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Debate: Has the Church been ‘pathetic’ in the fight against abortion?

Or would aggressive interventions in politics be counter-productive?

By on Friday, 21 January 2011

Tory MP Nadine Dorries says she feels let down by the churches in the campaign to reform the abortion law

Tory MP Nadine Dorries says she feels let down by the churches in the campaign to reform the abortion law

This week, Conservative MP Nadine Dorries told The Catholic Herald that she feels badly let down by church leaders – both Anglican and Catholic – in her fight to reform Britain’s abortion law.

She said:

“I need religious support. It is our core support. I need the churches being more involved, and the churches have been pathetic, pathetic, during the abortion debate in their support for what I was trying to do.
“The Church of England was the worst and the only person in the Catholic Church who made any comment was Cardinal [Keith] O’Brien. Everybody was silent because the churches were weak and cowardly in their position.

“I was even told by one envoy from the Church [of England] that Psalm 139 was ‘just poetry’. Weeks later they timidly came out and squeaked their words of support… The churches have really angered me during this debate.”

In 2008 Dorries launched a campaign to reduce the upper limit for abortion from 24 weeks to 20. It was added as an amendment to the Human Fertilisation and Embryology (HFE) Bill, but, along with other attempts to reduce the limit to 12, 16 or 22 weeks, was rejected by MPs.

The Catholic Church did campaign against the HFE Bill. Archbishop Peter Smith of Southwark wrote to parish priests in September 2007 to advise them of the Bill’s dangers. He said it was “very important” that people write to their MPs. Yet there was no specific, focused campaign to lower the limit.

The hierarchy was also tragically ineffective in campaigning against the 1967 Abortion Act. Lay Catholics fought bravely against the law, but the bishops woke up to it late and issued only a few weak statements.

On the other hand, is it fair to blame the Church? After all, the pro-life movement as a whole has not had any success in changing the law. And perhaps Church leaders being more vociferous would harm, rather than help, the cause.

So, is the Church “pathetic” in the fight against abortion? Or would a hierarchy that intervened aggressively in the political debate be counter-productive?

  • louella

    I can’t see the general secular public ever giving up abortion ‘rights’. They are more likely to demand more and more arbitrary ‘rights’ for themselves. That is the self-centered nature of the secular mentality and its obsession with its own ‘rights’.

    Instead over the decades Secularists will abort (and contracept) themselves to a minority…and most likely fast multiplying Islam will fill the demographic void! Then abortion will be outlawed. But it would be nicer if Catholics could do this. God Willing!

  • Helen1ark

    I agree with Nadine Dorries that the response of the official church has been pathetic. You suggest that the involvement of the hierarchy could have made matters worse – it could not possibly be worse! I would like to see our Bishops leading from the front, courageously challenging the culture of death which is overwhelming our society. Most Catholics are still pro-life but this base is being frittered away through lack of leadership. Why are they not organising pro-life marches and demonstrations outside abortion clinics? Why are they not leading them? Why are they not being daily attacked by the media for their pro-life position? Why are they not prepared to go to prison over it? If they lead, the many very committed Catholics will follow.

  • raphael

    i think its very easy to just blame bishops and others for their poor response. probably they haven’t been vocal enough, but why aren’t catholic laity getting involved in initiatives that are already out there or starting their own? how many normal catholics are prepared to go to prison or be attacked by the media over this? not many i bet.
    its very easy for us to sit back and expect bishops and priests to put themselves on the line in that way. everyone has a responsibility, we all make up the church.

  • Anonymous

    Please tell me this : What is the point in debating an issue when the facts aren’t allowed to be stated ; because they’re either embarrassing or may cause offence?

    Aren’t you kind of proving Nadine Dorries claims by default?

  • John

    The Church has been pathetic. The hierarchy is cowardly and not fit for purpose. Catholics around the world are fighting to defending human life, with marches, campaigns, websites etc., but in Britain, there is the thick smog of apathy and indifference, unmoving and filling our lungs and poisoning our souls.

    We must fight against the tyranny of abortion with all our might, just as our Catholic ancestors fought against other crimes against humanity, such as slavery. When the history books are written, they won’t see that abortion was ended because of secularists – it will be because of Christians.

    We must live our Christian faith in public and be unafraid of persecution. What point is there in calling oneself a Catholic if you don’t live as one?

  • ryan

    A more concerted, coordinated effort to engage the faithful would be a good idea. Why doesn’t the Catholic Herald do its bit and have a pro-life section and write more articles kicking some life into the issue?

  • Anonymous

    No doubt about that: pathetic, pathetic. The Church must pray, defend, argue with all its means and efforts against abortion. No chance agressive campaign will be counter-productive, look the US.

