By Cian Molloy - 28 May, 2018
The result of Friday’s referendum on the Eighth Amendment confirms that we Irish are living in a new time and a changed culture for Ireland, said the Primate of all-Ireland, Archbishop Eamon Martin of Armagh.
The Archbishop was in Knock, where he was leading his diocese’s annual pilgrimage to the national Marian shrine.
The Archbishop said that as a result of the changes in attitudes in general Irish society, this is a missionary time and a time for new evangelisation for the Church. He pointed out that while the Constitution may have changed, Church teaching has not. The fact remains that every human life is sacred and precious.
“Like many others who advocated a No vote in the referendum, I am deeply saddened that we appear to have obliterated the right to life of all unborn children from our constitution, and that this country is now on the brink of legislating for a liberal abortion regime,” Archbishop Martin told pilgrims.
“I am very concerned about the implications for society of interfering with the fundamental principle that the value of all human life is equal and that all human beings, born and unborn, have inherent worth and dignity. At a time when scientific and medical evidence is clearer than ever about the beginning of life, we have effectively decided that some human lives – in this case the lives of the unborn – are less significant and deserving of protection than others.
“We have elevated the right to personal choice above the fundamental right to life itself.”
The Archbishop paid tribute to those who had promoted the pro-life cause in the run up to the referendum vote.
“In particular I have been humbled by the witness of lay women and men, many of them mothers and fathers themselves, who became the voice for voiceless unborn children,” he said.
“The pro-life cause in Ireland is now more important than ever, as we endeavour to touch the hearts of women who will continue to face crisis in their pregnancy and find new ways of supporting them and their unborn children. The increased prevalence of violent death on our streets reminds us that striving to build a culture of life in Ireland is more relevant and pressing than ever.
“We are told that people voted Yes for many reasons. Like many others, I too found myself challenged by the personal stories of so many women in Ireland both on the Yes and the No sides. I have realised how little I know personally about the pressures these women can be under and how so many of them feel isolated, neglected and alone in their distress. Tragic, and sometimes desperate, situations like these will not go away just because, as is now expected, abortion is made widely available in Ireland.”
Certain questions still need answers, said Archbishop Martin. “How can we channel the obvious care and concern of so many good people in Ireland to genuinely and practically help vulnerable women who feel that the only way out of crisis is to end the life of their unborn child?
“How can we together show genuine ‘compassion’ in the literal sense of ‘suffering with’ women in their vulnerability? What new supports, apart from the option of abortion, will be in place for mothers and fathers at the point of crisis? And will our compassion extend to the life of the unborn child?
“These questions remain for the whole of Irish society, including the Church.”
In the face of Friday’s vote, Archbishop Martin said it was easy for faithful Catholics to become despondent. However, building on the theme of the Gospel reading for Trinity Sunday, Archbishop Martin said: “There is no point in standing transfixed, like the early apostles gazing into the sky, hoping this will all go away. This is our time for living. This is our time for believing. This is our time for mission and teaching the truth of the Gospel.
“In the midst of so much disappointment for those who voted No to repealing the Eighth, it remains as important as ever to affirm the sanctity of all human life, and that the direct and intentional taking of the life of any innocent human being is always gravely wrong. Sadly, in many countries of the world the Church must proclaim this Gospel of Life in the context of abortion being widely available, and where people are increasingly becoming desensitised to the value of every human life.
“To continue to proclaim this truth, in love, may sometimes seem like a ‘mission impossible’, but Pope Francis makes it clear in his Apostolic Exhortation Gaudete et Exsultate that this is not optional for Catholics: ‘Our defence of the innocent unborn … needs to be clear, firm and passionate, for at stake is the dignity of a human life, which is always sacred and demanding of love for each person, regardless of his or her stage of development’.”