State must respect freedom of conscience says Bishop of Limerick

Bishop Brendan Leahy
Bishop Brendan Leahy

THE State must respect freedom of conscience, the new Bishop of Limerick, Dr Brendan Leahy, says in a talk being delivered in Limerick. The talk is being jointly hosted by The Iona Institute and The Irish Catholic.

Dr Leahy warns against “tendencies that would interpret religious freedom in a narrow sense”, and that “effectively marginalises religious freedom and conscience from the public square”.

In a clear reference to the recent abortion debate he repeated the call of the Catholic hierarchy that the State “respect the conscience of its citizens, including its public representatives, on such an important human value as the right to life. It is ethically unacceptable to expect doctors, nurses and others who have conscientious objections to nominate others to take their place. Neither should any institution with a pro-life ethos be forced to provide abortion services”.

The Protection of Life During Pregnancy Act requires Catholic hospitals such as St Vincent’s and the Mater to perform abortions under the terms of the law.

Bishop Leahy also defended the right of parents to have their children educated in the faith. He said “[parents] must be free to transmit to their children, responsibly and without constraints, their heritage of faith, values and culture.”

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He warned against “emptying religious freedom of any meaningful content” in the name of “tolerance or equality”.

He also said that while a secular State is simply a description of our constitutional arrangement, that is different from being “secularist”.

Dr Leahy commented: “In a secularist vision the State is bleached of the contribution of religions and the vision of the human becomes very bland”.

He urged religious believers to speak up. He stated: “In the contemporary socio-cultural climate, when a vision of life inspired by faith can subtly but effectively be deemed not politically correct, it is important for us to recognise the public role of religion and not be afraid to speak up. We do so in terms of the dignity of the human person as endowed with spiritual antennae for truth and goodness.”