A minister of state has claimed that he has been barred from sponsoring his godson at a Confirmation Mass because of his views on abortion.
Independent Alliance TD John Halligan has accused the Church of resorting to “pitiful tactics” in the Eighth Amendment referendum after he was prohibited from being a sponsor by the Bishop of Waterford.
“I was contacted by the parents of my godson on Thursday to tell me that they had been approached by a member of clergy and told that I could not stand as sponsor at the ceremony on Sunday and that this was the view of the bishop,” said Mr Halligan.
“When the parents contacted the bishop, they were told this is because I am an atheist and because of my views on abortion.”
The junior business minister said the parents of his godson were told of the decision by Bishop of Waterford and Lismore Diocese, Most Rev Alphonsus Cullinan last Wednesday, the day before Mr Halligan held a large pro-choice meeting in Waterford. The decision subsequently prohibited him from acting as a sponsor at the weekend Mass.
Mr Halligan said he accepted that he does not meet the criteria laid down by the Catholic Church for Confirmation sponsors but that it was nonetheless a “petty” move on the part of Bishop Cullinan to single him out due to his pro-choice stance.
“I am not being a hypocrite here,” said Mr Halligan. “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.
Mr Halligan said he knew for a fact that other sponsors were not approached to ascertain their suitability to the role or their views on the Eighth Amendment.
He added: “I find it appalling that my godson’s parents had to sit down with him, days before his Confirmation, and explain to the child that I was not permitted to be his sponsor.”
Representatives for the Irish Bishops Conference and Bishop Cullinan did not respond to calls or emails yesterday. Queries on the numbers of sponsors prohibited from being godparents were not answered by the bishops’ office.
On Monday morning, Bishop Alphonsus Cullinan said: "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".
In a statement issued by the Catholic Church, he also says "a sponsor must be a confirmed and practicing Catholic".