CATHOLIC NEWS OF THE WEEK . Saturday, 15 September 2018

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Irish referendum and the Church basics

Catholic Ireland is shaking up the Church again! It did so in 2015 when it became the first country to legalise gay marriage by popular vote. It has done it again with another referendum, this time on abortion on 25 May. The issue at hand was the repealing of the Eighth Amendment to the Irish Constitution, which protects the unborn with due regard to the equal right to life of the mother. 
 
Should we be concerened about this Irish referendum? Yes indeed, we should. The abortion referendum and the 2015 plebiscite on same-sex marriage are indications of a shift in social attitudes in a country which professed the Catholic faith. Ireland is an indicator for the changing mindset of the rest of the world. 
 
Indeed social values are changing and Hong Kong is no exeption. A legislation on same-sex-marriage is looming and the Yes-sayers are on the rise. In the case of abortion, medical practioners themselves are the first to advise an abortion if they fear any anomalies in the growth of a foetus. There are many, even in the Church, who regard aborting an unwanted pregnancy as no more than treating a physical illness.
 
One wonders what the Catholic response should be to these changing values and priorities? Should the Church change too according to the changing values of the world, as many would suggest today? However, there is also a danger of setting aside every other principle of social justice and in turn becoming fixated on being Pro-life. Pope 
 
Francis in his latest apostolic exhortation Gaudete et Exsultate (Rejoice and be Glad) on ‘How to be holy’ referred to this tendency among Catholic groups in some affluent counties, who passionately oppose abortion while at the same time resisting legislation to help immigrants.
 
Gospel values have never been the values of the majority. What makes the Church different from the rest is the prophetic mission to be that differing voice. The Church could lose its popularity, but let our “yes be yes and no be no!” We need a Church that is relevant more than it is dominant. We need a Church that looks beyond numbers to larger questions. Finding cconfirmity with the world is simply not the Church way! 
 
Gaudete et Exsultate places both protection of the unborn and the fight for social justice on equal footing. “Our defence of the innocent unborn, for example, needs to be clear, firm and passionate, for at stake is the dignity of a human life, which is always sacred and demands love for each person, regardless of his or her stage of development,” the pope writes. 
 
“Equally sacred, however, are the lives of the poor” said the pope, “those already born, the destitute, the abandoned and the underprivileged, the vulnerable infirm and elderly exposed to covert euthanasia, the victims of human trafficking, new forms of slavery and every form of rejection.” 
 
Being pro-life must enable us to walk alongside those whose lives are threatened by violence, and who cannot live life to the full because of economic deprivation, homelessness and marginalisation. It becomes hypocritical for a Christian to cry for the cause of the unborn but at the same time ignore the cries of those already living. jose