Cardinal Keith O'Brien is the kind of Christian we seldom see any more on these shores: a real old-fashioned fire-and-brimstone merchant. The leader of Scotland's Roman Catholics this week spelled out, in unusually robust terms, his church's position on abortion - or as he put it, "the wanton killing of the innocent".The whole thing is worth reading...
"We are killing, in our country, the equivalent of a classroom of kids every single day," he thundered from his Edinburgh pulpit. "Can you imagine that? Two Dunblane massacres a day going on and on. And when's it going to stop?" He called upon Catholic politicians to take a stand against this "unspeakable crime", hinting that those who continue to support the 1967 Abortion Act should perhaps review their relationship with the faith. "They must consider their own consciences and whether or not they can approach the altar to receive Holy Communion."
Clearly, the Cardinal set out to provoke - and he succeeded. The liberal establishment went into conniptions. "You can't impose on the conscience of others," huffed the Labour MP Peter Kilfoyle, apparently unaware that the entire purpose of a Catholic priest is to guide the conscience of his flock. It's "undemocratic and unacceptable," whinnied Terry Sanderson of the National Secular Society. I should have thought the freedom to voice one's beliefs was a central feature of any democracy.
In this newspaper, Joan Smith railed against the religious right for attempting to "impose its opinions on the rest of us" - as if we liberals would never dream of imposing our ideas about, say, gay adoption upon a doubtful public.
There is a valid anxiety behind all this fulmination. Hitherto, the abortion debate in Britain has been conducted with admirable decorum. We look with horror at the situation in America, where Roe vs Wade has become political shorthand for a divided nation: on the one hand, the doctor-slaying fundamentalists of the Republican Bible Belt; on the other, the feminists, pansies and peaceniks.
The fear is that pro-life fundamentalism, like junk food and gun crime, might be another American bad habit that we can't help picking up. Cardinal O'Brien, with his US-style fiery rhetoric, would seem to be deliberately leading us down that rancorous route.
As a pro-choice lapsed Catholic, I know where my loyalties lie. I would like to see the liberals win - but to do so having faced the arguments head-on. At present, the pro-choice argument is riddled with dishonesty and evasion.
Saturday, June 02, 2007
An Interesting Read in the Independent...
Ultimately wrong-headed... but seeing more clearly than many of her pro-abortion colleagues: