Trinity Sunday: 27 May 2018, 11:30 AM
Reflections on the Referendum result
Fr. Dermot Lane.
It would be irresponsible of me to stand here this morning without making some tentative comments on the result of the referendum. After all, it is a subject that is on everybody’s mind today and every single newspaper and every radio programme. To ignore this outcome would be to go around like the ostrich with its head in the sand.
The size of the vote in favour of repeal has surprised a lot of people, including politicians, the media, and the church
As we all know, Democracy is about consulting the people and then implementing the will of the people in terms of legislation. The people of Ireland have spoken and there is a responsibility on all of us to respect and implement the will of the people. That’s what democracy is about.
A two thirds majority is a loud message and a clear mandate to government.
In approaching the referendum result, we should bear in mind that some of people who are pro-life and voted ‘no’ were and remain conflicted about this issue,
and equally some of the people who are pro-choice and voted ‘yes’ were also conflicted
In other words, some who voted ‘yes’, voted ‘yes’ reluctantly because they were concerned about the possibility of unrestricted access to abortion up to 12 weeks, but at the same time they were persuaded about the primacy of the health of the mother.
And equally, some who voted ‘no’, voted ‘no’ because of their concern for the rights of the un-born baby, but remained worried about the health of the mother.
I think it is important to recognise that there were and are important values on both sides, on the yes side and on the no side, and that this issue is not a black and white issue.
As many said in the course of the discussions in the last number of weeks,
this issue is highly emotive, potentially divisive, and deeply complex.
We need to take account of the complexity of the issues at stake
It is important for us as a community and as a church not to demonise the other, not to demonise those who differ from us.
A lot of good people, and a lot of good Catholics voted ‘yes’, just as a lot of good people, and a lot good Catholics voted ‘no’.
Both sides spoke eloquently about the importance of care and compassion, and it is important now
that we show care and compassion to each other as we move forward,
that we listen carefully to those who differ from us,
that we learn from those who have spoken so emphatically on the yes side.
The ‘no’ side can learn from the ‘yes’ side, and the ‘yes’ side can learn from the ‘no’ side.
We must show respect for difference,
we must respect the individual consciences of people
we must try to understand those who hold a different point of view,
otherwise we will become intolerant, and polarised, and divided as a people.
There is a significant change taking place in our society. Some have spoken about a quiet revolution in our society.
I wanted to tell you that there is also significant change taking place in our church under the leadership of Pope Francis.
I am thinking of the words of Pope Francis when asked about gay people,
he replied “who am I to judge”.
Further, I am thinking of what Pope Francis wrote in his first apostolic letter,
“Realities are more important than ideas” (The Joy of the Gospel, 231)
By this he means that we must deal with people where they are, with their reality on the ground, and not with people where we think they are, or where we think they should be.
I am also thinking about the outreach of Pope Francis to people who are divorced and remarried, and opening up possibility of admitting them to the Eucharist in certain circumstances.
Pope Francis has described the church as “a field hospital”, that is a place that offers help to people in an emergency
One of the many lessons from the referendum is this :
the church must listen more carefully, more openly, more empathetically to the stories of women in crisis pregnancies and try to understand their situation.
There must be room in our community for people on both sides of the debate,
for those who voted ‘yes’ and for those who voted ‘no’
The outcome of this referendum calls above all for respect on both sides, respect for difference, respect for the consciences of individuals
Equally, there must be mutual listening, mutual compassion and mutual empathy.
Let me conclude, by making a link between what I have been saying here about respecting differences and the doctrine of the Trinity which we celebrate today.
The doctrine of the Trinity is about unity within difference, about an underlying unity within God that exists alongside the differences that exist between the Father and the Son and the Spirit. The Father is not the Son and the Son is not the Spirit, but the mutuality that exists between the Father and the Son and the Spirit gives rise to a profound unity within God.
In the light of the referendum result,
we should aspire to a situation where pro-life people can speak respectfully to pro-choice people, and learn from each other, and vice versa.
If we can do this, then we can move forward constructively with a better health care system for mothers and babies, and a morally more sensitive ethic on the ground, Amen.