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The Bishops’ Conference has decided that Day for Life 2012 is all about the Olympic Games. Every year, it’s anything BUT what Pope John Paul intended

Evangelium Vitae was clear: it should principally be about ‘the seriousness of abortion and euthanasia’

By on Monday, 23 July 2012

Blessed John Paul II (CNS)

Blessed John Paul II (CNS)

A week or two ago, I referred to “the great conundrum, for the English Church, about the reign of John Paul II: why was it, when he had appointed most of our bishops, did nearly all of them go out of their way to undermine his vision for the Church?” Now, perhaps the greatest and most persistent example of this undermining of John Paul’s teaching has been the English bishops’ failure, over the years, collectively to oppose abortion and euthanasia as they should have been opposed.

And perhaps the most grotesque and cynical example of this phenomenon is in the annual Day for Life, which year after year has in this country been about anything but what Pope John Paul, when he called for its annual observance, intended that it should be about. This is how Pope John Paul launched the Day for Life, in Evangelium Vitae (§85):

I propose that a Day for Life be celebrated each year in every country, as already established by some Episcopal Conferences. The celebration of this Day should be planned and carried out with the active participation of all sectors of the local Church. Its primary purpose (my emphasis) should be to foster in individual consciences, in families, in the Church and in civil society a recognition of the meaning and value of human life at every stage and in every condition. Particular attention should be drawn to the seriousness of abortion and euthanasia, without neglecting other aspects of life which from time to time deserve to be given careful consideration, as occasion and circumstances demand.

With breathtaking cynicism, the bishops’ spokespersons at the bureaucracy of the Bishops’ Conference in Eccleston Square have misused that phrase “without neglecting other aspects of life” as a means of actually excluding the “primary purpose” of the day: year after year, “the seriousness of abortion and euthanasia” has been mostly ignored (though not completely – that really would have been a stretch; they did talk about it in 2007).

This year, the presumably Olympics-inspired theme of the Day for Life (July 29) “highlights”, we are informed, “the importance of good health, care for our bodies and the importance of exercise and sporting activity.” There are plenty of quotes from the present Pope and his predecessor, to make it look as though rather than undermining papal teaching they are conveying it: but these quotes mostly give the expression “out of context” a whole new meaning. For instance, the Day for Life website quotes (as part of the 2012 “message”) Pope John Paul explaining that “the body can never be reduced to mere matter: it is a spiritualised body, just as man’s spirit is so closely united to the body that he can be described as an embodied spirit”. The Pope (but not Eccleston Square) goes on to say that “the richest source for knowledge of the body is the Word made flesh. Christ reveals man to himself”. What Eccleston Square claims it means is that “it is through my body that I express myself. It is through my body that I experience the world and others know who I am. It is through my body that I express my love for others and I experience God’s love and the love of others for me. Although I am more than my body, my body is an essential part of who I am.”

This windy drivel ignores the wider context of this quotation from Pope John Paul. Indeed, it doesn’t even say where it comes from, which is in fact the Pope’s Letter to Families (1994) §16, in which we read that

Fatherhood and motherhood presume the coexistence and interaction of autonomous subjects. This is quite evident in the case of the mother when she conceives a new human being. The first months of the child’s presence in the mother’s womb bring about a particular bond which already possesses an educational significance of its own. The mother, even before giving birth, does not only give shape to the child’s body, but also, in an indirect way, to the child’s whole personality. Even though we are speaking about a process in which the mother primarily affects the child, we should not overlook the unique influence that the unborn child has on its mother. In this mutual influence which will be revealed to the outside world following the birth of the child, the father does not have a direct part to play. But he should be responsibly committed to providing attention and support throughout the pregnancy and, if possible, at the moment of birth.

