Is Ireland Still Catholic After The Vote?

The Washington Post reports that Ireland has voted to repeal the constitutional amendment making most abortions illegal. Life of the mother abortions have been legal since 2013. And travel to other nations for abortion is also legally permissible. But the vote last Friday indicated that over two-thirds of Irish voters chose to repeal the prohibition on abortion. The legislature is expected to legalize abortion up to 12 weeks on-demand, and after that point for certain cases.

As one might expect, women voted in higher percentages for abortion (70% and higher), and young persons as well voted for repeal of restrictions. Men and the general population living in rural areas were most likely to vote against abortion, in favor of keeping the 8th constitutional amendment (first enacted in 1983).

I don’t know how anyone can call himself or herself Catholic, and vote for the broad legalization of abortion.

“the share of the population identifying as Catholic has diminished markedly in a short period of time, from 84 percent in 2011 to 78 percent in 2016, according to census data. The figure was 92 percent in 1991.”

Ireland is becoming less Catholic. And among those who remain Catholic in Ireland, many are willing to believe and act contrary to definitive Church teaching. With 78% identifying as Catholic, and only 32% or so voting against abortion, it is evident that many Catholics violated Church teaching by voting for abortion.

How sinful is it, to vote to repeal the 8th, so that abortion will become broadly available? It is worse than voting for a pro-abortion candidate. In voting for a person, many factors need to be taken into account. Perhaps the better candidate is unfortunately pro-abortion. Perhaps that candidate will likely do little to widen the availability of abortion.

But in the case of voting directly for a law or amendment, or in this case the repeal of an amendment, the voter bears the responsibility for this choice. In such a case, the voters are authorizing abortion in a way which is morally direct and therefore intrinsically evil. And this is true not only when a legislature votes for a law, but also when citizens vote for a referendum or amendment. It is the grave sin of authorizing abortion.

Formal cooperation with an intrinsically evil act occurs when your chosen act is ordered toward assisting another person in accomplishing the object of their intrinsically evil act. So if their sinful act is direct abortion, and your act is directed toward helping them accomplish the act itself, then you are committing the sin of formal cooperation, which is always immoral. In the case of formal cooperation with abortion, the act is always gravely immoral.

On the other hand, voting to repeal the 8th amendment is worse than formal cooperation. The voters are directly authorizing abortions. They realize that their vote will have a morally-immediate effect of legalizing very many abortions. So I would say that this act is not so much cooperation as it is perpetration. When a woman goes to a clinic for an abortion, she does not perform the abortion, she authorizes it. And yet her act is the sin of perpetration. Similarly, when the voters directly authorize abortion, they perpetrate the sin; it is not merely a type of cooperation.

But in either case, formal cooperation or perpetration, the sinner is automatically excommunicated under Canon Law.

Pope Saint John Paul II: “Indeed, from the moral standpoint, it is never licit to cooperate formally in evil. Such cooperation occurs when an action, either by its very nature or by the form it takes in a concrete situation, can be defined as a direct participation in an act against innocent human life or a sharing in the immoral intention of the person committing it.” [Evangelium Vitae 74]

“The 1917 Code of Canon Law punished abortion with excommunication. The revised canonical legislation continues this tradition when it decrees that “a person who actually procures an abortion incurs automatic (latae sententiae) excommunication”. The excommunication affects all those who commit this crime with knowledge of the penalty attached, and thus includes those accomplices without whose help the crime would not have been committed.” [Evangelium Vitae 62]

Among those “accomplices without whose help the crime would not have been committed” are voters who authorize abortion by repealing a constitutional amendment which prohibits abortion. Those Catholics in Ireland who voted for repeal committed a mortal sin and also a sin which is punished by automatic excommunication. The Catholic leadership in Ireland and in the Vatican should inform voters of this penalty.

Now the penalty of automatic excommunication requires “knowledge of the penalty attached”, which is probably not the case for most voters. But they certainly did know that they were rejecting the teaching of the Church against abortion. So, while most have probably avoided automatic excommunication, they are not free from grave sin.

Acting against Church teaching, so as to authorize many abortions, is an objective mortal sin, which may possibly have the full culpability of actual mortal sin. It is also an act which may indicate an interior failure to believe the infallible teaching of the Church on abortion. The teaching of Evangelium Vitae, condemning abortion, is infallible and therefore its deliberate repudiation by a Catholic is the sin of formal heresy. Catholics who do not believe that direct abortion is intrinsically evil and always gravely immoral are guilty of heresy. And heretics are forbidden from the reception of Communion.

If you are a Catholic in Ireland who voted to repeal the 8th amendment, you should stop going to Mass and Communion, until and unless you repent. You sinned by authorizing many abortions via your vote. You committed this sin because you don’t believe a required belief that abortion is always gravely immoral. Therefore, you are guilty of heresy as well as abortion.

But if you are absolutely unwilling to repent, you should stop considering yourself to be Catholic. For if you do not believe the Church’s teaching on innocent human life, what other teachings have you rejected? Do you even consider the Catholic Church to be your Mother and Teacher? If not, then heed the words of Christ:

{7:23} And then will I disclose to them: ‘I have never known you. Depart from me, you workers of iniquity.’

Ronald L. Conte Jr.
Roman Catholic theologian and translator of the Catholic Public Domain Version of the Bible.

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9 Responses to Is Ireland Still Catholic After The Vote?

  1. Matt Z. says:

    Whats sad is that the women are the ones wanting abortion. I wonder if extreme feminism is prominent in Ireland? Do women really want to be used for sexual pleasure, and then murder their own babies? That type of behavior and mentality will lead to the womans(and mans) destruction, not to freedom of any kind.

  2. Tom Mazanec says:

    But in either case, formal cooperation or perpetration, the sinner is automatically excommunicated under Canon Law.

    What sins lead to automatic excommunication? It can’t be all mortal sins, can it? So if you masturbate you are excommunicated? What is the difference?

    • Ron Conte says:

      The sins of formal heresy, formal schism, and apostasy each result in automatic excommunication, regardless of the law, by the very nature of the sin. Other mortal sins do not result in excommunication, unless the sin is given that penalty in Canon law. Abortion is one of the few mortal sins that has long been given that penalty.

    • Tom Mazanec says:

      Well, what are the differences between apostasy, heresy and scism? And what other sins are automatic Excommunication? Killing the Pope or something?

    • Ron Conte says:

      Apostasy is the total abandonment of Christianity. Heresy is the obstinate denial or obstinate doubt of a truth that must be believed with the full assent of faith. Schism is the refusal to submit to the authority of the Pope or refusal of communion with the members of the Church who do submit to him. A person who throws away the consecrated species or takes or retains them for a sacrilegious purpose is automatically excommunicated, as is a person who attacks the Pope (as you said). I don’t know what the other automatic excommunications are, though they are few.

      Oh, also, excommunication for breaking the Seal of the Confessional.

  3. Amanda says:

    Ireland is secular.

  4. Matt Z. says:

    If a Catholic joins Freemasonry is he automatically excommunicated?

  5. John Platts says:

    UPDATE: There are some Irish voters that claim that there was massive voter fraud involved in the Irish abortion referendum, and an article about the lawsuits that were filed that allege massive voter fraud in the Irish abortion referendum can be found at

    There are some individuals who claim that some of the No votes were not properly counted and that some pro-life Irish citizens were deprived of the opportunity to cast votes in the Irish abortion referendum.

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