The Catholic church is behaving as if it knows it does not speak for the Irish people over abortion

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Just a reflection or two on the issues of Mick’s post. When you see it written down so starkly out of the mouth of one Cardinal Burke from the real life perspective of the Roman Curia, the effect is breathtaking. Will  Catholics now rush to contradict him? I wonder. Many people seem to want to defy the Church silently. and this is mightily frustrating for the Church establishment. It’s as if they’re being ignored. More and more Irish Catholicism is becoming a private and personal observance rather than one governed by an establishment.

Even so the establishment  keeps fighting.  The weekly newspaper The Irish Catholic  reports 86% in favour of a poll on abortion and a big widespread demand for a free vote in the Dail in a poll conducted on behalf of  the anti-abortion Family and Life group .  The Taoiseach insists that  Protection of Maternal Life Bill published last week  clarifies but does not change the law which he and others maintain always allowed for a termination if the mother’s life was threatened. That is a mite disingenuous. Quite obviously  the state of the  law was unclear. Why else have a new Bill to “clarify” it?

Abortion for the threat to a mother’s health  however is still banned under the constitution.  While a constitutional bar is higher than a legislative one, we may be sure that this is not the last word on abortion. To that extent the Church’s fears are justified. There is a slippery slope here. But for now at least,  the issue has narrowed down to a crunch, thanks to the hysterical overreaction of the Church establishment. Is this the behaviour of a loser?

And two can play at polls. Witness last week’s in the Irish Times

Back in December 1997 an Irish Times survey showed just 23 per cent were in favour of allowing the Oireachtas legislate to bring the law on abortion into line with decisions made in the courts.

That figure has now risen to 71 per cent in today’s poll, with just 11 per cent of voters opposed to the Government’s decision to legislate..

In 1997, 18 per cent of voters said abortion should not be permitted in any circumstances. At that time 35 per cent were in favour when a mother’s life was at risk with just 14 per cent in favour where a mother’s health was at risk.

In the latest poll the number saying that abortion should not be permitted in any circumstances has declined to 12 per cent. The striking change has come about in the numbers who believe that abortion should be allowed in certain circumstances.

Now the number who say that abortion should be allowed when a mother’s life is at risk has more than doubled to 84 per cent, compared to 1997.

There is an even more dramatic increase in the numbers who say it should be permitted where a woman’s health is at risk – with 70 per cent now taking that view compared to 14 per cent in 1997.

For your delectation, from the interview with the aforementioned  Cardinal Burke…

The death of Savita Halappanavar is indeed tragic. It is, however, contrary to right reason to hold that an innocent and defenceless human life can be justifiably destroyed in order to save the life of the mother.

“The Irish people, and especially the Irish Government, should be very alert to the kind of argumentation which will be used by the secular media and by secular ideologues, in general, claiming that the destruction of the new human life in her womb could have saved the life of Savita Halappanavar and, therefore, would have been justified. Such an argument is absurd in itself. Even though, if the reports are correct, Savita Halappanavar requested an abortion, her request would not have made it right for the law to permit such an act which is always and everywhere wrong.”

 

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  • Mick Fealty

    I think Benedict profoundly changed the nature of the game the Church was playing: which so far as I can see it, was a retrenchment to hard matters of faith rather than acting the role of the broad church of sinners and saints.

    My own sense is that the old game of power lobbying to keep the whole state onside with Catholic doctrine is over and the Church knows it (see this: http://goo.gl/hVDVj).

    You might say it is moving from complicity to oppositionalism where it can begin to feel more comfortable in its own fundamentalist skin. It is surely a healthier relationship with the state too?

  • Newman

    The direction of travel to a Church which goes back to basics is set fair. One of the consequences of this is that the kind of secular control she once “enjoyed” is effectively over.

    The critical thing is however that the Church is not excluded from the public square or that there is not the freedom permitted to propose its values as an answer to the dilemmas faced by governments and legislators.

    We would have a pretty naked public square if the Church was told that religion is an entirely private matter and that to stand up for the rights of the unborn is off limits.

    The real concern at Enda Kenny’s approach is that

    (i) he has sought to impose the party whip on a matter which is almost universally regarded as a serious matter of personal conscience

    (ii) he seeks to require Catholic hospitals to permit abortions; Conscience and the ability to differ from the accepted norm is a critical dimension of any pluralist and democratic society.

