Heading into Mass on Sunday I spotted the local Fine Gael and Labour candidates canvassing outside. The presence of the Labour candidate struck me as odd, to put it mildly. Labour party policy is pro-abortion. Therefore, on a very important issue Labour is utterly at variance with the beliefs of the vast majority of serious-minded practising Catholics.
Politicians seek votes where they may, but given the profound gulf between Labour and the Catholic Church on this issue, it seemed particularly cynical to be canvassing for votes in this way.
I've been amazed in the last few weeks at the number of practising Catholics I've come across who are considering voting for Labour. Given that Labour is pro-abortion, how do they justify this?
It turns out a lot of them haven't the first clue about Labour's position on abortion. Amazing, but true. They don't know, for example, that Labour wants to legislate for the X case ruling of 1992.
That ruling allows for abortion, and furthermore, it permits abortion simply on the say-so of a medical practitioner -- it doesn't have to be a doctor or psychiatrist -- who is willing to say that his or her patient is suicidal.
In addition, Eamon Gilmore favours abortion where the 'health' of the mother is in danger. In practice, this would replicate in Ireland the British abortion law. In Britain, abortion is permitted where a woman's life or health is at risk. Health includes mental health. In practice, this translates into abortion-on-demand.
Gilmore favours this policy despite the fact that Ireland is the safest place in the world for a woman to have a baby, according to World Health Organisation figures.
And from a Catholic and Christian point of view, it is not only Labour's stance on abortion that is problematic. It favours same-sex marriage and same-sex adoption. Its attitude towards denominational schools is also a problem.
If the first category of Catholics and Christians thinking of voting for Labour are those who don't know the party's position on abortion, there is a second category that somehow manages to rationalise away the Labour position, to say that it doesn'tmatter, or that there are more important issues to be considered.
Some Catholics I've come across seem to think Labour doesn't really mean it. Sorry, it does. If it gets a chance -- and that will be up to FG -- we will have abortion in this country.
Others protest that they are not single-issue voters. But no one is asking them to be. However, some issues are of first-order importance and one of them is the right to life.
Still others will say that Labour's position on abortion must be balanced against its position on other issues also of importance to Christians, namely those that generally fall under the heading of 'social justice'.
They claim that Labour's policies on such issues as poverty, health and education outweigh its policy on abortion.
At a stretch this might be true if Fine Gael and Fianna Fail were championing policies that would definitely and deliberately harm the poor and the sick and the uneducated.
But the differences between the three main parties on these issues are actually rather small, protestations to the contrary notwithstanding. We can argue 'til the cows come home about which set of policies will do more harm or more good to this or that set of people. But this is a prudential judgment, not a moral one.
At a minimum, neither Fine Gael nor Fianna Fail is setting out to do harm to the poor and the sick, whereas Labour's policy on abortion would do very deliberate harm to the unborn. That is not a prudential judgement. That is a fact.