That is a vital part of the context of that quotation from Pope John Paul about the human body, and it underlines, obviously enough, the sanctity of unborn human life; of this, however, we read nothing in the “message” for Day for Life 2012: for its authors have their own fish to fry. “Day for Life 2012,” Eccleston Square has decided “…recognises the marvellous achievements of the human body in events such as the Olympic and Paralympic games to be held in London this year, and the Commonwealth Games to be held in Scotland in 2014. It highlights the importance of good health, the care of our body and the importance of exercise and sporting activity.”

The intrinsically ludicrous nature of this kind of stuff is wonderfully captured in one of Fr Tim Finigan’s funniest posts ever:

I have an idea for next year’s Day for Life: “ALLOTMENTS.” That’s it: people who keep allotments and grow their own vegetables do all sorts of things for life, they keep the planet cool, probably eat their five a day and encourage others to do so and be healthy. There would be plenty of scriptural quotations to encourage people to grow their allotments for the glory of God.

“Better a small serving of vegetables with love than a fattened calf with hatred.” (Prov 15.17)


“Please test your servants for 10 days: Give us nothing but vegetables to eat and water to drink.” (Dan 1.12)

Another one might be “PUBLIC TRANSPORT.” Take the bus for the glory of God, save the planet, be healthy, have a new lifestyle.

“You crown the year with your bounty, and your carts overflow with abundance.” (Ps 65.11)

“By day the Lord went ahead of them in a pillar of cloud to guide them on their way and by night in a pillar of fire to give them light, so that they could travel by day or night.” (Ex 13.21)

Or again, what about “FLOSSING”? Plenty of scripture there:

“thou dost break the teeth of the wicked” (Ps 3.8)

“In those days people will no longer say, ‘The parents have eaten sour grapes, and the children’s teeth are set on edge.’(Jer 31.29)

and of course, the famous

“I have escaped only by the skin of my teeth” (Job 19.20)

There’s more, just as funny. But of course this isn’t funny. As Fr Tim goes on to say: “It is estimated that by the 50th anniversary of the Abortion Act, nine million children will have been killed before birth in our country.” We hear absolutely nothing at all about that in Eccleston Square’s “message” for Day for Life 2012.

This year, they have gone too far. “Enough is enough!” expostulates Deacon Nick on his Protect the Pope website. “It’s time that SPUC took over organising the Day for Life so that at last it has the focus intended by Blessed John Paul the Great. SPUC should at least organise [an] alternative Day for Life, sending out alternative materials to parishes in England and Wales. How about it, John?”

An excellent idea; if the pen-pushers at the Bishops’ Conference offices can’t do anything but undermine the late Holy Father’s real intention for the Day for Life, Let War be Declared. And it doesn’t need to stop there. Let’s get to the root of the problem. One thing the English Church really needs is a radical purge, even a total suppression, of the Eccleston Square bureaucrats. We have all had enough of them. This issue could be the start of the process. Then on to education. Then…

  • JabbaPapa

    In which case he is an excommunicated apostate, as well as a formal heretic.

  • JabbaPapa

    There are actually two separate meanings of the word “pagan”, one of which is not formally incompatible with the Catholicity as such — but your point is well made, and it wold be quite churlish and uncharitable to nitpick on the basis of the Arcana.

    I fully agree with the essence of your comments.

  • Dlflanagan

    Perhaps someday, God knows when, Anglo Saxons will make abortion a treasonable offence and make contraception illegal. With relatively few young Anglo Saxons, rapidly ageing population, decimated pensions, shrinking economy etc they will be driven to face up to the folly of taking on Nature. Nature is ruthless and always wins out. 
    The current Bishop Conference bunch do not appear to have the wisdom, prudence or fortitude to encourage temperance and justice. Perhaps they have just gone native.

  • Nicolas Bellord

    It could be fraternal correction.  The first reading last Sunday seemed rather apt.

  • awkwardcustomer

    Thanks for that.  I couldn’t find the story you mentioned but watched the video of the protest in Parliament Square in which some brave people displayed images of the results of abortion.

