Pope should make a pastoral visit

Dear Editor, I note hopes are rising for a State visit to Ireland by Pope Francis in the near future. This is an extension from an invitation to the Pope to address the Seanad, issued by Senator David Norris. The excited quotations from several serving Fine Gael Oireachtas members in the article speak for themselves.

Consider what has happened since the 2011 General Election. Enda Kenny made his infamous speech on the Vatican, which he has been challenged to substantiate but never did. Legislation has compromised the integrity of the seal of the confessional. The Irish Embassy to the Holy See was shut for what we were told was economic reasons, only to be re-opened after a long, hard campaign. War was waged against Catholic education since the election, as efforts have increased to keep Defence Force personnel from participating in religious services. A referendum on same-sex marriage is promised. But above all else, abortion is on the statute books following the enactment of the so-called Protection of Human Life in Pregnancy Act.

It may be argued that a State visit by the Pope would counter this sort of thing. Analyse this carefully. Before legislation was enacted in favour of abortion, some reports strongly suggested any Catholic legislator voting to legalise abortion could be excommunicated. This is not clear under canon law, but even if it were it could be strongly argued that sanctioning legislators would be counter-productive. A State visit by a reigning Pope is the opposite to this: it enables the legislators who knowingly defied Catholic teaching on abortion (as if there wasn’t a myriad of other reasons to  oppose the same) to parade themselves as being in good standing with the Pope, when their status as Catholics is a lot more ambiguous. It also represents a kick for those politicians who stood by their consciences in respect of abortion, in many cases at great personal cost. 

In the circumstances, we are better to welcome the Pope on a purely pastoral visit with minimal interaction with secular authorities. A State visit should not happen unless some attempt is made to formally honour those who made great sacrifices and took great risks in defence of innocent human life.

Yours etc.,

Peadar Laighléis,


Co. Meath.