After the people of Ireland voted last month to legalize abortion, the Irish bishops have taken two decisive steps forward in the defence of life, and one step back. At the end of its Summer 2018 General Meeting Wednesday 13th in Maynooth, the Irish Catholic Bishops’ Conference announced that it would establish a new Council for Life, on the one hand, and that it would not oppose attempts to remove the offense of blasphemy from the country’s Constitution, on the other. It missed an opportunity, however, to offer guidance on another key vote coming up for the Irish this October, on whether to remove the constitutional clause that confines women to a “life within the home”.
A Council for “a consistent ethic of life and care for those most at risk”
“With the repeal of the Eighth Amendment a new situation now exists in Ireland”, acknowledged the Irish bishops at the conclusion of their meeting in Maynooth. A situation that necessitates a search on the part of the Church for “better ways of responding” to a growing desensitization in Ireland “to the value of innocent human life”.
Hence the establishment, by March 2019, of a new Council for Life, “whose role will be to advise and advocate for the Catholic Church in Ireland on a consistent ethic of life and care for those most at risk”, and that much as the Church’s contribution to the fostering of “a society of support”. A contribution that will be needed more sorely than ever now with the closure of Cura: the Catholic Church agency that for the past forty years has been providing care for women faced with crisis pregnancies.
“The reference to blasphemy in the Constitution is largely obsolete”The Irish bishops in their Summer Meeting, too, responded to the announcement of the Government on Tuesday 12th that the Irish people will go to the polls again this October to decide whether to remove the offence of blasphemy from the Constitution: a crime that can be punished with a fine of almost $30,000.
“The current reference to blasphemy in the Constitution… is largely obsolete, and may give rise to concern because of the way such measures have been used to justify violence and oppression against minorities in other parts of the world”, affirmed the Bishops’ Conference, at the same time that it underlined that freedom of religion must be protected from ridicule, since it “greatly enriches the social fabric of a country”.
Women should stick to the home?
Not a word, however, from the bishops on the other question that will come before Irish voters in October: whether to remove the clause by which the Irish State “recognizes that by her life within the home, woman gives to the State a support without which the common good cannot be achieved”, and undertakes to “endeavour to ensure that mothers shall not be obliged by economic necessity to engage in labour to the neglect of their duties in the home”.
Why this silence from the Irish bishops? Is not this relegation to the home just as damaging to Irish women as unwanted pregnancies?