Sunday, 20 September 2009

Let's give three cheers for the world's independent pro-life movement (part one)

Two stories caught my eye this week which prompt me this morning to give three rousing cheers for the world's independent, vigorous, good-humoured and peaceful pro-life movement.

Firstly, Vienna's Cardinal Schönborn forbad Bishop Andreas Laun (pictured), an auxiliary of the Salzburg diocese, from attending a peaceful pro-life protest outside Vienna's City Hall. "Bishop Laun is an excellent and brave man", according to Dr Tom Ward, president of the National Assocation of Catholic Families (NACF), who knows him - and you can find here the faithful bishop's dignified comments on television during a Mass which preceded the rally outside the city hall. Inside, Vienna's mayor was leading a celebration marking the 30th anniversary of "a busy abortion clinic".

The TV pictures show a characteristically cheerful group, including many young people, giving eloquent witness on behalf of unborn children whose right to life is being swept aside by Vienna's mayor - just as the Nazi party began to sweep away the rights of Jews in Vienna in 1938.

Secondly, a number of British journals this week, have carried reviews of an autobiography by Baroness Williams of Crosby in which it is claimed: "When, in the course of her victorious campaign for the SDP in the [1981] Crosby by-election ... the Society for the Protection for the Unborn Child threatened to flood every Catholic church in the constituency with leaflets urging support for her Tory opponent, she simply picked up the phone to Archbishop Warlock of Liverpool and got the whole thing stopped."

For the record, SPUC did not urge support for the Tory opponent (more of that below***).

Whatever the late Archbishop Warlock may or may not have sought to do, SPUC's Crosby branch continued to campaign vigorously to spread the pro-life message during that by-election. Since then, over the years, it's grown to become probably the largest local pro-life group in Britain.

It's a good job it is really because SPUC Crosby's ethically-challenged Member of Parliament, Claire Curtis-Thomas,a Catholic, and a vice-chair of the all-party parliamentary pro-life group, said in a House of Commons debate on abortion last year: "For the record, and contrary to many of the statements that I have read this week which purport to know my views, I am not opposed to abortion. I believe that women should have the right to choose; I just hope that they do not choose to have an abortion." Claire Curtis-Thomas confirmed her anti-life stance in correspondence with a constituent later in the year - and she has politely refused my offer of a public debate on her position.

In connection with these stories, we must constantly bear in mind that we are living through a period of history many pro-lifers are posing the question: "Are there subversive elements at work within the Vatican who are intent on appeasing Barack Obama and Tony Blair and their anti-life policies?"

In this grave crisis, it's vital that pro-life, pro-family movements, maintain their vigour, their independence, their good humour and their entirely peaceful character. Many of our members are inspired by the unchanging teaching of their Christian faith, whilst others, without a faith, simply respect the right to life which continues to be upheld in universal human rights instruments for all members of the human family. The pro-life movement is here; we’re growing; we’re passing on our experiences of failures and successes to the next generation who are beginning to join us in growing numbers.

Whatever the considerations which guided Vienna's Cardinal Schönborn earlier this month to make his decision about the pro-life rally in Vienna, and whatever Archbishop Warlock did or did not do in the Crosby by-election nearly thirty years ago - let's give three cheers for the world's independent pro-life movement.

***N.B. I was general secretary of SPUC in 1981 and I wrote to our supporters in November 1981 telling them exactly what the Society was saying to Crosby voters. Contrary to Lady Williams' reported claim, our practice then, as now, was to inform the electorate of the voting records and voting intentions of parliamentary candidates. We never express a preference for any party.

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