Charles Dickens begins ‘A Tale of Two Cities’ with that memorable quote often the context for an essay in next month’s leaving certificate or junior certificate English Exam Paper:
“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was an age of wisdom, it was an age of foolishness, it was an epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity …”.
You can almost see the exam paper essay smiling up at you … elaborate and comment in not less than 1,000 words!
And everyone else taking up their pens and writing furiously.
The first thing we need to do when confronted with an essay title is to reflect on what it means and how it relates to our lived experience.
And maybe that’s a good thing for us as church and society to do as we take stock and reflect on serious questions that confront us in next Friday’s Referendum.
I issued my Pastoral Message just over four weeks ago, it was appropriately named ‘Supporting a culture of life’.
The issue at hand in Friday’s Referendum is both complex and challenging.
The Church must always be pro-life; we must always be that beacon of support for life at its most vulnerable moments; the life of the mother and the child in the womb.
With five days to go, I still sense a confusion among the electorate who I meet at Confirmation or Graduation ceremonies these days about what the proposal before us actually entails.
We are not just voting on a solution to the difficult cases that have touched the hearts and minds of many people during the recent campaign and indeed long before it.
We are voting on whether to take away the only legal protection in the Consitution for all unborn children, as clarified in a recent Supreme Court judgement last March – for all unborn children, healthy babies and those with whats is understood as “a life-limiting condition”.
Our faith requires us to be compassionate, but there is no compassion shown towards the child whose life is ended deliberately and prematurely in the womb.
A letter to the papers that caught my attention during recent weeks read something like this:
Under the current Wildlife Act the State will prosecute me for removing the nest of jackdaws who are building their nest in my chimney and rightly so. There are many legal protections for non human life, and yet the State is inviting me to remove the last remaining right to life of a child in it’s mother’s womb from the Constitution.
Yours etc …”.
The red squirrel, the corncrake and the hedgehog immediately come to mind; and I support these protections 100%.
My predecessor, Bishop Patrick Lennon during the 1983 Referendum on this very same sensitive and emotive topic reminded the Diocese at that time: “This basic (right to life for the baby in the womb) is not conferred by the State, nor can it be lawfully taken away by the State”.
As I did in my Pastoral Message four weeks ago I urge you to cast your vote for a society that cherishes the equal right to life of mother and baby.
This is done and can only be done by voting ‘No’ next Friday.
I concluded my Pastoral with the message: “Of course, voting no is not enough. The real challenge for us is to work even harder to strengthen a culture that values all life. Being prolife must mean that we advocate for all who are in need of protection in our society”.
May the Lord bless and accompany all of us in this blessed task we must embark on together.
Dickens “best of times, worst of times” – it’s into this kind of Church and society, the Spirit speaks best this Pentecost Day.