A minority of Catholic bishops have decided not to explicitly tell congregations that they have a right in conscience to vote against the Government's referendum proposal. The Bishops of Cork, Kerry and Raphoe left out any mention of a conscientious No vote in letters read at all Masses today.
Most members of the hierarchy have echoed Cardinal Desmond Connell and Archbishop Sean Brady in encouraging a Yes vote while respecting the right of Catholics to vote No.
Dr Bill Murphy of Kerry said that he and his fellow Bishops are encouraging a Yes vote on Wednesday. Dr John Buckley of Cork and Ross said that the hierarchy is encouraging a Yes vote while not telling Catholics how to vote. Dr Philip Boyce of Raphoe similarly made no mention of the right in conscience to vote No.
The Catholic theologian, Ailín Doyle, yesterday told RTÉ News that she welcomed the emphasis in many bishops' letters on the right in conscience to vote No.
Ms Doyle said that she believed the letters were drafted with dissenting Pro-Life voters in mind. The dissenters believe that the proposal does not go far enough because it specifically protects life after implantation rather than after conception.
Other Catholic Bishops gave their own individual interpretations of the conscience clause in their reworking of the Maynooth statement. A draft of the statement had been made available by the Irish Bishops' Conference.
The Archbishop of Cashel, Dr Dermot Clifford writes: "While I ... will never tell you how to vote since I respect your right to vote according to your conscience, in my honest opinion ... it is best to vote Yes."
The Bishop of Meath, Dr Michael Smith writes: "The decision on how you vote is one that you yourself must make. In an issue such as this everyone must be guided by his/her own conscience and informed by the obligation that rests on all believers to uphold and protect life."
Dr Colm O'Reilly of Ardagh and Clonmacnoise writes: "With all the other Bishops, I'm recommending a Yes vote ... Read the bishops' statement before you make up your mind about how you will vote in conscience about a matter with serious implications, social and moral, for our country."