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Cuddly Claire Rayner believed it was selfish to have children with Down’s Syndrome

As the mother of a girl with Down’s Syndrome, I disagree

By on Thursday, 14 October 2010

Claire Rayner and her husband Des earlier this year (Photo: PA)

Claire Rayner and her husband Des earlier this year (Photo: PA)

So Claire Rayner, ex-nurse and agony aunt, is dead. May she rest in peace.

I have been scanning the obituaries with interest.

The Scotsman spoke of her “matronly manner” and described her as “cuddly” and “down to earth”. It referred to “this glorious lady… upfront and gloriously honest” and as someone who “was never judgmental”. The Herald of Scotland mentioned her “frank attitude to sex” and that she was “loved and respected”.

BBC News called her “determined but humorous” and a “maternal figure”. Indeed, she had become “part of the fabric of British public life and all because she loved people”.

The Guardian saw her as “an icon… outspoken, no-nonsense, sympathetic and generous” as well as “at the forefront of the 1987 safe sex campaign”, cheerily waving condoms over the cornflakes on breakfast television.

The Independent described her as “a stalwart campaigner”, “warm-hearted” and “untiring in her work on committees and commissions”.

The Telegraph obituary spoke of her “perpetual empathy”. Columnist Gillian Reynolds wrote that “her honesty was a beacon” and that “the world is a colder, less practical, less fun place without her”. Columnist Jemima Lewis added that she was “a human tonic for all our woes”.

Amid all these eulogies and panegyrics there is no mention of a much publicised dispute between Claire Rayner and editor and journalist Dominic Lawson in 1995. In that year his wife had given birth to a daughter, Domenica, who has Down’s Syndrome. Lawson, an atheist, had written memorably about his love for her and his hostility towards those in the medical profession who put pressure on pregnant women to take tests and then to abort babies found to have defects. He concluded, “When I look at Domenica I see someone with a vast joy in just being alive and I am indescribably happy that she is.”

Responding to this with an article in the Independent, the “warm-hearted” and “maternal” ex-agony aunt said in her usual “outspoken”, “down-to-earth” and “no-nonsense” fashion that the Lawsons had behaved selfishly in their decision because of the “misery” and cost to society of such children. Entitled “A Duty to Choose Unselfishly”, her response stated: “People who are not yet parents should ask if they have the right to inflict such burdens on others.” At the time she wrote this, Rayner was actually a patron of the Down’s Syndrome Association. Naturally enough, she was instantly asked to step down. This too was overlooked in the obituaries.

In a later article, “Have a Care, Cuddly Claire”, Lawson (of Jewish parentage like Rayner herself) pointed out to her that her hardline approach to the abortion of children with disabilities was nothing else but eugenics – and that this had been practised with deadly intent by the Nazis, even before the war, in their ‘life not worthy of life” euthanasia programme.

Perhaps it is because the Holy Father, like Dominic Lawson, has spoken out strongly in defence of life, including those persons least able to defend themselves, that almost the last public utterance Claire Rayner made, when she was already very ill, was the extraordinarily intemperate and ill-chosen comment: “I have no language with which to adequately describe Joseph Alois Ratzinger, aka the Pope. His views are so disgusting, so repellent and so hugely damaging to the rest of us, that the only thing to do is to get rid of him.”

It is an axiom that one should not speak ill of the dead, in the sense of bad-mouthing them. But one should also be truthful. Like Dominic Lawson, I have a daughter with Down’s Syndrome; like him I am indescribably happy that she is alive. I do not know if the world is a “less fun place” without Claire Rayner. My daughter and, I imagine, Domenica Lawson, still get a lot of pleasure out of it.

  • Ratbag

    Claire Rayner was far from this 'cuddly' matron. Her comments about Down's Syndrome children are beneath contempt. Who the hell did she think she was calling Dominic Lawson 'selfish'? Typical militant atheist!

