Excommunicado!

Let’s rewind a little bit back to November of last year, when Savita Halappanavar died from sepsis because the Irish Catholic hospital she was in refused to terminate her pregnancy because they detected a heartbeat … even though there was no chance for it to survive.  As a result, their adherence to their Catholic principles caused two deaths instead of just one.

Savita Halappanavar (AP Photo/ Julien Behal, PA)

The outcry was both instant and widespread, sparking condemnation from pretty much every corner of the civilized world.  In response, the Irish Parliament convened to basically straighten out the existing laws to make sure institutions like hospitals know what to do in the right circumstances:

Irish legislators are set to vote on a bill proposed by the prime minister’s cabinet that would legalize abortion in case of a threat to the life of the pregnant woman. The Irish government insists the proposed bill will not change the Republic’s laws on abortion, but is meant to clarify the rules on terminating pregnancies. As the Associated Press explains, the Irish constitution bans abortion but Ireland’s Supreme Court ordered in 1992 that the procedure should be legal when the woman’s life is at risk. The news service notes that the contradiction between the Constitution and the Supreme Court decision has left hospitals “reluctant to terminate pregnancies except in the most obviously life-threatening circumstances.”

This contradiction is what helped cause the death of Savita a few months ago.  By codifying the Supreme Court decision to allow life-saving abortions in the constitution, they’re eliminating that issue and (presumably) making two consistent with each other.

Enter the Catholic Church.

The Catholic Church has pointedly left the threat of excommunication hanging over Irish lawmakers who vote against the church’s teachings on abortion in an upcoming parliamentary vote in the country.

[...] In a statement they described the legislation as “a dramatically and morally unacceptable change to Irish law.”

In a separate interview, Cardinal Brady said that “the failure by the Government to allow institutions to opt out of carrying out terminations on conscientious objection grounds amounted to a denial of fundamental religious freedoms and thought.”

Two things came immediately to mind when I read this.

First of all, I understand that excommunication may have been a powerful tool of influence back about 1000 years ago when people still strongly believed in angels, demons, and magic … but the modernization of society has turned what was a spiritual death sentence to something that feels as if it carries the same weight as being un-friended on Facebook.

Second, screw you guys.  Seriously.  Some woman comes into the hospital pregnant with a child she almost certainly wants very much alive, and you think the doctor on call should have the right to refuse service because it goes against his conscience?  If he does such a thing, I suspect he doesn’t have much of a conscience to begin with.  You guys might want to consider the possibility that this kind of anti-life, pro-”message” crap is the reason your influence has waned over the years.

For his part, Prime Minister Enda Kenny basically told the Church to go shit in their funny hats and pull it over their ears:

“Everybody’s entitled to their opinion here, but as explained to the Cardinal and members of the church, my book is the constitution and the constitution is determined by the people,” Kenny added. “That’s the people’s book. We live in a Republic and I have a duty and responsibility as head of Government to legislate in respect of what the people’s wishes are.”

Best of all, he provides an example of how some American lawmakers might want to handle their approach to reconciling their faith with their obligation to uphold the constitution:

When asked specifically about Cardinal Sean Brady’s veiled threat of excommunication for TDs that voted for the legislation, he replied: “Well, I have my own way of speaking to my God and it’s not for me to comment on that.”

You’re my kind of believer, Enda.  Keep it up.

And for a bonus, I found this on Imgur via Reddit.  I don’t know who the creator is, but I thought it provided a nice wrap-up of the situation:

This entry was posted in Freedom from Religion, Religion and Public Life, Society Marches On and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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