Bishop says Yes vote on abortion presents ‘exhilarating challenge’

Michael Burrows says repeal of Eighth shows Irish society ‘dislikes hypocrisy’

A Church of Ireland bishop has welcomed the Yes vote in last Friday's referendum on repealing the Eighth Amendment.

Michael Burrows, the Bishop of Cashel, Ferns, and Ossory, said "I personally feel a genuine satisfaction at this time to be a citizen of a Republic which faces uncomfortable truths about itself, and which allows women in particular to tell their stories with candour and clarity.

“There will be those who will see the referendum result somehow as a rebuke to the voice of faith in our society. I react very differently… I do not sense that as citizens that we are taking leave of our moral compass, or ceasing to recognise the complex balancing of factors that lies at the heart of ethical decision making.”

Bishop Burrows said that, for him, there was “an exhilarating challenge in presenting the faith in a fresh way to a changing nation.


“We are now placed in a society which asks hard questions, dislikes hypocrisy and will offer attentive respect only to those who earn it through the integrity, depth and courage of their contributions to public discourse.”

Bishop Borrows, along with Church of Ireland Bishop of Limerick, Killaloe and Ardfert Kenneth Kearon, were the only two bishops in the State to call for a Yes vote in the referendum.

“It has always been my view that the Constitution is not the place to deal with the complex and sensitive issue of abortion,” said Bishop Burrows, who added that “while the decisive result of the referendum is a source of relief to very many, both women and men, I also recognise the integrity and conviction of those within the diocese and beyond whose views were different from my own.”

‘Monumental loss’

Redemptorist priest and former editor of Reality magazine Fr Gerard Moloney described the referendum result as "a monumental loss for the Catholic Church.

“Commentators can point to it as conclusive evidence of the decline and fall of the Roman Catholic Church in Ireland.The major cultural battles of the past 35 years have been won by the liberal side,” he said.

Fr Moloney said that “aside from the issue of patronage of church-run schools and hospitals, for all practical purposes the Catholic Church in Ireland can be said to be finally, definitively, defeated”.

While defeat was “painful for the church to take, losing the war is actually a good thing for the church because Christianity functions best when it is not part of the establishment,” he said. “Now that the culture battles are done, the church can take up its proper role in opposition to the status quo.”

Fr Moloney warned against what he described as the “new secular judgementalism” which had replaced “the old religious judgmentalism of yesteryear.

“A truly liberal, progressive, confident society is one that celebrates diversity and encourages difference. We won’t have made much progress if our shiny new Ireland turns out to be as stifling and oppressive as the one that went before.”

Patsy McGarry

Patsy McGarry

Patsy McGarry is a contributor to The Irish Times