    I had little time for Ms Rayner when she was alive. Actually, I have little time for these so-called magazine and newspaper “Agony Aunts” full stop – except for one: Monsignor Michael Buckley in The Universe!

  • Nesbyth

    Perceptive article and Phillips shows how flawed, and indeed downright dangerous, Clare Rayner's thinking was.

    Logically, Clare Rayner's argument about Down's children leads to the wish to eliminate anyone who is not perfect, whether they are born imperfect or become imperfect through an accident or an illness. Where is the line to be drawn?

    And I have a friend with a Down's syndrome daughter, who was very depressed after her baby was born, but who was buoyed up no end when a nun in the maternity hospital said to her, ” these children can never offend God.”

    But Clare Rayner never mentioned God…only the burden on society's finances!!

  • Kate

    “When I look at Domenica I see someone with a vast joy in just being alive and I am indescribably happy that she is.”

    Me too, except my daughter is named Elizabeth.

  • Sagesaucer

    I think some of you ought to read what Claire Rayner actually said http://ind.pn/aV8qDD and think again – independently for once! She does actually have a point and a balanced one, even though I didn't have the test and would not have aborted a child I recognise that the choice needs to be there for those who feel they wouldn't cope or do worry about the fact their beloved child could be left in the care of the local authority if no relative steps forward once the parents are unable to care anymore. My daughter, at a very young age found her first child had Down's Syndrome and a corresponding heart defect – this was identified by a scan not by any other test. She chose to go ahead with the pregnancy, the odds were she would outlive the child anyway so she was prepared for a lifetime as a carer. Sadly the baby was still-born and we were all devastated, I will never forget watching my daughter howling in the hospital and feeling my own heart break. Despite all this, I understand that what Claire said was considered and practical, she didn't condemn the decision of anyone to go ahead knowingly with a pregnancy, quite the opposite, what she suggested was that these decisions need to be carefully considered in a utilitarian way. I think what this publication has a problem with is Claire's atheism and agreement with abortion which understandably blinds you to her underpinning compassion and humanity. The world is full of people with different belief systems all of them overlapping and all espousing tolerance of difference, we all think we're more 'right' than everyone else, but that simply isn't true. We can only learn and develop by being open-minded and accepting that we choose to believe what feels most obvious to us but that other people are equally convinced that they are right and you are wrong. What is wrong is to loudly condemn without having the facts and analysing objectively.

  • Ratbag

    Yes, Sagesaucer! We DO have a problem with Claire Rayner and her views on abortion and other things which go against the grain of Church teaching. Her incendiary remarks about the Holy Father, like a lot of her opinions and so-called 'advice', were a step too far.

    She's another throwback to the permissive society. Should we have expected anything else from her like?

    Saying negative things about her because she's an atheist? Oh, deary dear, that is such a wet statement it is dripping off the laptop!

  • Sagesaucer

    “But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you;
    “That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust.”

    Practice what you preach, Jesus had no time for hypocrites either, you do your Church no favours as a representative by such rudeness.

  • AndyFrankophile

    In England there is a curious admiration for the tough, ruthless , rather rude, somewhat brutal battleaxe, characterised as the now long disappeared matron but well known to us all as the matron in the carry on films. Time and again I have heard that such women who go around spreading unhappiness, have 'a heart of gold'. I have never understood the admiration for such people unless they recall a time when we were younger and bore less responsibility for our own actions.

  • Jane

    I was instrumental in forcing Clare Rayner to quit as patron of the Down's Syndrome Association. Using some of Dominic Lawson's excellent arguments I wrote to the Association, giving it notice that I would be attending the forthcoming AGM and calling for her resignation. Evidently she decided to jump rather than be pushed as she resigned before the AGM and her resignation was announced there.

    Her views were that all expectant mothers should be compulsorily tested for Down's Syndrome and encouraged to have an abortion if Down's were present. Any parents “selfish” enough to wish to preserve the life of their Down's baby should be forced to meet the full cost of that baby's health care and education themselves and be denied all public services in perpetuity.

