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PROTECTING LIFE - IN THE WOMB AND ON THE ROADS

Below is the homily given by Bishop Kevin Doran before the annual March for Life that took place last Monday 6th May in Dublin. In this homily, Bishop Kevin reminds us that "nothing - no law, no public policy can remove our right and indeed our responsibility to advocate publicly for those most vulnerable".


Then follows words from Bishop Fintan Monaghan on how the Church can play its part in reducing the number of road fatalities that have increased this year, starting with conversations we an have at home in families.



Bishop Kevin's Homily


"People have been having babies since the dawn of creation, but for most of that time, we had very little understanding of what exactly was going on in the womb.  The biology of cells was discovered less than four hundred years ago, and it is only a little more than 150 years since the discovery of DNA.


Everything we have discovered since then has confirmed that, while pregnancy is a time of rapid growth and development, there is a radical continuity between the fertilised ovum and the child who is born at the end of nine months.  That is not a matter of faith; it is a matter of scientific fact.  Philosophers can interpret it, but they can’t change it.  A human embryo is an individual member of the human species; otherwise known as a person.


Against that background, let’s look again at the short passage from the book of the Prophet Jeremiah.  Given that it was written two and a half thousand years ago, I think we can agree that it was never intended to be a scientific statement about the embryo or the unborn child.  In fact, if we listen to it carefully, the word of the Lord that came to Jeremiah reads “before I formed you in the womb, I knew you”.  In biblical language, “knowing” somebody means far more than having information about them, it is about being in relationship with them.  What Scripture teaches us is that our intimate relationship with God, which is His gift to us, begins even before we are formed in the womb.  It begins, not in time, but in eternity, and it endures for all eternity.


Pope John Paul II, writing in Fides et Ratio, tells us that there is no fundamental conflict between faith and science.   This is because, while their scope is different, both are seeking the truth.  Scientists are well aware, he said, that “the search for truth, even when it concerns a finite reality of the world or of man, is never-ending, but always points beyond to something higher than the immediate object of study, to the questions which give access to Mystery” (FR #106).  We who seek to promote a renewed respect for the inherent dignity of every human person, certainly need to distinguish between science and fake news.  We have no need to be afraid of science, but we do need to remember that science only goes part of the journey in understanding the human person.


The other element of the reading from Jeremiah, which is carried through into today’s Gospel reading is the call to be witnesses.  This is something I have been saying to the young people whom I am Confirming these days.  We don‘t know where we will be or who we will meet next week or next year, but we are called - in whatever we do or whatever we say - to be witnesses to the love of God made present in Jesus Christ.


For us, that inevitably means bearing witness to the inherent value of every human life from fertilisation, through all the stages of our existence, until the moment of natural death.  As Jesus clearly tells us, we may have to live with a certain amount of hostility, but that is why we are given the Holy Spirit, a Spirit of Courage and Reverence, whose fruits include peace, patience and gentleness.


Nothing - no law, no public policy and no peer pressure from neighbours or colleagues can remove our right and indeed our responsibility to advocate publicly for those who are most vulnerable, especially at the beginning and at the end of life.  While the Medical Council has no policy one way or the other on assisted suicide, and has entirely removed the section on abortion from its code of conduct, we still stand with our doctors, nurses and other healthcare professionals who refuse to be bullied into participating in ending the lives of their patients.


We do this, not just because of what science tells us, but also because we believe in the inherent God-given dignity of every human life.  This is a dignity that does not depend on society or law, on wealth or nationality, on physical or mental health or ability, because before ever we are formed in the womb, God knows us intimately and loves us for all eternity.


ENDS


Bishop Fintan Monaghan;



"As the May public holiday is a long weekend, North and South, and is a high risk period on our roads, Bishop Monahan said, “Up to this morning, across the island of Ireland, there have been 69 road fatalities in the Republic of Ireland, and 21 fatalities in the Northern Ireland.  This is a dramatic and troubling increase in road deaths from this time last year, however I welcome that our new Taoiseach, Simon Harris, has prioritised road safety in his early days in office.  I also want to commend the Road Safety Authority, and all who are working diligently in this area, for all their additional work during this tragic time for road deaths.  We pray that the RFA's media campaign being launched this weekend to raise awareness about vigilance on our roads is a success.


Where Ireland once led on road safety standards, we now have one of the fastest growing road death rates in Europe*.  Road deaths are preventable but care, attention and vigilance must always be at the forefront of the minds of road users– motorists, motorcyclists, cyclists and pedestrians – if this is to happen.  Families must take responsibility for this worrying trend and discuss road safety in the home.  This loss of human life is a tragedy for our society and is particularly devastating for the families and loved ones of those involved. 

Each of us must be conscious that we have a responsibility when we get behind the wheel to ensure we are not putting our lives or the lives of others at risk, and I invite parishes across the diocese to pray for those who have lost their lives in tragic circumstances so far this year, and also to pray for the safety of our road users.”

This Saturday, following the celebration of 6.30pm Mass in the Cathedral of Saints Peter & Paul, Ennis, Bishop Monahan will lead a ‘Blessing of the Roads’ ceremony to pray for the protection of motorists, cyclists and pedestrians.  Bishop Monahan recommends two prayers to help people change their driving behaviour, and to stay safe on roads across the island this bank holiday weekend.



17th century paidir as Gaeilge


In ainm an Athar le bua,


In ainm an Mhic a d’fhulaing an phian,


In ainm an Spiorad Naoimh le neart,


Muire is a Mac linn inár dtriall. Áiméan!



A contemporary prayer in the English language


Holy Mother, hear our prayer,


Keep us in your loving care,


Whatever the perils of the way,


Let us not add to them this day.


So to our caution and attention,


We add a prayer for your protection,


To beg God’s blessing on this car,


To travel safely near and far.


Amen.


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