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Abortion Referendum Shows Church’s Weakened Position In Ireland, Irish Archbishops Say

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Joshua Gill Religion Reporter
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Ireland’s vote to legalize abortion show the Catholic church’s weakened influence in Irish culture and government, two of Ireland’s archbishops acknowledged Sunday.

The vote showed Ireland’s people had distanced themselves from the Catholic church, which now has a marginal role in Irish society compared to its past influence, Primate of Ireland and Archbishop of Armagh Eamon Martin, and archbishop of Dublin Diarmuid Martin, said, according to The Guardian. While the campaign to legalize abortion largely promoted legalization as an issue of women’s rights, church leaders say the argument over abortion was lost when the church lost credibility in Ireland over sexual abuse scandals. (RELATED: Ireland Votes To Legalize Abortion In What PM Calls A ‘Quiet Revolution’)

“Many will see the results of Friday’s referendum as an indication that the Catholic church in Ireland is regarded today by many with indifference and as having a marginal role in the formation of Irish culture,” the archbishop of Dublin told a congregation on Sunday, according to The Guardian.

Martin said while the vote “deeply saddened” him, he knew the result did “not come out of the blue.” There was an obvious “changed culture” in Ireland and “for some years, we have been aware of a drift away from our congregations,” he added, according to The Guardian.

The “yes” vote was all but inevitable given the abuse scandals that rocked the Irish Catholic church, Father Joe McDonald of St. Matthew’s church in Ballyfermot told The Guardian earlier in 2018.

“That argument [over abortion] was lost a long time ago,” McDonald said.

“The church has completely lost its moral voice as a result of successive scandals. I think the signs of death are wholesale,” he added.

The scandals had indeed played a role in the abortion vote, some Catholic laypeople affirmed.

“I am religious, but the Church has definitely lost influence here because of the scandals,” Annemarie McCarrick, a lecturer, told The Associated Press. “The people will not take direction from the Church anymore. It’s hard for the Church to have credibility.”

In McCarrick’s view, the “yes” vote was intentionally “an anti-Church vote,” she told AP.

Pope Francis and Vatican officials have yet to issue a public reaction to Ireland’s referendum. Francis is expected, however, to visit Ireland in August.

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