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New COI Archbishop gives views on abortion, gay marriage

Archbishop Dr Richard Clarke said that he would be “as restrictive as one can with compassion and humanity” when it comes to abortion.

Archbishop Dr Richard Clarke
Archbishop Dr Richard Clarke
Image: Laura Hutton/Photocall Ireland

Updated 3.30pm

THE NEWLY ENTHRONED Church of Ireland Archbishop of Armagh and Primate of All Ireland, Dr Richard Clarke, has spoken about his views on abortion and gay marriage in one of his first interviews since taking up the position.

Archbishop Dr Clarke told RTÉ radio show This Week today that the COI position on abortion and on legislating for the X Case was that if you’re talking about the undeniable and real danger to the life of the mother, “sadly one has to say” that abortion is justified.


Clarke was enthroned as Archbishop of Armagh and Primate of All Ireland at St Patrick’s Church of Ireland Cathedral on 15 December. He was elected archbishop of Armagh in October after serving as Bishop of Meath and Kildare for 16 years.

He said in the interview today that abortion is something that shouldn’t be glossed over, and that you have to look at it from a deeply compassionate point of view. He said that “you also have to say that abortion whether it is for very, very good grounds on the mother’s health, not just mental health but a danger to mother’s life”, even then it is “a horrifying and a terrible thing”.

The Archbishop said what worries him most is “the idea we can talk about full rights to abortion as if this was something simple, very straightforward and right”. He said when you go beyond the times where a mother’s life is at stake, the church would take a very restricted view.

Archbishop Clarke said that he believed the  X Case was “not best place to start work on legislation” and the area of possible suicide is also very grave. He said that suicide is a big issue in Ireland, and nobody can take that lightly. On other hand, he said, if a person is suicidal because they may have a child:

what does that say about society, that society has created such an atmosphere that to act have a child would be so destructive to somebody.

The Archbishop said he would be “as restrictive as one can with compassion and humanity” when it comes to abortion, as “every life is a gift”.

Gay marriage

On the subject of gay marriage, the Archbishop said he believed the church “will be able to have a continuing respectful discussion” on the subject.

The COI had a synodical discussion on the issue, and he hopes it will “continue from there”, which is “going to take forbearance, and patience” from every side. His personal view was that he would like the COI to find a way of accommodation that is respectful, but not “talking about anything goes”.

His own personal view is that the COI has got to try to work toward some accommodation where “we are not demeaning people who are made in image and likeness of god” but are homosexual.

He doesn’t see gay marriage as undermining the heterosexual family directly, and believes that marriage is between a man and a woman. He believes “equality is not the same as equivalence” on the issue.

The Archbishop’s great hopes for COI in the future include it being in a “conscientious dialogue with the world” on issues such as the end of life issue, and embryonic research.

Read: Committee hopes to report to government on X Case law by end of January>

Read: Church of Ireland enthrones new leader>

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