    At least they did for a while, until the policeman told them to stop or they would be arrested under Section 5 of the Public Order Act.  Is this not the hypocrisy to end all hypocrisies, that all manner of disturbing images can be displayed just about everywhere, but abortion images are prohibited.  The pro-abortionists must be terrified of these images.  This may be their Achilles’ heel.  

  • W Oddie

    Very interesting; but so much the worse for him. So that explains why he was being so evasive, indeed so deceitful. 

  • Markpetergray

    I don’t think Catholicism should only be concerned with abortion. If it is, it becomes too much of a political institution, and not a faith. That’s not shelving abortion, that’s reflecting the whole of God’s creation.

  • GFFM

    The bishops in the UK as with the bishops in the US live in fear. I also think our shepherds are sometimes embarrassed by the Church’s teaching on abortion, sterilization, euthanasia and other life issues. Lately, because of the HHS mandate the USCCB has awakened and we have American bishops finally responding with some verve to the intrusion into religious freedom of all Americans. Although their response could be stronger and less defensive. But they could have done it long ago and many are still not striking the right note. The episcopacy in the Church needs to go on the offensive and explain the the culture has been severely damaged and degraded by the cheapening of human life, the degradation of human sexuality and the redefinition of marriage. This is what JPII called the New Evangelization and this is the crux of Evangelium Vitae.

  • hopefroreurope

    Firstly,the Catholic Church is not only concerned with abortion issues but all forms of unethical, immoral procedures involving vulnerable lives, amoral lifestyles, attacks on marriage and family, violence involving innocent victims especially religious persecution. This in no way defines the Catholic Church as a political Institution but a caring community persistant in speaking on behalf of the common good of society.

  • JabbaPapa

    This is not just an Anglo Saxon problem.

  • awkwardcustomer

    Go on, I’m interested.  What are the two separate meanings of the word “pagan”?  

  • Charles Martel

     “Rev.” Gerry Reilly, you’re a sad troll. Begone!

  • RC68

    Wooooo. I. Had. No. Idea. It. Even. Existed.

  • JByrne24

    “…the main problem facing the Church in France is the rampant, state-organised secularisation of society itself,…”

    Surely much less “rampant” now than in 1789 and the subsequent “Terror”?

  • JByrne24

    Do you really believe that there is a genetically determined matter here, and that evolution will ensure the removal of those with views, different to yours, on abortion?If so, you have no understanding of evolution.

    A major problem with the “anti-abortion-always-and-everywhere-from-(some point during)-conception-to-the-day-before-birth” lobby is that it’s self-defeating, and helps make it possible for the most undesirable abortions to take place.The error is made of viewing abortion as a single concept. It is not. The abortion of an early foetus is a very different matter to one of an advanced embryo.The real tragedy is that the Church, at present, makes no such distinction. Many people however, both in the Church and elsewhere, see the coming into being and development of Human Beings as a PROCESS – everything in Nature is a process. Nothing happens, as it were, in an instantaneous flash of light.

  • la catholic state

    Yes I do.  It’s  like survival of the fittest.  The fittest in nature reproduce.  They overtake those disinclined to reproduction who peter out.  Of course this is crude natural law…..but natural law is none the less God’s law too and we are called to work with natural law and improve upon it….not go against it.

    A child comes into being at conception….those who believe you gradually become a person are misguided and going against scientfific evidence.  You are nobody to deny them their humanity.  Whatsoever you do to the least of my little ones….that you do unto Me.  So said Jesus Christ.  Pay heed.

  • JByrne24

    “The fittest in nature reproduce.  They overtake those disinclined to reproduction who peter out. ”  And you believe that this is evolution.

    “A child comes into being at conception ” – you believe that too, for some reason you don’t give – but also believe that the “scientific evidence” supports this belief. 
    (Perhaps it’s the “scientific evidence” that makes you believe this?)

    Well I’m not a biologist (I’m a physical scientist), but I have a fairly good understanding of the bio’ processes involved here. And I don’t believe any of this.

