The Irish Health Minister has blasted a parish’s anti-IVF message as an example of the Church’s “inappropriate interference in decisions that individuals and couples make about their own lives”.

Driving the news

Minister Simon Harris was reacting December 30 to a Facebook message posted Christmas Eve on the account of the Tullamore Catholic parish calling, among other things, for prayers “for couples struggling to naturally conceive life and who are avoiding IVF treatment”.

“The process of IVF damages embryonic stem cells and thus life and is therefore completely, clearly and totally incompatible with our Catholic faith. For all believers in God, all life is sacred at all times”, the Tullamore parish Facebook post warned.

After a public outcry, the parish took the message down, acknowledging it had caused “great distress to many members of our parish community and beyond”.

“For hurt caused we apologise”, the parish said.

“Matters concerning fertility are sacred and sensitive, and all children are cherished and God-given, this is the essence of the Christmas message.

“The parish understands the great suffering experienced by mothers and fathers who long for a child. At this time, we offer our pastoral and prayerful support to all parents and expectant parents”.

Go deeper

Minister Harris criticised the Tullamore parish post and said he “thought and certainly hoped we had moved to a point as a country (beyond) this sort of inappropriate interference in decisions that individuals and couples make about their own lives”.

“We know that one in seven people in Ireland can experience fertility issues at any time”, the politician continued.

“We know that we need to support them better and we know we need to regulate IVF.

“The idea that an individual who wishes to have a baby and love that baby and care for that baby, the idea that any Christian would find that objectionable is something, I will never understand and I will never comprehend”, Harris elaborated.

Why it matters

Contacted by The Irish Times, none of the priests at the Tullamore parish would take responsibility for the controversial anti-IVF Facebook message, with one hanging up on a reporter and another offering a scant “no comment”.

In contrast to that Church frostiness and indifference, Minister Harris had just days before announced plans for the first-ever publicly-funded IVF service in Irish State hospitals, which is slated to begin by 2021.

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