    Cuddly Clare had some pretty evil views.

    I too have a son with Down's Syndrome, now aged 28, who has enriched our lives immeasurably. We adopted him, and there is no difficulty in finding parents eager to bring up these lovely children.

  • Nesbyth

    Sagesaucer, I think you are over-reacting. There is no “rudeness” here. Most of those posting are simply concerned with life and death…those with Down's being at the end of the firing line in Claire Rayner's opinion.

    So I guess what you are calling “rudeness” is rather a conflict between the people blogging here who have a different set of morals and standards when discussing who has a right to life. The people you are labelling as “rude” are those who believe that everyone has a right to life. They cannot see how Claire Raynor and others of her mindset can argue that some people may have to forfeit their right to life…notably Downs Babies.

  • Eric Conway

    I generally agree with the adage to not speak ill of the dead. But in this old bigots case the gloves are off. She contributed nothing to humanity in life, apart from a vile/toxic/irrational mindset, so her death is of absolutely no importance. Best just to forget her sort, & let her repulsive views die with her. No, I'm being too easy on her ; this will really annoy her – may she rest in peace.

  • SPQRatae

    Thank you so much for providing a bit of balance with this article. I never could abide the monstrous woman, and all the eulogies were starting to make me gag.

  • Mike

    Excellent article, but editor needs to spell her name right in the headline.

  • http://www.catholicherald.co.uk/ The Catholic Herald

    Thanks for pointing that out. We have corrected it.

  • Katz4995

    One day a week I work with children with learning difficulties, many are Down's Syndrome kids. I consider it a privilege to be part of their lives.

    It must be a hard path bringing up a child who you know will never live an independent life, but those who would argue that health and education costs for these kids should not be borne by us all through our taxes miss the point. There are many 'perfect' children who do society far worse ill than merely being different and vulnerable.

  • Sagesaucer

    Actually I was just referring to ratbag being rude (to me) and I entirely understand why people fail to appreciate the notion that abortion is morally wrong, I too believe that. However I do find the language used to express distaste for opposing views and of another person to be in conflict with the teachings of Christ, it's right to express a view and give valid reasons for why you think something is 'wrong' but it isn't right to use vile words to describe another human being except possibly in extremis, particularly when that person in balance is more good than 'evil'. The problem with many belief systems is that they are rooted in archaic cultures – everything can change and grow without becoming 'wrong' and such change needs people to challenge – right or wrong. Otherwise we might still be burning Catholics!

  • tiggy

    Never regarded this lady ( May She rest in peace) as “cuddly”. She had very stong views, usually wrong. and was a shameless self publicist. Hopefully God will look on the good she did, and not on her awful social and moral views.

  • Ratbag

    Rude? Moi? Don't you DARE quote Holy Scripture to justify yourself, Sagesaucer!

    My so-called 'rudeness' pales into insignificance compared to the slander, libel and below-the-belt slurry and bilge the Catholic Church and The Pope have been subjected to of late, including from that cuddly-as-a-barbed-wire-cushion Claire Rayner and many like her!

    So, just because someone reacts to your views in defence of Church in the strongest terms, you come out and accuse me of being 'rude' and a hypocrite? Heck, you lot can dish it out but you can't take it!

    In Church history, there have been many people – including saints – who have spoken out against injustice and in defence of the Church in the strongest terms which meant straight talk and few pleasantries – the Church makes no apologies for that.

  • Ratbag

    That is very, very true, Katz4995.

    Why is it that society, in the words of Oscar Wilde, knows the price of everything and the value of nothing? Why, when the Chilean miners were rescued, was the Chilean President asked how much it cost? Good on him for saying that it didn't matter!

    You are right in saying that there are many 'perfect' children wo do society far worse ill than merely being different and vulnerable.

