COUNTY TYRONE, Northern Ireland (ChurchMilitant.com) - Pro-lifers are applauding the courage of a Catholic priest who slammed the door in the face of a pro-abortion political party by banning the party's deputy first minister from speaking in his church hall.
Father Eugene O'Neill, parish priest of St. Patrick's Church in Coalisland, County Tyrone, canceled a booking of the left-wing Irish political party Sinn Féin on church property after being alerted by pro-lifers.
The parish hall had been booked for Sinn Féin's Deputy First Minister Michelle O'Neill to address a public meeting on Thursday night. The politician, who represents the area, lives in the neighboring parish of Clonoe.
In June 2018, O'Neill demanded that Sinn Féin legislators should not be allowed freedom of conscience to vote on the issue of abortion, insisting that her party members should vote in favor of pro-abortion legislation regardless of their personal views.
O'Neill accused other political parties like the Ulster Unionists, the SDLP and Alliance of "copping out" by allowing members freedom of conscience on the issue of abortion.
Following the debate, O'Neill's party voted to support making abortion available, a move that prompted the resignation of some members across Ireland.
A Facebook post on the page of Sinn Féin Coalisland/Clonoe Martyrs apologized "for the late notice" and announced that "tonight's public meeting is postponed for a later date" due to a conflict in the deputy first minister's schedule.
In an email to pro-lifers, Fr. O'Neill clarified he had not initially taken the booking for the political party. However, once he became aware of it he contacted Sinn Féin offices "to cancel it immediately," adding:
In light of their recent behavior regarding the abortion debate and due to their long-running policy on pro-life matters I would not entertain the use of church property for any such meeting. Further, as a charity the parish is not legally permitted to use church property for any political activity whatsoever.
Bernadette Smyth, spokeswoman for Precious Life, said, "Fr. Eugene O'Neill has stood up for the faithful and strongly reaffirmed Church teaching. He has informed us that he was not aware of this meeting but that he contacted Sinn Féin, who have a radical pro-abortion position, to cancel this meeting as soon as possible."
The pro-life activist explained that Sinn Féin had worked to ensure abortion was foisted on Northern Ireland by the British Parliament in Westminster, but now wanted to make use of the facilities of the Catholic Church to spread their message:
Because of the role Sinn Féin played in bringing abortion up to 28 weeks into Northern Ireland and their long-standing position on abortion, Fr. O'Neill has assured us that he would not entertain the use of church property for such a meeting. He also asserted that, as a charity, the parish is not legally permitted to use church property for any political activity whatsoever.
Smyth added, "We stand in solidarity with Fr. Eugene O'Neill and thank him for having courage in his convictions and taking swift action to ensure this meeting did not go ahead on church property."
Tyrone Pro-Life Network spokeswoman Catherine Sewell thanked the priest, saying campaigners had planned to picket the meeting: "We were determined to stop them and immediately began a mobilization of activists."
"As far as we are concerned, no pro-abortion outfit should be allowed to use Catholic Church property," she said.
In April 2019, Catholic pro-lifers in County Tyrone targeted Michelle O'Neill's election campaign with flyers stating:
Withhold your vote from Sinn Féin in the forthcoming local elections and send them a clear message that we don't support their abortion policy. The Catholic population needs to increase its numbers in the north, not reduce them. We love our children, we don't kill them. Sinn Féin has had its day.
The mission statement of St. Patrick's Church proclaims it is "committed to following fearlessly wherever God is leading us" so we can "make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of Coalisland and the world!"
In Oct. 2019, Fr. Patrick McCafferty, parish priest at Corpus Christi in Belfast, urged pro-abortion politicians not to receive Holy Communion and Catholic voters not to vote for pro-abortion candidates or parties, after Britain's parliament imposed abortion legislation on Northern Ireland.
"To be publicly pro choice-abortion is irreconcilable with being a faithful Catholic. Therefore, such persons should not approach the Holy Eucharist. If they do so, they are committing the mortal sin of sacrilege," McCafferty, wrote in a Facebook post.
"The Word of God calls everyone to be in the state of grace when they approach the Lord's Table," added the priest of the diocese of Down and Connor.
Earlier this week Church Militant reported on Canterbury Cathedral hosting the University of Kent's graduation service during which the United Kingdom's leading pro-abortionist Ann Furedi was awarded an honorary doctorate.
Cathedral dean Robert Willis did not reply to Church Militant's request for comment. Canterbury Cathedral instead issued a statement claiming Willis, as dean, was not responsible for the event, which an Anglican canon lawyer refuted as contradictory to the Church of England's canon law.
Church Militant has contacted Fr. O'Neill for comment but received no response as of press time.