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A North Cork TD could be on a collision course with the Primate of All-Ireland over perceived threats from the church to legislators.
Fine Gael TD Tom Barry has written to Cardinal Sean Brady to ask whether he is to be excommunicated from the Catholic Church for supporting Government legislation.
Mr Barry wrote to the cardinal and Papal Nuncio Rev Charles Brown, over the perceived threat from the cardinal to politicians who support the proposed Government plans on abortion.
“I have written to the Cardinal to confirm if what he said was meant at the time, or if there has been a mistake,” said Mr Barry. Cardinal Brady spoke to national media recently and suggested that excommunication could happen “down the line.” His office denies that was the intention of the cardinal's comments.
“I certainly value my faith, my faith is important to me. I thought excommunication was something hat happened in the middle ages. What are saying here? That legislation must be passed by the Cardinal before we can vote on it? We have a separation of church and state in this country, and for good reason too.”
Mr Barry stressed that he didn’t want to be excommunicated, especially given that his children are of confirmation and communion age.
Mr Barry also asked in his letter to the cardinal whether those who perpetrated abuse in the diocese of Cloyne, and those who covered up that abuse, would be excommunicated if he was to be.
“I’ve written to the Papal Nuncio also to see if these directions are coming from the Holy See,” said Mr Barry.
Mr Barry also revealed a difference in opinion over the issue amongst the clergy, with one priest telling him not to worry while another, more elderly priest, has continuously emailed him to say that Mr Barry is excommunicated already.
“These are intelligent people, who do not make mistakes about what they are saying usually. If they have made a mistake and there is nothing in his statements then there is no problem. We all get flustered by a question, so it could be a non-issue.”
Cardinal Brady has not replied to Mr Barry’s letter while Rev Brown’s office replied to say the Papal Nuncio was away.
Mr Barry confirmed that he would vote for the legislation on abortion, as long as nothing radically changed during the committee stages.
“The problem with the debate is that there is a lot of anger, from both sides, and when you have anger, you do not have reason. I have protesters outside my office nearly every day now, and the majority of them are decent people who have valid points to make.
“My argument is that if we do nothing on the legislation, and if 10 or 15 years down the line you have a government who is clearly pro-choice, they can take the loopholes there now and legislate for abortion on demand. The arguments work both ways.
A spokesperson for Cardinal Brady, who is away in Lourdes this week, stressed that the issue at hand is the legislation and not the issue of excommunication.
"At this time , we want to convince the legislators on the consequences of abortion on the unborn and Irish society", said the spokesperson.
"The cardinal was not saying excommunciation was coming down the line, he was saying that the focus is on the legislation, which has not been published in full yet. He was respondeding to a question from a journalist when he made the comment."