    If we want to do some serious bean counting, why doesn't the Government tot up how much taxpayer's money goes into the education and welfare of the different and vulnerable and compare that to the costs of policing, courts, probation officers, youth offenders institutions and prisons?

    I bet the results would be interesting…

  • Sagesaucer

    I do dare, I have every right to, exactly what do you mean by 'you lot'? Truth is I think you simply failed to understand a word I said, if you had understood you would not have felt the need to 'defend the Church'.
    “slander, libel and below-the-belt slurry and bilge the Catholic Church and The Pope have been subjected to of late” – Hmmm If I wasn't a better person I might pick up on the 'below -the -belt” reference! What slander & libel do you refer to – I've obviously not come across it – just facts?
    I'm afraid you have done nothing but reinforce a widely held notion that narrow-minded bigotry is what props up organised religion and the Church quite frankly can do without it. Attitudes like that drive people away in despair – how charitable (& how counter-productive.) Try engaging in debate instead of launching into a verbal attack, it's much more 'grown-up'!

  • Caroline

    I understand she was also a proponent of euthanasia….

  • Elena

    I have read what Claire Rayner said and it still seems wrong to me. Leaving aside the disability issue, there is a basic principle that is wrong and that is that caring for a loved one is a burden. For me this is a reflection of pure selfishness. All human beings need someone to care for them at some point in life, disabled or not, unless one dies young from a sudden death. So implying that a parent is selfish with his other children for having a child with a disability is simply wrong, again is a reflection of a selfish society.

    Time and time again a read the argument that disabled individuals are a burden to society because of the money they cost. If it is about the money they cost then we should start killing the drugaddicts, the drunks, the rapists, everyone that is in jail, and so on….they cost a lot of money and inflict a lot of pain in society!!!???? That is exactly the danger of playing God, who draws the line?

  • Michael

    I do hope Catholic Herald readers will read the comments below and understand just who their co-religionists are.

    My favourite oxymoron is “Christian charity”.

  • Bwaj

    And we all know where Claire Rayner is now unless she repented before she died.

  • Bwaj

    No it doesn't – there is no choice. Abortion is murder and murder unrepented leads to Hellfire. The trouble with today's society is they treat those who are suffering like the enemy. What does Our divine Saviour about helping those who suffer and He doesn't mean by killing them (St. Mtt:25.31-46).

  • Bwaj

    Wrong – Our divine Lord also tells us He will cast into Hell those who disobey His commands either directly by commission (St. Mtt:19.18-19) or indirectly by ommission (St. Mtt:25.31-46). Life begins at conception outside the womb (in the fallopian tubes) so how many people,disabled and not,have been murdered because of Ms. Rayner's athiestic propaganda? I just hope other athiests will accept the warning and repent of their sins.

  • Ratbag

    Yes, she was, Caroline, and people actually admire this woman! God forgive us!

    Prevention of life and advocating death? A toxic cocktail indeed…

  • Ratbag

    My favourite oxymoron is atheist debate!

  • Ratbag

    Sagesaucer, I think 'you lot' is a lot more pleasant than what Catholics and The Pope have been called… and are still called! Can you honestly tell us here that the ill-researched excrement that has wasted rag, ink and airtime in the run up to the Pope's visit is all FACT?

    FACT: Joseph Ratzinger (aka Pope Benedict XVI) had a cousin who was put to death by the Nazis – for being disabled! The Ratzinger family moved around several times because they were vehemently and categorically ANTI-Nazi. He lived through the Nazi years like many other Germans and saw it for the twisted, sick and depraved regime it was. So did Pope Pius XII, who tried to warn people about the Nazi regime and its dangers before World War II. Karol Wojtyla (aka Pope John Paul II) lived through the deaths of his family, the Nazi occupation, saved Jews and others from being deported to the death camps whilst being part of the Polish underground. He saw death and destruction in his beloved Poland, with Auchwitz merely miles away from where he lived. Let us not forget he lived through communism, too. 'Nuff said!

    Both Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI have written and spoken about the value of life from the womb to the tomb, not only from the depths of their faith but because they have lived lives which have been touched by death and destruction in one way or another. They tell the world that life and each person is precious and anyone who agrees with them is described as someone 'to be got rid of' for his 'despicable views'. N

    Narrow-minded bigot? If standing up for life makes me a narrow-minded bigot, then so be it!

    Abortion is never an option, a means to an end. It hurts women and children – literally!

    Attitudes like mine drive people away in despair? OOOOOhhh, pur-lease! I've cancelled that first class ticket for that guilt trip you booked me on!

    Christian Charity? Here's a definition that would suffice: St Maximillian Kolbe. Google, Bing or Ask if you want to look him up and know why he is the epitome of Christian charity then it is not an oxymoron…

    And it takes a grown up person to do what Maximillian Kolbe did. No debate about it!

  • Bwaj

    I notice my reference to Ms. Rayner being in Hellfire if she died impenitent has been deleted. May I ask why? Is it that many Catholics today,unlike myself, are uncomfortable with this truth or is it that athiests have objected to it because what is the truth is uncomfortable to them? I did not say Ms. Rayner was in Hell – I said she would be if because of her views she died without repenting of them and the same applies to everyone with similar beliefs as her's. Perhaps we should remember Our divine Redeemer's warning that to seek popularity men (Gal:1.10) by altering the Gospel (Gal:1.7-9) is to become God's enemy and cut ourselves off from the True Church (Gal:1.10). The Gospel comes from Our Lord (Gal:1.11-12) by the Holy Spirit (2 St. Tim:3.16) so can not err. This same Gospel forbids murder (St. Mtt:19.18-19) and tells us just as those who do good will be rewarded so those who do evil, whether actively or indirectly will receive their just punishment in Hellfire (St, Mtt:25.31-46) if they do not repent. Is there a difference between actively killing a person e.g. with a weapon or killing them by ommission e.g. starvation or dehydration? No – there is not because the result is the same and is the sin of murder. Abortion is murder because it kills a living human being. If this is done on account of disability it is 'eugenics' which also teaches infanticide and euthanasia. Eugenics did not begin with Hitler and the Nazis but was originally promoted by the British and American birth control movement.in the 1920s who had been preceded by Francis Galton (cousin of Charles Darwin) who came out with the same lie as the UN is now – that the world is overpopulated. The Anglican clergyman Thomas Malthus,who is quoted by Scrooge in the beginning of 'A Christmas Carol',claimed those who are poor should 'die and decrease the surplus population'. Dickens' opposed Malthus's erroneous beliefs and has the Ghost of Christmas Present tell Scrooge it is not for men to judge who should live and who should die – because many who deserve to live (the poor?) die and those undeserving of life (the rich) who do not die. 'A Christmas Carol' is in fact a morality tale. Perhaps we should see it in light of St. Mtt:25.31-46 and St. Lk:14.13-14.

  • Derekbd

    It's a shame that you don't know that the term is DOWN SYNDROME, not Down's Syndrome.

  • Aelfhere

    Warm, matronly, murderous Nazi bitch!

    How long before Harriet Harman is a national treasure?

  • Lisarust99

    I had to make a heartbreaking decision 11 years ago to terminate a pregnancy, because at the 20 week scan it was picked up that my baby had severe spina bifida and hydrocephalis. Made all the more difficult by the fact that my husband had a mild form of spina bifida. It's a very personal thing when we make our decisions. Of course, we want to make the right decision, and if someone chooses to keep their child with a disablility that is the right decision for them, and no-one elses business.

  • La Branche

    Thank you Ms. Phillips for this perceptive blog.

    How is it that euthanasia -promoting views like those of Claire Rayner are gradually and depressingly infiltrating our society? For this surely is the conclusion to draw from the seemingly universal approval she received at the hands of many other-wise level headed obituarists. How does this happen?

