‘Whistle- Blower’ (Life, Death, Hope and the Eight Amendment)
(By Pádraig McCarthy (Lettertec Publishing 2018) Due out 17th March 2018.
We live in strange times:
These are dangerous days. We live in Trump-land. Instant reaction is more important than deep reflection. The fury of Social Media can explode suddenly. Guts matter more than head. In the Ireland of today, comments from religious people especially the professionals, are immediately scoffed at, or caricatured. There are reasons for that in the miserable and sometimes distorted picture of faith presented in the past. However, Padraig McCarthy keeps on stating the obvious. He has a serious respect for argument and logic. He always asks us to question assumptions; to delve into the roots of every discussion, to follow every argument to its appropriate conclusion. He challenges us.
He is an awkward man. He is infuriating at times. He can seem very aloof. He is critical and analytical. He is robust and dispassionate. He is forensic in his examination. He never cowers away from the consequences of any line of questioning. He asks us to respect principles. He was bold enough to tear apart the methodology of ‘The Murphy Report’ at a time when even to suggest that anything could be wrong with it was perceived as heretical (new secular version). He wrote a Book –‘The Unheard Story’ (Murphy Report on Dublin Archdiocese) on its legal deficiencies. Very few wanted to hear his critique. The Department of Justice didn’t want to know. The Media ignored it. It was all too troublesome and unpopular. How dare a Catholic Priest question such a distinguished and infallible team, who had investigated the Dublin Archdiocese. Padraig’s point was that if we respect the Murphy Report and its conclusions, we have to be rigorous, fearless and honest. Avoidance was easier. He thinks such avoidance continues and is obvious in regard to the Referendum on The Eight Amendment.
He now has written a book (Whistle-Blower; Life, Death, Hope and the Eight Amendment) on the forthcoming Referendum. It is a foolish and an unfashionable project! The expected thing at present is that Church people should shy away and be quiet. But Padraig is not shy and will not be silent or silenced. Who is he? He is a man. He is a Catholic. He is a celibate priest. He believes that he has something to say and he has to say it. Whether you want to listen or not; that is entirely up to you. He steps back. He offers a view which is not faith-restricted. He is clinical. He critically assesses what is going on. He assumes the role of a Whistle-Blower.
He defines what a Whistle-Blower is. A whistle-blower sees that something is not right. The whistle-blower has to objectively face the issue. The whistle-blower has to be dispassionate. The whistle-blower has to avoid the personal – it is not ‘me’ focused (unlike some of the national whistle-blowers). The whistle-blower points out the arguments and demands a rigorous argument on the issues. The whistle-blower can never draw attention to him/herself. It can never be about her or him. The whistle-blower cannot emote and distract from the main questions. The whistle-blower has to be detached, whatever the personal cost. The target is centred on the arguments and not the person. Padraig does that very well. He lives out the role of whistle-blower as described by himself. He is also very caring, understanding and sympathetic to the woman with the crisis pregnancy. There is a softness in him in regard to the suffering people being discussed. He asks you to join him and to become a whistle-blower. It is simple: Never fear the arguments. Follow the logic. Face the facts. Be vigorous but honest.
The Citizens’ Assembly; Joint Oireachtas Committee; Taoiseach:
Padraig asks the Citizens’ Assembly; the Joint Oireachtas Committee; the Taoiseach – why did they totally avoid the two people involved in the discussions? The two involved had a problem. The problem was an unwanted pregnancy. They (Citizens’ Assembly; Joint Oireachtas Committee; Taoiseach) answered the question by proposing that the pregnancy be terminated. The reason they gave was that it was a woman’s issue; that it was the only possible solution and conclusion; that termination was happening already. They were doing this because of the crisis for some women. But in a pregnancy, there are two involved (at least). Abortion solves a problem for the pregnant woman but it terminates the life of the baby. The baby in the womb has rights too. Those aren’t conferred by the Constitution but are acknowledged in the Constitution. (The Supreme Court decision doesn’t change that 7th March 2018).
The neglect of the Eight Amendment:
Padraig splits his pages 38-46 where he precisely tears asunder Leo Veradkar’s words after the Cabinet decision (29th January 2018). He analyses every word and every sentence – sharply pointing out the inconsistences in what the Taoiseach had to say. He does likewise with the words from the Assembly and from the Committee. He demolishes the selective nature of their arguments and highlights what they avoid. He lambastes the political system on how it didn’t do what was required by the Eight Amendment 1983 – note words of Judge Niall McCarthy 1992 in the X case. He clearly states that the debate on this serious issue (despite all involved) has been inadequate, and seriously defective. He is vicious on the imprecision of much of the language used.
