The Irish Times reported 12 August that Coadjutor Archbishop Eamon Martin of Armagh has asked “why shouldn’t a Catholic politician, or lawyer, or teacher, or person of any profession for that matter, be able to confidently and unapologetically express their sincerely held faith-based arguments in the public square without fear of ridicule or being branded a bigot or against freedom?”He said, “Surely the mark of a truly pluralist society is one which will allow people of all faiths and none to express and act upon their conscientiously held views, particularly on a matter as critical as the upholding of all human life.”
Archbishop Martin, who will succeed Cardinal Seán Brady as Catholic Primate of All Ireland, was delivering the annual St Oliver Plunkett address in west Belfast last night as part of Féile an Phobail celebrations there.
He said “the recent debate surrounding the introduction of abortion legislation in the South has illustrated how much our message is becoming increasingly counter-cultural”.
He noted that “strong arguments indeed” were presented by the church but that “some were on the attack immediately pointing to the child abuse scandals and the church’s abysmal record of protecting the lives of children in the past, as if that means we should not attempt to speak up for the protection of the most innocent human life in the present”.
Others had pointed out “that the bishops being a group of aging celibate men have no right to interfere with a woman’s right to choose what she wants to do with her body”. And there were the arguments, “made by several senior politicians that, whilst bishops are entitled to their views, they as politicians have to legislate for all the people, for the public good”.
‘Faith outside the door ’
This “implied that somehow access to abortion is for the public good, but even more significantly, that politicians themselves, even if they be practising Catholics, must leave their faith outside the door when they are entering the legislative chamber”.
He felt “it would hugely impoverish our faith if we were to compartmentalise it or exclude it completely from our conversations and actions in the public square. But I believe that it would also impoverish society if the fundamental convictions of faith were not permitted to influence public debate.”
Where the North was concerned, he said, “We are only ‘tiptoeing’ towards a shared and reconciled future . . . We all have a responsibility to help avoid a relapse into violence, especially in the most deprived areas across our communities where residents feel they have won little from the peace.”
More generally, “We know that many people feel they can no longer trust our message because they have been hurt and betrayed by their experience of church in the past.”
He said “I do not think that the dark cloud of abuse shall lift easily, but perhaps that is how it should be – given that many of those whose trust was so cruelly betrayed shall carry their hurt to their graves . . . The least we can do is never to forget.”