Sinn Féin has been forced to apologise to Bishop John McAreavey after the party was caught misrepresenting the bishop’s position on abortion.
Sinn Féin had claimed in election literature that Bishop McAreavey shared the party’s support for abortion.
Dr McAreavey, Bishop of Dromore, said that he accepted the apology but criticised the party for trying to misrepresent the Church on the issue of abortion.
“When I became aware of party political literature which was jointly issued in the names of Sue Ramsey MLA and Councillor Matt Garrett of Sinn Féin, which stated that I ‘share’ their position on the ‘termination’ of unborn human life, I was appalled.
“This is an untrue and most damaging assertion. I cannot emphasise enough the seriousness of this action which has misused my good name and impugned the teaching reputation of my ministry as bishop,” Dr McAreavey said.
“Political representatives must answer for their own position on abortion and they should not try to misrepresent the pro-life position of the Catholic Church to their constituents,” the bishop said.
Sinn Féin supports abortion and last year disciplined party TD Peadar Tóibín after he refused to join with his Oireachtas colleagues in supporting the Fine Gael-Labour legislation permitting abortion in some circumstances up to birth.
Sinn Féin MP for West Belfast Paul Maskey apologised to Bishop McAreavey after the letter was distributed.
“Sinn Féin accepts that references in the letter to Bishop McAreavey were inaccurate.
“These letters should have not gone out,” Mr Maskey said.
“I can assure the bishop that all reference to him on this issue has now been removed from all print and electronic literature. Sinn Féin has also removed the offending comments from Facebook,” he said.
Bishop McAreavey said he accepted the apology. However, to be clear, he said, “this inaccurate publication does not represent the moral teaching of the Church nor does it add credibility to the political process.
“Because of the importance that the Catholic Church accords to the protection of human life, our position cannot be politically misrepresented,” Bishop McAreavey said.
Delegates at the recent Sinn Féin Ard Fheis rejected a move by pro-life members of the party that would permit members to vote in accordance with their conscience.