Bishop's Column

For the honor of Ireland

By Bishop James Conley 

“In the Name of the Most Holy Trinity,” Ireland’s constitution begins, “from Whom is all authority and to Whom, as our final end, all actions both of men and States must be referred.”

The constitution continues, with the Irish people “humbly acknowledging all our obligations to our Divine Lord, Jesus Christ...  And seeking to promote the common good, with due observance of Prudence, Justice and Charity, so that the dignity and freedom of the individual may be assured, true social order attained, the unity of our country restored, and concord established with other nations.”

It is extraordinary that a nation’s constitution should begin as Ireland’s does. And, of course, it is correct. The just action of states and their citizens can only finally be measured against the truth that is known to us, by natural law and supernatural revelation, through the Holy Trinity.

Any real sense of human dignity and freedom, of the common good, of prudence, justice, or charity, must be informed by the truth about the human person that is known to us through God’s grace: namely, the truth that every single person is created in the image and likeness of God.

As a young college student of 20, I had the opportunity to spend a semester abroad studying Irish literature, history and culture, in the west of Ireland, in the city of Galway and on a small island off the coast of Connemara called Inishbofin. I had just converted to the Catholic Church a month before, and so my introduction to the day-to-day practice of my new found Catholic faith was in Ireland. 

It has now been over 40 years since I spent those four delightful months in Ireland, but I still remember vividly the strong faith of the Irish people and how Catholicism ran deep in the Irish soil and soul.  I owe so much to the Irish people for nurturing me in my Catholic faith. And we, as a country, owe so much to the Catholic Church in Ireland for bringing that same faith to these shores. 

And so, it is quite remarkable that in the 21st century, Ireland’s constitution continues to acknowledge the truth about God, as well as the dignity and sanctity of the human person created in God’s image. It is a tribute to the centuries of Ireland’s faithful discipleship, to the real and tangible Catholicity embedded in the nation’s culture.

This is the reason why Ireland’s constitution begins by invoking the Trinity and ends with the words: “Dochum Glóire Dé agus Onóra na hÉireann” — “For the glory of God, and the Honor of Ireland.”
Ireland’s constitution pledges the Irish people to glorifying God.

Of course, like many parts of the world, Ireland has become an increasingly secular nation in recent decades. There are many reasons for this, and some of them, sadly, are the responsibility of Church leaders who failed to give authentic and faithful witness to the Gospel. Nevertheless, one can hardly understand Ireland without understanding the way the Catholic faith has forged Irish culture and identity: and, especially, without understanding the way that the Catholic faith has long given the Irish people an acute and attentive sense of human dignity, human rights, and justice.

The Irish people fought for their independence, over centuries, because of what the Gospel taught them about the dignity of every human life.

This is why is it is so discouraging that Ireland is considering a referendum that will liberalize its abortion laws, making abortion-on-demand a reality in a nation forged by a commitment to human dignity and a Catholic sense of real justice. The Irish people will vote May 25 on a referendum that could repeal their constitution’s 8th Amendment, making abortion permissible. The referendum seems likely to pass.

I pray that the Irish people might remember that the Gospel which taught them that they should be free, which taught them their own dignity, also teaches the dignity of women, and the dignity of the unborn. I pray that the Irish will see that abortion wounds women and takes the lives of their nation’s own children, thus robbing them of their future. I hope they will remember that abortion is the worst kind of injustice, the worst kind of war of the powerful against the weak, the worst kind of subjugation and oppression.

I pray that the people of Ireland will see that the legalization of abortion in countries around the world has not made women free. That abortion has only caused more violence, more ruin, and more despair. I pray that the Irish will protect mothers and children from that violence. I pray that the Irish people will choose life.

All of us can pray for that intention. In fact, I invite each one of you to join me in prayer for the people of Ireland, as they prepare for their monumental referendum May 25. Together, let us pray that the Irish people will choose life: For the glory of God, and the honor of Ireland — Dochum Glóire Dé agus Onóra na hÉireann.

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