Faced with excommunication threat, Irish PM explains separation of church and state to Cardinal

The Catholic Church threatened to excommunicate Irish Prime Minister Enda Kenny if he held a scheduled vote on Ireland's new abortion law. He responded:

Everybody’s entitled to their opinion here but as explained to the Cardinal and members of the church my book is the constitution and the constitution is determined by the people. That’s the people’s book. We live in a Republic and I have a duty and responsibility as head of Government to legislate in respect of what the people’s wishes are.

Redditor bleacliath created a great graphic for this quote and posted it to /r/atheism.

Politicians ‘have responsibility’ to legislate on abortion issue


  1. I’m impressed that he managed to bring both tact and a spine to that statement. I can pretty much only think of people who would have delivered one or the other but not both…

    1.  it will be the first time he has brought tact or spine to anything in his career so far.

      if ‘the constitution is determined by the people’ then why after two referendums, Twenty One years and one death has he still not taken action on abortion.

      gobshite of the highest order, plutocrat, oligarch, and not deserving of a single inch of space on this good site.

      please read http://www.choiceireland.org/ if you want to know more, or you think you may need to increase your blood-pressure.

      1.  100% correct.

        A woman had to die in agony for this government to be forced to enact legislation they’ve been studiously avoiding for decades.

        The new bill is explicitly limiting abortion to cases where a woman’s life, and NOT health, is in danger. In cases of suicide risk (such a case was the cause of the original court order, in the 90s, to enact legislation) a dangerously combatative process is in place where this risk must be “proven”. It is the least change the government can possibly make.

        Kenny’s own party includes Michelle “Abortion is always a result of fornication” Mulherrin and Peter “Sure we’re all going to die anyway” Matthews, as well as lots of other pro-lifers who have been vociferously opposing this legislation and have not been subject to the party whip in any shape or form. It is a centre-right party, founded on admiration for fascism. Fine Gael at one stage marched as Blueshirts, and it’s founder described himself as the “third most important man in Europe, after Hitler and Mussolini”

        Fianna Fail and Fine Gael, our two main parties, are cowards to the catholic vote.

        Kenny’s modus operandi in relation to anything which might upset Charlie Church is to do nothing for as long as possible and then to showboat like some sort of radical secularist when there’s an open goal or when public opinion forces his hand.

        I’m an atheist and a secularist and I’m Irish and I loathe and despise Enda Kenny.

        1. ‘A woman had to die in agony…’

          Would you please provide a cite?  I’m fond of your island, but don’t follow it closely in the news.

          1. I thought it would be helpful to have the key words (and a name) cited at the beginning of  the comments section, so we would know what news story was being referenced.  I tried copying and pasting twice, but those pages simply would not stick.

          2. The coroner’s inquest found that she died from ‘medical misadventure’ – she acquired sepsis and the level of management of her care was appalling. Blood tests were not reviewed and appropriate action not taken early enough. Whether any action would have saved her is questionable, as she had acquired an antibiotic-resistant ESBL strain of e.coli. 

            The Irish times’ reporting was almost as bad but they have not been known to let the facts get in the way of their agenda for quite some time, now.

            But if you want to persist in the delusion that it was lack of an abortion that led to this tragedy, there is little that can be done to stop you. 

            I’m sure you will find any changes in Ireland’s abortion law to be a huge comfort if you acquire an antibiotic resistant infection and are left to rot by careless ‘professionals’ verging on incompetent, as she was.

          3. Do a search for Savita Halapannavar. She died late last year from complications due to a non-viable pregnancy. basically the foetus was brain dead, but because there was still a heartbeat she was refused an abortion. she then contracted septicemia, which may well have been avoided if she had been allowed the abortion.

            allegedly she was told that she wouldn’t be given one because Ireland is a catholic country.

          4. ‘allegedly she was told that she wouldn’t be given one because Ireland is a catholic country.’

            the ‘allegedly’ is redundant, the nurse went on court record and said that she said it. 

          5.  http://www.cbc.ca/news/world/story/2012/11/14/ireland-abortion-death.html
            But you could have done it yourself. 
            Ireland, woman, dies, abortion.

          6. Did you miss where I said I did Google the story and tried to copy and paste, but for some reason my computer couldn’t/wouldn’t paste?

            I grew impatient to see a dead woman referenced in the comments in support of their point or arguement, but without bothering to offer her name.  She was a human being, now she’s just a political tool and a tragedy.

      2.  Not quite the first time.

        I’m not trying to put the man or my country on a pedestal. Progress moves slower some places.

        As for ‘the constitution is determined by the people’, I suspect that the will of the people of Ireland might not be the one you wish. Even still I’d like to see it tested by a referendum one with some courage this time.

        1. its been tested by referendum twice, the result has been ignored twice.

          theirs a certain comic genius in Irish democracy  if they set a referendum and we get the answer wrong, they just set it again until we get it right.

          1. Well there still hasn’t been a straight forward referendum that I know of. I’ve been living abroad so the last one I voted in was the 2002 amendment , I honestly can’t remember which ‘maybe’ I voted for, I hope it was the right one.

