As the BBC reports, Sinn Féin’s Paul Maskey, MP for west Belfast, has apologised to the Catholic Bishop of Dromore, John McAreavey, for the misrepresentation of his views on abortion in “a letter written by local party members and distributed in west Belfast”. Here’s the quoted apology in the BBC report – not yet available on the Sinn Féin website.
[Mr Maskey said the literature was issued by local representatives in west Belfast on the issue of abortion in response to queries from constituents.
“These letters seriously misquoted and misrepresented the position of the Bishop of Dromore, John McAreavey, in this fundamental area of church moral teaching,” he said. – Added from the Belfast Telegraph report]
In his statement, Mr Maskey said: “Sinn Féin accepts that references in the letter to Bishop McAreavey were inaccurate.
“These letters should have not gone out.
“I apologise unreservedly to the bishop for any hurt and distress caused.
“I can assure the bishop that all reference to him on this issue has now been removed from all print and electronic literature. Sinn Féin has also removed the offending comments from Facebook.”
[And the ‘letters’ already sent out? – Ed] The statement from Bishop McAreavey has more details, including the fact that the “party political literature” in question was not issued in Paul Maskey’s name [So why aren’t those responsible apologising?! – Ed]. Indeed. Here’s the Bishop’s statement [added emphasis throughout]
When I became aware of party political literature which was jointly issued in the names of Sue Ramsey MLA and Councillor Matt Garrett of Sinn Féin, which stated that I “share” their position on the “termination” of unborn human life, I was appalled. This is an untrue and most damaging assertion. I cannot emphasise enough the seriousness of this action which has misused my good name and impugned the teaching reputation of my ministry as bishop.
Political representatives must answer for their own position on abortion and they should not try to misrepresent the pro-life position of the Catholic Church to their constituents. I greatly appreciate the interventions of Mr Martin McGuinness deputy First Minister and Mr Paul Maskey MP, West Belfast, on this matter and I accept the apology outlined in Mr Maskey’s statement.
But to be clear: this inaccurate publication does not represent the moral teaching of the Church nor does it add credibility to the political process. Because of the importance that the Catholic Church accords to the protection of human life, our position cannot be politically misrepresented.
By virtue of their common humanity, a mother and her unborn baby are both sacred with an equal right to life. Last year, in the context of the abortion act which was debated and passed in the Dáil, our pro-life message was vigorously promoted across the island. Therefore how any political party could be mistaken about the pro-life position of the Church defies belief.
Interestingly, as Alan noted, last year Sinn Féin rejected a motion which would have allowed a free vote for their TDs on the issue in the Dáil according to their own conscience. Something that the Bishop had called for previously
The Bishop of Dromore was speaking after the Irish prime minister and leader of Fine Gael, Enda Kenny, said members of his own party would not be offered a free vote on the issue.
Dr McAreavey said: “When these issues come up in Westminster, members of parliament are routinely given a free vote because its regarded as a matter not purely of politics but also of serious morality.”
He added: “There are actually different values in conflict here, and the bishops are simply asking, as a matter of the common good and as a matter of respect for life, that the equal right of mother and child be respected.”
At the time, 19 Dec 2012, the Bishop also clarified the Catholic Church’s position
Dr McAreavey said the church authorities supported medical intervention to save the life of a pregnant woman, but not the “direct and intentional taking of the life of an unborn child, which is how we (the Catholic Church) define abortion”.
“It’s been the clear position of the Catholic Church that if a baby in the womb dies as a result of the treatment offered to a mother, whether for example as a result of cancer or any other condition, that is not an abortion.
“The intention there is to save the life of the mother and, provided the same effort is made to save the life of the child, doctors are absolutely justified in doing what they need to do to save the life of a mother,” the bishop said.