Bishop Fintan Monahan was surprised, dismayed and disappointed with the result of the referendum on the Eighth Amendment.
Speaking to The Clare Echo, he recalls his initial shock upon hearing the exit polls first released from The Irish Times and RTÉ on Friday night. “I was very surprised at the extent of the yes vote, I thought it was going to be much much closer, the opinion polls were showing that there was forty or something percent yes but there was a lot of undecided’s and I would have thought that a lot of the undecided’s would have been no votes so I was very surprised when the vast majority of them were yes”.
“Everybody on the no side would feel that it’s a step back for the rights of the unborn child, it’s a tragedy really because our belief would be that thousands of lives were saved by the existence of the Eighth Amendment in the constitution which protected I think the lives of so many unborn babies, that’s the point I’m coming from, it’s a sense of disappointment, of dismay”.
His personal views aside, Bishop Monahan fully accepts the outcome. “This is the result the will of the people and in the long term the church will continue to be pro life and the people that voted no will continue to fight for the pro life cause and to have a sense of pastoral care for both mother and babies and to encourage people to take other options and in the case of a crisis pregnancy that you eliminate the crisis and not so much the pregnancy”.
Donegal was the only constituency to vote no and the overall result is one that “profoundly” worries the Church. “It is one of the most basic tenants of our faith that we protect life and I suppose from the basic commandment ‘thou shall not kill’ it would be of huge concern. The church and the no campaign would have done their best to fight that cause and will continue to do so, the church has to be pro life not only in this area but also in the area of fighting against violence, protecting elderly people in case of euthanasia, protecting special needs people, protecting the vulnerable, it’s what we’re about as a church, the fundamental message care for the underdog those that are vulnerable and weak in society if there isn’t a voice for that we aren’t representing anything”.
Earlier this week, Bishop of Elphin Kevin Doran when speaking on Today with Sean O’Rourke stated that those who voted yes sinned and “should consider coming to confession”. Also in Dublin, there were reports of priests telling their congregations that they could not receive the Eucharist if they voted yes. However the Bishop of Killaloe maintains the emphasis will be on encouragement not discouragement in this diocese.
“I don’t believe it’s helpful to be focusing on that, to put our energies into the positive aspect of being pro life whatever we can to redouble our pastoral efforts as a church to ensure the best protection for mother and child is there rather than focusing on the negative recriminations at this stage”.
He continued, “As a church we’ve declining numbers and we don’t want to alienate people even further by even getting rid of the few we have or discouraging the few that we have, my approach would be that of encouragement rather than condemnation while at the same time and we would have done this in the process of the referendum trying to put our best forward and our message as strongly as we could, just to take the carrot rather than the stick approach to things”.