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If Britain is the geopolitical epicentre of the culture of death, where do we put North Korea and China?

Exaggeration does us no favours in the abortion debate

By on Friday, 3 September 2010

North Koreans pay tribute to Kim Il Sung, the country's founder Kyodo)

North Koreans pay tribute to Kim Il Sung, the country's founder Kyodo)

Edward Adamus, director of pastoral affairs for the Diocese of Westminster, was right when he said in an interview with the Zenit news agency this week that British society was a selfish and hedonistic wasteland in which women often became mere objects of sexual gratification.

But was he right when he said this:

“Whether we like it or not, as British citizens and residents of this country – and whether we are even prepared as Catholics to accept this reality and all it implies – the fact is that historically, and continuing right now, Britain, and in particular London, has been and is the geopolitical epicentre of the culture of death.”

Mr Adamus’s boss, Archbishop Vincent Nichols, did not think he was right. A Westminster flak said the views expressed by Mr Adamus “did not reflect the Archbishop’s opinions”.

Nor do they reflect the opinions of all Catholic laymen. Some Catholic laymen, after all, will believe that in a world that includes North Korea, China and the United States (where abortion is a constitutional right) it is unwise to single out Britain for special blame as the “geopolitical epicentre of the culture of death”.

What Mr Adamus said was inspired by love of truth and fidelity to the Church’s magisterium, but strikes me as being at the same time aggressive, angry and over-emotional. He played into the hands of left-wing commentators in the Independent and the Guardian. There was also in his words a hint of the paranoia that has sprouted in some Catholic circles during the run-up to the Pope’s visit.

Perhaps I am being unjust, so let me give way to John Smeaton, director of the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children. Mr Smeaton knows infinitely more about these things than I can ever hope to know, and, furthermore, has been uniquivocal in his support for Mr Adamus’s latest statement. But does he agree with Mr Adamus that Britain is the geopolitical epicentre of the culture of death? My impression is that he takes a rather more measured view of these things.

A couple of months ago, for example, he rebuked Archbishop Peter Smith of Southwark for suggesting, in an interview with Anna Arco, that our abortion laws were about as liberal as they could be.

“This is simply wrong,” wrote Mr Smeaton. “There are many ways in which the Abortion Act 1967 continues to restrict abortion, both in law and in practice. Abortion remains in general a criminal offence in English law, under the Offences Against The Person Act 1861. There is thus no right to abortion in English law – a crucial bulwark against the international pro-abortion lobby’s incessant attempts to have abortion declared a fundamental human right in international law. Abortion is not, both in English law and in practice, treated as any other medical procedure. Two doctors must attest that at least one of the several grounds for abortion in the Abortion Act 1967 [which applies everywhere in the UK except Northern Ireland] have been satisfied before authorising an abortion. Doctors can – and sometimes do – decline to authorise an abortion. In addition, the Act’s conscience clause helps keep pro-life doctors within the medical profession. These safeguards, whilst flawed and often abused, both save lives and send negative messages about abortion. “

In the end, though, what matters here is not opinion. What matters here is the fact of abortion. As Catholics we believe that (in the words of the Catechism) “abortion is gravely contrary to the moral law”. That means we are opposed to the prevailing orthodoxies, and must be brave enough to defend the Church’s teaching in public. To win the abortion debate it is necessary to convince intelligent liberals that they are wrong. That means be firm and courteous about what we believe. Nothing is gained, however, no lives saved, by anger and exaggeration.

Over to the combox now. The first person to observe that “intelligent liberal” is an oxymoron wins a tin of sardines.

  • Anthony Ozimic at SPUC

    Stuart, I’ve spoken with John Smeaton and I can assure you that he (and I) agree wholeheartedly with Edmund Adamus that Britain is indeed “the geopolitical epicentre of the culture of death.” The UK, not the US, China, North Korea or any other country you care to mention, has always been the main operating base and favourite milieu of the movement for abortion, contraception and eugenics – “the culture of death” identified by John Paul II. That movement is more dangerous, and is responsible for deaths of more people, than any government in history. That movement dates back far beyond the 1967 Abortion Act and part of its origins can be found with Malthus and Galton in the 19th century. IPPF’s HQ has always been London, as has Marie Stopes International. There are many other good reasons why Britain is indeed “the geopolitical epicentre of the culture of death” and some of these can be found in Fr Timothy Finigan’s post as well as your colleague William Oddie’s

    As John Smeaton wrote on his blog of 20 August you are doing a grave disservice to faithful pro-life/pro-family Catholics by your comments about them and their work, as those comments are both patronising and wide of the mark.

  • Baronsamedi0171

    No matter if Smeaton agrees or not. Stuart Reid is right when he says that Adamus's overblown rhetoric does nothing to help the Christian side in the abortion debate. Why must Catholics take a subject in which we are so clearly right, and make it sound as though we are completely bonkers?

  • Robidou

    China doesn,t fund abortions in Africa as much as britain does.

  • Fish lover

    OMG! Sardines plx (actually, can you make it mackerel? In brine, not tomato sauce.) ! Also, I find that unreasoned ad hominem attacks really help win an argument.

  • louella

    I like overblown rhetoric – it sure beats bland insipid double talk anyday. Makes for a refreashing change!

  • GFFM

    Britain is not the epicenter, but like the US it is near the center of the culture of death articulated by John Paul II. What is very sad about the British Catholic Church and many of its shepherds and faithful, is this: they say very little about abortion, embryonic stem cell research, the attack on marriage, the vulgarity of British culture, and the fulminations against Christianity which become more and more evident as the Pope's visit gets closer. The hierarchy and lay people should not be constantly apologizing for what they believe. Archbishop Nichols should stop talking about Benedict's detractors and begin unapologetically reflecting his solidarity with the Church's teaching on life. He should be unabashed and completely positive about his support. The hierarchy should also stop the unseemly fretting about whether “gay” marriage will be a topic Benedict will address. They should hope he will address it with the clarity he addresses everything. This will be a challenge because the British Catholics are so used to conciliation with the Protestant and now rabidly secularist elite, they know of no other way to act. They keep their heads down, avoid confrontation of any kind with the cultural elites, and go to Mass. It's a 500 year old ingrained habit of being.

  • TheBlueWarrior

    The Internatonal Headquarters of Planned Parenthood are located in London–that alone qualifies Britain as the epicentre of the Culture of Death. Further, if you want overblown rhetoric, look to the comments pages of any of the media blogs (or for that matter listen to the high profile BBC commentators) regarding Christain beliefs.

    While abortion on demand is more widely available in the USA, Americans will vote for national candidates based on their pro-life views. Every January, a crowd of 200,000-plus descends on Washington DC (including a large proportion of teenagers) to call for an end to abortion. And just a week ago, 500,000 Americans assembled in Washington DC (a number achieved only 8 times in history) for a rally promoting faith and a place for God in the public square. In short, there is a spirited opposition that is making headway against the death-driven secular agenda. They are Fighting the Good Fight. If we are all one body in Christ, then the American arm is doing the heavy lifting. Contrast that with Blighty where a Christian couple's Bed and Breakfast is shut down by the government for not bedding a homosexual couple in the same bedroom; doctors, pharmacists, registars are being stricken off the list for being conscientious objectors to abortion and same-sex unions. One man (Mr. Adamus) has the courage to call it as it is…and does he get a groundswell of support? Nay, merely the nervous rattling of teacups and a quiet course of “that's a bit extreme” and “what's to be done” and “mustn't grumble”. When Hitler's troops marched into the Rhineland, their orders were to retreat if anyone makes a fuss…and we know how that episode turned out.

  • Hilary White


    Where are the head offices of Marie Stopes International? Where are the offices of International Planned Parenthood? How much international influence comes from North Korea and China at bodies like the UN and the EU, as well as in the international media? How much “abortion rights” and feminist rhetoric comes from China and North Korea into the televisions, films, radio, advertisements and print media around the world comes from China and North Korea.

    If you had done your research, you would have discovered that it is organisations based in London, indeed, founded by campaigning English people in the early 20th century, who are actually conducting a great deal of the mass killings of unborn children in China. The Chinese know how to contract out.

    Where did the utilitarian philosophies that started the whole ball rolling in the 18th and 19 centuries come from? Do the names Jeremy Bentham, John Stuart Mill and Thomas Hobbes ring any bells? Where did the Eugenics movement get its start?

    All these things are easily looked up.

  • Hilary White

    Also, I know that Mr. Smeaton is quite open about answering calls from journalists, so one wonders why, if you were so open to correction from him, you did not call and find out what his opinion was.

  • Fred

    …but it’s much easier for opponents to laugh off. Understatement makes a better base to advance from when challenged – rather than sweeping statements for which the supporting evidence (when produced, as by correspondents here) is not immediately overwhelmingly convincing. SPUC does splendid work – it’s a pity it can’t learn not to exaggerate, and not immediately to contradict helpful statements by others that do not conform exactly to its line.