10 QUESTIONS ABOUT THE REFERENDUM

1) Is having an abortion a serious sin?
God alone is the judge, as only He knows the whole story. In particular only God knows the degree of inner freedom of the individual. That said, there is such a thing as serious sin and whilst God alone judges, once we step into the world of abortion we step into the realm of serious sin. This is where we can damage our soul. If this should happen, clearly we are in need of the Sacrament of Reconciliation, to
restore us to proper communion with God. The challenge here is to abhor abortion, but mindful of the compassion of the Lord, to never close the door on anyone.

2) As a priest do you meet people whose life has been affected by abortion?
Yes. Sometimes within the Sacrament of Reconciliation and sometimes conversations that are not sacraments but sacred moments. I have heard about the baby aborted thirty or forty years  ago. Sometimes this is accompanied by crippling regret, sometimes less so with the belief that at the time it was the only option. In most cases there is some level of ‘what if’. There is a range of impact on people involved in the abortion industry including those who lost their job rather than assist in the practice, to those less troubled who wonder about their role and their culpability. Here again the role of the priest is to mediate the gentle soothing mercy of Christ.

3) As a priest how are you qualified to speak about abortion or indeed sexuality?
There is the notion that unless you are a woman, you know nothing about the issue and should stay quiet. This is close to being anti-man whatever about anti-priest or Church. This issue affects us all, though there is a need for men, especially celibate men, to tread sensitively. Prior to my ordination eleven years ago, I knew little about many of these issues, but as a priest I am regularly trusted by people with their deepest joy, and indeed deepest sorrow.

4) Surely the abortion question is essentially about women’s health?
Women’s health has not always been well served in this country, both by State and Church. We continue to fail women when they feel they are alone. We fail women when they feel their only option is abortion. Women’s long term health is not best served by abortion. There is also the health of the baby to be considered.

5) Can you say something about the issue of ‘having to travel’?
Surely the days of having to keep pregnancy a secret are gone? The idea of having to travel is horrible especially if undertaken alone. However, horrible as it is, it is not nearly so horrible as abortion itself. I know that the necessity of travelling has saved lives.

6) Are there aspects of the referendum that give you cause for concern?
I, like most people, want fairness. The enemy of fairness is disrespect. There can be no place for false information, half truths, or lies, now called ‘fake news’. I am worried about wealthy donors, outside the country, with their own political agenda, seeking to influence our democracy. I deplore the removal or defacing of posters by anyone.

7) Can you comment on the wording of the referendum?
Yes. I was shocked when I heard the proposal. I think had the government presented a tighter restrictive proposal many would have been won over. I am dismayed at how far reaching it is. The evidence regarding the development of the child at twelve weeks is indisputable.

8) What about ‘exceptional circumstances’ such as rape or incest?
This referendum is not about these small number of heartbreaking cases. If passed this change in our Constitution will lead to the abortion of healthy babies by healthy mothers.

9) Can Catholics vote for abortion?
Catholics have a duty to inform themselves regarding Church teaching. We must not confuse ‘voting according to our conscience’ with going with the tide of popular opinion.

10) What advice would you give to someone who is unsure as to how to vote?
Pray every day. Do your research. Pray again. If still in doubt err on the side of life.

Next week’s ‘Rumblings’; Darkness Deepens

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