A county Antrim priest has been praised for his impassioned homily urging voters to ‘vote pro-life’, delivered on the final Sunday before Northern Ireland heads to the polls.
Fr James O’Reilly, originally from Poleglass in West Belfast, is a priest in the parish of Antrim in the diocese of Down and Connor.
In his homily at Mass on Sunday in St. Comgall’s Church in Antrim, Fr O’Reilly made reference to a recent pastoral reflection released by the Bishops urging Catholic voters to vote for pro-life candidates in the Assembly election this Thursday 5th May. Fr O’Reilly also took the opportunity to call out Sinn Féin, a party which he described as ‘a disgrace’ over its abortion stance.
In a “totally, brutally honest” message to the “many parties Catholics would have traditionally voted for,” Fr O’Reilly said: “You don’t get to tell me that you care about people on one hand and tell me that you want to make it legal to abort unborn children on the other.”
“The bishops have issued a pastoral reflection on the coming elections. This coming week there are elections and we as a people have a duty to make our voices heard,” Fr O’Reilly told his congregation.
Fr O’Reilly was referring to the release of a letter from the Catholic bishops of Northern Ireland urging voters in the North to “speak up clearly and unequivocally for the urgent needs of the most vulnerable in society” including the unborn child, whose rights they said are being increasingly relegated
In the statement, the Catholic bishops shared a pastoral message addressing issues such as poverty, the response to Ukrainian refugees, and political stability in the region.
Focusing on abortion, the bishops said the dignity of unborn children is being downgraded in the cultural, political and legal sphere and is being consigned to the “realm of the worthless and sub-human”.
The dehumanisation of unborn children plays out despite the electorate “living in an age where awareness of all forms of life and the need for constant care, respect and protection is being heightened – except for “unborn children in the womb”, the statement read.
Urging his congregation to vote pro-life, Fr O’Reilly slammed Sinn Féin, a party the priest says does not represent ‘anything a Catholic person believes or stands for’.
“As a people who believes in the right to life, we have a duty to vote pro-life. I voted Sinn Féin growing up. I’ll never vote Sinn Féin ever again.
“Sinn Féin are a disgrace, and don’t represent anything a Catholic person believes and stands for, and I would encourage you to not vote Sinn Fein. You may think it’s wrong for me to say that [but] I don’t care.
“Sinn Féin are telling us unborn children don’t matter,” he continued, visibly emotional.
‘THEY’RE TELLING US KIDS WITH DOWN’S SYNDROME ARE DISPENSABLE’
Breaking down in tears, Fr O’Reilly pointed out a child in the congregation:
“There’s a beautiful little girl here at Mass this morning with Down’s syndrome. They’re telling us kids with Down syndrome are dispensable; that they don’t matter, that we can just kill them.”
This was in reference to Sinn Féin’s failure to back a DUP motion last December to amend Northern Ireland’s abortion law to outlaw abortion up to birth for Down syndrome and other conditions, which is a practice currently permitted within the legislation.
He also said that while people may question what he knows as a priest, Fr O’Reilly went on to share a personal story.
“When I was 14, my 16-year-old sister found out she was pregnant. Back then, now I’m not saying she would have had an abortion, it wasn’t even thought, because we’re not saying that, ‘Have the baby and like it or lump it, regardless’.
“We’re saying, ‘That life matters’. We want to be in such a position where we’re saying it is unthinkable to even consider that.”
Reaching out to those who may be post-abortive, he said: “If you’ve had an abortion or know someone who’s had an abortion, I’m sorry.
“I pray for you, I bless you, but you were lied to. If you’re considering an abortion, please don’t listen to the lies that abortion is healthcare because it’s not. It’s not.
“Your unborn child matters; every life from the moment of conception matters, and in this election, I would encourage all of us – we have a duty as Catholics and a duty as people who believe that life is precious – to vote pro-life.”
He continued: “And, you know, not every party’s perfect, don’t get me wrong. Not every party has all the answers, but the answer that I know is certainly wrong is ‘abortion is ok’.
“So, let’s be the generation that hammers that lie, let’s be the generation that stands up and says, ‘You know what, as a people, let’s get better at providing for those in crisis pregnancies; let’s get better at loving those who don’t feel loved, but certainly let’s not say, ‘Oh, that’s an unexpected pregnancy [so] here’s the number of an abortion clinic to go and kill it, because that’s not the answer.
“That will never be the answer. So please, please, please, vote pro-life,” he concluded. His remarks were received with a rousing applause from parishioners, many of whom were clearly moved.
The clip of Fr O’Reilly’s homily has been widely shared online. Declan McGuiness, brother of late Sinn Féin politician and former Deputy First Minister, Martin McGuiness, shared the tweet to his social media platforms, receiving a big response.
“So delighted many of our shepherds are speaking out against the evil of abortion,” one social media user commented. “Another courageous priest and what a response from the congregation,” another person added.
When one steps forward with courage, it gives others the courage to do the same.
Incredibly proud of our brave priests who have been speaking out and calling for people to vote life.
— Luke McCann (@LukeAontu) May 2, 2022
Thank you to Fr. James O'Reilly of Antrim Parish, Diocese of Down and Connor.
"In this election, I would encourage all of us to vote pro-life. As a people let's get better at providing to those in crisis pregnant" – Fr. James O'Reilly #AE2022 #VoteProlife pic.twitter.com/qNq7Vzv1Nd
— Precious Life (@PreciousLifeCom) May 1, 2022