Ireland has "obliterated" the right to life of the unborn, and now stands on the brink of bringing in a liberal abortion regime, the Catholic primate of all-Ireland, Archbishop Eamon Martin, has declared.
Speaking on Sunday in Knock in the wake of Saturday’s resounding result, the archbishop said: “We have elevated the right to personal choice above the fundamental right to life itself.”
The Armagh-based archbishop was one of a number of Catholic Church leaders to express dismay at the decision of voters on Friday to clear the way for abortion legislation.
He was “deeply saddened that we appear to have obliterated the right to life of all unborn children from our Constitution, and that this country is now on the brink of legislating for a liberal abortion regime”.
He said faithful Catholics could become despondent, but “it remains as important as ever to affirm the sanctity of all human life”, and that the “taking of the life of any innocent human being is always gravely wrong”.
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”.
Speaking after the ordination of four deacons in Maynooth, Archbishop Martin said many would see the result as proof that the church was regarded with "indifference", and had no more than a marginal role to play in society.
However, he said the church must “preach the good news in good times and bad”, and be pro-life “not just in words and statements and manifestos, but to be pro-life in deeds”.
Though he opposed the referendum, Church of Ireland Archbishop of Dublin Michael Jackson hoped for the introduction of a safe system that would "initiate a real and lasting acknowledgement of the unborn in Irish society".
Expressing a “profound sense of sadness”, the leaders of the Presbyterian Church urged politicians “to keep the promise they have made to the electorate to make abortions ‘rare’ in Ireland”.
The Government and the Oireachtas must "ensure that the unborn with disabilities, like Down Syndrome", are not aborted, saying there was "no place for unrestricted abortion in a society that claims to cherish human life".
‘Legal and rare’
Leaders of the Methodist Church said the objective must now be "to reduce the rate of abortions as far as humanly possible, but where they are chosen or unavoidable that they are safe, legal and rare".
The result “places on the Oireachtas the responsibility of providing an opportunity for careful and sensitive legislation for safe, legal and rare terminations of pregnancy”.
The Methodist Church looked forward “to contributing to the consideration of such legislation”. It had always opposed abortion on demand, but recognised “that exceptional cases...may give rise to terminations, and we would wish to see these provided for in the new legislation”.
The Catholic Bishop of Limerick, Dr Brendan Leahy, described the result as "deeply regrettable and chilling for those of us who voted No'." The result was "the will of the majority of the people, though not all the people. It is a vote, of course, that does not change our position."