  • JByrne24

    I don’t believe that any of these things would help anybody – and that it’s probably only people who hold similar views to yourself who would even notice them.

    You write: “It might help if we stop Catholic charities prescribing abortifacients and abortion referrals [John & Lizzie].”

    It’s step in the right direction that some Catholic bodies are showing realism and beginning to understand their obligations:
    In UK schools young girls can
    generally get contraceptive advice and easy access to contraceptives. However
    this is often not the case in some Catholic schools.

    The lie is usually told that Catholic
    schoolgirls do not become pregnant, save in the odd exceptional case.

    But it appears that the Church in Birmingham is better
    informed.  This from the Birmingham Post
    some years ago:


    Catholic Church in Birmingham
    has joined forces with the Department of Health to produce a fresh approach in
    the battle to reduce the rate of teenage pregnancy. 
    The Archdiocese
    of Birmingham has produced a
    video and teaching package to help youngsters develop the self esteem to say no
    to “meaningless” sex. 
    Called “All That I Am”, the package took five
    years to produce and includes videos of youngsters enacting dramas about
    It was developed in response to the rising
    number of pregnancies in Catholic schools and targets to halve the number of teenage pregnancies in the
    next six years.”


    On 12th
    June 2009 The Catholic Herald published an article by Ed West about parents in
    Southwark protesting about the Birmingham
    scheme being introduced there.

    scheme came with an endorsement from Vincent Nichols, formerly Archbishop of
    Birmingham, now Archbishop of Westminster, on the front, and a foreword by the

    After Birmingham, the different reception in
    Southwark maybe illustrates how the conservative right-wing of the Church has increased its
    malign influence.



  • Parasum

    “Why are Catholics being encouraged to get down with the pagan Olympic
    games? Is it because the modern West is reverting/has reverted to
    Paganism and the Bishops want to walk alongside modern Man wherever he

    ## STM you’ve hit the nail on the head.

  • JabbaPapa

    The first you are familiar with — it refers to pagan religion, local divinities, the rejection of the one true Faith, and so on and so forth.

    The second meaning is somewhat similar to the words local, peasant, and parochial — so that there are pagan concerns within Catholicism, such as local cults for certain Saints, parochial rites not found elsewhere, local religious concerns not involving the wider Church, and the general existence of locality as such within the broad framework of the Universal Church.

  • W Oddie

    I didn’t know, so I wasn’t being patronising. But your information, if true, explains his evasiveness and makes his intervention in this whole debate not merely irritating but actually shameful.

  • W Oddie

    What have I said that’s untrue? What’s your point?

  • yorkshirebruce

    “…I remain the King’s good servant, but God’s first.”

    Since they can’t even resist the “soft” persecution of secularism, one wonders if the real kind came there would be even one More among the politicians and even one Fischer among the bishops.

  • Hamish Redux

    Good article. It’s much easier for the CBCEW to use the Day for Life as an Olympic Games celebration (since this is going with the stream) than to dig their heels in and say, “Hang on! What’s happening in this country — abortion, euthanasia etc. — is wrong!” Why, they might make enemies of the politicians… It’s dead fish that drift with the stream, remember.

  • Lee Der Heerskinderen Lovelock

    More reason for the Episcopal Conferences to be done away with. They are a Protestant aberration with a particular ‘Localism Anglican’ streak which wreaks of ethnarcial politics as well. They hinder the mission of the One Catholic (Universal) Church rather than aiding.

  • Tridentinus

     The Olympics are nothing more than a manifestation of corporate greed, contempt for “ordinary” people and the cult of the body which seem to define “life” these days.

  • Kim

    ” Soft neomarxism”, capitalist hedonism and Secularism are the name of the game
    …and very weak Faith from many coward catholics,( bosses included ).
    We are already paying for it in all western countries.
    Certainly, we don’t pray enough.

