David Quinn of the Iona Institute, like the Irish Catholic Bishops, is trying to promote the fiction that there is (or should be) a Church-State dialogue process that excludes nonreligious groups.
He has described as ‘inexplicable’ that Atheist Ireland took part in the recent Oireachtas hearings on abortion laws during the same session as some churches.
“The Churches appeared before the Committee on the Thursday morning. The Catholic hierarchy was well represented by Bishop Christopher Jones and Fr Tim Bartlett.
They were subjected to nasty anti-clerical barbs from a number of politicians. These barbs were not properly challenged by Committee chairman, Jerry Buttimer.
The various Protestant Churches were also heard from. It was not clear from their submissions exactly what they mean by abortion. They were pro-life, but in a qualified way that gave the Government too much succour.
Inexplicably, a representative from Atheist Ireland was also heard from during the session for the Churches. Why wasn’t he heard from during the session for the advocacy groups later in the day?
His main contribution was to mock religion. He wasn’t challenged on the fact that there is no atheist position on abortion per se.
That afternoon pro-life and pro-abortion advocacy groups were heard from in separate sessions, including The Iona Institute (which I head).”
In fact, there was no “session for the Churches” as David describes it. There was a session for representatives of both religious bodies and nonreligious philosophical bodies.
This is consistent with the structured dialogue process between the Irish government and representatives of churches, faith communities and nonreligious philosophical bodies in Ireland.
Atheist Ireland is a partner in this process, and it is no more inexplicable that we were represented than it is that the Catholic Bishops were.
In an ideal world, the entire session would not have been necessary. There were already sessions for medical professionals, legal professionals and advocacy groups on both sides of the issue.
There was no need to supplement that with views of either religious or nonreligious bodies. If there was a desire to hear ethical perspectives, they could have held a session with philosophers who specialize in ethics.
However, for such time as Oireachtas committees are in practice meeting with churches to listen to their religiously-inspired input to public policy, it is important that they also directly hear the secular viewpoint.
Finally, with regard to David’s comments about the content of my contribution and that of of Jane Donnelly, you can view the videos below and make up your own mind on the merits of what we said.