Archbishop astonished at moves to remove Eighth Amendment
Primate of All-Ireland Eamon Martin emphasises ‘equality of right to life of all people’
Archbishop of Armagh and Primate of All-Ireland Eamon Martin said renewal of the Catholic Church in Ireland could take “about 30 years”. Photograph: The Irish Times
Archbishop of Armagh and Catholic Primate of All-Ireland Archbishop Eamon Martin has expressed incredulity at moves to remove the Eighth Amendment from the Constitution. Passed in 1983, it guarantees equal right to life of mother and the unborn.
He also said renewal of the church in Ireland could take “about 30 years” and that damage done by clerical abuse scandals was “something that we will carry with us for the remainder of our lives as priests”. On child protection he said the way to keep people safe is to be vigilant and on the alert.
Personally he has no objection to priests being allowed marry and likes to think that atheists also go to heaven, even if they might be angry with him for saying so. He described himself as a nationalist who believes “that Ireland should be one”.
Regarding a proposal to remove the amendment from the Constitution, Archbishop Martin said: “I can’t understand why Ireland, having voted so strongly for what was termed a marriage equality referendum, would now be seeking the views of the people of Ireland to vote for life inequality, when it is human life. And, quite simply, the Eighth Amendment expresses that. It expresses the equal right to life of a mother and her unborn child.
“I cannot understand how we as a country would want to remove that which is such a powerful expression of the equality of the right to life of all people – the most vulnerable. What it does call on us to do in Ireland is to be a place of compassion and care for everyone who is struggling,” he said.
He agreed that the church would be “more vocal” than it had been during the marriage equality referendum last year in the event of a referendum to remove the amendment.
“Yeah, I would think that that would be something that we would be more vocal on, because what we’re talking about here is what we believe to be the most fundamental right of all, which is the right to life. We feel that we must speak up for the equal right to life of the woman and the unborn child,” he said.
In a lengthy Hot Press interview he demurred when journalist Jason O’Toole suggested the church had “campaigned” in the marriage equality referendum.
“Well, you use the term ‘we campaigned’,” said Archbishop Martin, but “we were very conscious that this was a very important debate in the country about the meaning of marriage. Therefore, we tried, in as compassionate a way as possible to speak what we believe is the truth about marriage – that marriage is between a man and a woman, that marriage is open to the gift of life.”
He added: “My disappointment is that we were talking about what we believed marriage to be, and that society and the state should support that unique relationship that there is between a man and a woman and their children. That’s something that I suppose we will continue to do, not in any way intending to be homophobic, but it’s something that we feel in conscience that we would like to be able to continue to express.”
Asked whether he saw homosexuality as a sin Archbishop Martin replied that “to be a homosexual person is not a sin. The church really speaks in terms of our sexuality as something that is open to creation and open to the creation of life. The church sees the proper place for the fullness of the expression of sexuality, that is in terms of sexual intercourse, as something that should happen within marriage.”