Friday 31 December 2010

Strong pro-life leadership from religious leaders is urgently needed in England and Wales

St Thomas of Canterbury
In recent weeks a range of religious figures outside the UK has been speaking up on pro-life/pro-family issues:
  • the Chief Rabbis in Israel, in a letter to all the country's rabbis, have called on Israelis to fight the country's abortion epidemic
  • the Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem, the leader of Palestinian Catholics, has decribed the world's annual abortion death toll as heart-breaking
  • Thomas Olmsted, bishop of Phoenix in America, has removed a hospital's Catholic status over the hospital's dissent from Catholic teaching on abortion. (According to Paola Rodari, an Italian Catholic journalist, Cardinal Raymond Burke has described Bishop Olmsted's role in the matter as "an example to follow".)
Another prominent religious believer, the actor Jim Caviezel (who played Jesus in "The Passion of the Christ") has described abortion as "the greatest moral defect of the western world".

In sharp contrast, Archbishop Vincent Nichols and the Catholic bishops’ conference of England and Wales co-operate with a policy, enshrined by the previous UK government, of providing children at Catholic and other schools with access to abortion.

On the plus side, the latest pastoral letter from Peter Smith, archbishop of Southwark reads:
"The Church has consistently taught that the best context for learning about, and being nurtured in authentic human relationships, is within marriage and the family. And the evidence from report after report in recent years indicates very clearly that even from a secular point of view, marriage between a man and a woman provides far and away the best place to bring up a family and educate children. It is within that stable, loving context that children learn to develop spiritually, emotionally, physically and intellectually."
There is, however, a mismatch between Archbishop Smith's defence of heterosexual, married parenting and the succour which at least some of his fellow-bishops in England are giving to groups and publications which promote homosexual partnerships and homosexual parenting.* We need clear, consistent leadership on pro-life/pro-family issues from our country's own religious leaders. We should not have to rely upon religious figures from abroad to plug the gap.

*The late Pope John Paul II, the great pro-life champion, taught (Evangelium Vitae, 1995, para.97) it is an illusion to think that we can build a true culture of human life if we do not offer adolescents and young adults an authentic education in sexuality, and in love, and the whole of life according to their true meaning and in their close interconnection.

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