    I am convinced that one major reason is our society's misguided criteria for what makes for a successful life, well lived. Today, our society is becoming ever more obsessed with a viciously narrow definition of success in life, spurred on by a media continually urging us to embrace the goals of fame and fortune. In peddling such a drastically limited, not to say mediocre, version of life's richness, this caricature of the good life peddles death to any not able to compete in this way. In blatantly not fitting in, they undermine the orthodox credo, their very life challenging its legitimacy.

    So it is built in to this awful vision of society that a person with Down's syndrome will only ever be seen as surplus to requirements. How could it be otherwise? The Abortion law did not arrive by accident. Even night follows day more reluctantly than abortion gallops after worldly success.

    And yet, as many people can testify either as a friend or parent of a person with a disability, true success in life is much more to do with joy, trust and welcome than with fame or fortune. Success is not about what we amass but what we share. What is the name for the kind of madness that persuades us otherwise?

    Sharing your delight in your daughter and her own enjoyment of life and all she is offering to the world is the best way to reveal the hidden riches that life can hold, not just for her but for all of us. Far from being a drag on society, she is one of the front runners!

  • numpty

    Always nice to read such Christian attitudes from commenters in the Catholic Herald.

  • Ratbag

    Bwaj, Claire Rayner (who's from a Jewish family) became a militant atheist and, as such, denied the existence of God.

    It is easy and convenient to 'deny' the existence of God because people like her don't need to answer to anyone else but themselves – thus, no-one to judge them on their 'thoughts, words and omissions' or the prospect of suffering the consequences of their actions. Like I said, easy and convenient like the throwaway society we live in.

    The problem with today's society is that it has gone soft on the notion of hell and the existence of the devil – and look what is happening to society! Many saints and mystics, including the three shepherd children of Fatima, were shown what the devil does and what Hell is like – they were never to be the same again.

    As Blessed Cardinal Newman has said we are “A link in a chain” – the sick, disabled and poor are strong links in that chain. We should never, ever forget that.

  • Ratbag

    You have paraphrased the words Pope Benedict XVI said to the children at the Big Assembly in Twickenham with regard to the hunger for fame and fortune. It is not enough for some people to enjoy the arts, music, film and literature for fun without keeping their eyes off the prize i.e. fame. Some wait many years for their big break – if it ever happens at all. There are other paths to fulfilment in life without having to scream at a panel of judges on a talent show like a hyena with piles! (I know, I know there are exceptions – excellent exceptions – but they come round once in a Preston Guild!)

    Franklin D Roosvelt had polio; Stephen Hawking has motor neurone disease; Helen Keller had numerous ailments; John F Kennedy's nephew had a leg amputated with cancer and JFK himself suffered from excruciating back pain from injuries he received during the Second World War. Diana, Princess of Wales supported the music and theatre group Chicken Shed – which was founded to give children with disabilities to let their talents shine – and shine they did, and still do!

    Three of my friends have spina bifida of different degrees – one is totally paralysed from the chest down. They bring out the best in everyone they meet. They give their heart, soul and talents to the world. They have a more cheerful disposition than most people who are blessed with good health. I don't see their disability but as the beautiful people they are.

    Some women go down the slippery slope of abortion because a baby would, in their view, get in the way of their career. What a very expensive price to pay!

    It is time that children should be valued, esteemed and loved in a firm yet fair way and not as appendages.

  • GFFM

    Let relativism reign and get rid of the “defective.” This is really what you are suggesting: eugenics. A truly civilized society has to combat such views.

  • EditorCT

    I can't see a single uncharitable word in this article. If you think Claire Raynor deserved the praise lavished upon her both in life and in death, then you really have chosen the right user name.

  • EditorCT

    I've just discovered this thread and I loved this article.

