ARMAGH, Ireland May 22, 2013 ( – Catholic legislators who intend to vote to support the Irish government’s impending abortion law must refrain from presenting themselves to receive Holy Communion, the Coadjutor Archbishop of Armagh said last weekend. 

“You cannot regard yourself as a person of faith and support abortion,” Archbishop Eamon Martin told the Sunday Times. “If a legislator comes to me and says, ‘Can I be a faithful Catholic and support abortion?’ I would say no. Your communion is ruptured if you support abortion.” 

Martin, raised to the episcopate in April, has dived into the centre of Ireland’s political fray over abortion, adding, “You are excommunicating yourself. Any legislator who clearly and publicly states this should not approach looking for communion.” 


Archbishop Martin, who is likely to succeed Cardinal Sean Brady as Primate in 2015, told the Times that politicians supporting the government’s “Protection of life during pregnancy” bill, would be “aiding and abetting abortion.” The bill allows abortion through all nine months of pregnancy if the mother threatens suicide. 

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Speaking at a parish in Dundalk earlier this month, Archbishop Martin said abortion is the “direct and intentional taking…of human life,” which is always “gravely immoral.” 

“It strikes at the very heart of our faith and belief because it directly targets human life which is sacred and a gift from God. The right to life is such a natural and inviolable right that no individual, no majority and no State can ever create, modify or destroy it.” 

He commended and encouraged the efforts of lay Catholics to oppose the bill that he called the product of “a massive effort” to legalize abortion. The right to life is such an “inviolable right that no individual, no majority and no State can ever create, modify or destroy it,” the archbishop added. 

The government, he said, would be better off expending their energies creating “clear medical guidelines together with robust support structures for medical personnel, towards supporting mothers who have very real anxieties or fears about their pregnancy”. This would make it possible “to preserve Ireland’s reputation as one of the safest places in the world for mothers and babies during pregnancy.” 

Archbishop Martin’s statements are in line with Catholic teaching as it was clarified by then-Cardinal Ratzinger in his letter to the US bishops’ conference in 2004. 

Canon 915 of the 1983 edition of the Code of Canon Law says, “Those … obstinately persevering in manifest grave sin are not to be admitted to holy communion.” Among those who have automatically incurred this penalty, according to the 2004 memorandum from Cardinal Ratzinger, are those politicians who are publicly in “formal cooperation” with “the grave sin of abortion or euthanasia” by “consistently campaigning and voting for permissive abortion and euthanasia laws.” 

Archbishop Martin said, “We must face the challenge of putting faith into practice in our lives, and have the courage to follow our informed conscience, no matter what the consequences might be. 

“And in this vital case our conscience has to be informed by our communion with the Bread of Life, by the commandment ‘Thou shalt not kill’, and by the fundamental Christian belief in the sacredness of all human life.”