22 June 2023, The Tablet

Northern Ireland Catholic bishops reject abortion teaching imposition

Northern Ireland Catholic bishops reject abortion teaching imposition

File photo of pro-life protesters outsider the Belfast High Court.
meanderingemu / Alamy

The Catholic Bishops of Northern Ireland have rejected Westminster’s imposition of a new regulation on secondary schools making it compulsory to teach students about access to abortion.

Voicing their “grave concern” over the move by the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, Chris Heaton, the four bishops said, “Having already imposed some of the most radical abortion laws in the world on the people of Northern Ireland, without their consent, the Secretary of State now seems determined to impose an ideologically biased view of abortion on all schools, irrespective of parental rights or school ethos.”

Archbishop Eamon Martin, Bishop Donal McKeown, Bishop Larry Duffy and Bishop Michael Router noted that the British Government doesn’t impose such a regulation on schools in Britain, where the right of parents to be involved in decisions about ethical and pastoral issues is fully respected.

“It is not for a government to impose one ideological approach on children, parents or on our schools, over others,” they said.

Calling on the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland to respect the rights of parents and the principles of consultation and devolution in the Good Friday Agreement, they said the legislation should be withdrawn. They believe it should be left to a devolved assembly to discuss in consultation with parents and educational stakeholders.

Likening the move to the recent “so-called investigation” by the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission into RSE in schools, the bishops accused the Secretary of State of indulging in “a tired and frankly, offensive caricature of what our outstanding teachers are actually doing in our schools in this area”.

Separately, at their summer general meeting in Maynooth, the Irish bishops discussed the proposal to introduce assisted suicide south of the border. The issue is currently being addressed by the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Assisted Dying.

Describing it as a cause of great concern to all those who believe in the sanctity of human life, the bishops said they intend to issue a pastoral message on the matter.

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