    We now seem to be approaching the stage where dissent from post modernism and the morality of a secular elite is to be punished in law.Witness the hysterical reaction of the French government to widespread opposition to same sex marriage or the intolerance of the British government, who in their reforming zeal, forced catholic adoption agencies to close because they wished merely to refer same sex parents to other agencies.

    My sense is that the new legislation in the South will pass with some ease..why then the need for a 3 line whip from Fine Gael and Labour?

    It is surely a good thing that on issues where there is such profound dispute that a healthy society makes room for the dissenting voice so that in years to come a society can reflect back and observe that abortion is not the answer to crisis pregnancies.

    Strange this week when we see David Steel stand up and say he never intended the 1967 act to become the vehicle for abortion on demand or as a form of late contraception when he discovered that 32% of abortions were for people who had already gone through the procedure at least once before.

    Ireland has changed utterly and its ruling elite are falling over themselves to assert their independence from religious influence. So be it, let them pretend that their religion like their blood group is an accident at birth but let the Church be the Church and bear witness to the sanctity of all human life from the moment of conception.

    It would be wise to allow space for dissenting voices as we face up to the next challenge of euthanasia and the clarion call for choice and autonomy to again be paramount in an all our attempts at legislating.

  • Barnshee

    “he seeks to require Catholic hospitals to permit abortions”

    “Catholic” hospitals??

    The ROI appears to have some way to travel

    (what`s the issue ? ship the “problem” out to the UK as already happens)

  • Newman

    That’s right… there are thousands of them all over the world including the Mater in Belfast

  • Newman

    Correction…. Mater may be wholly owned and integrated into National Health

  • Brian Walker

    Newman etc., A poor case well made I’d say. When was it that the Church didn’t aspire to state power? Some time before the Declaration of Milan in 313 was it? The Church even undermined the Roman Empire which legitimated it by substituting dogmatism for the old amoral gods who oiled the wheels of tolerance in a diverse empire..It has kept up the pressure of Church over State ever since, never quite giving up even after 1870 and the Declaration of Infallibility to compensate for the loss of power in a united Italy.

    In Ireland they had the great cause of persecution in their favour and exploited it to the hilt. They had a great run, right up to and beyond JC McQuaid I give them that. Abortion is an appallingly difficult problem which an all male celibate fraternity is not equipped to deal with in modern society which aspires to gender and other equality. As in all ethical questions simple fundamentalism rings hollow. The pretence that Godly is a higher category from Secular is ceasing to be acceptable even to those who are just a little bit faithful.

  • Newman

    The church never does particularly well Brian when it seeks the temporal as well as the spiritual. A rather novel interpretation may I say to conflate Declaration of Infallibility with the loss of a power in a united Italy. Thankfully Manning WG Ward and the ultramontanists did not get their way and the ultimate definition based on ex cathedra pronouncements was a lot more moderate than is historically understood.

    As JH Newman reveals when he came to Ireland to found UCD at the invitation of Cardinal Cullen the Irish were still in their ultramontanist phase and perhaps the lack of an educated Catholic laity allowed clericalism to flourish.

    On the abortion issue I fear you use the term fundamentalism as a weapon to obscure argument. Let us accept that the issue is complex and requires profound ethical consideration. We still need to look for first principles, but the current direction of travel is to take refuge in a vacuous post modernism which elevates choice and autonomy as the supreme good. I simply beg to differ. Someone must speak for the child en ventre sa mere lest they be excluded entirely.

  • Newman

    The church never does particularly well Brian when it seeks the temporal as well as the spiritual. A rather novel interpretation may I say to conflate Declaration of Infallibility with the loss of a power in a united Italy. Thankfully Manning WG Ward and the ultramontanists did not get their way and the ultimate definition based on ex cathedra pronouncements was a lot more moderate than is historically understood.

    As JH Newman reveals when he came to Ireland to found UCD at the invitation of Cardinal Cullen the Irish were still in their ultramontanist phase and perhaps the lack of an educated Catholic laity allowed clericalism to flourish.

    On the abortion issue I fear you use the term fundamentalism as a weapon to obscure argument. Let us accept that the issue is complex and requires profound ethical consideration. We still need to look for first principles, but the current direction of travel is to take refuge in a vacuous post modernism which elevates choice and autonomy as the supreme good. I simply beg to differ. Someone must speak for the child en ventre sa mere lest they be excluded entirely.