  2. Unfortunately although The Republic of Ireland doesn’t have an official state religion, and does have protected freedom of religion, they also don’t have a formal separation of Church and State. The Catholic Church has traditionally been, and still is to a certain degree very influential and involved in the government and law. There’s been an increasing push toward introducing a strict separation over the last decade or so. 

  3. What happens when you get excommunicated? Do they give you a little lapel pin to wear around? Or like a special license plate holder?

    1. You can’t take communion and you don’t get last rites (it’s called the anointing of the sick now) and you can’t get a catholic burial. My dad, for example, had not really been to a catholic church in probably 40 years, except for his parents funeral, and despite this, he was able to get a priest to come out to let him give confession a few weeks ago before he died and he had a funeral mass last week (after he died, of course).

      If you’re catholic that stuff matters to you and getting excommunicated means you have no access to it and I think  you either go to limbo or hell, I can’t remember. If you aren’t catholic or no longer want to practice the faith, it’s a meaningless gesture.

      I’d like to see a special license plate holder “I’ve been excommunicated! Ask me how, today!”

      1. I find it sad that /r/atheism is gloating over this, because I see no reason to think Kenny is an atheist. In fact, he’s probably Catholic, and might be quite devout. But he believes that as Prime Minister his first duty is to the Constitution. Reminds me a lot of John F Kennedy.

        1.  They aren’t “gloating” over it. “Gloating” implies maliciousness. They are simply commending a strong political statement that places personal freedom above religious bias, something that means a lot to atheists.

          1. I know I do.  But unlike me, atheists are rational creatures who do not experience such base emotions.

          2.  Fine, I’ll rephrase that.  Posting the above image and quote on an atheist message board is not in itself gloating.

            And Boundegar, I dont know why I cant reply to that last comment, but please refrain from putting very douchey words in other peoples mouths, it really spoils a proper argument.

          3.  See, let’s not do that. I’ve known some atheists who are kind of jerks and wear their atheism as a badge of “I’m smarter than you” nonsense. But I don’t think it’s their atheism that makes them jerks… it’s their jerkiness that does that.

        2. Why would Kenny need to be an atheist for the atheists to be pleased?

          Kenny’s choice of mythologies is his business, and it’s not like Dr. Dawkins is offering a free toaster for every 10 faiths shattered. His refusal to enforce one person’s mythology as a nation’s law, though, is everyone’s business, and a win for secular governance, which atheists tend to be in  distinct favor of.

          1. Because purity of essence. @boingboing-e2c5182d1b95fa116e841650b6b426cc:disqus is indulging in extremism.

          2. Well put.  I think I was trying to draw the distinction between secularism and atheism, but you explained it better.  Fundamentalists of every stripe seem to miss that point. Also, I am an extremist.

        3.  I’m an atheist and truth be told, I have no real reason to want to eliminate religion from the face of the earth, like at least some atheist want to see happen… after all the secular world and science have just has much to answer for historically as religious infrastructures have had (and continue to have). Power structures, where there is no real accountability to “the people” (whatever the hell that is…?), often breed corruption. It’s a fact of bureaucracies and institutions. I live in a world where the vast majority of people do not hold my world view. Fine. I accept that and move on. In fact, I generally like to try and understand others world views, because he helps me to more fully articulate my own.

          Also, I don’t see why people think that Catholics are any less prone to having a higher power over them and can not and have not historically either gone around the power structure of the church, ignoring it or embracing it as made sense… I know this might surprise some non-Catholics (this is not aimed at you Boundegar, but just in general), but Catholics are people too. The notion that Catholics are a bunch of brain washed sheeple (or for that matter Muslims, or even other Christians) is a notion I’ve always found absurd on it’s face.  I don’t think this is a particularly big break through for Kenny, as the Irish PM. This might come as a shock, but the Irish have always been a bit head strong.  I mean the English used the whole “Papist” thing as an excuse to colonize Ireland.

          I don’t know.. sorry. I’m sort of meandering now. Yay for secularism! There, how is that.

          1. I agree with your enormous wall of text.  For the record, I am not Catholic, but I am mainstream Protestant, which to some is exactly the same thing. Also quite fond of the First Amendment (though I don’t think Ireland has that.)

          2. In Ireland, we don’t have the first amendment to the US constitution, because the US constitution is somewhat irrelevant to us.

          3. The Catholic church I was raised in as a kid was very explicit in its dismissal of blind orthodoxy and encouragement of criticism and questioning. Its rhetoric was all very “in the spirit of Vatican II, etc. etc,” the sermons were about ethics rather than mythical metaphysical punishments, and the clergy and lay-ministers campaigned for reform re: women in church leadership and priesthood, etc. Our awesome (female) youth/lay-minister used to go protest GWB downtown. When they kept the party line on something like abortion (it WAS a Catholic church, after all), they were clear to present it as one component of a larger “pro-life” position that also condemned capital punishment and war, and which didn’t lend itself to encouraging conservative American politics.

            Growing up in Sunday school, it was always emphasized that “the church” meant “the people” not “the building” or “the institution.” People came first. And the larger institution was recognized as one run by humans, which could be in error, and whose errors the people were responsible, as faithful Catholics, to call out and correct.

