The organisation that offers abortion ceremonies

Recently, this blog revealed the rapid increase in what might broadly be called ‘New Age’ wedding ceremonies in Ireland presided over by various non-denominational organisations. But wedding services are not all they provide. At least one group offers ceremonies to mark abortion, divorce, and “preparation for dying”. It would have been also unimaginable until very recently that a ceremony would be offered to mark, or even celebrate, an abortion, but this is the point we have reached.

The organisation is called ‘Entheos Ireland’. It presides over hundreds of marriages per year, having been founded just three years ago.

In the “ceremonies of threshold and transition” section of their website, they also outline ceremonies that “have their roots in beginnings, such as Renaming, Gender Affirmation, Coming-of-age, New Career”, in addition to ones that “stem from endings, such as Abortion, Divorce, Retirement”.

To this list must be added “preparation for dying” services, which are distinct from funerals.

Abortion or “preparation for dying” celebrations sound quite shocking, but not surprising when we explore who is behind these new ceremonies.

Entheos Ireland was launched in 2021 by Karen Dempsey. Dempsey is a pro-choice activist who was involved in the Repeal the 8th referendum campaign. At the time, she was one of the 25 women who dressed as red handmaidens (inspired by the book, ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’), and marched to the Dail in an event organised by the Socialist feminist group ROSA, one of the most radical pro-choice groups.

(She also protested against the removal of a pro-abortion mural from the Project’s Art Centre a few years ago. See here)

Entheos describes “preparation for dying” ceremonies as follows: “Our End of Life sessions create a space for the psychological and spiritual exploration needed for individuals and families facing death.  …  Actively engaging with the process of dying can be both liberating and comforting, and can help to relieve the anxiety of dying with important things left unsaid and undone.”

Interestingly, one of their solemnisers is Janie Lazar, the chair of the pro-euthanasia organisation End of Life Ireland.

We can envisage that if assisted suicide or euthanasia are legalised in Ireland, groups such as Entheos will offer ceremonies to go along with them. Some might be shocked, but in Canada there is at least one church that hosts assisted suicide ceremonies on its premises.

Entheos does not promote a specific faith, but their solemnisers are registered with the HSE as “religious”. They are akin to religious ministers without a regular congregation, performing ceremonies upon request. This is a new form of “liquid spirituality”, which requires no strong commitment or beliefs. Anything goes.

“I would rather not have the word religious involved with us,” said its founder Karen Dempsey in a recent interview. The interviewer says that “the designation as ‘religious’ is a useful loophole [in the relevant regulations]. It allows Entheos’ celebrants to incorporate elements of faith into people’s ceremonies … in a way that a totally secular officiating body could not.”

The organisation already has 65 celebrants registered with the HSE and over 80 people on the waiting list for their training sessions, which costs €2,500. This emergent market can be quite profitable, with an average fee of €600 for a wedding and €280 for funerals and other ceremonies.

The rise of these ‘New Age’ ceremonies indicates that people still want a spiritual element in the key moments of their lives. But apart from funerals, traditional religions have always offered these ‘rites of passage’ at positive moments like when a baby is born, or a couple get married. The emerging spirituality adds much less positive events like abortion and divorce to the list of possible rites of passage, and probably in time, euthanasia as well.