The following comes from an address to the Catholic leadership organization Legatus at its annual summit in Orlando on Feb. 8 by John Smeaton, executive director of the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children (U.K.).

….Dear members of Legatus, when our Catholic bishops show courage in defending our families, not least in the face of the new homosexual rights agenda tyranny, we must not be slow in thanking them, defending them and working with them to remain strong in our children’s defense.

But neither must we be slow in insisting that bishops be appointed who will uphold the teaching of the Church, who will oppose the wholesale killing of children in the womb, who will defend and assist parents in protecting the innocence of their born children.

Here is a good point to bring up the heartbreaking situation in Ireland, with which I know many in America are deeply concerned.

In July of last year, the Irish government introduced catastrophic abortion legislation into that country, a country which, with strong support from SPUC over the decades, has staunchly and bravely resisted such anti-life laws whilst all around it other countries—in particular my own—caved into the abortionists.

In 2011, 84 percent of the population in Ireland identified themselves as Catholic. How in Ireland, in Catholic Ireland, has legislation been passed which is amongst the most extreme in the world?

The Irish government’s abortion legislation, which was passed last July by the Irish parliament by 127 votes to 31, strips the right to life from children before, and even during, birth in a broad range of circumstances. Threats to the life of the mother need not be inevitable or immediate. It compels medical personnel to participate in abortion in some ways, while offering no protection to other professionals who may be involved in the abortion process. It compels maternity hospitals, including Catholic hospitals, to provide abortions.

There is nothing in this legislation, including the suicide provision [section 9], that would rule out the aborting of the unborn from implantation to birth; there is nothing in it to rule out even partial birth abortion….

When we’re working at our best, pro-life organizations often punch way above our weight in terms of the human resources available to us. But we cannot defeat the culture of death on our own. Pro-life organizations and the wider community must be fortified by unequivocal, unyielding voices of Catholic Church officials and bishops throughout the world.

That these vital voices are not always forthcoming is a continual disappointment.  But what is worse is that authorities within the Catholic Church can sometimes aid and abet legalized abortion.  Let me give you an example.

A key figure in the Republic of Ireland is Father Patrick Hannon, Emeritus Professor of Moral Theology in St. Patrick’s College, Maynooth.  He wrote an article which was published in time for the passage of the Irish abortion law in the July/August 2013 edition of The Furrow, “a monthly journal for the contemporary [Catholic] Church…[which]…enjoys an international reputation as a courageous and impartial forum for discussing the challenges facing the Church today and of the resources available to meet them.” On its website, The Furrow tells us it “was founded in 1950 at St. Patrick’s College, Maynooth, Co. Kildare by the late J.G. McGarry, a professor in the College, and it continues as a vibrant voice for renewal of the Church across the world.”

Now, the July/August 2013 edition of The Furrow would have been read widely by priests and bishops in Ireland in the days and weeks prior to the passage of Ireland’s pro-abortion legislation. This is worth noting because in referring to the legislation, Father Hannon’s article concluded: “A legislator who is a Catholic, and who wishes to honor the legacy of Catholic tradition in these grave matters, is both obliged and free to examine each side of the argument and come to his or her own conclusions about what human rights and the common good require at this time.”  Here is a green light for a Catholic politician to vote in favor of legalized abortion.

Father Hannon’s position is contrary to Catholic teaching and to the sources he cites to support his position.  The Reverend Father Dr. John Fleming, a member of the Pontifical Academy for Life, remarks upon three particularly disturbing lapses in Father Hannon’s article: Hannon confuses the moral opinions of some, such as the proportionalist Father McCormick, with official Church teaching.  He distorts the teaching of St. Thomas Aquinas by selective quotations. He ignores the stated position of the Magisterium on the duties of a Catholic politician.

In fine, Father Hannon sets up the teaching of the Catholic Church against secular authorities that disagree with Church teaching and then concludes that the Catholic politician is free to make up his or her own mind.  Moreover, he suggests, without argumentation, that a Catholic politician is honoring “the legacy of Catholic tradition in these grave matters” by making up his or her own mind on the abortion issue.  It is contrary to reason to claim that one is honoring the legacy of Catholic tradition by repudiating the authoritative teaching of the Magisterium, by deferring to other opinions that violate the right to life of unborn children.

If Father Hannon’s unfortunate statements helped pave the way for the recent pro-abortion legislation in Ireland, silence has also played a part.  And silence includes equivocal or half-hearted words, in the face of the daily slaughter, the maiming of mothers’ and fathers’ lives: the silence and equivocation that we have seen for the most part on the part of the Irish bishops over the past 40 years as Irish mothers have travelled to Britain for abortion.  Now, in the spirit of friendly dialogue, I implore all Catholic bishops throughout the world to speak out clearly and categorically that politicians who vote for and publicly support abortion legislation such as that which has just been passed by the Irish Parliament publicly retract and refute the position they have adopted before receiving the Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity of Our Lord Jesus Christ in Holy Communion, in whose image every unborn child assailed by the abortion legislation is made.

Here I should like to applaud the strength and witness of Cardinal Raymond Burke, honored by Legatus in 2012 with the Cardinal John J. O’Connor Award, who has spoken out consistently in defense of the Holy Eucharist—and not without huge cost to himself; and many other bishops in the US who have done the same, as well as a small handful of courageous Catholic bishops in Britain….

To read the entire address, click here.