Chaplains' Corner

Ireland is in the grip of spiritual amnesia

The Christian pro-life position is eminently reasonable, argues Fr Dominic McGrattan
September 25, 2020

The passing of the abortion referendum in Ireland two years ago, and now Westminster's 'colonial' imposition of radically liberal abortion laws on Northern Ireland, suggest that we are well down the road of secularisation.

For most northerners, it's a road we'd rather not travel, still less be forced down.

The (il)liberal ruling classes in Britain, much like the south, promote an aggressively secular culture.

They are determined that the north be next, and many of our own politicians are complicit.

Yet the pro-life uprising that took place earlier this month, which saw thousands come onto the streets in peaceful protest, shows that they are out of sync with popular opinion.

A sometimes divided society united around the commonly held view - at least here - that human life is sacred.

Because it is a gift, it is something beyond our right to take away or destroy; not ours to do with as we choose.

It is an eminently reasonable position.

From the Declaration of Independence to Aristotle through Kant, the consensus has been that the human person is of intrinsic value and is possessed of inalienable rights, not least the right to life.

Christians appreciate something more.

The gathering in St Anne's Cathedral in advance of NI Voiceless said as much.

In Jesus, God is as human as we are. He became an embryo, a foetus, a baby, a child. He grew up like us - one of us in every way but sin.

And he loved being human. He reached out beyond himself to his Father, to love us in all our humanness. He held nothing back. He even let us torture and kill him.

In Jesus, God is one of us and he wants us to remember this in order that we understand our own incredible dignity as humans.

That must explain why St Patrick's Church on Donegall Street was thronged with Mass-goers before the March for Life.

For committed Catholics, there is a connection between Eucharist and why they are so vocal in saying 'no' to abortion.

We are not opposed to authentic progress, nor do we lack sensitivity for those who suffer or find themselves in difficult situations.

On the contrary. We welcome developments in scientific research and medical care and we seek sensitive, humane solutions to complex human problems.

Our concern is that these enhance - not compromise or, worse still, destroy - the very basis of human uniqueness and dignity.

Why? Because we know that it is the same flesh and blood of ours that Jesus made his, and that now, transformed by resurrection, we receive in every Eucharist and carry throughout our daily lives into the world.

For committed Catholics, there is a connection between Eucharist and why they are so vocal in saying 'no' to abortion

Proclaiming this truth is not without its challenges.

This is especially so in the case of politicians who advocate policies which are an affront to our humanity, to Jesus' humanity.

What is asked of each of us, especially those in public office who claim to be Catholic or Christian, is what Pope Francis calls "Eucharistic coherence".

"People cannot receive the Eucharist and at the same time act and speak against the commandments," he explains.

When he was Archbishop of Buenos Aires, Francis emphasised the commandments regarding respect for human life from conception through to natural death, and every moment between.

We see the Pope living that teaching in his special care for those on the margins.

There is a continuity in championing the poor, the marginalised and the oppressed, and protecting unborn human life.

For people of faith, these are challenging times.

Ireland seems to be experiencing a kind of spiritual amnesia. Many have forgotten God's presence to them, as one of them.

In the process, they risk forgetting who they truly are - men and women in whom the Spirit of God dwells.

It is to be hoped that we recover our Eucharistic memory, if only for the sake of generations not yet born.

Ireland is in the grip of spiritual amnesia
Fr Dominic McGrattan

Fr Dominic McGrattan is from Portaferry and a priest of Down and Connor Diocese. He studied law and theology in Dublin, Cambridge, Rome and Louvain.  

He previously served as parish curate, hospital chaplain and an associate of the Diocese’s pastoral planning office, Living Church. He currently assists in nearby St Brigid’s Parish.

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