Wednesday 31 December 2008

Massacre of the innocents – British-style

The Christmas season is a special time for celebrating the sanctity of human life – seen in the conception and birth of Jesus. It’s also a time to commemorate unthinkable attacks on the sanctity of human life – seen in Herod’s massacre of the innocents.

My son’s missal for December 28, the Feast of the Innocents, reads: “To picture the desolation in more vivid colours, Jeremias recalls Rachel whose lamentations are heard in Rama, bewailing her children because they are not. Like a compassionate mother, the Church robes her priests today in vestments of mourning, and suppresses the Gloria and Alleluia.”

As a Catholic living in England, I see the priest’s mourning vestments as symbolizing the Church’s mourning for its own responsibility in the massacre of the innocents in Britain.

I think of the ambiguous position of the Catholic authorities in relation to the provision of abortifacient birth control and abortion to children in Catholic schools, without the knowledge or consent of the children’s parents.

I think of the invitation to Tony Blair to speak in Westminster Cathedral, who refuses to repudiate, since his reception into the Catholic Church, the anti-life laws and policies he supported and promoted as prime minister and as a Member of Parliament.

I think of the failure to ban abortion referrals at the Catholic hospital of St John and St Elizabeth in London.

As Luke Gormally, honorary fellow of the Linacre Centre for Healthcare Ethics, rightly commented on Fr Finigan's blog: "How can the Church in this country effectively defend the sanctity of life when its Chief Shepherd is prepared to approve a code which effectively accommodates referrals for abortion?"

But the situation is even worse than that. How can any pro-life group effectively defend the sanctity of human life when the pro-life ethic is undermined by leading representatives in England and Wales of the largest pro-life group in the world, the Catholic Church?

I make no apology for being so blunt. Pope John Paul II instructed Catholics to be so when he wrote: “ … We need to begin with the renewal of a culture of life within Christian communities themselves. Too often it happens that believers, even those who take an active part in the life of the Church, end up by separating their Christian faith from its ethical requirements concerning life, and thus fall into moral subjectivism and certain objectionable ways of acting. With great openness and courage, we need to question how widespread is the culture of life today among individual Christians, families, groups and communities in our Dioceses. With equal clarity and determination we must identify the steps we are called to take in order to serve life in all its truth … ” (Evangelium Vitae, 95).

The massacre of the innocents in Britain will not be effectively opposed whilst the ambiguous policies of the Catholic authorities in England and Wales in relation to the government’s anti-life legislation and policies are maintained.