The two-thirds majority vote to introduce abortion left many commentators contemplating the “death” of Catholic Ireland. Archbishop Diarmuid Martin of Dublin lamented the Church’s past failures, saying that institutions that failed the poor had “betrayed” Christ. “The caring Church must rather be a beacon of what care and love for the poor demand,” he said, adding that the Church must be “countercultural” in drawing people beyond the “confines of contemporary culture”.
What Catholic writers are saying
Catherine Pepinster, writing for the Guardian, said the Church had to find a “way of existing in newly secular societies” – and cited the Catholic Church in England and Wales as a model. “Officials in Rome have told me they are fascinated by the example of Britain, where the Church has learned to negotiate secular parameters,” she wrote. She pointed to the “empathetic tone” of Cardinal Vincent Nichols’s statement following the referendum, in which he spoke of the necessity of supporting women “trapped in difficult and painful circumstances”.
“Lack of such an empathetic tone has lost the Church support elsewhere in secular Europe,” she added. “Now it has to take the imaginative leap to find it.”
KV Turley, writing for Catholic World Report, said the referendum, far from being the death of Catholic Ireland, was more like its burial, as it was one in a long line of public defeats for the Church.
Other things that did die that day, he said, were a respect for life – as people publicly celebrated the prospect of unborn deaths – and a “robust political discourse”. The establishment and media were wholly liberal on issues such as abortion. “It is clear that Ireland does not have the political or media outlets to oppose the liberal agenda,” Turley wrote.
Irish pro-lifers will now be given little airtime, he said. Ireland has yet to discover the grubby reality of the abortion industry: the backstreet
clinics, the businessmen with a vested interest in creating demand, the trauma of countless women (and men) “for whom abortion was presented as a simple solution”.
✣✣ Pope: Catholics must not meddle in Orthodox affairs
Pope Francis told Metropolitan Hilarion, foreign affairs chief of the Russian Orthodox Church: “The Catholic Church … should not interfere in the internal affairs of the Russian Orthodox Church, not even in political matters … Those who meddle do not obey the Holy See.” The comments were reported by the Vatican press office.
Why was it under-reported
The story may have been largely ignored by Western media – where there is little grasp of Catholic-Orthodox relations – but it was covered widely by outlets in Russia and eastern Europe, including by TASS, Russia’s main news agency. The Pope’s remarks imply criticism of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church. Last month Metropolitan Hilarion complained that Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk, the Church’s head, was supporting a request by the Orthodox in Ukraine for autocephalous, or self-governing, status – an application that alarmed Moscow.
What will happen next?
Ukraine’s appeal for autocephaly has raised tensions within Orthodoxy. President Petro Poroshenko flew to Istanbul in April to make the case for it with Patriarch Bartholomew, “first among equals” among patriarchs. Francis may hope that friendship with the Russians will improve life or Catholics in Russia. But he risks alienating Eastern Catholics – especially as he also told Hilarion that “Uniatism [used to describe Eastern churches] as a path of unity is not valid today”.
✣The week ahead
Today thousands of people around the world will pray for priests. The Rosary Relay for Priests initiative is intended to mark World Priest Day. Different places pray the Joyful, Sorrowful, Glorious or Luminous Mysteries at an appointed time. More than 100 shrines in 50 countries are taking part. England’s lead location is Walsingham.
Terry Waite, the veteran hostage negotiator and charity campaigner, will be giving a lecture at Buckfast Abbey tomorrow evening. He will discuss the
insights he gained from his five years of solitary confinement in Beirut.
Pope Francis will address leaders of the oil industry at a Vatican conference on the environment tomorrow. The conference, hosted by the Pontifical Academy of Sciences, was organised by the University of Notre Dame in America and is entitled “Energy Transition and Care for Our Common Home”. Among those attending are the CEOs of Exxon Mobil and BP.