By Michael Kelly
An Irish bishop said he hopes Pope Francis’ August visit can help bring healing, after a divisive referendum that will pave the way for abortion on demand up to 12 weeks’ gestation.
In a 25 May referendum, Irish voters opted by a margin of 66.4 per cent to 33.6 per cent to remove the right to life of the unborn from the constitution.
Limerick Bishop Brendan Leahy told Mass-goers on 26 May that the result “is deeply regrettable and chilling for those of us who voted ‘no’”.
“The final result of the referendum is the will of the majority of the people, though not all the people,” he said.
“It is a vote, of course, that does not change our position. Our message is one of love: love for all, love for life, for those with us today, for those in the womb.”
“In August, we will unite as a family, to renew that sense of family when the World Meeting of Families comes here,” said Bishop Leahy, referring to Pope Francis’ 25 to 26 August visit.
“We have the privilege of Pope Francis coming, and I cannot think of his visit being more timely – to come here and remind us of the importance of family, of the love we have of family, of the reality that, yes, families get bruised sometimes, but they should never be broken.
“So we go forward to that moment, we look forward to the healing it will bring and how we will be renewed again, in love and care for one another,” he added.
Voters inserted the original amendment in the constitution in 1983 by a margin of two to one, and it “acknowledges the right to life of the unborn and, with due regard to the equal right to life of the mother, guarantees in its laws to respect, and, as far as practicable, by its laws to defend and vindicate that right”.
That text will now be deleted and replaced with an article stating that “provision may be made by law for the regulation of termination of pregnancy”.
Dublin Archbishop Diarmuid Martin insisted that “the Irish Church after the referendum must renew its commitment to support life”.
Speaking during a homily at Mass for the ordination to the diaconate of four seminarians at the national seminary in Maynooth, County Kildare, Archbishop Martin insisted that the Church is called to be pro-life “not just in words and statements and manifestoes, but to be pro-life in deeds, by being a Church which reflects the loving care of Jesus for human life at any stage”.
“That loving care includes support to help those women who face enormous challenges and who grapple with very difficult decisions to choose life.”
Archbishop Martin said during the homily that “the challenge of witnessing to Jesus Christ in today’s world is not an easy one”.
Many will see the results of Friday’s referendum as an indication that the Catholic Church in Ireland is regarded today by many with indifference and as having a marginal role in the formation of Irish culture.
“The Church that is called to make present the Jesus who is full of mercy and compassion is seen by many as somehow weak in compassion,” he concluded.
Minister for Health Simon Harris has said he would introduce legislation that would allow abortion on demand up to 12 weeks, up to 24 weeks on unspecified grounds for the health of the mother, and up to birth where the child is diagnosed with a life-limiting condition that means he or she may not live long after birth.
An exit poll conducted by the Ireland’s national broadcaster RTE asked voters what motivated them to opt for either “yes” or “no”.
Among “yes” voters, the most important issues were the right to choose (84 per cent), the health or life of the woman (69 per cent), and pregnancy as a result of rape (52 per cent).
Among “no” voters, they cited the right to life of the unborn (76 per cent), the right to live of those with Down syndrome or other disabilities (36 per cent), and religious views (28 per cent).