What the recent abortion bills show about the power of the Catholic Church

With Ireland and Argentina having high percentages of Catholic citizens, their recent abortion results and discussions could have a massive impact on the Catholic church, their anti-abortion beliefs, and how institutionalised religion is viewed in today’s society.

The citizens choice to legalise abortion within Ireland illustrates the declining moral influence of the Catholic Church in this country. This is compounded by the 2015 referendum where 62% of Irish citizens voted to legalise same-sex marriage. Traditionally a dedicated to the Catholic teaching, it is shocking to see the majority of Irish voters now ignoring the anti-abortion and same-sex marriage teachings of the Catholic Church.

Therefore, this result is key to understanding the relationship between church and state in Ireland. As there are a less cohesion and obedience to the teachings of the Catholic Church, secularists have argued that there is an increasing need for the separation of church and state. They believe that the Church should play less of a role within Ireland, thus, creating a pathway for the freedom of religion, secular schools and state laws not inspired by theological doctrine. While the religious authority has a declining impact on societal thought, there is a rise of radical revolutionaries who are replacing religious institutions such as the Catholic Church; it is an attempt to break down public religion through political means. This is why we are seeing the diverging of religion and politics in Western Europe.

If the Catholic want to maintain their dominance and relevance in countries like Ireland, they need to become more liberal in their outlook to connect with younger people. Going to mass at the Birmingham Oratory of St. Phillip Neri was particularly enlightening because the majority of people were of the older generation. As the younger generation is liberal, Ireland is becoming an evermore secular, western democracy, the Catholic Church needs to become more accepting of these issues. Otherwise, church attendance will dwindle, and the Catholic Church will become an increasingly irrelevant denomination.

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Although the Catholic Church is losing power in Ireland, it still holds a tight grip on how moral issues are legislated in Argentina. At the beginning of August, Congress did not pass a bill proposing the legalisation of abortion in the first 14 weeks of pregnancy. This result was praised by the Catholic Church, especially Pope Francis who still maintains conservative on the issue of abortion. Named as one of the most progressive popes on social debates, abortion is one of the few issues that he maintains a quite conservative position.

Unlike Ireland, where the Catholic Church has a decreasing influence, they played a key part in ensuring that the pro-choice legislation didn’t become law. This shows that religion and politics are extremely intertwined in Argentina, and the Catholic church has a huge power in certain areas of the globe.

Overall, it is unclear what the future of the Catholic Church will be as a formal institution because countries have varying levels of dependency on, and faith in its moral standpoints. I think that Ireland is following the trend of the Western Europe which is characterised by secularisation, liberal democracy and the separation of church and state. Ireland seems to be bucking the trend as in other areas of the world, Catholicism doesn’t show any sign of diminishing. Like many other countries in South America, Argentina is remaining loyal to the Catholicism. Also, the growth of Catholicism in Asia is the largest quantitative change that has ever occurred in any religion, anywhere. Although Catholicism doesn’t seem to be going anywhere, the diverging ways of how Catholicism is progressing shows how institutionalised religion is becoming increasingly disorganised. People are finding new ways of doing religion and that doesn’t involve the institutional beliefs on issues such as abortion and same-sex marriage.

Now we should ask – shall we get rid of all the hierarchy in the Catholic Church to encompass a more diverse idea of Catholicism and way of practising? Or would that defeat the idea of ‘religion’?

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