Amendment 8 to Article 40 of the Irish Constitution reads as follows:
The State acknowledges the right to life of the unborn and, with due regard to the equal right to life of the mother, guarantees in its laws to respect, and, as far as practicable, by its laws to defend and vindicate that right.
Approved by more than two-thirds of Irish voters in a September 1983 referendum, it precludes abortion except in cases where the mother’s life is at risk. It was, and remains, a unique repudiation of “progressive” social policy as defined by leaders of the European Union.
From the start, Amendment 8 has been targeted by abortion-rights activists both in Ireland and abroad because it explicitly recognizes the humanity of the unborn child. In other words, to legitimize abortion, the law must first dehumanize the child developing in the womb. The only way to sell this kind of legalized homicide to the Irish public has been to control and deform the language of the debate.
Thus pro-life organizations have faced an uphill battle for years in defending Amendment 8 in a misleading and heavily biased media environment.
On May 25, a national referendum will be held determining whether to repeal Amendment 8. Irish pro-life groups have been going door to door in Ireland for months urging citizens to choose life by voting “no” on the repeal effort. An interview with Irish pro-life spokesperson Cora Sherlock by Fordham theologian Charles Camosy last November gives a basic outline of the Amendment 8 political struggle. Additional information can be found at the Prolife Campaign Ireland and Love Both Project sites.
But why should any of this matter to an American audience? The answer to that question comes in an email I received from a married couple with children earlier this week. I’ve removed their names to respect their privacy, but the message is unchanged:
Dear Archbishop Chaput,
Please accept this note as an appeal for prayer against the impending vote to legalize abortion in Ireland.
Forty million Americans claim Irish ancestry. Ireland spread the faith widely in America with Catholic immigrants. For generations, Irish missionary priests and nuns cultivated the Catholic faith in the United States. How are we repaying Ireland? Today, America is backing the repeal of Ireland’s Amendment 8 through the support of U.S. abortion groups and wealthy donors. See https://repeal.blog/.
The date is looming: Ireland will vote on May 25. For 1500 years, since St. Patrick brought the faith to Ireland, her people have defended the sanctity of human life. Ireland is the only major European country that still prohibits abortion.
Bishop Kevin Doran of [the Diocese of Elphin] Ireland stated that, “I am convinced that if we concede any ground on abortion, the very same arguments which are now being used to justify abortion will be used to justify ending the lives of elderly people and people with disabilities. This is the final frontier. If we cross it, there will be no easy way back.” Lifehouse Ireland reported, “This could be Ireland’s Roe vs. Wade. Where is the outrage in the Irish and American media? Nowhere to be found.”
St. Patrick, St. Brigid, and all Irish saints, protect Ireland from the culture of death.
In his great 1967 encyclical Populorum Progressio (“The Development of Peoples”), Blessed Paul VI reminded us that no genuine progress can take place without respecting the spiritual dimension and God-given dignity of the human person. In killing an unborn child, abortion violates human dignity in a uniquely obscene and intimate way.
Ireland has always had the wisdom to reject the kind of social “progress” that depends on the shedding of innocent blood and the destruction of new life. Now that nation’s conscience hangs in the balance. Today, pro-life efforts in Ireland urgently need our support.
This week and throughout the coming days, I ask our clergy and laypeople across the Archdiocese of Philadelphia — many of them descendants of our city’s Irish immigrants — to pray for Ireland and especially for the defense of Amendment 8.
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