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The Lemmings of Ireland
Ana Brennan, J.D. 31 May 2018
I know many of us were taken aback by the passage of the pro-abortion referendum in Ireland by such a wide margin; over 65% of voters. May 25th was Ireland’s Roe v. Wade, except abortion was unleashed on us through judicial fiat, not popular vote. As far as I can tell, the people of Ireland are the first to directly (not through a proxy) give their stamp of approval to abortion. Overnight, Ireland’s reputation as a Catholic country has been replaced by being the most pro-abortion country ever to exist in human history. This is not hyperbole. Over 65% of voters in the US never agreed to legalize abortion.
Even before the vote, I thought the referendum would pass but just barely. Before the Irish voted they had the benefit of learning from the mistakes of over 50 years of legal abortion in the UK and over 45 years in the US. I think that’s why it was so frustrating to hear the same old, tired and unoriginal vague platitudes made by the pro-abortion side in Ireland. Not only have we heard all this before but we’ve also seen the horrific fall-out of abortion: fetal organ harvesting; coercion; leaving aborted babies born alive to die; disposal of babies in the trash; abortion clinics with fewer regulations or safeguards than veterinary clinics; post-abortion trauma; pre-natal eugenics; and the use of abortion to cover-up and perpetuate sexual abuse, and we’ve also had 50 years of advances in fetal medicine. We didn’t have 4-D ultrasound in 1973. By voting ‘yes’, over 65% of voters in Ireland manufactured a time-warp and denied the reality of the past 50 years.
In addition to ignoring the lessons of history, the Irish voters, including their PM, consider abortion a matter of “compassion and understanding,” “equality and freedom,” and women will “no longer be second-class citizens.” (I was unaware that Ireland had been a “Handmaid's Tale” dystopia). The pro-aborts in Ireland were literally celebrating in the streets. Abortion is an affirmative social good. Sadly, those of us who have lived with legalized abortion our whole lives know that freedom and equality are not achieved by stepping over the bodies of unborn children. Thinking that abortion is a positive entrenches the culture of death by poisoning and distorting how a society assigns value to everyone. It has already been announced that a law seeking to legalize assisted suicide will be introduced into the Irish parliament in a few weeks. It didn’t even take one week for evil to fester and expand.
Obviously, I was horrified and heavy-hearted over the vote because women and unborn children were no longer protected, but the shock over the decisive pro-abortion victory in a country where over 78% of the population “identifies” as Catholic was just as stunning. I think many pro-life Catholics in the United States were caught off guard. How could this happen in a Catholic country like Ireland? Reality did not match our romanticized ideal of a Catholic Ireland. Was it fair to expect Catholics in Ireland to be any different from Catholics from any other country? I thought about the 70 million Catholics in the United States. If only American Catholics voted on a similar referendum I would not be surprised if the vote turned out similar to Ireland’s. Just as I understand that not all Catholics in the US adhere to Church teaching, the same is true of Ireland.
Over the past 25 years or so in addition to abortion, Ireland has legalized divorce, the morning-after pill, and most recently same-sex marriage. The voting patterns of the Irish have not reflected the morals of the Catholic Church for some time. It’s ridiculous to think that the Irish were somehow immune from the sinister forces of secular humanism. The myth that Ireland was still an oasis of Catholicism was just that, a myth. Maybe we shouldn’t have been so surprised by the recent abortion vote. I have heard some criticize the Bishops in Ireland for not doing more to advocate on behalf of the 8th Amendment. I don’t know whether or not these criticisms are warranted, but I do know that this premise is based on the presumption that the Catholic Church still holds sway in Ireland; a presumption we can no longer take for granted. It seems Ireland is going the way of the rest of Western Europe.
The recent vote in Ireland speaks to the much larger problem of why those who claim to be Catholic refuse to accept the teaching authority of the Church yet still consider themselves to be good Catholics – regardless of country. It is incumbent upon all of us in the Church, clergy and laity alike, to do our part to remedy this problem. Recovery will be gradual but we have to start taking deliberate steps in the right direction.
Recently, Archbishop Joseph Naumann discussed one such remedy. On May 24th, the newly elected US Conference of Catholic Bishops head of Pro-Life Activities shared his experience dealing with the former governor of Kansas, Kathleen Sebelius, who claimed to be Catholic while rabidly supporting abortion. After lengthy discussions where the Archbishop tried to educate Sebelius as to the contradiction of her position with her Catholic faith, he had “no alternative but to take [the] drastic step” of barring her from Communion in accordance with Canon 915 of the Catholic Church’s Code of Canon Law. He encouraged other bishops to follow his lead and exercise their authority under Canon Law.
If pro-abortion Catholic politicians can (and should be) held accountable for advocating abortion, what about Catholics in Ireland who just voted to legalize abortion? Irish Bishop Kevin Doran of the Diocese of Elphin has implored Catholics who voted to legalize abortion to seek reconciliation in confession because they have committed a grave sin. He stressed that voting in favor of the referendum constitutes a serious offensive that requires confession before receiving Communion. The Bishop also pointed out, “the Catholic Church is a family . . . God never takes back his love.” The purpose of pointing out the need for confession is not to exclude people from the Church, rather it is to help people live in God’s love. If someone chooses not to reconcile with God’s Church that is their decision, and now we can begin to identify those who are sincerely Catholic.
The immediate travesty of the abortion vote in Ireland is undeniable. The Irish may be late to the party but they’ve jumped off a cliff into the culture of death with both feet. If we’ve learned anything from this experience, it’s that we cannot take for granted what it means to be Catholic. Those who claim to be Catholic will never respect the teaching authority of the Church if the Church does not exercise its authority. The Church offers authoritative moral teaching and loving forgiveness so we may live in the fullness of faith. It is up to the individual whether or not to accept this offer. This will result in some pruning, but pruning is required to grow stronger. It is this strength that will sustain us as we continue to defend the culture of life.
Ana Brennan, J.D., Vice President of the Society of St. Sebastian and Senior Editor of the Journal of Bioethics in Law & Culture