The next Catholic primate of Ireland Archbishop Eamon Martin has told the Sunday Times( £ )
“You cannot regard yourself as a person of faith and support abortion,” Martin said in an interview with The Sunday Times. “You cannot believe you are with your church and directly help someone to procure an abortion. This includes medical professionals and the legislators.
If a legislator comes to me and says, ‘Can I be a faithful Catholic and support abortion?’ I would say no. Your communion is ruptured if you support abortion. You are excommunicating yourself. Any legislator who clearly and publicly states this should not approach looking for communion.
This at least has the merit of clarity. Or does it? Would the onus to refuse communion be placed on the sinner or the individual priest? You cannot excommunicate yourself. Would it affect all TDs who vote for the government Bill? If it passes why should not excommunication extend to the proposed panel of doctors who allow an abortion to go ahead? The unfortunate women and her supporting family and friends? Would they not all be complicit ? What happened to the line during the Troubles when the Church refused excommunication to known killers on the grounds that it was their duty to administer to sinners?
The government line appears to be holding, reports Stephen Collins and some in the hierarchy are over reacting.. but…
Concerns expressed by Archbishop of Dublin Diarmuid Martin are a different matter. The archbishop is one of the few members of the hierarchy who still commands wide respect. Some Fine Gael TDs and Senators were seriously concerned when he expressed worries about the prospect of the legislation allowing late-term abortions due to the absence of any time limit..
Enda Kenny is a conscientious Catholic with little time for the hierarchy, one of a multitude in the Republic. But he knows opposing the hierarchy’s absolutist line on abortion may evoke a different public response to attacking them for covering up child abuse. Simple anti-clericalism is now outmoded; a belt from the crozier excites few terrors these days. This is far bigger than a re-run of the Mother and Child controversy, a modest reform seen off by an implacable Church. I believe it’s another stage in a long and tortuous process which will end one day in allowing elective abortion under certain conditions.
Kenny seems to have put his shirt on this reform because he believes in it, not because he sees votes in it. That’s far from guaranteed. Yet when it comes down to it, he’s surely deceiving himself if he believes that in late pregnancy where the woman is deemed to be suicidal both lives can always be protected. The basic flaw in the whole reform is that it gives too much power and too much responsibility to doctors and none at all it seems to be individual women. Some leading obstetricians are clearly unhappy and with good reason. The pro- choice movement is surely right on this but so too is the Church. There is a slippery slope and Ireland one day Ireland will go down it when someone goes to jail for performing a controversial abortion.
Former BBC journalist and manager in Belfast, Manchester and London, Editor Spolight; Political Editor BBC NI; Current Affairs Commissioning editor BBC Radio 4; Editor Political and Parliamentary Programmes, BBC Westminster; former London Editor Belfast Telegraph. Hon Senior Research Fellow, The Constitution Unit, Univ Coll. London