What a week it has been. I took a few days off for a rest after a stressful Christmas and New Year, and then had Fraternity work in London, so I am only getting back into the swing of things this morning: and so much has happened.
The main "event" in Ireland was the three days hearings of the Committee of Health and Children to take submissions from interested parties with regard to the forthcoming legislation on abortion. Those three days reveal the chasm that exists between those who believe in the sanctity of life and those who want abortion. Those speaking for life did very well, including Bishop Christopher Jones of Elphin on behalf of the Irish Bishops. I'll just tip the toe into the water - so much has already been written on the submissions.
The Bishops' submission was very respectful, yet firm. They reiterated the high standard of maternal care in Ireland, describing as a distortion of the truth any suggestion that Ireland is an unsafe place for pregnant women. Absolutely correct. The Bishop pointed out the need for care in terms of terminology, making clear distinctions between life saving treatment and the direct killing of the unborn child - pro-abortion advocates love to blur these distinctions in order to mislead people. As agreed by many legal experts, the Bishop reminded the Committee that legislating for the X case was not the only option open to the government - there are other ways which respect the lives of both mother and child. He called for a referendum to deal with the Supreme Court's judgement on the X case. Among other things, Bishop Jones pointed out that abortion is not a religious issue, but a human one.
It seems that despite the respectful and moderate tone of the Bishops' submission, it received negative reactions, among them Senator John Crown's rebuke: "The more they speak (the Bishops), I lapse a little more". Others were even more irate. Senator Ivana Bacik in her submission after the Bishops attacked the Church and said that it was made up only of old men whose only objection to abortion was that they hated women. Senator Bacik, a Labour Senator, has been pushing for abortion in a most agressive manner since she was a student. It seems, however, she is unaware that the Catholic Church is made up of more than old men, indeed many women, and many young women who oppose abortion, not because they hate women, but because they respect human life -a fact ignored not only by Bacik, but also by the media.
The Iona Institute's submission was made by Breda O'Brien and Maria Steen who concentrated on the 1861 Offences Against the Persons Act which outlaws abortion: they maintained that the Act should be amended rather than repealed to cater for situations in which a child unintentionally dies as a result of treatment so doctors could not be prosecuted. They disagreed with calls to decriminialise abortion, also pointing out that the inclusion of suicide as a reason for abortion "will present suicide as an acceptable option in certain circumstances and this would be a very harmful signal to send to a society already suffering from a high suicide rate". How true that is. In relation to this a friend of mine said yesterday that threat of suicide is not accepted as a reason to cancel debt in these hard times. Just a few days ago a psychologist was talking about the relationship between suicide and financial difficulties, much ignored he said. If suicide is deemed to be an acceptable ground for abortion, then why not an acceptable ground for debt forgiveness? I doubt if the banks will go for that - nor the government: unborn babies are one thing, but money is another.
An interesting comment from the pro-abortion lobby also emerged. When asked about gender based abortions (ie baby girls aborted because they are not boys), Jacinta Fay of Choice Ireland responded:
"Choice Ireland campaigns for free access to accurate information on crisis pregnancy, comprehensive sex education, free access to contraception and free, safe and legal abortion. The issue of abortion based on sex or gender selection was raised. We argue that such practices are due to patriarchal structures and that male preference is a result of gender norms which value males over females. Any ban on abortion for the purpose of sex selection would not counteract the entrenched gender bias that underlines this practice. It has been the experience of other cultures that such bans have been ineffective and have further exacerbated gender discrimination by undermining women's autonomy and creating additional obstacles to women's health care."
In other words - they accept it happens and will do nothing to prevent it - allowing abortion is too important for them - so much for women's liberation. I also note she wants "free, safe and legal abortion" - so it seems the taxpayers will eventually have to cover the cost of killing our unborn children. The arguments of the pro-abortion lobby, and experience, reveal that the government is, at the very best, extremely naive if they think we will not have abortion on demand. We will have it and we, the taxpayers, will have to pay for it. Did the Minister for Health include the cost of that in the budget? And what about those who facing cuts - the elderly, the sick, the disabled, carers etc etc, will they be pleased to know that the money they are losing may well go towards abortions?
In related news, Taoiseach Enda Kenny is trying to wiggle his way out of his pre-election promise not to legislate for abortion. In a radio progamme, the Taoiseach said that his committment not to legislate was no more than "a letter in some cases" sent to people. Cora Sherlock of the Pro-Life Campaign has responded.
Other life issues: in Belgium two men, twins, were euthanised because they were going blind. The brothers were already deaf and when facing the prospect of being blind too, they preferred to die. What is most interesting about the case is that we were told the euthansia law would be restrictive ("limited", if I can use that word so bandied about in Ireland today), yet this case has interpreted the law so broadly it seems to me it really undermines the law and opens the floodgates. Such is the way with the culture of death.
To end on a spiritual note: today is the feast of St Ita, one of our great Irish women saints. Second only to St Brigid in devotion, Ita is known as the "foster mother of the Saints of Ireland". Born into a noble, Christian family in Waterford around 480, she wanted to dedicate her life to God from an early age, and so became a nun, founding a community in Killeedy in Limerick. There she established a school, and young people from all over Ireland were sent to her. Her method was that of formation in holiness, and she was a great success - many of her pupils became Saints - hence her title. She was very much the Don Bosco of her time - she loved those in her care - she was more of a mother than a teacher to them, and this too is reflected in her title.
She was known for her austere life, but also for some mystical gifts which included prophecy. When asked what were the three things that God loved, she answered: "True faith with a pure heart, a simple spiritual life, and generous acts of charity". She is said to have written a lullaby for the baby Jesus:
Lives my little cell within;
What were wealth of cleric high-,
All is lie but Jesukin.Nursing nurtured, as 'tis right,
Harbors here no servile spright,
Jesu of the skies, who are
Next my heart through every night.Jesu, more than angel aid,
Fostering not formed to fade,
Nursed by me in desert wild,
Jesu, Child of Judah's Maid.Unto heaven's High King contest
Sing a chorus, maidens blest!
He is o'er us, though within
Jesukin is on our breast.
The American composer set a translation of the lullaby in his song cycle, Hermit Songs, entitled St Ita's Vision: I include it for your listening on this feast. In the meantime, let us ask St Ita, whose vocation as a spiritual mother to the Irish led to great holiness for her and those in her care, that she will watch over our children, most especially the unborn, and all mothers, particularly those contemplating abortion. Let us also commend to her intercession our politicians.