The people of Ireland voted overwhelmingly in favor of the repeal of the country’s Eighth Amendment last week, which banned abortion in nearly all cases.
The predominantly Catholic country has had restrictive legislation in place since 1861, with the amendment ratified by the public in 1983.
While many members and clergy of the Catholic Church, which has a deep and powerful presence in the country, have criticized the decision, others have offered a more positive, progressive view.
While the majority of voters have said that this is not a religious issue, it is difficult to entirely remove religion from the vote since it was largely the Catholic Church’s influence that made the Eighth Amendment a reality in the first place.
However, just as the country’s attitude towards the issue has shifted, so too, it seems, has the church’s.
“I wouldn’t like to attribute sin in this matter at all. I think, you know—I think it’s the wrong language for this, because this isn’t an issue about church law at all. This is an issue about how the state is attempting to treat all its people in an emerging way, in an emerging republic, in an emerging world, ever-changing world, in which many values have to be changed and looked at, in which medical science is changed and looked at, in which ethics are being changed and looked at differently. And each of us has to struggle. That’s exactly what a Christian conscience has to do, to struggle to find a way of accepting what is right for yourself, while also allowing what you couldn’t allow for yourself to be allowed for others who might view life and its ethics and morality in a different way.”
This is tremendously progressive talk for a priest of the Catholic Church, and is all the more refreshing in its progressivism when compared with the current state of affairs surrounding women’s reproductive health in the United States, where the president recently proposed a domestic gag-rule, which bars organizations from receiving federal funding if they so much as mention abortion services to their patients.
Perhaps American Christians can take a cue from Father D’Arcy and learn how to “accept what is right for yourself, while also allowing what you couldn’t allow for yourself to be allowed for others who might view life and its ethics and morality in a different way.”
Since, you know, religious freedom and the separation of church and state are kind of the pillars of our democracy.