            I certainly don’t think that place was the norm (my experience with other churches since then has largely confirmed that), but it certainly indicates that, as you say, Catholicism is not an especially homogenous institution.

        4. I’m delighted that you must pretend to not understand why atheists would applaud anyone who stands up for secular government.

        5. I find it sad that /r/atheism is gloating over this

          Church:  You’re going to spend eternity on fire because you won’t let us dictate the laws of your country.
          PM:  Sorry.  No.

          Clearly the problem here is gloating atheists.

          1. They’re just so uppity about imposing their views on everyone, it’s pretty disgusting…

          2.  Who? Atheists? Or Catholics? I’ve found this to be a general problem with human beings in general… not all, but I’ve found this problem in all variety of groups of people. Something about groups of people that makes some of those groups assholes.

          3. I was attempting sarcasm by suggesting that the atheists were somehow the offending party.

            The theory was to highlight the(striking) power of the status quo in defining who is  ‘imposing’ and who isn’t. Entrenched power? That’s just the way the world works, nothing to see here. Non incumbent group wants the incumbents off their backs? OMG! Special Rights! Values under attack!

            The phenomenon doesn’t seem to be particularly religion-specific: pretty much any authority structure that is entrenched for long enough eventually acquires a wholly unselfconscious sense of being normative, and reacts with genuine outrage at any attempt to even attenuate its control over other areas of society.

          4. I know, right?  If we look to who is really causing all the problems, it’s those disruptive athiests!  Everything was fine before they started making trouble. (And they’re so smug, too…)  (And those billboards!) (If you don’t believe in god, you can just rape and murder; do they even consider how dangerous their philosophy is?)

          5.  I do believe I must steal that and put it in my file of pics and gifs to send when I’m too tired to make a proper argument…

        6.  Render unto Caesar….  Why is that sad?  I don’t see any gloating going on. 

          1. Arguably, if any Irish currency has pictures of Caesar on it, the Irish political class has been lying down on the job in an entirely different way…

        7. … he’s been threatened with excommunication but you say he’s “probably Catholic”? ;) They don’t excommunicate non-Catholics :)

        8. Enda Kenny is indeed a catholic. He’s also the head of a centre-right party who’s used the financial crisis as an excuse to gut programs he traditionally hates, saddle the country with billions of euro in debt that we had no legal requirement to repay, and patronise everyone he encounters.

          His party are pro-life, and the only reason they’re legislating for abortion is because they’re in a coalition with a left-wing party who ran with it on their platform, said coalition has been on rocky ground, and there’s been increasing pressure from the pro-choice movement since Savita Halapannavar’s tragic death.

          The legislation we’re getting this year is the result of a supreme court judgement 20 years ago that every successive government in Ireland has failed to act on, and the current proposed legislation is pretty horrible.

          Current Irish law states that abortions can be performed only if the mother’s life is in danger, but does not define a that to her life (this grey area directly lead to Savita’s death), the planed legislation defines that, and means a woman who would rather kill herself must convince a psychiatric panel of three doctors that she is genuine. Kenny wanted the panel to be six doctors.

          Make no mistake, Enda Kenny is pro-life, this legislation is not legalising abortion in Ireland, and twelve Irish women will still be travelling to the UK each day to terminate their pregnancies.

          1.  Everyone should read the above post, any amount of praise for this gobshite Kenny ruins my day.

            ‘and twelve Irish women will still be travelling to the UK each day to terminate their pregnancies.’

            *and* that is a legal grey area, – read up on the X case, if you want to be angry.

          2. How about Eamon Gilmore? He got some credit for this, but what’s he like generally? I guess he’s the leader of the left wing party who are pro-choice?

          1. Gilmore has basically backed Kenny in a number of moves that have literally ruined the lives of every Irish person for two generations. He sold his voter base out repeatedly, and this is too little, too late.

      2. How do they check? You can walk into a church on any given Sunday and take communion without having to show ID. I’m pretty sure you could find a priest to give you last rites too.

        1. Receiving communion or extreme unction under false pretenses doesn’t count.

          1.  That’s right. the point is that God knows what you are doing, priests and others who can give communion are falliable, but even if you are receiving communion under false pretences it doesn’t count and neither does giving confession and all that.

            I mean to buy this stuff, you have to buy into the belief system. If you do, then it matters to you. If not, than it doesn’t.

          2. But if they can be fallible in administering sacraments, they can be fallible in excommunicating you too.

          3. The scary thing (from the POV of the decedent’s immortal soul) is, even if the extreme unction is proper and not under false pretenses, the  rite can fail to be validated by a higher power if the priest fails to file a RCC-1299/A form at the diocese, in triplicate.

          4. Not only does God know, but you know. Being a religious impostor never did anybody any good. It’s not like you’re going to unearth the Secret Doctrine.

          5.  No I think he’s right. It would be nullified by the ex-Catholic not upholding the faith in the first place, so it would not absolve the sins the way it’s meant to.

        2. I’m not at catholicology expert; but my understanding from those of the Romish persuasion is that getting theological efficacy out of taking communion or the administration of last rites requires having your membership and confessional status in good order. It’s easy enough to obtain the material and ritual components; but also pointless because they won’t have any spiritual effect.

