The Society of Saint Vincent de Paul (SSVP or SVP), with charity shops often called ‘Vincent’s’ in recent days, is an historical Catholic Foundation with a presence in five continents.
It is a lay Christian organisation committed to ‘defending the sanctity of life’ and in early May its International General Council forthrightly condemned ‘the legalisation of abortion’ in a formal declaration on ‘the right to life’ from conception to natural death.
However, despite the society’s formal rejection of any notion of abortion the SVP in Ireland, North and South, has conspicuously avoided taking a firm public stance on the abortion referendum in the Republic.
The society will not issue definitive and clear advice to its members and volunteers when Catholics at large in what has become post-Christian Ireland are painfully seeking advice and instruction on what their church teaches and directs as they approach the polling booths on May 25.
The SVP’s silence does not reflect the principles of its foundation; and by way of excuse for its passivity it makes a weak and ineffectual reference to its registration as a charity which constrains it ‘from involvement in political campaigns which are not aligned to their charitable objectives’.
In response, I myself am constrained to say that the public condemnation of the killing of the child in the womb might well be regarded as one of the most ‘charitable objectives’ imaginable.
The southern government has declared its intention of acquiring legal rights to the lives of the unborn and if the SVP does not visibly proclaim its opposition ‘in both actions and words’, as its own constitution directs, then it is submissively rendering onto Caesar the things that are God’s.
I write here out of concern because this Christian charity, so much admired by myself as a practising Catholic since childhood, has miscalculated here very badly.
It must surely be stopping its ears and closing its eyes as to how people are reacting to its decision to go ‘private’ instead of ‘public’ as the state’s abortion guillotine hangs poised over the head of the unborn child.
The SVP’s present policy to watch the possible execution from a distance is rightly being dismissed as mistaken, evasive, and unworthy of its impressive history; and even among its own members and kindred spirits in other Christian denominations there is growing consciousness that its reputation is already to some degree damaged and its image somewhat tarnished by its unwillingness to strategically and openly marshal its members in this battle for life.
It is now interesting that some churches, pro-life groups, and local SVP committees are presently challenging the SVP to publicly respond and exercise their considerable influence in the community to prevent Caesar from getting his hands on what he has no right to have — the nascent lives of our most innocent and vulnerable brothers and sisters.
If the Eighth amendment is repealed in the south abortion facilities will immediately become accessible from the North (regardless of a ‘hard’ or ‘soft’ Brexit).
I can predict with some assurance having listened to so many, that the SVP and its members will never recover from their disappointment, their regret, their sense of shame and guilt, at their society’s grave omission.
There is yet time to speak out, and I urge the SVP to do so before the raised guillotine blade finally falls on the necks of the holy innocents South and North, in this, our latter day Bethlehem.
Daniel Holmes, Limavady