Northern Ireland bishops urge voters to ask about abortion, poverty

IMAGE: CNS photo/Paul Mcerlane, EPA

By Michael Kelly

DUBLIN (CNS) — Northern Ireland’s
Catholic bishops urged Massgoers to support candidates opposed to legalizing
abortion in elections to the region’s power-sharing assembly May 5.

In a wide-ranging pastoral
statement ahead of the polls, the bishops also urged Catholics to lobby
lawmakers about issues as diverse as climate change and the right of church-run
organizations to receive government funding.

Catholics at Masses April 30-May
1 were given pamphlets with a list of 10 questions that the faithful are encouraged
to ask candidates, including their parties’ policies on abortion and child

“The next assembly term
will see further pressures being brought to bear on politicians to introduce
abortion to Northern Ireland,” the bishops said.

“The moral issue here is
not whether what is proposed is abortion ‘on demand’ or some form of so-called ‘limited’
abortion. From a moral point of view, there is no such things as ‘limited’
abortion. Abortion is always the deliberate and intentional taking of an
innocent, vulnerable human life, and a direct breach of the commandment ‘Thou
shalt not kill,'” the bishops wrote.

“It is never morally
acceptable to support any policy that undermines the sacred inviolability of
the right to life of an innocent person in any circumstances,” the bishops

They also appealed for
politicians to tackle child poverty after the votes have been counted.

“It is an indictment on the
priorities and preoccupations of the last assembly that Northern Ireland was
the only region in the U.K. where levels of childhood poverty actually
increased, with over 101,000 children in Northern Ireland now living below the
poverty line,” the bishops’ letter stated.

The bishops reminded Catholic
voters of Pope Francis’ recent comment that there are “no grounds for
considering homosexual unions to be in any way similar or even remotely
analogous to God’s plan for marriage and family.”

They also called for a “new
and more constructive political culture” and said a preoccupation with “tribal
issues” and party point-scoring had alienated many people, particularly
the young, from politics.

The letter also reaffirmed the
importance of Catholic education and said the existence of government-funded
faith schools is to be “celebrated and encouraged as part of a genuinely
tolerant society that respects diversity and parental choice.”

On climate change, the bishops
wrote: “We encourage the next assembly and executive to play their part in
contributing to those U.N. Sustainable Development Goals for 2030 that are
ethically consistent and to support the many local individuals and organizations
that provide international outreach and outstanding development work in some of
the most disadvantaged regions of the world.”

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