Some characters in the debate:
This Referendum cannot be about sympathies or concern for exceptional cases. This is about life itself. There is an inevitability in all the discussions which have taken place; a simple solution was sought to a very complex problem. That is crude thinking. Padraig doesn’t question the sincerity or the agonising done by all parties involved in this serious discussion. Micheal Martin, Katherine Zappone, Simon Harris – he believes are slipshod, in the certainties of their observations and have missed out on the essentials of the discussions. He observes that they are swayed by conventional wisdom and by doing the more popular thing. The smog of populism seeps into the bones of everyone and most are fearful of being different or objective. Padraig publishes the figures (births) for 2016: There were 63,837 registered births. There are c3000 terminations per year. That means there are 6000 victims (according to Padraig). The statement made to the Oireachtas Committee was that the major reason for the termination of pregnancy was for socio-economic reasons. This is drastic in itself. The exceptional cases do not make for a good argument or an appropriate response. These exceptional cases can be and must be, dealt with, in a more sensible manner.
Conclusion and observation:
Whether you agree with Padraig McCarthy’s line of argument in this book or not, he ruthlessly presents the core questions. The seriousness of the proposed Referendum makes it important that his book be read and studied. He has done us a service. I like his quotation from Ella Wheeler Wilcox as he concludes. She published her poems of protest in 1914 when the Women’s Suffrage movement was at its peak.
A cry for Social Justice:
To sin by silence when we should protest
Makes cowards out of men (!)
Call no chain strong
Which holds one rusted link. (There is more…..)
I strongly recommend this book. Thank you Padraig. (Seamus Ahearne osa)
‘Whistle- Blower’ (Life, Death, Hope and the Eight Amendment) should arrive from the printer about St Patrick’s Day. The distribution is being done by Éist;
It will also be in Veritas, and in other book stores and will be available as an ebook.
An outline of the book’s main points has been provided by Pádraig McCarthy
Eighth Amendment to the Constitution
|The State acknowledges the right
to life of the unborn and,
with due regard to the equal right to life of the mother,
guarantees in its laws to respect, and, as far as practicable,
by its laws to defend
and vindicate that right.
|Admhaíonn an Stát ceart na mbeo gan breith chun a mbeatha agus,
ag féachaint go cuí do chomhcheart
na máthar chun a beatha,
ráthaíonn sé gan cur isteach lena dhlíthe ar an gceart sin agus ráthaíonn fós an ceart sin a chosaint is a shuíomh lena dhlíthe sa mhéid gur féidir é.
- ”In pregnancy we deal with two lives inextricably linked by a complex physiology.” (Rhona Mahony, Master of National Maternity Hospital to the Joint Oireachtas Committee.)
There are also complex emotional and mental links.
- “Termination of pregnancy” means “the intentional procurement of miscarriage of a woman who was pregnant that results in foetal death.” (Definition given to the Citizens’ Assembly.)
Points for consideration:
- When a person feels in a desperate situation, decisions are made which the person would not normally have contemplated.
Difficult times are unavoidable in our lives. When it may seem there is no future, with the support of friends and family we find we can get through it. When faced with a crisis pregnancy for whatever reason, it is not right that a pregnant woman should ever feel unsupported and alone, or that she has no choice but to terminate the pregnancy.
What anguish must it be for someone who would never dream of harming a child to feel driven to the conclusion that there is no other way but abortion?
Attitudes in society must change so that every woman in pregnancy who faces difficulty will have full support, and so that every child conceived, no matter what the circumstances, is welcomed without reservation.
- The guarantee in the second part of the Eighth Amendment, if honoured, would ensure that all necessary support is available to defend and vindicate the right to life. This has not been done.
Justice Niall McCarthy, in the X case in 1992, said: “The failure by the legislature to enact the appropriate legislation is no longer just unfortunate; it is inexcusable.” Nothing was done until 2013: the Protection of Life During Pregnancy Act was just a small step.
The Eighth Amendment is not the problem.
Failure to act on it is the problem.
It is not true that nothing can change unless the Eighth Amendment is repealed. We can still do what the Amendment commits us to.
