One wonders what Pope Francis will make of it when he arrives in Ireland in August. For centuries Ireland had done the church’s bidding, an obedient loyal soul, infused with Christian doctrine even as the world changed.
What will Francis, a compassionate and caring man, make of this new landscape when he steps off his papal plane?
Pope John Paul had drawn millions in 1979 on the first ever papal visit and his most famous utterance was “Young People of Ireland I love you.”
The young people clapped and cheered, but their children today in 2018 voted 87 percent in favor of abortion rights.
Pope Francis will doubtless proclaim his love too but the scandals that hollowed out the church in Ireland since the last papal visit have had a massive impact. He will be visiting at a time of the lowest ebb for his beloved institution.
The incredible transformation is seen in the two poll results. In 1983, it was 67 percent to ban all abortion except when the life of the mother was in question.
In 2018, the position was exactly reversed with what looks like a 68 percent majority now favoring abortion up to 12 weeks.
In 1983, the debate occurred in the wake of Roe V Wade ten years before in 1973 when the US Supreme Court voted to allow abortion. A movement started afterwards in Ireland to ensure such an event could not happen at the hands of the Irish Supreme Court and fears of a similar judicial coup were spread far and wide.
Never mind that there was not the slightest chance it would happen given the deeply conservative bent of the court.
The politicians duly danced to the church’s tune. Ironically, it was Charles Haughey, a notorious womanizer, who led the charge. He was abetted by Fine Gael leader Garret FitzGerald, who was considered a liberal at the time.
The church joined in and the hue and cry began with urgent calls for a referendum to end the phantom possibility of Roe V Wade ever happening in Ireland.
The mighty had their way and the referendum duly passed. Many of the men who would be uncloaked as clerical pedophiles led the way. Ireland was a country for old men.
Now, all has changed utterly. A young generation, a young, gay Prime Minister, a successful plebiscite to allow same sex marriage have all come to pass.
The referendum on abortion rights on dealing with the blind eye hypocrisy that 3,000 women were going to Britain to have them anyway proved another transformative moment for Ireland.
Pope Francis has a lot of work to do.