Britain's two most senior Roman Catholic leaders intensified the debate on abortion yesterday by warning Catholic politicians who support terminations not to receive Holy Communion.Needless to say, there was some uninformed comment from these politicians.
Cardinal Keith O'Brien, the leader of Scotland's Catholics, said the abortion rate north of the border was now equivalent to "two Dunblane massacres a day".
In a sermon marking the 40th anniversary of the Abortion Act, Cardinal O'Brien told Catholic politicians of "the barrier such co-operation (on abortion) erects to receiving Holy Communion". He also urged Catholic voters to consider "all the views" of those seeking election.
Outside St Mary's Cathedral in Edinburgh after the service, the Cardinal said he would like to see a change in the law governing what he labelled "an evil trade".
He added: "We are killing - in our country - the equivalent of a classroom of kids every single day.
"Can you imagine that? Two Dunblane massacres a day in our country going on and on. And when's it going to stop?"
But he denied wanting pro-choice Catholic politicians to be cast out of the Church.
"They must consider their own consciences and whether or not they can approach the altar to receive Holy Communion," he said.
Jim Devine, the Labour MP for Livingston, said that the Cardinal's comments were an "affront to democracy".What annoys me particularly is the disingenuousness of these arguments. It is perfectly democratic for the Church to teach her doctrine and advise her members on their moral responsibilities. Even from a purely secular view, does not the Church have the right to express her views and advise her members who adhere to the Church by virtue of their own decision?
He added: "Abortion is not the issue. This could be about nuclear weapons or Iraq or anything where the Catholic church has a view.
''To tell practising Catholics how to vote is unacceptable."
Terry Sanderson, president of the National Secular Society, said: "There is an implied call to Catholic politicians and health workers to place Catholic doctrine above the wishes of the electorate.
''This is undemocratic and unacceptable."
Secondly, if a politician's duty is merely to act as a passive conduit for the views of the electorate, without regard for any objective idea of truth or justice, then the whole political apparatus should simply be dismantled, as modern technology can come up with better ways of polling the general public and determining their will than the old fashioned system of political parties and elected representatives.