In 1939, Bishop Buckley was born in Inchigeela, West Cork, a village that is near where I was born. When I was in secondary school, Bishop Buckley used to pop in for a visit. On two occasions I was sitting in a chemistry lab struggling to make my brain learn the formulas on the blackboard when Bishop Buckley strode in. He surprised the teacher, explained that he was a scientist by profession, and asked if he could ask us some questions on the electron, telling us that he loved all the sciences but especially chemistry. Our school has a state of the art chemistry lab and Bishop Buckley’s eyes would glitter as he beheld the counter tops that were upholstered in an incombustible white covering.
Then he would ask us to put up our hands if we were planning to study chemistry after school. Taking Rosaries from his pocket, he gave one to each girl, before disappearing out the door saying, ‘I’ll visit this lab again’.
Now, some years after leaving school, I wish to congratulate Bishop Buckley for his excellently crafted pastoral letter, which was read out in Cork churches during December.
“My Dear People, Human life is sacred and precious. Every human being must be treated with the greatest respect. This is true at every moment of life, from its first beginnings to its natural death. In the womb we grow and develop as full human beings, not as potential human beings. We read in the Old Testament: “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I sanctified you” (Jeremiah 1:5). The child in the womb must enjoy the same rights as all other people, among which is the unassailable right of an innocent person to life. This includes our responsibility as a society to defend and promote the equal right to life of a pregnant mother and the innocent and defenceless child in her womb when the life of either of these persons is at risk. They have an equal right to life. The Catholic Church has never taught that the life of a child in the womb should be preferred to that of the mother. In situations where a seriously ill pregnant woman needs medical treatment which may put the life of her baby at risk, such treatments are morally permissible, provided that every effort has been made to save the life of both the mother and her baby. Abortion is the deliberate medical intervention to end the life of an unborn child and is gravely wrong in all circumstances. This is different from medical treatments, such as those to save the mother, which do not directly and intentionally seek to end the life of the unborn baby. Current law and medical guidelines in Ireland allow nurses and doctors in Irish hospitals to apply this vital distinction in practice. International statistics confirm that Ireland, without abortion, remains one of the safest countries in the world in which to be pregnant and to give birth. Contrary to what has been widely said, the judgment of the European Court of Human Rights does not oblige the Irish government to legislate for abortion. The Lisbon Treaty was passed at the second attempt following assurances that Ireland had the right to determine its own policies on abortion. The recent report of the government-appointed Expert Group has put forward four options. Three of those options involve abortion i.e. the direct and intentional killing of the unborn child. This can never be morally justified. In no other situation in life do we suggest ending the life of a person as a solution to a problem. The fourth option i.e. guidelines which can help ensure consistency in the delivery of medical treatment, could be a way forward provided the direct and intentional killing of either person continues to be excluded. The Expert Group failed to consider the moral dimensions, even though it is was included in the terms of reference. We must always extend our help to women who find themselves in crisis pregnancies, offering love and compassion….The Church understands the anguish and distress of women in difficult situations who might wrongly feel that abortion is the only option open to them…. Finally, respect for life is deeply embedded in Irish society. Respect for the unborn is widely acknowledged also and, hopefully, we will continue with this commendable tradition. I am appealing for prayers at this particular time. Take time to pray, it is the greatest power on earth. May the Virgin Mary, who gave birth to Jesus, protect all mothers, all unborn babies, all medical and nursing hands and all who make the laws of our land. Praying God’s blessing on you at this time.”
I have reproduced parts of the letter, but you may read it in full here on Zenit.