  • Jeannine

    I believe the Ordinariate will revive the Catholic faith in Britain. Don’t give up & keep praying for your clergy.

  • Wordsworth says

    Whilst totally sympathetic to the Pro life stance the problem isnt whether or not the church is ready to support the MP, it is Whether or not the Church should enforce its view on a secular public by enhancing the views of secular politics in order to justify their view on life, even if shared.

    The Pro life view is in the main mostly supported within the Church both Catholic and Protestant. The people within them are already living by those guide lines (in the main).

    Surely the Churches view should be to come along side individuals outside the arms of the church and educate/love/support rather than protest. We are constantly being blamed with either getting to involved or not involved enough. No, our role should be to state the Churches position, and like the Holy Spirit, come alongside those that we encounter, with a view to presenting them with Christ rather than standing up with politically motivated agenda’s.

    If people want to get abortions they will get them one way or another. The way to reducing the issue is through the inworking of the Holy Spirit within people. Allowing People to change their mind for the better.

    The onus for christians is pray, fast and then act. Confirm the churches position on abortion by all means but fight the fight not so much in the political arena as the spiritual.

    Whilst neither a Prophet or the Son of a Prophet i would argue that if the Church as a whole prayed and fasted over this issue with the same fevour as Jesus in the Garden, then lives would be truely transformed and individuals would be changed. If we attack the root, then the subject of abortion becomes less important because it wouldn’t be as required. But we dont do that now i suppose as we believe more in physical action rather than sovereign moves of the Holy Spirit?

  • Londonistar

    Why are they not organising pro-life marches and demonstrations outside abortion clinics?

    Because that would be a horrible thing to do. An unchristian act of bullying terrified women or women in very problematic situations like me onw. Dont be so cruel. There are far more productive ways to engage in this debate or protest this issue than flat out bullying tactics. Take it from someone who has had an abortion and who has broadly speaking changed her mind from pro choice to pro life

  • Anonymous

    Agreed bullying tactics is not productive, and it takes away from the complex debate that abortion is. Hate, arrogance and stereotyping are not productive to public interaction with this issue.

    As someone, conversly to yourself, who has changed their mind from a strong pro-life position to broadly speaking supporting abortion, I see the bullying, vitriol and unresolved philosophical thinking of some in the pro-life movement as unhelpful.

  • Piers Cadell

    The most relevant thing here is that this MP is asking for our help! That has never happened to my knowledge and it is a sign that the door may be opening to the Church being more allowed to support our pluralistic society!

    I will be emailing her Fr Bryan Storey’s contact details as I know he can help her to get petitions signed and more effectively network with all the good work that is going on behind the scenes.

  • Piers Cadell

    What about the women who are murdered by abortion? It certainly damages their mental health irreparably. That is what we keep forgetting, that the primary right of a person to live is being totally ignored.

  • Anonymous

    If Britain was a genuinely tolerant soceity then there would be no need for this kind of argument. If you express any opinion that sounds remotely Catholic now then you are just shouted down on the basis of being “influenced by religion.” It would seem that the best way of making an effective case against abortion and the only one that could make a lasting impact would be if Catholics all protested en masse all over Britain, which is hardly likely given how divided opinion is over the matter. One thing is for sure: if this were a Muslim or Jewish newspaper then we would have no troubles at all in making our voices heard. It is political correctness that is holding Catholic protests back and stopping them happening as well as stopping Catholics expressing themselves at all; it is not just the hierarchy.

  • Anonymous

    Of course bullying is not the way forward but there is a lot to be seen in organising some form of demonstration against the decisions of the state rather than those of the woman. It would seem the most effective protest one could mount would be to block the abortion clinics while offering alternative help to women in this situation, which for them is, as you rightly say, problematic and complicated. One can hardly call this bullying even though it would have to adopt a direct approach to tackling the alarmingly high abortion rates in this country.

  • Parasum

    The bishops of England & Wales are far too Anglican to be any use for anything. The bishops are part of the problem, with their trashy RE & their filthy sex-ed. Fed Catholic children trash like that, and another generation is being educated to defend, or even worse, not to be bothered by, the “right” to abortion.

    “Or would a hierarchy that intervened aggressively in the political debate be counter-productive?” Maybe it would be better to educate the laity properly so we can do that. Only the hierarchy can provide decent RE. It’s their job to educate Catholics to be Catholic in attitude. So when they going to do it ?

    ISTM the bishops are drowning in sloth – and that sloth is one of the great sins of our time. It’s everywhere. Sloth is why we don’t think as Catholics, but give in to the attitudes of society. We have to be prepared to offend people, and abortion is good an issue as any.