Eddie Molloy: When going by the book, the bishops would be advised to look at the Bible
Trying to reduce the abortion rate by putting the fear of God into people is a bankrupt strategy.
CANON 1398 states that a woman who procures an abortion is automatically excommunicated from the Catholic Church along with all conspirators, such as the nurses and doctors who assist her. Canon lawyers disagree on whether legislators who enable abortion should also be excommunicated. The Irish bishops are similarly divided, with some seemingly happy to leave the threat of excommunication hanging over the heads of politicians.
Dr Eamon Martin, coadjutor Archbishop of Armagh, deftly avoided being placed in the position of doing the excommunicating, suggesting that anyone who supports abortion in any circumstances thereby excommunicates himself. Even without the 'bell, book and candle' ritual that accompanied excommunication in the Middle Ages, the consequences for politicians will be the same, branding and abuse as a pariah.
The Taoiseach, in responding to the bishops, pointed out that his "book" is the Constitution and that is the book by which he, as head of government, has to operate. In this fraught national debate, I would suggest that there are three books to be consulted, namely the Constitution, the book of Canon Law just cited and the Bible. The latter two are not one and the same.