SO, the first round of the Abortion Referendum kicked off with a polite request from Archbishop Éamon Martin. He asked that ‘believers’ should respectfully lobby their public representatives and encourage them ‘not to proceed with the proposed relaxation of the Republic’s abortion laws.’
He succinctly added that Church teaching always argued that ‘ending an unborn child’s life was always evil and can never be justified.’ And so say all of us!
He went on: Ireland now has an opportunity to give even stronger witness to the fact that ‘we value all life equally: we care for the weakest and smallest, the strongest and healthiest, the youngest, the oldest, and the whole wonderful and beautiful spectrum of life in-between.’
And that, more or less, was his message. Short, crisp, to the point – a thumbnail sketch of the profound issues, ethical and moral, underpinning a controversy that has the potential to rip Irish society apart.
A case in point was the recently-concluded deliberations of the Oireachtas Committee on the Eighth Amendment whose conclusions were perceived in some quarters as an imminent menace.
The Committee recommended repeal of Article 40.3.3, which up to this point has given equal rights to the life of a mother and her unborn child. In the future, unrestricted access to abortion would be available for up to 12 weeks.
Outside the Dáil, the FG-influenced ‘Pro-Abortion / Keep your hands off my Ovaries’ camp is popular and strong. It certainly didn’t greet the Archbishop’s observations with any signs of forbearance.
On the one hand, it enjoys verifiable support from ‘respectable’ Dáil politicos – some of whom (to their credit) have nailed their colours to the mast – but it is also a fact that the pro-abortion ‘movement’ includes some online crazies: that so-called political constituency which rejects the notion that in a public debate politicians and public can be influenced by their religious values and by the traditions and values that they hold.
Genuine democrats who seek a ‘fair’ debate on the abortion issue accept the fact that people can be influenced by their religious beliefs. This should not diminish one’s right to express a point of view or vote in a certain way.
Everybody, religiously influenced or otherwise, has an equal right to express their opinions – including even those pin-brained trolls banging out intolerant, anti-democratic emails from stinky bedsits.
Indeed, according to the last census, 84% of the people declared themselves to be Catholic but the existence of a ‘religious’ electorate cuts no ice with a strident, well-organised pro-abortion lobby that spends much of its time denigrating those who approach the abortion debate from a ‘religious’ standpoint.
Indeed, if precedence is anything to go by, the recently announced Abortion Debate – formally opened by the Archbishop – is unlikely to be a national discussion characterised by mutual respect.
No role for Church
For example, a ministerial wannabe, Dublin Fine Gael TD Kate O’Connell, set the standard when she cut a slice off the Archbishop two years ago. She was of the opinion that his opinions on abortion were ‘not at all relevant’ and snottily informed him that he should not be getting involved in women’s health issues because it was ‘the same as asking my four-year-old.’
Ms O’Connell believes the Church should not have any role in deciding or shaping policy which relates to the health of women. Her uncompromising, political shriek since has established itself in the magnificent panoply of traditional Blueshirt accessories, and in Fine Gael’s famed history of intolerance.
And now for something different. ‘If there’s one thing that really gets up my nostrils,’ observed our auld butty in Dinty’s, ‘it’s intolerance.’
He explained that he had been reading an extraordinary editorial published by the now rather dowdy ex-Old Lady of Academy Street, and it infuriated him. It concerned the Pope’s planned visit to Ireland, and that the Pontiff would do everything in his power to visit the World Families Meetings, which will be held during his visit.
The editorial revealed that the theme of the conference would be ‘the church’s conception of married life between a man and a woman’ and warned that the Vatican would want to be fully aware of the snub to the Republic that such a theme represented.
‘The Vatican should also be aware that this is a democracy and that we voted for arrangements around marriage that the Catholic Church does not endorse. This misstep, deliberate or otherwise, seems to set a very unfortunate, confrontational tone for the Pope’s visit,’ it cautioned.
In response, Dinty’s religious commentator wearily placed his pint on the counter, overcome by the uncharacteristic sharpness of the editorial’s comments. ‘De Paper has gone bonkers,’ he groaned.
More of the same
A dose of aggressive secularism also infected De Echo, thanks to a drop-goal straight up the papal transom from a much-respected hackette. On this occasion the gripe was the cost of the Pope’s visit – which, she said, ‘would stick in the craw of the homeless.’
What’s more, she reasoned, people were more innocent in the days of Pope John Paul’s visit in 1979. ‘The church’ didn’t merit what back then was ‘unquestioning faith.’ The situation nowadays, you see, was different.
Perhaps De Paper’s excellent scribes are taking religious matters too seriously. Don’t they know that Moses himself started out as a basket case!
Or that the Pope’s visit to Dublin will be very educational for him. Why dat? Because, up to this, he’s only ever read about purgatory!
Roll of drums ... etc.
Ali Selim, the well-known head honcho at the Islamic Cultural Centre in Dublin’s Clonskeagh, also is concerned with God-matters – particularly girls’ school uniforms that have crucifix symbols or images of saints on them! In a submission to the Department of Education over admission policies in faith-based schools, he wants such schools to make religious symbolism optional on uniforms.
Mr Selim takes these things seriously. Not too long ago, he was beefing about Muslim girls being obliged to take off their scarves for PE classes because of health and safety issues. This was not acceptable, he said.
Instead, he wanted schools to employ a female PE teacher and to provide students with a sports hall that was not accessible to ‘men’ during times when girls were ‘at play.’ Girls doing PE should not be visible to ‘men,’ he said.
He also advised that physical contact between members of the opposite sex in school drama classes was not permissible, nor was gender role reversal.
So far, the attempt to insert fundamentalist ideas into our schools hasn’t had much success, largely because staff and principals already do their best to accommodate all religious points of view and, when they can’t, the requests are very diplomatically dropped in the rubbish bin. It’s a policy that works.