On May 25, Irish citizens will vote on an historic and – quite literally – life-threatening initiative to repeal the Eight Amendment to Article 40 of the Irish Constitution. You see, in 1983, more than two-thirds of Irish voters, codifying a centuries-old legacy, approved the Eighth Amendment, which reads as follows.
The State acknowledges the right to life of the unborn and, with due regard to the equal right to life of the mother, guarantees in its laws to respect, and, as far as practicable, by its laws to defend and vindicate that right.
The law allows for abortion when the mother’s life is at risk, a scenario which many ob-gyns will informally admit is rarely the case in developed countries.
My brother bishop, Archbishop Chaput of Philadelphia, recently published an email that he received from an Irish family, noting that approximately 40 million Americans claim Irish heritage (myself included!) and that activist groups in the United States are threatening the 1500-year legacy of defending the sanctity of life which was started by St. Patrick when he introduced Christianity to the Irish.
It is also important to note that in the early days of the Church in the United States, so many parishes, health care institutions and local Churches were built up and strengthened by the many Irish religious and priests (our Diocese included) who came to our country. The immigration of so many Irish to the United States over the years is a chapter in our history that has helped shape the United States. Thus, the significance of this moment in Irish history cannot be underestimated.
Observing the malicious influence of abortion groups and wealthy benefactors in United States, the family asks for the counter influence of prayer. After all, if activists in the United States can meddle in foreign elections, at the very least we can offer our prayers, most especially those of us who claim Irish heritage.
Keep in mind that Ireland is one of the few European states that has not legalized abortion despite great pressure over the decades. Back in 2016, it was discovered that billionaire George Soros, known for his funding of many initiatives contrary to human dignity, was now contributing to the efforts to repeal the Eight Amendment in Ireland.
Make no mistake. Those who deny human dignity from conception until natural death understand the significance of this vote. If abortion is made legal in Ireland, it will usher in the culture of death as we have experienced here in the United States. In some ways, it will be worse because they won’t have the same resources that we have. Nowhere in the world is there a pro-life movement as vibrant as in the United States. Yet, we see, nevertheless, how difficult it has been to promote the dignity of the human person here.
While abortion rates have been dropping for many years, we still have about one million abortions every year. That’s hardly an insignificant number, no matter how one thinks about the issue. More and more states have approved physician-assisted suicide. Too many lives are being cut short both at the beginning of life and later in life.
Ireland, still reeling from the scandals generated by some of the Church leadership in Ireland, lacks the blessing of a similar pro-life movement. Sadly, but understandably, these scandals have greatly undermined the Church’s teaching authority among the Irish; so we must pray that the truth of the Church shine forth, despite all that has been done to hide her beauty, and that the Irish be guided by this truth as they approach this decisive vote on May 25. The many committed women and men of Ireland who have been making their convictions known these past months need to be encouraged applauded, as well.
St. John Paul II frequently encouraged us to build a culture of life – one in which abortion and other violations of human dignity would be not only illegal, but unthinkable. For 1500 years, such was the case for the Irish. Now, as the disease and influence of the culture of death permeate more and more nations, Ireland, while having suffered poverty for centuries, stands on the brink of the utter impoverishment which we already experience here. As Mother Teresa famously commented, “It is a poverty that a child must die so that you may live as you wish.”
I ask that you all join with me in praying daily for Ireland. Again, many of us have roots to this beautiful country. Others are meddling in this nation’s election to destroy the tremendous Irish heritage which has protected innocent human life for centuries. We must counter with prayer. After all, we must work as if it all depends on us and pray as if it all depends on God. The pro-life movement in Ireland is both working and praying, we must join in praying with the reality that it all depends on God. These days call us to be faithful in prayer and courageous in witness, and do so in solidarity with the Irish people who are giving strong witness to the life of the unborn.
+ Kevin W. Vann, Bishop of Orange