    As the author says, it is convention not to speak ill of the dead, but with a public figure, things are a little different. It is perfectly acceptable to comment on their public utterances and writings and there were few people so public as Claire Raynor. Indeed, the only time I felt moved to telephone a radio show was when she was promoting her usual string of immoralities on Radio 2. I was so livid that I genuinely couldn't remember her name when I first got through, and described her as “that old grey haired lady that does the Agony Aunt stuff…it's her I want to answer…”

    So, it's not uncharitable to quote her views and to comment on them. What WOULD be uncharitable would be to go with the flow and pretend she was a guru of human life and sexuality, when she was doing diabolical work in that sphere.

    And it would also be uncharitable not to pray for her because, without a doubt, she needs them.

  • EditorCT

    Funny that, because my favourite oxymoron is “tolerant liberal”

  • EditorCT

    That's my second favourite!

  • EditorCT

    Ratbag, I wish you lived in Scotland!

  • EditorCT

    Like, Claire Raynor wasn't a narrow minded bigot?

  • EditorCT

    Now, Ratbag, you've just fallen off your pedestal. Monsignor Michael Buckley? Don't start me. Claire Raynor could give more Catholic advice.

  • numpty

    I said nothing about the content of the article, I specifically said “commenters”.

  • EditorCT

    Well, don't say “commentators” – stick to the subject of the article which is Claire Raynor and her attitude to D S children. Diversionary tactics, such as making personal remarks about other bloggers, are irritating. Who cares what you think about the other bloggers/commentators. We would, however, be interested to hear your views on the topic under discussion.

  • EditorCT

    Wonderful post! God bless you, Jane.

  • Angelopatrick

    my turn off Claire Rayner was when she was used by the then conservative government in praising the privatisation of public transport with that sugary voice that copetion would give us more BUSES with more choice instead as we all knew it gave us chaos and great expence,it took a Labour Government to give us asensible transport system as i predict it will take a Labour government to put Christ's teaching that we are our sister/brother's keeper,including the Down Syndrome human being.i still pray for her Soul to be at rest.

  • Parasum

    Why shouldn’t they admire her ? Those who knew her, may well have good reason to do so.

    We can’t *expect* non-Catholics  to be opposed to eugenics, or to abortion, or even to believe in God. Why *must* a Jewess who became an atheist accept, or even be interested in, the ideas and concerns of a religion she has never claimed to adhere to ? To criticise her for failing to accept Catholic doctrines – however valid we may think it to be, & even though it is indeed valid – is as reasonable & fair as to complain that the Dalai Lama does not believe that Christ founded the Church, or that Shi’ites don’t go to Fatima – it would be as reasonable of them to expect Catholics to go on pilgrimage to Mecca.

    The issue of the truthfulness of Catholic teaching is not the same issue as whether people of other religions (or none) have a moral obligation to accept the belief of societies to which they do not belong & never have belonged; those who have not received have the gift of faith, cannot fairly be blamed for not holding beliefs that derive their credibility and force from the gift of faith, and not from reason. Reason by itself does not forbid abortion, exposure, infanticide – only faith can show that these things are contrary to the Will of God; & faith is a grace, that God alone gives. Infanticide, exposure, etc., are reasonable courses of action, and get rid of many problems – no wonder the pre-Christian Romans practiced them. It is reason elevated by grace that sees they are wrong and condemns as wrong – not reason by itself. 

    So it is not fair or reasonable to blame someone without faith for not having (let alone acting in accord with) the moral vision that Christian faith gives. Bio-ethical doctrines that gain their force & certainty only from an explicitly Christian vision of the universe (which comes through the supernatural grace of faith, not through the resources of unaided human nature) cannot be required from those who have very different ideas about the universe.

  • Chadford

    It is both.  In North America it is often Down Syndrome, and across the Atlantic it is Down’s Syndrome.  It is named after someone with the last name of Down.  Thus the possessive ‘s.