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Catholic priest says he'd 'vote for pro-life DUP over Sinn Féin'

"This is a grave evil and anyone who is against the intentional, deliberate killing of children in the womb, I stand with them"

Aaron Tinney

A FIRE-and-brimstone Catholic priest is backing the DUP over Sinn Féin as he believes the unionist party's hardline abortion stance is God's work.

Father Paddy McCafferty also told the Sunday World any Ukrainian women impregnated by rapist Russian soldiers should keep their children as terminating any life is "evil".

His remarks come days after he was slammed for pleading with his congregation to vote for pro-life party Aontú, as campaigning heats up for the May 5 Assembly poll.

Despite his Corpus Christi Parish being based in the republican heartland of Ballymurphy in west Belfast, the outspoken churchman (59) declared about favouring the DUP over Sinn Féin: "We should be voting pro-life.

"We are lucky here we have an Aontú candidate standing in west Belfast.

"But if it was a choice between Sinn Féin and the DUP, I would give No 1 to the DUP without a blink - without hesitation.

"I don't agree with them on a lot of things, but when it comes to this (abortion) - this is a crucial issue, this is an issue of life and death.

"This is a grave evil and anyone who is against the intentional, deliberate killing of children in the womb, I stand with them.

"I don't have to agree with them on everything. I have my differences, big time, with the DUP and their baggage and their historical anti-Catholicism, etc. I know all that.

"But if they are defending the child in the womb, I will stand with them, with no apology."

The priest added that voting for political parties that are pro-life was more important than damning any of their members who have killed and committed terror offences.

"People can change. We have the reality across all our community of killers," he said.

"They should obviously be repentant and doing whatever they can with whatever life they have left to make amends, so far as they can.

"There's killers in Sinn Féin, but people can change, and should change. And the issue of pro-life is vitally important… you cannot overlook the slaughter of innocents in the womb."

When asked if he thought women who get pregnant to Russian soldiers using mass rape as a weapon of war in Ukraine, the churchman - who was abused by a babysitter and a priest - added: "That's horrendous. But in every circumstance, the child is a human being who has a right to life.

"The circumstances of how that child came about - it's not the child's fault, and his or her life is valuable.

"You can't deliberately take human life. And there are women who bear witness who were rape victims, and children who were children conceived in rape, who stand against the abortion argument.

"And let's remember something very important here, that the vast majority of abortions have nothing to do with rape. The vast majority is abortion for convenience and is a so-called choice.

"It's not a valid choice to make to end the life of another human being.

"Abortion will not heal a woman who has been raped, and the child that is conceived. I know of people, and they carried their children, and they loved their children, because it wasn't the child's fault. Why should the child be killed for the evil thing that some man did?"

Fr McCafferty has previously spoken about how being sexually abused in "early childhood" by a babysitter and by a priest in "young adulthood" plunged him into "very dark places of anguish, desolation and distress for many years".

He provoked outrage when he used his Easter Monday Mass to accuse Sinn Féin, the SDLP, Alliance and "all that other crew" of promoting abortion.

The priest, raised in the now-loyalist Rathcoole estate and ordained in 1989, said he had always voted SDLP but "not any more - never again, never".

He told his flock he didn't "like to talk about politics from the pulpit" but felt he had a "responsibility as a priest" to "vote pro-life and pray for Aontú" as it stood against "the evil of abortion promoted by parties like Sinn Féin and the SDLP and the rest of them...the Alliance...and all that other crew".

He singled out Green Party leader Clare Bailey as "that woman" over her private member's bill that creates exclusion zones for pro-life protesters at abortion clinics.

Catholic church authorities last week distanced themselves from his endorsement of Aontú's anti-abortion candidate.

A spokesman for the Down and Connor diocese said Fr McCafferty had "communicated in a personal capacity" during the service, and stressed: "The Catholic Church does not endorse any political party. The Church encourages every citizen to exercise their right to freely vote with an informed conscience."

But Fr McCafferty told Sunday World there had been no "reprimand" or backlash from his bishop.

"There was no reprimand whatsoever. All I'm saying it what the church teaches, what we believe as Catholics, what we should be following," he said.

"I stand by what I said, completely, that we should be voting pro-life.

"I'm not talking about fake Catholics, or in-name-only Catholics, who don't got to Mass and who don't care. I'm talking to the faithful, and I'm asking them to remember.

"I'm saying to the people, 'Remember when you're voting the issue of abortion, which is a grave evil, and irreconcilable with the faith.'

"And those who promote it and those who are in favour of it - don't give them a vote. And I make no apology for that. I said it loud and clear.

"And there's been no reprimand and there's not going to be any reprimand because all I am doing is teaching the faith, as we are supposed to."

The priest added getting "hatred and venom" for his pro-life views "goes with the territory".

"You stand for something, you're going to get it in the neck. You can't be silent. It's not nice, it's not pleasant. I say what I have to say, I have support from people and the congregation and so on, but I know and I'm aware that there is an outpouring of hatred because of what I've said. That is to be expected," he said.

When the he was asked if he has ever had death threats for his views he said: "Not yet."

The latest political row over abortion in Northern Ireland erupted at Christmas.

A DUP bill to prevent terminations in cases of non-fatal disabilities in the foetus fell after a tight vote at Stormont.

Those against it included Sinn Féin, some SDLP, Alliance, Ulster Unionist, Green MLAs and People Before Profit - but the pro-life Traditional Unionist Voice voted in favour of the diehard pro-life DUP's motion.

In 2018 at a special meeting following the referendum on abortion law in the Republic of Ireland, Sinn Féin voted to change their party policy to support abortion for any reason up to 12 weeks, and in case of 'fatal foetal abnormality, sexual crime and any risk to health or life'.

The Aontú party was formed in January 2019 following the decision of Sinn Féin not to allow a conscience vote on the issue of abortion.

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