The Save the 8th group, which is campaigning against the repeal of the Eighth Amendment, has defended the practice of allowing referendum campaigners to speak at Mass.
It was responding to a statement from Association of Catholic Priests (ACP) which said the practice could be regarded by some Church-going Catholics as “inappropriate and insensitive” and “an abuse of the Eucharist”.
The association said it was “concerned” that in the run up to the referendum on the Eighth Amendment, some parishes were allowing their pulpits to be used by campaigners.
It said that while it fully endorses “the Catholic teaching that all human life, from beginning to end, is sacred”, it also recognises that “human life is complex, throwing up situations that are more often grey than black and white and that demand from us a sensitive, non-judgemental, pastoral approach.”
“There is undoubtedly a moral content to this referendum, but as with many other issues, there are also social, political and pastoral dimensions.”
It said that as as an association made up of unmarried, childless men, “we are not best placed to be in any way dogmatic on this issue”.
The association said it encouraged people to find out what exactly they are being asked to vote for, and what the consequences of their vote may be.
“Having done that to the best of our ability, and following it with the, often painful and difficult, task of consulting our conscience, let us cast our vote.
“A vote cast in accordance with each person’s conscience, whatever the result, deserves the respect of all,” it said.
The ACP is a voluntary association of Roman Catholic clergy in Ireland. It was established in 2010 with the objective of having “a forum, and a voice to reflect, discuss and comment on issues affecting the Irish Church and society today.”
One of its founders, Fr Tony Flannery, was disciplined and banned from public ministry by the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith in 2012 for views he expressed on Catholic teachings in areas such as sexuality, contraception and the role of women in the church.
Save the 8th said it had been “delighted and honoured” to accept invitations to speak to congregations.
“The Association of Catholic Priests appears to be worried that Catholics may hear Catholic teaching reflected at Catholic masses,” it said.
The group said it would never decline an invitation “educate” voters about which it described as the “extremity of the Government’s proposal, which legalises abortion for healthy mothers, and healthy babies, for any reason at all”.
Save the 8th said no-one was compelled by a church or its campaign to listen to any speaker.
“If we have reached the point where speaking about the right to life in a Christian church is in some way controversial, that would be a sign that hysteria has overtaken rational discourse in this referendum campaign,” it said.
“Our campaign shares, and applauds, the deep commitment of the Christian community to the values of respect for the life and dignity of every human individual. These values and beliefs are not limited to people of faith, and are shared by people of no religion whatsoever.”
Meanwhile, the Bishop of Meath Michael Smith said in a statement released to mark the feast day of Edmund Rice, founder of the Christian Brothers and the Presentation Brothers, that “despite suggestions to the contrary”, the Church asks that all necessary medical treatment be given to a mother in pregnancy even if this were to result in the unintended death of the child.
He said highly respected medical and legal experts had made it clear that under the present law the best standards of care were available to mothers in a crisis pregnancy.
“Are we as a society to say to women experiencing a crisis in their pregnancy that the solution to their concern is to be found in abortion? Does this show compassion and care for women?
“The solution to a crisis pregnancy should be found in addressing the crisis, not in terminating the life of an innocent child. Abortion is a brutal act. There is no semblance of compassion involved in ending the life of the child in the womb.”
He said it was difficult to imagine how such an action could be compatible with the Catholic faith in any way.
He described abortion rates in other countries as “appalling” and said they should “fill us with the dread of similar rates becoming normalised here”.
The power to decide “who lives and who dies” should not belong to the individual, he said.
“Saving the Eighth means that we do not have to choose between two competing rights. To choose life is to choose both.”