Catholics who voted Yes should consider confession, says Bishop

Kevin Doran says he believes Catholics who backed repeal of the Eighth committed a sin

Bishop Kevin Doran says he believes Catholics who backed repeal of the Eighth committed a sin when being interviewed on Today with Sean O'Rourke. Audio: RTE Radio 1

 

Catholics who voted Yes in the referendum to repeal the Eighth Amendment should consider going to confession, the Bishop of Elphin Kevin Doran has said.

He said he believed voting Yes was a sin if someone “knew and intended abortion as the outcome” of their vote.

The bishop was speaking on RTÉ’s Today with Sean O’Rourke about Friday’s referendum, which saw 66 per cent of the Republic’s 2.15 million voters backing repeal of the amendment.

Bishop Doran said “every person’s vote has both a moral significance and a political significance”.

While “the Catholic Church is a family and nobody ever gets struck off”, he said “what I’d say to a Catholic who voted Yes is this, if you voted Yes knowing and intending that abortion would be the outcome then you should consider coming to confession”.

He said: “Ultimately all sin, and sin is not just related to this area, but all sin is about decisions that impact on our relationship with God.”

Asked if it was a sin to vote Yes, the bishop relied: “If they knew and intended abortion as the outcome, yes, I believe so.”

When asked if people should receive communion if they had not gone to confession to repent a sin, he said: “That’s a matter for their personal conscience because I can’t see into someone’s heart or soul as they approach the altar.

“In over 40 years as a priest I have never turned anybody away from holy communion because the presumption, as people approach the altar, is that they come in good faith.

“I think ultimately this is about asking people to take personal responsibility for their own relationship with God and their own relationship with the church. But I would be putting down a marker that it isn’t something that you can just take as casual, like it doesn’t make any difference.”

The notion that the church would insist on repentance was not new, Bishop Doran continued. It had been part of the church for 2,000 years. “It is all about the mercy of God and the renewal of the relationship.”

‘Cultural Catholics’

Bishop Doran said social media comment in recent days suggested there were some people who voted Yes in the hope they could negotiate with the Government about “pulling back” on its proposals.

“To be honest, given the kind of celebrations that took place in Dublin Castle the other day about the prospect of abortion, I don’t see that as a likely outcome.”

He added he did not think the result was going to change people’s core values.

There was now a difference between faith - which was personal - and religion, which was communal, he said. For far too long there had been a reliance on the faith model in schools and there wasn’t a tradition of faith formation in dioceses.

He said the result indicated something “a little bit shocking” in Irish society. “There are cultural Catholics and committed Catholics... To be honest, many people would consider themselves Catholics, religion has become somewhat divorced from faith.”

He said “I think perhaps one of the problems we face is that for too long we’ve tended to rely exclusively on a model of faith formation which is addressed to young people in schools, and apart from the Sunday homily there hasn’t been serious faith formation in our parishes.

“That’s something I’ve been trying to address in the diocese of Elphin with the establishment of a core of volunteer trainee catechists specifically for parish work.”

On Sunday, the Catholic primate of all-Ireland Archbishop Eamon Martin said Ireland had “obliterated” the right to life of the unborn, and now stood on the brink of bringing in a liberal abortion regime.

Speaking in Knock in the wake of Saturday’s result, the archbishop said: “We have elevated the right to personal choice above the fundamental right to life itself.”

Saying that he was “surprised” by the scale of the result, Archbishop of Dublin Diarmuid Martin told The Irish Times the church in Ireland was “now moving into a different stage” .

One of the biggest challenges now facing the Catholic Church was how it engages with young people, and whether Catholic-run schools were “delivering for the investment we make in faith development”, he said.