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2018 Remembered: Portlaoise priest says ‘church cannot bury its head in the sand’ following Referendum result

Back in May, the people of Ireland and Laois voted to Repeal the Eight Amendment – paving the way for abortion to become legal in Ireland.

Following this result, well-known Portlaoise Priest Father Paddy urged the Catholic Church in Ireland not to ‘bury its head in the sand’ following the decision to repeal the Eight Amendment.

Since then, the Abortion Bill has passed through all stages of the Oireachtas which allows for abortion services to be carried out in the Republic of Ireland.

The official result for Laois saw the people vote Yes by 61.4% to 38.6%.

Portlaoise priest Fr Paddy Byrne has called on the Catholic Church in Ireland not to ‘bury its head in the sand’ following the decision to repeal the Eight Amendment.

The church came out against the Referendum and advocated a No vote in line with their pro-life teachings.

However, in the wake of the overwhelming result where more than 66% of voters said Yes, Fr Paddy says the church cannot ignore it.

Speaking to Will Faulkner of Midlands 103, he said: “I think one of the big things to take on board for the Catholic Church is that so many who come to church on a Sunday also voted Yes.

“I think this is a time perhaps where deep breaths have to be taken. It is also a time of rapid social change and for the church to bury its head in the sand is a very dangerous thing to do.

“I think we are called to engage with culture as well as truth.

“What I am trying to say is that I think it is very important for the church to communicate. There were no bad people in this debate.

“There were many people in Laois who went out and voted No and more that voted Yes. I encountered people on both sides who are very good people.”

Fr Paddy says that the Catholic Church needs to change in order to become more relevant to a whole generation of younger people.

He said: “We, to many people, and specifically to a generation of younger people – if we are to have relevance in their lives, I think we need to get rid of this mentality where we are perceived to belong to the past.

“What we stand for is no longer relevant. Sometimes we have to chose our battles and we have lacked a moral leadership.

“I feel that when you go back to Referendums on contraception and divorce, they are all part of Irish society now.

“So when this one came, these backed up against us.”

Fr Paddy also feels that the personal testimonies of women who were mistreated by Catholic Ireland had an impact.

He said: “I have no doubt that those personal testimonies, particularly in a Catholic culture, women were so desperately treated (had a big impact).

“How women were sent away and removed from the family home. I have no doubt that all of that is a culmination of what has now happened.”

Fr Paddy says he accepts the result fully and

He said: “As a member of a Republic and a man who abides by democracy, I accept what the Referendum details are.

“Personally, I think it was no big surprise that the Yes vote won by such margin. I am a man who would be in tune with reality.

“Those who voted Yes, did so quietly. I’m sure I speak for a number of people when I say there us a sense of relief here this morning.

“It is not a selfish relief. But I think the debate was very personal and very emotional. I found it difficult full stop and there are no winners in the Yes or the No group.

“So when I go to meet colleagues to discuss Church leadership in the future, I think we need to digest what is happening and get up to become far more pragmatically in-tuned.

“Not in a populist sense, but in a relevant sense. If we as Church hold what is important, we need to communicate it in a much more real, compassionate and have a sense of relevance in modern Ireland.”

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