A call for Catholics to go to Confession if they had voted to allow abortion in Ireland last year was an attempt at bringing healing to Irish society, Elphin’s Bishop Kevin Doran has said.
Speaking at the opening Mass of the MaterCare international medical conference in Rome, Bishop Doran told a congregation of health care professionals how three days after last year’s referendum on removing the rights of unborn human beings from Ireland’s constitution he was asked to take part in a radio discussion about the vote.
“Everything in me wanted to tell them to get lost,” he said. “I was sick of all the cheering and flag-waving that had taken place over the weekend. But I felt the need to say something to encourage people.”
Asked on RTÉ’s Today with Seán O’Rourke what he would say to Catholics who had voted yes, Dr Doran related how he had said that if they had done so knowing and intending that abortion would be the outcome, he would invite them to come to confession, where they would be received with compassion.
“Some people were very angry with me. That’s because there is a tendency to think of the Sacrament of Reconciliation as some form of humiliation through which people are required to go,” he said. “On the contrary, for the Church and for me personally, ‘Confession’ (or reconciliation) is a celebration of the mercy of God, which I need and to which I have recourse on a regular basis. I hope that it might also help to bring healing in our society and in our Church. Confession is about humility but it should never be about humiliation,” he said.
Highlighting how true conversion is brought about through mercy rather than condemnation, Dr Doran said that while the Church is obliged to teach the truth, it is vital that it act compassionately.
“As Church we are called to teach the truth, as Jesus did, and as is the responsibility of every mother (and father). We are also charged with the responsibility of reaching out to the ones who are lost, hurt or afraid. The Church teaches best when she reflects the tender love of a mother,” he said.