The recommendations of neither the Citizens’ Assembly nor the Oireachtas Committee point out this failure, nor do they consider action to remedy this. Why do they, and the government, ignore this?
- “Recognition of the inherent dignity and of the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family is the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world” (1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights). This was agreed following the “barbarous acts which have outraged the conscience of mankind” in two World Wars. People who were considered less than human were targeted for extermination.
To legalise abortion means that we recognise some members of the human family as fully human, and others, not born, as not fully human.
It also means that government is given legal authority to declare who is fully human, and when we qualify. If government can give us those rights, then government can also take them away. Do we want that?
Do we want government to have authority to say who is fully human?
- The words “termination of pregnancy” refer to the mother. The definition (see top) makes clear that the aim is “foetal death” – the death of the unborn child. “Foetus” is a word we use for a child in the stages of growth before birth, just as we use “baby”, “adolescent”, “adult” for stages of growth after birth. None of these words imply at any stage that there is anything less than a full human being.
- The Oireachtas Committee Report states: “What became clear during evidence is that the majority of terminations are for socio-economic reason that are unrelated to foetal abnormality or to rape.”
The “majority.” Address this and we reduce numbers greatly.
Why do we propose a medical remedy for a non-medical difficulty? Abortion is not a remedy for poverty.
Why do we not address the economic and social factors instead?
Appropriate medical treatment is for medical problems.
- The Constitution is the place where we set out basic principles of justice and care for our society. It is claimed that the Constitution is not the place for legislation dealing with abortion. Yet the government now proposes to insert such provision in the Constitution.
- The Cabinet Statement on 29 January 2018 referred to “a balance between the rights of a pregnant woman and the foetus or unborn.” This is very strange. If there is to be a balance in this, it implies that the number of deaths of the unborn will be matched by a similar number of deaths of the mothers. This surely is not what the Taoiseach has in mind, unless the number is zero for both.
We do not balance such rights. We do all in our power to protect the lives of both, recognising that it will not always be possible to save both.
- The Cabinet Statement referred to making abortion “safe, legal and rare”.
Whatever the dangers for the mother, abortion is never safe for the unborn child. The aim of the termination of pregnancy is “foetal death.”
To say it is legal does not necessarily mean it is just. In the past it was legal to treat women as not full, equal citizens, and there is still a way to go. There was legal slavery, penal laws, legal racial discrimination, etc.
If it were “safe and legal”, why should it be rare? What is wrong with it if we want to make it rare? Some claim that abortion is a human right.
- It is proposed that pregnancy can be legally terminated in the first twelve weeks. The reason given for this is to avoid a victim of rape needing to face re-victimisation in medical and legal procedures. This then is extended to all pregnancies. It seems not to be recognised that proposing abortion as a remedy is itself a re-victimisation.
Rape Crisis Network Ireland reported to the Citizens’ Assembly that in 2015, 46 instances of pregnancy arising from rape came to their centres. Of those, 11 terminated their pregnancies. All in such situations must find all the support they need.
To provide legal abortion for those 11, the proposal would withdraw constitutional protection not just in those cases, but in the case of every one of the 63,897 births in 2016 (Central Statistics Office.)
- We want debate to be respectful and rational, but we must keep in mind that we are debating making legal “intentional … foetal death.”
If someone is about to take his or her own life, we would want to help to prevent it. If a person in distress seems about to harm a child, we would want to take action. This is not interfering. It is concern and care.
- We put great trust in medical professionals. We do so because we know that there is strict regulation. We hear of some who betray the trust we place in them. We accept restrictions in any community – traffic laws, safe workplaces, building regulations, etc. We may grumble and find they have “a chilling effect”, but we know they are there also to protect us. Doctors are trusted because of regulation. “I’m a doctor – trust me,” sounds good. Without regulation, it’s dangerous.
- The Universal Declaration on Human Rights in 1948 blew the whistle on how the rights of so many were savagely violated. “Recognition of the inherent dignity and of the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family is the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world.” These rights are not conferred nor can they be repealed, by any law or government. We acknowledge them.
The 1989 UN Convention on the Rights of the Child says: “the child, by reason of his physical and mental immaturity, needs special safeguards and care, including appropriate legal protection, before as well as after birth.” Many countries ignore that. Are we going to do the same?
Can Ireland call them back to honour their solemn commitments?
We, the people of Ireland, must decide.