          (Though, incidentally, the same people tell me that excommunication is supposed to be just the official recognition of the state of estrangement that the individual places themselves in, through their own actions, rather than a state that church functionaries can place you in, as it is fairly transparently treated by said church functionaries.)

          1.  Excommunication was more important when the Catholic church wielded more political clout. Henry VIII of England was excommunicated over a spat he had with the church about divorcing Catherine of Aragon so that he could marry Anne Boleyn. Fortunately he was the king of England, but had he been a peasant excommunication often meant torture and death.

          2. True, in some ages the law only protected Christians, so if you were excommunicated, it would be perfectly legal to murder you. Very serious secular and political implications.

        3.  You just eat crackers and some grape juice then. It’s not magically transformed into the actual body and blood of Christ. Dang zombie vampires.

          1. Not even all Baptists. I went to a mass in Harlem and they used wine, whereas a white Baptist church in the midwest had grape juice and little cubes of Wonder bread.

          2. I see… so it’s only white baptists who are uptight! I’ve known some white baptists… I’m not surprised.  ;-)

            A former Mormon friend of mine says they do communion with water and wonder bread. 

          3. Of course, there’s no way — even in principle — to tell the difference. It’s just one of them, you know, articles of faith that means a great deal while being literally meaningless.

          4. I think that’s a good way to put it. Of course, if we assume meaning is made in individual lives, then it means a great deal to Catholics, no?

        4. “They” don’t need to check. it’s between you and god, and god has a good memory. It’s all rather elegant in its simplicity, really.

          (Apparently. If you’re a believer. Etc.)

          1.  But it’s not just between you and God, if the institution of the church is acting as a presumed intercessor. It’s not God that excommunicated you from God, it’s the church that excommunicated you from the church.

            If he thinks he’s got his “between me an God” stuff all sorted out, and doesn’t respect the church’s decision to excommunicate him, then participating in the service, and the communion, could still be meaningful to him.

          2. “…it’s the church that excommunicated you from the church.”

            Excuse me a slight correction but it’s technically you that excommunicates yourself from the Church, by deliberate acts in contravention of the teaching and key elements of its rules. Supporting or procuring abortion, for example, is one of those serious rules. 

            Enda Kenny is quite free to make whatever decision he wishes – but he should be old enough, by now, to realise that decisions and actions are not without consequences – only spoilt children think they are.

            Any Bell, Book and Candle stuff is just showmanship; the perpetrator is the one who does it, by their own action.

        5.  Of course. This is all in theory, and I think they take it on faith (ha, ha) that if you say you are a good catholic and want last rites, they are not going to check. In the case of my father, my aunt vouched for him, and as she’s quite active in her church, that was good enough. My dad just stopped going, he never left the church.

          1. In reply to the moderator who prevents direct replies, It did not come from the Vatican, it came from the local Bishop.

            It was, apparently, based on the outrageous and clearly medieval idea that if you want to belong to a club, then you are expected to observe its rules – especially the important ones. No matter what your friends might think.

            But you are always free to decide not to be a member, after all.

          2. Friday, April 23, 2004
            Vatican Warns Kerry Not to Take Communion

            A top Vatican official close to the Pope, Cardinal Francis Arinze, emphasized today that priests must not give communion to pro-abortion politicians who claim to be Catholic. Arinze, a Nigerian who has been mentioned as a possible successor to Pope John Paul II, did not comment specifically on whether presidential candidate John Kerry should be excommunicated. But the inference was clear – and Reuters news wire as well as others said the Cardinal’s remarks were a clear shot across Kerry’s bow. The cardinal left no doubt about Kerry by saying that an “unambiguously pro-abortion” politician “is not fit” to receive communion.

          3. @RuariJM:disqus : It’s likely a reference to this memo by (not yet Pope) Ratzinger explicitly calling for priests to deny communion to Catholic politicians who are not overtly pro-life.

            There are several issues with your “rules of the club” sentiment.

            One is that there are other “rules” of equal or greater importance (specifically other rules that fall under the same “pro-life” stipulation like allowing capital punishment or supporting unjustified war) are not given nearly as much scrutiny.

            Another is that it’s pretty much bog-standard Catholic (and Christian, going back to Paul) belief that nobody is following all of the “rules of the club.”

            Yet another is that the rules of the club are subject to change and hardly set in stone.

            And yet another is the blind cleaving to the top-down mentality about who exactly defines those “rules.” Which is a medieval mentality, but is hardly a post-Vatican II mentality (though a number of crappy Popes since then have tried their damnedest to backtrack on the precedents set by that council – perhaps we should have booted them out for not following the “rules” as they stood at that point?).

        6. Catholic churches have a ‘bad check wall’ like convenience stores do. Also, if you’ve been excommunicated and you try to take communion you will burst into flames as the wafer touches your tongue. At least, that’s what we were taught in Catholic school when I was little (have I mentioned I got the, er, heck out of there when I was 9).

          1.  Yeah, that’s what happened to me when I tried sneaking into communion. The burning wasn’t even that bad, more like smouldering really, until some genius helpfully tried to douse me with the holy water. Fwoomp.

