The forthcoming Referendum to change the Eight Amendment of the Irish Constitution has brought the issue of abortion into sharp focus. The debate over abortion is complex and polarized. Those who campaign for a more liberal policy on abortion emphasize the right of the mother- her right to choose. Those opposed to changing the current position in relation to abortion emphasize the rights of the unborn child, especially the right to live. Abortion is an incredibly sensitive and emotive issue. It touches upon our identity, relationships and beliefs; things people care about. It goes to the heart of the ideas we hold about what it means to be human, free and equal.
How are we to think straight about the vexed issue of abortion in order to participate in the debate and vote on the matter? John Stott, one of the world’s leading Christian thinkers and formerly rector of All Souls Church in London, reminds us that God has given us four gifts:
His first gift is a mind with which to think. His second gift is the Bible, and its witness to Christ, which helps to direct and control our thinking. God’s third gift is the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of truth, to open up the Bible to us and illume our minds to understand and apply its truths. Fourthly, God has given us the Christian community, the Church as the context in which to do our thinking.
With these four gifts, especially in relation to each other – a mind, a textbook, a teacher and a school – it should be possible for us to develop an increasingly Christian mind to learn and think straight on the issues facing us today, including abortion.
As your bishop, can I ask you to:
- Think straight about this controversial issue of abortion.
- Develop a Christian mind on the issue, informed by the Bible, infused by the Holy Spirit and rooted in the Christian community, the Church.
- Exercise you right to vote in the Referendum.
Having given the matter much thought and prayer, I will be voting not to change the current Constitutional position. I do so because of the Biblical understanding of the value of each human life and Christ’s attitude towards people, particularly the vulnerable and voiceless. Looking around the world, I can see the impact of virtually unrestricted access to abortion on human life and society. I do not wish that on the land I call home, Ireland.