FATHER Brian D’Arcy has said backing the Yes campaign in the Irish abortion referendum was not a sin.
And the Fermanagh priest has insisted the Church has no right to tell people how to vote.
Fr D’Arcy was reacting to Bishop Kevin Doran’s statement that Catholics who voted in favour of repealing the Eight Amendment in Friday’s referendum have committed a sin and should go to confession.
But Fr D’Arcy said the bishop’s language was wrong. “I wouldn’t like to attribute sin in this matter at all,” he added.
Bishop Doran made his comments on RTE Radio One following the referendum which saw the south vote overwhelmingly to repeal the Eighth Amendment.
“If you voted yes knowing and intending that abortion would be the outcome, then you should consider coming to confession, where you would be received with the same compassion that is shown to any other penitent,” the Bishop of Elphin said.
But Fr Brian has rejected this, saying that people must vote conscientiously, whether it was to vote yes or no.
“Whatever your vote was, yes or no, as long as it was conscientiously built up – then following your conscience is what you must do in this case. I wouldn’t like to attribute sin in this matter at all.
“It’s the wrong language for this because this isn’t an issue about Church law at all.
“Each of us is having to struggle to find a way of accepting what is right for yourself, while also allowing what you couldn’t allow for yourself to be allowed for others who might view life and its ethics and morality in a different way.
“That’s very important to accept and encourage, and certainly not condemn.”
The Fermanagh cleric also told the RTE1 Drivetime show that he did not think it is a good idea for the Catholic church to tell people how to vote.
“I don’t think a priest from the altar has the right to tell anyone how to vote. I would feel very insulted if someone told me how to vote. I firmly believe in what the Catholic church teaches about the sacredness of human life from conception to death. I think that is a wonderful positive teaching and should be taught even more strongly now.’
On Friday, voters in the Republic voted to repeal the Eighth Amendment of the Irish Constitution, which banned abortion in all circumstances. The Catholic Church had been supporting a No vote, but the final vote saw a margin of 66.4% voting Yes and 33.6% voting No.
Meanwhile, Enniskillen parish priest Monsignor Peter O’Reilly said he felt a great sadness about the outcome of the referendum
“There are no winners. In my view, everyone loses out, including the medical people who are obliged to do something that ends an innocent life. Given that many couples have difficulty with conception, surely there is a match-up to be made here? Surely every life deserves a chance?”
Lisbellaw parish priest Father Joe McVeigh told the Herald that he agrees with Archbishop Eamon Martin’s assessment that the Catholic teaching is still the same as it was.
“We are now living in a different kind of country, a more liberal, secular type of society but the Catholic Church still has an important contribution to make to all debates, particularly issues of life and human rights, respect for the people.
“I’m in agreement with Archbishop Martin. I think he’s taking a very realistic and a very positive approach to it, without reacting in any kind of hysterical way. Our Pope Francis is very strong on the right to life.”
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