TAOISEACH Enda Kenny has received a message threatening revenge for his criticisms of the Vatican in the wake of the Cloyne Report.
And he told Fine Gael colleagues that he believes he will become the target for more abuse as relations between church and State rapidly deteriorate over the abortion row.
He said he received a message threatening "revenge for Cloyne" yesterday, but did not say who had sent it.
He did not say if the message was communicated in writing or said to his face. He also indicated such people did not worship the same god he did.
He made the comments at a Fine Gael meeting that was discussing the abortion issue, as senior church figures warned that new legislation would lead to the intentional killing of unborn children.
Earlier, Mr Kenny had insisted the laws to reform a limited ban on abortion would create a culture of life -- not one of death, as had been suggested.
He dismissed criticism from four Catholic archbishops and two other bishops, who have voiced extreme concern about the government move.
He also categorically ruled out including rape or abnormalities in the womb as grounds for abortion.
"I am not going to have any regime here that leads to abortion on demand," he also said.
Mr Kenny was speaking as he hit back at Catholic bishop Leo O'Reilly, who described the legislation -- using the words of Pope John Paul II -- as "the first step towards a culture of death".
But in a clear reference to this comment, Mr Kenny said the legislation will bring a "culture of life".
"Far from this being any culture of death, it will be a culture of life – about the protection of the lives of women with full respect for the life of the unborn," he said at a briefing in Government Buildings.
Mr Kenny also said he was meeting with the Catholic church hierarchy in the New Year.
But he later told colleagues about the personal attacks he had suffered because of a combative speech last year where he had accused the Vatican of "dysfunction, disconnection, elitism".
He said he had received a message threatening "revenge for Cloyne", but he didn't reveal who sent it.
Mr Kenny indicated once again that there would be no free vote in the Dail on abortion, and stressed his TDs came under the party whip system.
"Everybody who's elected to the Dail has a Constitutional duty, and when they are members of a party like ours, a political duty.
"That's why we'll have a very calm, very rational, very considerate, very sensitive and understanding discussion of all of these things.
"As I say we are not dealing here with issues outside the narrow confines of what the X case and the Supreme Court have determined," he said.
In an effort to calm nerves in Fine Gael, he insisted the legislation would cover only the "very narrow confines" of the Constitution.
Mr Kenny said politicians were not qualified to direct expert personnel, either in the fields of psychiatry or clinical medicine, on what to do.
He said the Government was putting in place a framework by which experts who have to make decisions on a regular basis can do so.
In this regard, suicide would be a grounds for abortion, but there would be safeguards.
"Clearly the Expert Group report said that the suicide issue is one that is subjective and therefore requires a greater level of attention and detail. That's why it will be necessary to introduce extra safeguards and restriction in an area that has no restriction at the moment," he said.
The Taoiseach reiterated he was opposed to abortion on demand and the legislation would not bring in issues outside of the X case.
Meanwhile Labour minister Pat Rabbitte said he had been taken aback by the language used by the church hierarchy in response to the Government's decision on abortion legislation.
The Communications Minister said he was not sure how you could make what he described as "that kind of strident intervention" without seeing the legislation.
Meanwhile a statement from the Church of Ireland Archbishop of Dublin, Revd Dr Michael Jackson, said they welcomed the fact that the Government "has taken the decision to bring clarity to bear on the issue of abortion under certain circumstances."
"This is a matter of almost indescribable complexity – both human and medical. We fully recognize that any decision which, in respect of a woman's health, results in a termination is a terribly weighty one.Our hope would also be that appropriate clarity will facilitate those who are practitioners in the field, namely nurses, doctors and others, as well as parents."