Church will stick to its teachings on abortion - Martin


THE CHURCH would reiterate its teaching on gay marriage and abortion regardless of the progress of legislation on either of these issues, Archbishop of Dublin Dr Diarmuid Martin has said.

Responding to questions at the MacGill Summer School yesterday, he said: “The church will teach its teaching about the complementarity of man and woman as being something that is essential to marriage and that marriage is not a simple social construct which can be changed at will.”

There were however “other ways in which the rights of individuals and of people living in relationships” could be respected.

“Before, during or after the enactment of legislation regarding gay marriage the church will continue to teach its teaching. The church’s teaching is to teach something rather than to oppose it,” Archbishop Martin said.

On the issue of abortion in cases in which the life of the mother was under threat, he said: “The respect for human life from the moment of conception again is a fundamental part of Catholic teaching.

“We have, thank God, in Ireland a situation in which conflicts between the health of the mother and the health of the child are much rarer than in other countries. We have one of the lowest levels of childhood mortality in the world.

“The church’s teaching will be expressed in the context of the realities in which we live.”

In an address to the summer school, he said many who saw the church as being in crisis either failed to see – or did not want to see – that it was already turning the corner to a renewed phase in its history.

However he could not say personally whether he was optimistic or pessimistic in the short term, admitting that “on a human level, there are more unknowns and challenges and dysfunctionalities than there were a few years ago”.

On the level of priestly vocations, he said: “It is not just that the number of candidates is low. It is also that many of those who present are fragile and some are much more traditional than those who went before them.”

There was “a danger that superficial attachment to the externals of tradition may well be a sign of fearfulness and flight from changed realities”.

On another vital issue for the Catholic Church, Archbishop Martin said: “There is no way in which the church in Ireland can put definitively behind it the scandals of the sexual abuse of vulnerable children by priests and religious.

“In today’s economic climate, there is understandably no great interest in establishing new and costly investigations into further aspects of the abuse scandal.”

However, he added, this did not mean that “men and women of courage and conviction” should not continue to seek other ways to “shed the light of discernment on how the presence of the church in serving the most deprived went wrong”.

“Perhaps new forms of research-based investigation might better address such issues as the Magdalene laundries or the quality of care in some mother-and-baby homes and other institutions.

“It would be less adversarial, somewhat on the level of investigative social history through which the truth could emerge.”

Dr Martin continued: “Marriage is not a simple social construct which can be changed at will. Certainly there are changes in the way marriage and the family are lived out at any time.

“For the church, there is something unique in the complementarity of man and woman in the human situation and, for the church, life-long commitment is an essential dimension of its understanding of marriage.”

On the internal divisions in the Irish church, he recalled that he had said recently: “A bickering church will not attract young people and . . . many of our internal discussions within the church are about realities which seem to our young people totally irrelevant to the world in which they live.”