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Dublin: 14 °C Friday 16 November, 2018

Halligan says he was barred from being confirmation sponsor because of Eighth Amendment stance

The Bishop of Waterford said in a statement that a confirmation sponsor must be a “practising Catholic”.

John Halligan is an atheist but said he wanted to be there for his godson
John Halligan is an atheist but said he wanted to be there for his godson

Updated at 1pm

MINISTER OF STATE John Halligan has criticised what he described as a “petty” move from the Catholic Church after he was prevented from acting as his godson’s sponsor at a confirmation mass yesterday.

The Waterford TD has claimed that the decision was made because of his views on abortion and his atheist stance.

In a statement, Bishop Alphonsus Cullinan said that a sponsor must be a “confirmed and practising Catholic” and that guidelines had been circulated to all parishes in the diocese in March this year.

Halligan said that the parents of his godson were approached by a member of the clergy on Thursday who told them that the Independent Alliance TD could not stand as the boy’s sponsor at yesterday’s mass.

Although he accepted he didn’t meet the criteria, he also said that the decision to not allow him act as the sponsor was related to his pro-choice views.

He said: “I am not being a hypocrite here. I fully accept that, as an atheist, I do not meet the criteria set down by the Catholic Church that a confirmation sponsor must be a practising catholic.

The reason I had said yes to my godson when he asked me to be his sponsor was because of the close bond I have with him. Regardless of my own beliefs, I would very much have liked to attend the mass with him on the day.
And I sincerely doubt that I am the only person asked to sponsor a Confirmation child who is not a practising Catholic. I know for a fact that other sponsors were not approached to query their suitability to the role or their views on the Eighth Referendum.

Halligan added that the decision made him “wonder how threatened the Catholic Church is feeling about the result of Friday’s referendum”.

The TD has also disagreed with Cullinan’s views on the HPV vaccine in the past.

In a statement, Bishop Cullinan outlined that guidance had been sent to all parishes in the diocese advising on the role of a confirmation sponsor, and said that the following was communicated to all parties:

Sponsors should give the [Confirmation] candidate a good example of what it means to be a disciple of Christ and should take their own spiritual life seriously.  This will be shown by their [sponsor’s] love of God, their love for the word of God, for the mass and the sacraments, for the teachings of the church, and by the love they show for others.  A sponsor must be a confirmed and practising Catholic.

Minister for Health Simon Harris described the church’s decision as “bizarre” when asked about it at a press conference this morning.

The minister said it was “disappointing” that priests have raised the issue of abortion at communions and confirmations. “Quite frankly I don’t think that’s appropriate on either side,” he said.

I would have thought those were meant to be very happy, private, family occasions where children of a young age are able to celebrate their communion or their confirmation without being dragged into a debate.

With reporting by Céimin Burke

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Sean Murray

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