From The New York Times:
Ireland voted decisively to repeal one of the world’s more restrictive abortion bans, the prime minister said Saturday, sweeping aside generations of conservative patriarchy and dealing the latest in a series of stinging rebukes to the Roman Catholic Church.
The surprising landslide cemented the nation’s liberal shift at a time when right-wing populism is on the rise in Europe and the Trump administration is imposing curbs on abortion rights in the United States. In the past three years alone, Ireland has installed a gay man as prime minister and has voted in another referendum to allow same-sex marriage.
But this was a particularly wrenching issue for Irish voters, even for supporters of the measure. And it was not clear until the end that the momentum toward socially liberal policies would be powerful enough to sweep away the deeply ingrained opposition to abortion.
“What we have seen today really is a culmination of a quiet revolution that’s been taking place in Ireland for the past 10 or 20 years,” Prime Minister Leo Varadkar said at a counting center in Dublin hours before the results of Friday’s vote were fully tallied.
My colleague Father Matthew Schneider writes:
There is a multitude of interlocking factors here and I won’t go into every single one in-depth. However, we can draw several lessons from this tragedy. Rather than just lamenting the demise, let’s ask what lessons can we take from it?
Apathy and worldliness can damage the Church far more than persecution.
The Church must maintain a moral but not partisan position in the public sphere (an American example I wrote about).
The Church needs to win over cultural leaders to her side. In this vote, almost all cultural leaders except priests and bishops were on the other side.
One thing that cannot be ignored in looking at these results is the cataclysmic collapse of Catholicism in a land that was a beacon of faith for centuries. The country has been rocked by multiple scandals. Wikipedia sums it up:
Unlike the Catholic sex abuse cases in the United States, the abuse in Ireland included cases of high-profile Catholic clerics involved in illicit heterosexual relations as well as widespread physical abuse of children in the Catholic-run childcare network. In many cases, the abusing priests were moved to other parishes to avoid embarrassment or a scandal, assisted by senior clergy. By 2010 a number of in-depth judicial reports had been published, but with relatively few prosecutions.
Additionally, the horrific scandal of the Magdalene asylums—involving women and girls being abused at Catholic-run institutions over decades—further degraded the church’s credibility and standing. Vocations in the country have virtually vanished.
This was a disaster decades in the making, with many causes. But far too many of the wounds were self-inflicted.
Pray for Ireland. Pray for our fallen world.