        7. I had a Lutheran/Agnostic friend who went to St. Patrick’s Day mass on a whim during a visit to New York, and the wily nun they had passing out the bread sniffed him out and refused him communion. Some of them have a sixth sense about that sort of thing!

      3. Why not just start going to a different church? How does the baby-raping Catholic Church track people?

        1. The baby-raping Catholic Church track doesn’t need to track you. It’s between you and god, and god has a good memory.

          (Apparently. If you’re a believer. Etc.)

          1. JonS – spouting ignorant buzz-phrases based on prejudice does not make you look edgy and cool, it makes you look something very different and not at all flattering.

            Automatic moderation prevents me from saying exactly what but it only has four letters in it.

        2.  You do know that not all priests are assholes who rape babies, right? And that other people do bad things, too right. I mean, there was a boy scout scandal and that was not the Catholic church… I think we should indeed condemn the church for what it’s done, they covered up the crimes of some of their members… so did Penn State. It comes down to bureaucracies breeding corruption…

          Of course you can do that, go somewhere else. But, if you’re catholic, thats THE church. If that is your belief system, it means something. that’s just the long and the short of it.  I guess the closest match for Catholicism is the Anglican/Episcopalian. 

          1. From all available evidence, the child rape was MUCH more prevalent in the Catholic Church than at Penn State (no matter how you count).

  4. Historically, the RCC has shown itself open to treating with all kinds of nasty sovereigns: emperors, kings, tribal warlords, brutal dictators. It seems the only sovereigns it’s unable to stomach are the sort that legitimately style themselves “the people.”

      1. For all the improved fashion sense that he’s brought to the Vatican, Fran 1 certainly wasn’t interested in rocking the Galtieri boat.  Not implying he was involved in the worst church abuses during that time, which were pretty fucking terrible, but he wasn’t issuing threats like this, either.

        1. Possibly because he was in no position to do so, as he wasn’t a bishop while Galtieri was running riot.

          However, he is on record as having saved people from torture or worse, and of preaching against brutality, abuse of power and dictatorship. Which is more than most.

  5. Churches will never stop trying to shove their ideology down other peoples’ throats. The Catholics have been at it longer than most so they are especially tenacious but it’s great to see a politician stand up to them. It’s far too rare.

    1.  To be fair, there are plenty of non-Religious people who want to shove their ideology down people’s throats… Hitler was great at that, so was Stalin and Mao. Don’t get me started on Libertarians, Republicans, Democrats, Green Party, Atheist, Straight edgers, Americans, the British Empire, Marxists, capitalists, Postmodernists, people who hate “insert name of person here”, punks, goths, rivetheads, metal heads,  sports fans, Star Wars super-fans, Trekkies, Whovians, Justin Bieber fans, and Kim Kardashian… The list could go on here, of groups of people who believe in something that you probably don’t and in those groups there are going to be zealots. I have a real issue with Atheist who try and actively “convert” the religious, too. I just want people to leave me along in that regard.

      I’ll agree that the Church and other religious organizations have been a force for ill in our world now and historically speaking, but there are plenty of Catholics who have gone out and done good works in the world, because they felt it was the right thing to do and they have made the world a better place. In the Cold War, Liberation theologists went out and worked to help the poor, because their faith told them to.

      I’m all for shining a light in the dark corners, and ferretting out the darkness in the world. My problem with statements like yours is that you make it clear your distaste not just for the church, but for CATHOLICS, for fellow human beings. I’m just not willing to paint the whole of an entire faith with the same broad brush…  I just can’t condemn an entire group like that because I don’t believe in the same magic man in the sky that they do. Because some of those people are good people, just trying to do the best they can in a fucked up world.

    2. In all fairness, some Catholic priests have shoved worse things down other people’s throats.

  6. Ay ay ay.  And then they wonder why organized religion is in so many people’s cross-hairs.

  7.  I think if the Church is dangerous, it’s more to Catholics themselves as opposed to non-Catholics. In general, the only time I come into contact with Catholicism is my interactions with catholic family members and friends. I’ve never been personally oppressed by the church. that being said, if you live in a majority Catholic country (Ireland, Italy, Poland), the story might be different. Having only been in Ireland once, the churches influence there did not much affect me. I do think that if there is fight with the church, it is more or less from the members of that faith. And that struggle is happening now.  Kenny is an example of that. Maybe you live in a Catholic country and have a different perspective on this, I don’t know. American is not a Catholic country and their influence here is smaller than other faiths (or so I think – maybe I’m wrong – it seems the evangelical movement has far more political clout). I think people like Bill Donahue are not nearly as powerful as they like to think they are. Again, maybe I’m wrong.

    1. Please read up on Catholic run medical institutions, which have policies of refusing to provide medical treatment that contradicts the teachings of the church.

      Many of these hospitals are located such that non-religious based health care may not be available in a given area.

      Catholicism is not harmless – not in America, and especially not in Ireland where a woman died because an abortion was necessary to save her life, and the doctors refused to provide one because of faith-based policy. You don’t have to be Catholic to suffer at the hand of the Church – you just have to be a woman.

