A Church of Ireland bishop has said “the majority of the electorate” share his view, following the result of the referendum on abortion in the Republic of Ireland.
Canon Ian Ellis, former editor of the Church of Ireland Gazette, however, said a “remarkably liberal abortion policy” is “of great concern”.
Bishop of Cashel, Ferns and Ossory Michael Burrows had already indicated his intention to vote ‘yes’ in the referendum in the Republic of Ireland.
In a statement on the diocesan website following the referendum result, Bishop Burrows wrote: “It has always been my view that the Constitution is not the place to deal with the complex and sensitive issue of abortion, and it is now clear that I share that view with a substantial majority of the electorate.
“There will be those who will see the referendum result somehow as a rebuke to the voice of faith in our society.
“I react very differently … I do not sense that as citizens that we are taking leave of our moral compass, or ceasing to recognise the complex balancing of factors that lies at the heart of ethical decision making.”
Bishop Burrows continued: “For me, furthermore, there is an exhilarating challenge in presenting the faith in a fresh way to a changing nation.
“We are now placed in a society which asks hard questions, dislikes hypocrisy and will offer attentive respect only to those who earn it through the integrity, depth and courage of their contributions to public discourse.”
In a ‘bishop’s letter’ published on the diocesan website before the vote had taken place, Bishop Burrows wrote: “I will be voting for Repeal because I believe, as I did in 1983, that the text of the Eighth is incorrigibly flawed.
“While I may be anxious about what may happen next, I believe sufficiently in parliamentary democracy to hand the matter to legislators and indeed to trust them – that is their duty and their vocation.”
The bishop was, however, clear in his letter that he was writing “in a personal capacity”.
He said: “I want to contribute candidly to discussion around the diocese, within and beyond these pages.
“I am but one disciple, one citizen, one voter, and I respect those who when confronted with a binary choice on a ballot paper will reach a different conclusion to myself.”
However, Canon Ellis expressed a different view.
“Bishop Burrows is entitled to his view, which he has expressed in a conciliatory spirit,” he told the News Letter.
“However, I share the view of many I have spoken to that a remarkably liberal abortion policy regarding the first 12 weeks of pregnancy is of great concern.
“Some commentators have referred to a landslide ‘yes’ vote, but I do not consider two-thirds a landslide.
“One-third against repealing the Eighth Amendment was a considerable minority. The fact is that even with the change voted for, people will still have a choice to make.”
He added: “Those who are more cautious on the subject, like myself, will have to redouble every effort at moral persuasion.”