On the first day abortion services were formally rolled out across Ireland, the Bishop of Elphin hit out at Catholics in public life who have “publicly and persistently promoted” abortion “for political or ideological reasons” or “for their own personal advancement”.
In his homily for New Year’s Day at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Sligo on Tuesday, Bishop Kevin Doran criticised Catholic politicians who campaigned for the Repeal of the Eighth Amendment describing their actions as “a genuine sadness”.
Inviting them to repent and “turn back to the Gospel of Life” for their promotion of “the taking of innocent human life”, the bishop warned political representatives that they had “chosen a position which is clearly out of communion with the Church”. He added, “There is no point in pretending otherwise.”
Political representatives carry a particular burden of responsibility for the consequences of their decisions, not only for themselves, but for society as a whole, he stated.
The main government party, Fine Gael, appointed Culture and Heritage Minister Josepha Madigan, who is an active member of her Dublin parish of Mount Merrion, to head up its campaign to repeal the pro-life Eighth Amendment.
Last June, Minister Madigan publicly clashed with Archbishop Diarmuid Martin of Dublin when she called for women to be ordained to the priesthood in an interview with RTE Radio after she led a prayer service in her parish when the priest scheduled to say Mass failed to show up.
In the wake of last May’s referendum on the Eighth Amendment, Bishop Doran said that Catholics who had voted Yes to repeal the pro-life clause, with the intention of supporting abortion, should go to confession.
In Sligo on Tuesday, Bishop Doran said it was “tragic” that on the Catholic feast of the Motherhood of Mary the “fruit of political action”, celebrated by the government and parliament, was the launch of services for the termination of pregnancy.
“This denial of the fundamental right to life will, whatever people say, unquestionably undermine the common good of our society. It will undermine the inner peace of mothers, fathers, grandparents, doctors and nurses and all who are directly touched by it.”
Criticising the amount of political energy that went into achieving this “fundamentally destructive target”, he said this was energy that could have been used to do other things that would give life and hope to Irish society including those “stuck” in direct provision centre, families without a home of their own and the many sick people waiting on trollies for essential medical care, as well as the poor and the elderly.
He paid tribute to the courage of those in public life who during the past year had taken personal and political risks to defend the right to life.
Separately, the leader of the Irish Church also warned in a strongly worded statement that it remains gravely morally wrong to deliberately and intentionally take the life of an innocent person, whatever their state or stage of life.
“To co-operate in such an act, by supporting it directly or indirectly, either as an individual act or as a social policy, shall always be gravely wrong,” Archbishop Eamon Martin said as the new abortion legislation took effect on 1 January.
The Primate of All Ireland stressed that although the Eighth Amendment has been removed from the Constitution of Ireland, the life of a woman and her unborn baby continued to be equally deserving of love, respect and protection.
“Any law which suggests otherwise has no moral force. In good conscience it cannot be supported; it has to be resisted and we must continue to call and work diligently for its limitation, amendment and repeal. No one should be forced, against their conscience, to participate in abortion or to refer patients to others for abortion.”
He urged everyone in 2019 in their families, communities, schools, colleges and workplaces to sensitively and respectfully present life-saving alternatives to abortion, so that no vulnerable woman in crisis will feel that the only way out for her is to end the life of her unborn child.
He also called for the development and ongoing formation of pro-life support teams in every pastoral area throughout the country.
Elsewhere in his New Year’s homily for World Day of Peace, Archbishop Martin spoke about Brexit and his concerns about the fallout for the island of Ireland.
Appealing to politicians to “reject divisive language and actions” during 2019, he warned that “There can be no going back to the days of violence and death on our streets.”
He also expressed concern that there would be “increased community polarisation on account of the Brexit debate and the political impasse at Stormont”.
He encouraged politicians in the “coming challenging months” to resist the temptation to “retreat into partisanship” and stressed that the progress made over the past 20 years in Northern Ireland was “fragile”.
His concerns over Brexit were echoed by Archbishop Diarmuid Martin of Dublin who warned that the New Year promises to be “a difficult and perplexing year” in Ireland and throughout the World.
In his homily at the Church of Our Lady Queen of Peace, Merrion Road in Dublin at a Mass concelebrated with the Papal Nuncio, Archbishop Jude Okolo, the Archbishop of Dublin said that Brexit would alter Ireland’s relationship with its nearest neighbour Britain.
“That relationship had attained new levels of peaceful and fruitful connection, especially because of the Good Friday agreement and our common membership of the European Union,” he said and added that one of the challenges for politics in this period of change was to safeguard what has be attained over recent years.
Dr Martin also warned that clouds have been appearing on the horizon as Right across Europe narrow nationalism has begun to reappear.