    2. Thanks Ana. These are far more effective criticisms, that absolutely needs to be addressed. I get frustrated with “all Catholics bad” as opposed to pointing out specific issues that we need to deal with. I do believe that this was the reason for changes to the Irish Constitution… I probably don’t see the impact of this, as I live in the south, where the Catholics are a minority.

      Are there specific parts of the country where the only option is Catholic run hospitals? In the US I mean, I’m aware of the death of the woman you are speaking of.

      Also, in the case of the US, it’s not just the church that is responsible for the problems regarding reproductive health.. I don’t think the Catholic church has a big toehold in Mississippi, and they have a huge issue with that…

    3. I’ve done a quick google search for legitimate references, as I became aware of the issue as a result of news coverage discussing the impact of the recent surge in hospital mergers. (Example: http://www.kplu.org/post/fears-catholic-monopoly-dominate-talk-hospital-mergers)

      Although this organization has a clear stance with regard to faith-based medical care, it does discuss Sole Community Providers: “Forty-eight of the religious hospitals in the study database were also found to be on the list of facilities recognized by the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicare Services as being the “sole providers” of hospital care in their immediate region. This designation means the hospital is either located more than 35 miles from any similar hospital, or is the exclusive provider 
      for more than 75 percent of the population in its service area. 52”

      (Source: http://www.mergerwatch.org/storage/pdf-files/bp_no_strings.pdf)

      I wasn’t able to find as concise a chart as is provided in the above link with current data, but if I have time later I’ll see if I can find one.

      I agree that Catholicism isn’t the only threat to women’s reproductive health and safety, however, the organization is transparently against women’s health and disproportionately represented with regard to medical care. This fact sheet from Law Students for Reproductive Justice states, “The majority of religious hospitals are Roman Catholic-sponsored, making the Catholic healthcare system the largest non-profit provider of health care in the nation.” (Source: http://lsrj.org/documents/factsheets/12_Religious%20Hospitals.pdf)

      I think it’s possible to hold a nuanced view of the faithful while still recognizing faith-based organizations as dangerous. In cases such as the Prime Ministers, or my example of medical care, I think it just to celebrate secularism as the means by which least harm to society is done.

    4. [Cannot reply directly to Ana KH because of Disqus nesting, however:]

      Fully agree. Catholic hospitals are not the place to go if you’re a woman and especially if you’re a pregnant woman.

      mindysan33  said: Are there specific parts of the country where the only option is Catholic run hospitals?

      Sure, there are often alternatives, but the problem is many people don’t know how insane the catholic institutions are, until they suffer through their ill effects. A hospital is a hospital, right? (wrong.) The institution certainly isn’t going to refer you to others; they’re just going to give their dogmatic medical advice, which can be contrary to your health interests.A relative of mine had a 8-month
      still birth.  A tragedy, of course.  And an induced abortion is what’s normally  recommended, however no Catholic hospital will do this. Is a greater tragedy necessary when the mother’s life is endangered by this situation? The catholic hospital is not going to indicate that the abortion can be performed at another institution, they are just going to counsel, Let’s let nature take its course.

    5.  See people, here is how we have a discussion on weighty topics without descending into name-calling.

      I think you both bring up fair points, which I generally agree with and am sympathetic too. Maybe a major issue we need to address is not just women’s reproductive health (which, being a woman, I’m concerned about, but we should all be concerned about), but the overall issue of health care. Our health care system is left to private corporations and religious/ideological bodies, like the Catholic church, in part because the government has stepped out – especially in places where the marginalized live (the poor, people of color, etc). I’d like to think that if we fixed that, at least some of these problems of religiously run hospitals would go away…. We don’t need to treat healthcare as either a commodity or a charity. It needs to be treated as a basic human right, I think. I’m sure you’ll both agree.

      But I’d be curious to know how many non-Catholics only have access to Catholic hospitals, in this country.

  8. I think the amazing thing is not necessarily that he stood up to the church, but that he seems to care about the wishes of this mythical “people”… I thought the people were large corporations and special well-corporate-funded interests groups.. not the majority opinion…

    1.  in this case, the People have told him and his predecessors three times to enact abortion laws in Ireland, and have been ignored for 21 years.

      i suspect ‘the People’ are his gobshite banker friends and powerful folk in the clergy.

        1. the changes haven’t even *gone* through yet:

          we asked the government to enact a law which counted the threat of suicide as a risk to the mothers life and thus grounds for an abortion.

          what we are being given is a scenario where a pregnant human woman, admitting suicidal thoughts to her doctor is put ‘on trial’ in-front of a panel of upto six psychiatrists who will attempt to ascertain weather or not she is actually suicidal. – this is unparalleled in any other area of medicine.

          I wake up daily with a foul taste in my mouth to think my taxes give these misogynistic theocratic-barbarians mandate sickens me. Actually physically makes me feel sick.

    2. He has no interest in the wishes of the people.  If he did, he would not have imposed the now-discredited austerity strategy at the behest of his European masters, and would have given us a referendum to allow for a more liberal abortion policy.

      He is as conservative as they come.

      You know when he made this statement?  At the unveiling of a statue of a priest.

