Northern Ireland news

Catholic Church distances itself from Fr Paddy McCafferty's call for congregation to vote for Aontú

Fr Paddy McCafferty. Picture by Hugh Russell

THE CATHOLIC Church authorities last night distanced themselves from a west Belfast priest's endorsement of an anti-abortion election candidate.

Fr Paddy McCafferty, parish priest at Corpus Christi in Ballymurphy, earlier this week urged his congregation to vote for Aontú in May 5's assembly poll.

During Mass on Easter Monday, he accused Sinn Féin, the SDLP, Alliance and "all that other crew" of promoting abortion.

Sinn Féin supports a policy of allowing terminations within the 12 weeks of pregnancy, while the SDLP and Alliance permit elected representatives to vote on matters relating to abortion on the basis of conscience.

Fr McCafferty said he had always voted for the SDLP but "not any more – never again, never".

"I don't like to talk about politics from the pulpit but I have a responsibility as a priest to ask the faithful to vote in accordance with what the Church teaches and what our faith believes," he said.

"The evil of abortion is irreconcilable with being a Catholic, and the evil of abortion is promoted by parties like Sinn Féin and the SDLP and the rest of them... the Alliance... and all that other crew."

He singled out "that woman" Clare Bailey, leader of Green Party, for criticism over her private member's bill that creates safe spaces around the north's abortion clinics.

The priest claimed figures of incidents of harassment used by advocates to justify the legislation were "dreamed up".

He urged the congregation not to give a subsequent preferences to "pro-abortion parties".

"Vote pro-life... and pray for Aontú and pray for Gerard Herdman, who's our man here for Aontú. "

"I not making any apology. I didn't go mad. I don't care about what they're going to say about this – too bad with them, to hell with them, literally to hell with them," he said.

A statement from the Diocese of Down and Connor said Fr McCafferty had spoken in a personal capacity.

"The Catholic Church has consistently taught that every human life is worthy of respect and care from the moment of conception to natural death," the statement said.

"This inviolable human right to the protection of life and the equal dignity of every person is the concern of every person and the whole of society."

The statement said the Catholic Church "does not endorse any political party".

"The Church encourages every citizen to exercise their right to freely vote with an informed conscience," the statement said.

"The views and opinions expressed by Fr Patrick McCafferty were communicated in a personal capacity."

A Sinn Féin spokesperson said: “Women are legally entitled to modern, compassionate healthcare services. It is totally unacceptable that these services have yet to be commissioned by the Department of Health.

“The appropriate services must immediately be put in place.”

The Irish News contacted the other parties criticised by Fr McCafferty but none commented.

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