Bishops will not tell Catholics who to vote for, Archbishop says

Church leaders say they ‘strongly oppose’ attempts to repeal the Eighth Amendment

Archbishop of Dublin Diarmuid Martin: Catholic Bishops released a statement about key issues ahead of the upcoming general election .Photograph: Cyril Byrne/The Irish Times

Archbishop of Dublin Diarmuid Martin: Catholic Bishops released a statement about key issues ahead of the upcoming general election .Photograph: Cyril Byrne/The Irish Times

 

Archbishop of Dublin Diarmuid Martin has said that although abortion and the “right to life” are important issues in the upcoming general election, bishops will not tell Catholics who to vote for.

He said politicians should have the “courage” to say where they stand on the removal of the Eight Amendment from the Constitution, as voters needed clarity and not spin on the issue.

“It’s not my job or the bishops’ job to say the guidance is you must vote for this party or that party,” the Archbishop told RTÉ radio.

“You cannot pretend to be a Catholic and leave aside a very vital part of Catholic teaching, but the individual makes that decision.”

“Our judgment is on our personal integrity.”

The Catholic Bishops of Ireland had earlier reaffirmed their opposition to the removal of the Eighth Amendment to the Constitution in a pastoral statement on the general election.

“The Constitution of Ireland embraces the right to life of the unborn child . . . We strongly oppose any weakening of the affirmation of the right to life of the unborn,” the statement said.

With just over a week until polling day, the bishops urged people to vote on February 26th and challenge candidates on their views.

The statement said: “In Ireland we are fortunate to live in a lively democratic society, even with all its imperfections.”

Speaking in response to the statement on Thursday, Tánaiste Joan Burton said she would say to the Archbishop and the Catholic Church that Ireland has had a number of appalling cases in relation to abortion.

She said that in many instances what we have done as a country is send pregnant women abroad.

Ms Burton said the Labour Party wanted to see a referendum held, after due examination and consideration, to repeal the Eighth Amendment.

“I know that the people who are leaders of the Catholic Church are passionate and humane people,” she told RTÉ’s Morning Ireland programme.

“We need to address the issue as a society in the same way as we had a national conversation about marriage equality.

“I think we came up with a good outcome that has actually enhanced Irish society,” she said.

The Catholic bishops also said the State’s health crisis is a result of a “fundamental failure of politics” and warned a “blame game” is not the answer.

The bishops said economic growth on its own did not necessarily generate social equity.

“We share the anxiety of many citizens in Ireland at the fact that there is an uncertain social climate in the country.”

They also said most people in Ireland feel “great unease” about the current health system and successive government s had failed to find solutions.

‘Real inequality’

Speaking about education, they said the “real inequality” in Irish schools was not religious but economic, with poorer communities not adequately supported.

“Ireland is still marred by neglect of children and of lack of opportunity for the children of the most deprived and groups such as Travellers,” the statement said.

According to the bishops, people in both rural and urban communities feel “insecure in their homes”, particularly with the recent gangland shootings.

“ These are not simply about gangland feuds; they are the product of a criminal industry of death, which unscrupulously floods our streets and our children with drugs.”

They also called for more affordable social housing to help the homelessness problem.

The statement included a plea for Irish citizens to welcome people who are fleeing from persecution, economic exclusion or religious discrimination.

“Despite economic challenges, Ireland can and must maintain its commitments in international life, especially recent commitments to finance development and to combat climate change,” it said.