      1. if there were a tax on irony that would have payed down a good 10% of the ‘bailout’

  9. “We live in a Republic and I have a duty and responsibility as head of
    Government to legislate in respect of what the people’s wishes are.”
    Can we get him to move to Canada?  It’s hard to imagine what would happen if the government actually paid attention to the voters.

    1.  No, he’ll have to come here, to America… cause AMURICA…… We get him before America’s hat does.

      Just kidding, I love you Canada!  You gave the world Kids in the Hall. and Hockey.

    2.  except he *docent* enact the wishes of the people, infact, he blatantly ignores them on an almost daily basis.

      no abortion law after 21 years of mandate.
      no banker arrested despite nationwide protests one of which has been running continuously since February 2011

      this man should not be within a country mile of this website, ESPICALLY not on its good-side.

  10. I still don’t understand why the All Powerful Omnipresent Fairy Man In The Sky needs a bunch of doddering old farts in funny clothes to get his way. Surely a swift wave of his pinky or nod of the halo would be sufficient to manifest a few votes in the right places?


  11. Its really sad to me that we are celebrating this guy. I know there isnt much news on the wider internet about Ireland that goes betyond ‘lol cripiling alchaholism’ and ‘rofl leprechauns’ and this is to my mind the first news on Ireland i have seen on Boingboing, its a real shame it celebrates a man who is utterly devoid of virtue.

    “We live in a Republic and I have a duty and responsibility as head of
    Government to legislate in respect of what the people’s wishes are.”

    The brazen and bare-faced hypocrisy of Enda fecking Kenny making that statement is making my eyes water with rage. Oligarch, Plutocrat, Tyrant, Gobshite.

    1.  Sounds like he’s in line with most other politicians these days, only really pushing for popular policies when it benefits him politically. I’m sure once everyone is distracted by something else, he’ll backpedal like hell as much as he can. I think maybe this whole let’s celebrate this guy, because he made gestures towards secularism, might be obscuring a whole host of other problems in Irish politics

      I agree, we don’t really hear enough about what’s actually happening in Ireland (or in other places that are considered “marginal” to “important stuff/places”….whatever that means). But really isn’t it in the “margins” where the real action is? Not trying to marginalize Ireland, here, just pointing out that Ireland has long been marginalized, historically speaking.

      1. if by ‘action’ you mean ‘middle-ages re-enactment’ then yes, plenty of ‘action’.

        “Sounds like he’s in line with most other politicians these days, only really pushing for popular policies when it benefits him politically.” – Most other politicians get fired when they *ignore* referendums. 

        we are the laughing stock of Europe, and its no longer because of the fiddil-de-dee and crippling epidemic of alcoholism. Im a shouty, angry  extreme example, but i guarantee you that there is a palpable sense of shame pervading the liberal majority here.

  12. It is nothing short of astonishing that this man has the audacity to come out with this.  You’d be forgiven for thinking that he was a champion of the liberal.  In fact, he made a pre-election pledge not to “legislate for abortion” and is only moving legislation now because the European Court of Human Rights has found Ireland in breach of the European Convention of Human Rights for not clarifying the extremely limited circumstances in which a woman (or girl) in Ireland can procure a termination of her pregnancy.  The Irish constitution only allows for this in the case where here life (and not merely her health) is in danger if the pregnancy continues.  The new legislation meets EU requirements by clarifying the entitlement, but does so to make it as restrictive as could be imagined.
    Despite years of opinion polling showing that the people of Ireland would favour greater liberalisation, for example where the pregnancy was a result of rape, or where the fetus is already dying or could not possibly survive outside the womb, this man refuses to give the people the chance to amend the constitution to allow for these cases.

    He is not standing up for the constitution.  He is hiding behind it.  

    1. So, you’re saying he’s like every other politician in the world… That’s sad. We seem to have the same problem here in the US… 90% of people think X. Politicians vote for Y. Because someone gave them money…

      1. I don’t know that this specific issue is a case of him being bought by anyone.  This is probably a matter of conscience for him.  However, he’s not allowing the same freedom of conscience to other TD’s (members of parliament) from his party, as the party line will be strictly enforced.

        He has initiated a talking shop to discuss some changes to the constitution.  He didn’t take the opportunity to remove things like “The State acknowledges that the homage of public worship is due to Almighty God.” from the constitution.  Guess he’s happy to keep the books interleaved, or something.

        1.  In this case, maybe he’s responding to popular pressure. From what I can glean from comments of people in this thread, this has been a smoldering issue for a while, and the death of Savita Halappanavar brought it to the fore in a way that he had to respond to.

          As for the constitution, happily, these are man-made things, and they can be changed, at least in a republican form of government  – if not with this government, maybe in the future. Our constitution has “god” language in there, too, but in a very vague kind of way (more Diest than anything else).  I’d guess that the English use of anti-Catholicism as a means of surpressing Irish republicanism in the period before the founding of the republic, probably meant that religious language was an important component to the writers of the document… But these are only vague guesses on my part.

          1. There is a long history here, but it was not the death of Savita which brought it to a head.  Here’s a very brief history.

