Catholics ask what’s next for Irish Church

What happened?

The two-thirds majority vote to introduce abortion left many commentators contemplating the “death” of Catholic Ireland. Archbishop Diarmuid Martin of Dublin lamented the Church’s past failures, saying that institutions that failed the poor had “betrayed” Christ. “The caring Church must rather be a beacon of what care and love for the poor demand,” he said, adding that the Church must be “countercultural” in drawing people beyond the “confines of contemporary culture”.

What Catholic writers are saying

Catherine Pepinster, writing for the Guardian, said the Church had to find a “way of existing in newly secular societies” – and cited the Catholic Church in England and Wales as a model. “Officials in Rome have told me they are fascinated by the example of Britain, where the Church has learned to negotiate secular parameters,” she wrote. She pointed to the “empathetic tone” of Cardinal Vincent Nichols’s statement following the referendum, in which he spoke of the necessity of supporting women “trapped in difficult and painful circumstances”.

“Lack of such an empathetic tone has lost the Church support elsewhere in secular Europe,” she added. “Now it has to take the imaginative leap to find it.”

KV Turley, writing for Catholic World Report, said the referendum, far from being the death of Catholic Ireland, was more like its burial, as it was one in a long line of public defeats for the Church.

Other things that did die that day, he said, were a respect for life – as people publicly celebrated the prospect of unborn deaths – and a “robust political discourse”. The establishment and media were wholly liberal on issues such as abortion. “It is clear that Ireland does not have the political or media outlets to oppose the liberal agenda,” Turley wrote.

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