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Ireland Goes Back to Its Roots

I found out last year that I’m a third Irish, which I hadn’t known (DNA testing is a wonderful thing!). So this spring during Holy Week my oldest boy and I, as sons of the Emerald Isle, took a pilgrimage to Dublin. It’s a lovely city — a lot of character, beautiful museums, lovely old churches, the Book of Kells, and weather conducive to deep contemplation. We visited the hill of Tara, an ancient meeting site of Irish kings, and Newgrange, which is a Stone Age archeological site, older than Stonehenge and the pyramids. We visited the bog bodies, which were pre-historic human sacrifices, in the National Museum of Ireland. Celtic Ireland was violently pagan, before St. Patrick. Dublin is fascinating and full of history. 

The Irish are great people — very friendly, very hospitable to Americans. I’ve traveled elsewhere in Europe, and what struck me as different about Ireland is the family atmosphere. The streets of Dublin are full of families with young children. Strollers are everywhere. You don’t see that a lot in many other European cities. In fact, Ireland has a high birthrate for a European country. The Irish are fruitful.  There’s a joy and vitality to Irish culture, despite all the suffering the Irish have known. 

With this in mind, I have meant to post on the recent abortion referendum in Ireland, but it made me sick to think about it, let along write about it. It is shocking. Not only is the result shocking — two-thirds of Irish voters voted to legalize abortion — but it’s shocking that the question was even asked. Ireland has for a millennium and a half been a bastion of Catholicism. It’s Catholicism with a twist, as the Irish have famously retained echoes of their pagan past in their Catholic faith. But Ireland has been deeply Catholic. Mass at St. Theresa’s off Grafton Street was packed on Holy Thursday, and the confession lines were long.

The Irish have suffered for their Church, yet not even Oliver Cromwell could break their faith. Until Margaret Sanger and Mary Robinson broke it. In the guise of modernism and faux-equality and liberty, and in a stunning repudiation of their Catholic faith, the Irish have now chosen to kill their unwanted children in the womb. The decision to do so is astonishing, and is based on lies. 

One lie is that children in the womb are not human beings, at least up to a certain point of gestation. That is not true. It is a matter of fact — a straightforward scientific fact known since the basics of human reproduction were first understood in the early 19th century — that human life begins at fertilization of the egg by the sperm, and that at every stage of life thereafter, from zygote to embryo to fetus to newborn, the individual is a human being. The child in the womb is not a part of the mother (half the time he’s not even the same sex as the mother), nor is a child in the womb mere “tissue” that becomes a human being at some arbitrary point in gestation. Women don’t reproduce by budding. 

Another lie is that legal abortion is necessary in Ireland to protect the health of women. That’s not true. Without legal abortion, Ireland had one of the lowest maternal mortality rates in the world. Pro-life Ireland has been an exceptionally safe place to be pregnant. In the rare circumstance when delivery of the fetus is medically necessary to protect the mother, Irish Medical Council guidelines permit interventions, including those that result in fetal death, necessary to save the life of the mother. The guidelines read:

In current obstetrical practice, rare complications can arise where therapeutic interventions (including termination of a pregnancy) is required at a stage when, due to extreme immaturity of the baby, there may be little or no hope of the baby surviving. In these exceptional circumstances, it may be necessary to intervene to terminate the pregnancy to protect the mother, while making every effort to preserve the life of the baby.

It is also a lie to assert that abortion is primarily a means to prevent the birth of handicapped children who will suffer in life. The vast majority of abortions are committed for socio-economic (lifestyle) reasons, not because of the health of the mother or of the child. 

Ireland of late has had a thriving economy, and prosperity weakens a nation’s moral and religious fabric in a way that not even totalitarianism did. The Irish have decided that unwanted children just get in the way. Why interrupt your college education or lose that job or promotion or have another expensive labor-intensive kid or just go through nine months of discomfort when you can just be done with it. That’s the logic of the abortion movement, whose implicit motto is “Don’t get in my way.” It is a logic of sacrifice — not the sacrifice of parenthood, but the sacrifice of one’s own child on the altar of self. Modernism is a worship of self, and an exaltation of prosperity and of power. 

Abortion will change Ireland. Its spirit is breaking, and it will go back to its roots — to its pagan roots. In a way, Ireland’s already broken, a fine warm home rotted on the inside. The abortion referendum is an omen of that rot. 

When you visit Dublin, you won’t need to go the National Museum to see the vestiges of human sacrifice. Any hospital will do.

Photo: Newgrange archeological site, by Tjp finn [CC BY-SA 4.0], from Wikimedia Commons.