            Prior to 1983, abortion was absolutely illegal in Ireland.  A reactionary element, fearing pressure from Europe to legalise it, sought a referendum to amend the constitution to copperfasten the position.  With a constitutional ban on abortion, no future government would be able to change the law to allow abortion without a further referendum of the people to change the constitution. The “Pro Life Amendment Campaign” succeeded in getting and winning the referendum, and so article 40.3.3 was introduced into the constitution, reading as follows:

            “The State acknowledges the right to life of the unborn and, with due regard to the equal right to life of the mother, guarantees in its laws to respect, and, as far as practicable, by its laws to defend and vindicate that right.”.

            That, they thought, was that.  

            Then, in 1992, came “The X Case”.  This was the case of a 14 year old girl, pregnant as a result of rape.  The family planned on travelling to the UK to procure an abortion, but asked if any DNA evidence from the fetus could be used in the prosecution of the man accused of the rape.  The result of this request was the granting of an injunction by the High Court to stop the suicidal girl from leaving the country to have the abortion.  The case was appealed in the Supreme Court, where the decision was overturned.  The basis for this was that as the girl was suicidal, it was lawful for the pregnancy to be terminated so as to save her life – reference the “due regard to the equal right to life of the mother”.  With this precedent, it was established that along with other serious risks to the life of the mother, the risk of suicide was now grounds for lawful abortion in Ireland.

            The Pro Life groups were outraged.  Their change to the constitution had opened the door to abortion in Ireland, even if only in the narrowest of circumstances.  In December that year, three new referenda were set before the people.  One was to specifically exclude suicide as an allowable risk.  One was to allow people to leave the state to avail of abortion services elsewhere.  One was to allow the provision of information relating to the those services.  The first of these failed and the other two were carried.

            Another referendum attempt to exclude suicide also failed in 2002.

            Despite these referenda, no government ever legislated for the X Case to clarify the law in relation to lawful abortion.

            In 2010, three citizens known as A, B and C took Ireland to the European Court of Human Rights.  The Court found that Ireland had breached its obligations under the European Convention on Human Rights by not clarifying under which circumstances and an abortion may be allowed.

            It was subsequent pressure from Europe for this clarification that lead to an Expert Group being set up at the start of 2012 to report back to the Government on the available options.  Coincidentally(?), this report was delivered to the Minister for Health on the week when Savita’s case became public.

            Government action now is a direct result of the European directive that Ireland clarify its law.  Without that external legal obligation, there is no reason to believe that this conservative government would have moved to legislate.  The draft wording shows that the clarification will come, but that the lawful circumstances will be very few.

          2. these are great words, thanks for writing them.

            i should only add that the final ‘government action’ is the passing of a law which would see a pregnant and suicidal woman brought before a panel of doctors to be judged on weather there is a real risk to her life.

            this may sound reasonable enough, but i would ask you to put yourself in the woman’s position.

  13. Seriously? We’re pretending Kenny is on our side now?

    He’s the head of a neo-liberal party where a pile of his own members of parliament are threatening to vote against this because they’re US-style catholics. He’s only pushing this maximally restrictive legislation to hold his coalition together and because public opinion was inflamed by the case of a dentist who died from septicaemia after she was refused a termination on the grounds that her life wasn’t yet at immediate risk. Once it was at risk, it was too late. 

    I mean, nice line, but he doesn’t mean one little bit of it.

  14. These are the words of an astute politician who sees the writing on the wall, nothing more. 

  15. “My book is my pocketbook and that pocketbook is determined by the banks – that’s not the people’s book” Is what Enda really means. Having him as the face of democracy is ironic.

  16. Whoever or whatever this politician is, he’s made headlines communicating a basic foundation to modern (even post-Renaissance) societies – you must keep religious nuts far away from the running of a nation.

    Most people don’t even know that it’s important.  Some of those might google it now.

    As for excommunication … surely if there is a god and he’s godly, St Peter would give you a last chance at the pearly gates?  It would be just devilishly mean if he didn’t.

  17. This is, sadly, how Enda Kenny likes to play the game: international recognition of his statesmanlike qualities.  Those of us who live here can go whistle, but if you’re a bigwig in Brussels, a bondholder in Berlin, a CEO of international standing or the groundswell of liberal opinion on the internet, Enda’s yer only man.  

  18. Article 13.1.1 of the constitution:

    “The President shall, on the nomination of Dáil Éireann, appoint the Taoiseach, that is, the head of the Government or Prime Minister.”

    Or in the Irish version@Antinous_Moderator:disqus 
    “Ceapfaidh an tUachtarán an Taoiseach .i. an Ceann Rialtais nó an 
    Príomh-Aire, arna ainmniú sin ag Dáil Éireann. ”

    So the title is certainly An Taoiseach, but Prime Minister is allowed for as a description.

  19.  To be fair, the original reddit and photo both said PM (from an apparent Gaeilgeoir) but I agree.

    Referring to him as ‘Taoiseach (prime minister)’ and repeating Taoiseach from there would be a clear, simple way to introduce the term.

    Drives me mad when BBC do it, they should know by now.

  20. Is it just me, or is there NO mention of excommunication in the actual article??? What are we talking about here? There’s a big difference between the Catholic church objecting and actually threatening a head of state with ex-communication???? Have i missed something here????

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