letter in years mounting a vigorous defence of the unborn? Not so: the priests I have been talking to got the letter a couple of weeks ago and we were given enough information to speak on the decision that is facing Ireland now.
Is it a case that this issue is not important? Or are they afraid? I personally think my brother priests are afraid. They fear offending anyone, they are afraid that if they speak out against abortion they will alienate their pro-abortion parishioners and hurt those who have had abortions. Well, silence is no excuse. One must be sensitive, of course, to those who have had an abortion, but they must also hear from a priest that abortion is wrong. In a homily on abortion, as in the letter from the Bishops, one must mention the help that is there for women and how they can access it. How many church notice boards, I wonder, have a Rachel's Vineyard poster?
As for offending those Catholics who are pro-abortion - well, they need to be told in no uncertain terms that one cannot be a true Catholic and support abortion - the two are incompatible. They need to be called to conversion, and if they walk out of the church, let them go: they have made their choice. Jesus did not run after those who rejected his teaching, neither should we try to pamper those who say it is good or necessary to kill the unborn.
If priests in Ireland remain silent on this issue of abortion, for whatever reason, they are contributing to the pro-abortion lobby's attempts to legalise it. Priests must now teach the flock, they must speak out from the pulpit and make their parishioners aware of what is happening. We have to rally behind our Bishops in the battle for life.
The example of St John of Avila, one of our new Doctors, is badly needed now for our priests: he urged the priests of his time to convert and to proclaim the Gospel without fear; to lead their flocks on the way of holiness. This is what we have to do in these times.
If you are a priest who stayed silent yesterday, who did not stand up for the life of the unborn yesterday when you are asked to by the Bishops, then go to confession and add to your penance a reading of St Augustine's sermon to the shepherds, as found in your Office. And next week, preach on the Bishops's Letter and promote the Choose Life Month.
Lay people, please pray for your priests.