France and Ireland

Bad news, grounds for hope, and good news in formerly Catholic countries

The mainstream media have had much to say about the recent constitutional change in France, and they have done so for the most part with little detail, but much euphoric delight. My thanks to Fr. Pius Noonan for finding the actual words for me, which are as follows: “La loi détermine les conditions dans lesquelles s’exerce la liberté garantie à la femme d’avoir recours à une interruption volontaire de grossesse.” I offer the following pretty literal translation: “A woman is guaranteed the liberty to have recourse to a voluntary interruption of pregnancy, and the Law determines the conditions under which that is exercised.”

Much has been made of the fact that a constitutional change is difficult to reverse. That is no doubt true. Liberal feminists, not only in France but elsewhere throughout the West, are clearly exultant about this apparently uncompromising outcome, while pro-life supporters are deeply saddened and fearful for its consequences.

But there are some grounds for hope. The sweeping comprehensiveness of those words could turn out to be a weakness: They make no show of distinguishing early from late “terminations,” for example, or terminations based on sex discrimination. For an orthodox Christian (or for an authentic Buddhist, Muslim, Hindu, Jew, and many unbelievers too) the killing of an innocent human being is always wrong, but decent secular people often attempt to make distinctions out of a genuine sense of humanity, or perhaps to ease their consciences. Is there a heartbeat? Is an anesthetic used? Much more importantly, people will want to know if the baby is being slain because she’s a girl and her designer-parents want a boy. This law will run into trouble — even among the seemingly heartless French liberals — as actual cases of repulsive discrimination become known.

A possible approach to constitutional law, once it becomes unpopular or unfashionable, is simply to ignore it. If you doubt that, take a look at the Australian constitution, whose preamble informs us that the people of the Australian states,

humbly relying on the blessing of Almighty God, have agreed to unite in one indissoluble Federal Commonwealth under the Crown…

I rest my case.

In Ireland, if not in France, there has been some good news for those who value traditional family life. Two proposed changes to the Irish constitution have been comprehensively rejected by voters, the first by 68% and the second by 74%. (The Irish Electoral Commission provides a full account of the proposed amendments.) The NO vote has had the following consequences:

Article 41.1.1 continues to give special constitutional status only to the Family based on marriage between two people, without distinction as to their sex.

Article 41.3.1 continues to recognize Marriage as an institution that the State must guard with special care and protect against attack.

Article 41.2 continues to recognize the importance to the common good of the life of women within the home. It requires the State to endeavor to ensure that mothers should not have to go out to work to the neglect of their ‘duties in the home’.

It is interesting to note that all the major parties and the great weight of opinion among the mainstream media and chattering classes supported the YES vote!


David Daintree was President of Campion College (Australia’s only Catholic liberal arts college) from 2008 to 2012. In 2013 he founded and is now Director of the Christopher Dawson Centre for Cultural Studies, under the patronage of the Archbishop of Hobart.

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