Fighting on 
the right side

Fighting on 
the right side Nathan Fillion as Malcolm Reynolds in Firefly

“May have been the losing side,” says Captain Malcolm Reynolds in the cult sci-fi show Firefly about his part in a recent civil war. “Still not convinced it was the wrong one.”

Over a year on from 2018’s referendum on repealing Ireland’s constitutional protections for unborn human beings, it’s clear that for many of those involved in the campaign to retain those protections, the fight goes on, albeit in new forms. After all, even if Irish law now says abortion is a legitimate choice, that doesn’t mean it’s a good choice.

One of the more creative developments in Ireland’s pro-life movement of late can be found at, a website put together by a group of young people from all over the island of Ireland determined “to facilitate better conversations about abortion and to discuss the reality of abortion in Ireland, promoting policies that could reduce the abortion rate”.

Stressing that theirs is not a political or campaigning organisation, and that those involved do not intended to turn back the clock to the situation before last year’s referendum, the site’s focus is essentially about shedding light rather than heat.

The Viganò letter, and the anti-Francis media effort behind it, was an attempted coup”

“In light of the referendum, it is clear that Ireland is not a pro-life country; many, many people in Ireland are disenchanted with, and unpersuaded by, pro-life arguments,” the site’s authors say.

“We want to understand why so many people feel this way, engage with objections and concerns, and build a culture of respectful dialogue – so even if those we engage with still don’t agree with us fully, they have a better idea of what we believe and why we believe it. We hope that this engagement will change minds and create a space for cooperation with people who don’t agree with us about everything.”


Last year was, of course, a memorable one for Irish Catholics: not merely were our pro-life constitutional and legal protections abolished, but our first papal visit since 1979 was derailed, at least from the point of view of international news, by the reckless ‘testimony’ of Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò who called on Pope Francis to resign.

In a lengthy document, published for maximum impact in the midst of the visit, the onetime papal nuncio to the US claimed Pope Francis had in 2013 lifted sanctions on the then cardinal Theodore McCarrick similar to those he himself later imposed despite there having been no sanctions for him to lift.


He claimed the erstwhile cardinal had been close to Pope Francis, when if anything the opposite had been the case, and claimed too that McCarrick had been rehabilitated under Pope Francis, becoming again a hugely influential figure, despite him having been nothing of the sort.

My own ‘100 questions on the Viganò allegations’, published on a year ago, is still a useful primer on the subject, I hope, although at this stage it’s worth supplementing it with Cardinal Marc Ouellet’s open letter published last October at and the coverage from May of documents supplied by Msgr Anthony Figueiredo, a onetime secretary of McCarrick.

In terms of the affair’s impact, it is worth looking at Massimo Faggioli’s piece ‘The Viganò Letter, one year later’, in which he argues that “the Viganò letter, and the anti-Francis media effort behind it, was an attempted coup, and though it failed, it left deep scars on the body of the US Church”.

If there is anywhere in global Catholicism where a split could happen, he writes, it’s the US.


US politics and media can, of course, have toxic effects on politics and media elsewhere, so the dangers of splits and extremism in the US Church for the wider Catholic community shouldn’t be underestimated. Given how Cardinal Raymond Burke was the very first person to be mentioned in my first ever Webwatch, almost five years ago, it seems ironic, looking at the post ‘What would Fr Hardon say?’ that he has become perhaps the most divisive and confusing figure in our Church today.

The Pope, of course, should always remain the visible point of unity for the Church, and it’s worth keeping a constant eye on to remind us of this.