  • Honeybadger


  • Honeybadger

    Well, Bishop Kieran Conry also wants priests to desist form saying the Hail Mary at Mass.

    God forgive me, if he’s a bishop, I’m a custard cream!

  • Honeybadger

    Come on, Coupon Rev! Are you or are you not a Roman Catholic priest?

    Yes or No?

    And William Oddie will not bang the gong if you answer either of these options.

  • Charles Martel

     You’re saying much more intelligent things these days, JByrne24. Keep it up!

  • Rev. Gerry Reilly

     Sounds like a jihadist rant to me. What is the difference?

  • Burt

    One thing the English Church really needs is a radical purge, even a total suppression, of the Eccleston Square bureaucrats. We have all had enough of them.”

    Hear Hear!

  • Parasum

    “Is there anything you like or approve of?”

    ## The OP’s articles show that the answer is often “Yes”. OTOH, some things deserve condemnation, in part or entirely.

    “Is diversity of opinion…a curse to be destroyed, or a wonderful blessing from a gloriously abundant God?”

    ## That depends on what is being discussed. On some matters, toleration of “diversity of opinion” cannot possibly be tolerated, since to do so would be wicked – on others, such diversity is a great help to discerning the Will of God. Discriminations need to be made.

  • Parasum

    By Catholic, meaning “Papist” – not Catholic as in Old Catholic, Independent Catholic, Liberal Catholic Church, Catholic as in “Church of England”), “Orthodox”, non-Chalcedonian, or any other of the meanings the word is used to assert or imply.

    A direct & unambiguous answer would be helpful, to say the least.

  • Parasum

    Yes – that it why it has to be absolutely immovable & uncompromising on certain matters. A Church that ( in effect) apostatises, so as to be friends with the world, is at enmity with God.

  • licjjs

    The reference to the use of Scripture to support a course of action reminds me of a cautionary joke on the subject which did the rounds years ago.  Someone was in a state of spiritual indecisiveness and decided to open the Gospels at random for a ‘message’.  The passage he alighted on was not very helpful at all as it was “Going out he hanged himself with a halter” so the person decided to try again but this time the text was “Go thou and do in like manner”.  A reminder that Scripture is not there to be used in a superstitious way as a kind of fortune teller.

  • Rev. Gerry Reilly

    I wish to beg pardon of anyone of you who may have been hurt by my postings
    I am reminded of the little story from the Desert Fathers and Mothers.A brother happened to commit a fault, and the elders assembled ans sent for Abbot Moses to join them. He, however, did not want to come.The priest sent him a message saying: Come, the community is waiting for you. So he arose and started off. And taking with him a very old basket full of holes,he filled it with sand and carried it behind him. The elders came out to meet him, and said: What is this, Father? The elder replied: My sins are running out behind me, and I did not see them, and Today i come to judge the sins of another!

  • licjjs

    A bit like ‘departments’ in schools. HODs are the biggest hindrance to really good teachers doing their jobs.  ‘We use green ink to mark books’; ‘We do not use chalk and talk’; ‘We only give out paper on Tuesdays’; ‘We don’t teach the Church’s doctrine on marriage because some of the children have divorced parents’; ‘We use Father (or Sister) X’s book on the Mass because it is so forward looking’; ‘We only use positive comments in reports’ – the list, I assure you, is endless.  One’s intuition would indicate that HODs would be facilitators and bring about cooperation among staff – one would think so, but most of the ones I have had the misfortune to come across have tied teachers up in knots and have been bullies and dictators, creating disharmony, with little regard for their colleagues or, indeed, the students.  One can only judge by one’s own (wide) experience.

  • Bob Hayes

    At Mass this morning our parish priest (a keen sports fan) described the bishops’ theme for this year’s Day for Life as ‘rather fluffy’ – and devoted his c. 15 minutes homily to the sanctity of life from conception to natural death. Abortion, contraception and euthanasia were all unequivocally condemned as evil. It was good to hear.