Pope Francis and the abortion referendum


Sir, – Dr Catherine McCann’s article “Pope Francis’s non-judgmental style influenced abortion Yes vote” (Rite & Reason, July 18th) made valid points such as the importance of lay members of the Catholic Church educating themselves “along Vatican II lines”, and the influence of Pope Francis in stressing compassion and a “non-judgmental approach”.

However, suggesting that Pope Francis’s non-judgmental style influenced an abortion Yes vote in our referendum is a step too far.

The church’s social teaching on the dignity of all life is clear, and so too are Pope Francis’s teachings on the right to life of the unborn child.

What Pope Francis does stress is that despite these ideals demanded by the “faith”, no matter who you are or what you have done, you should always experience compassion and love from within the church. – Yours, etc,



Dublin 16.

Sir, – It is hard to see how the relatively high percentage of practising Catholics who voted for repeal in May’s referendum can be attributed to Pope Francis’s non-judgmental approach to the situations of individual people.

In common with his predecessors, Pope Francis has (as Catherine McCann must surely know) condemned abortion again and again; most recently he compared abortions to the eugenicist policies of the Nazis. The author of this column, by contrast, ascribes the recent Yes vote to a sense of compassion and describes abortion as “appropriate healthcare” ( a euphemism if ever there was one).

Catherine McCann refers to what she believes to be the influence on her thinking of the Second Vatican Council. Perhaps she should consult one of that council’s documents, Gaudium et Spes, which describes both abortion and infanticide as “unspeakable crimes”.

An individual truly influenced by the Second Vatican Council’s teaching would not (unlike Catherine McCann) have found herself swinging from one side to the other before the referendum.

She writes also of Archbishop Diarmuid Martin’s apology during the Mount Merrion affair. But that apology referred only to the failure of a priest to attend on the Saturday evening in question; no apology was made – nor should any be made – for Archbishop Martin’s criticisms of Josepha Madigan’s remarks on the ordination of women.

Catherine McCann concludes by hoping that that in future abortions will be safe, legal and rare.

This oft-quoted phrase deserves comment. No abortion can ever be safe for the unborn child; and where abortions are legal they tend – as the experience of many developed countries shows – not to be rare. Nearly 200,000 abortions each year in Britain and over 200,000 annually in France cannot be termed rare.

Progressive Catholics, as I suppose Catherine McCann believes herself to be, often state or at least imply that they belong to the thinking end of the church. Columns such as this one suggest that the truth is the reverse. – Yours, etc,