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Archbishop Nichols praises Phyllis Bowman as ‘apostle of life’

By on Thursday, 5 July 2012

Lord Alton, Jerry Canty, Ann Widdecombe and Lord Nicholas Windsor in Westminster Cathedral (Photo: Mazur/catholicchurch.org.uk)

Lord Alton, Jerry Canty, Ann Widdecombe and Lord Nicholas Windsor in Westminster Cathedral (Photo: Mazur/catholicchurch.org.uk)

Archbishop Vincent Nichols of Westminster hailed the “years of generous service” and “unfailing witness” to the dignity of human life of pro-life leader Phyllis Bowman at a Mass at Westminster Cathedral this week.

Archbishop Nichols gave the homily at a Mass for the repose of her soul on Tuesday. Among those attending were MPs and peers including Lord Alton, Ann Widdecombe, Jim Dobbin, David Amess, as well as Lord Nicholas Windsor, the Queen’s cousin, and many other pro-life campaigners. Her husband, Jerry Canty, also attended the Mass.

The archbishop said: “Phyllis Bowman was without doubt a true champion and, in the mould and spirit of St Thomas, an energetic and resolute ‘apostle’ of the precious gift of human life.”

He also urged the pro-life movement to “pause for thought” to consider how best their efforts could be organised.

Archbishop Nichols said: “The death of Phyllis and, just a few days ago, the death of her colleague Ken Hargreaves, a former MP and the chairman of Right to Life, does not mark the end of their witness to the love for life but an entry into a new phase. It is perhaps an opportunity for the pro-life movement in this country to pause for thought at this time; pause to consider how best that love for life should be organised as individuals, as organisations and in partnership with one another.”

FULL HOMILY

When we hear the name of St Thomas the Apostle, our thoughts usually lead to us to remember him as the ‘Doubting Thomas’ from the passage that we have just heard in the Gospel.

However, the Gospels also reveal Thomas’ more positive forthright nature and his readiness to challenge those around him.

At the Last Supper, Jesus tells the apostles that he is going to prepare a place for them in heaven, so that when he comes again he will take them with him to be with him. Jesus then says to them, “You know the way to where I am going”.

It is Thomas who then challenges him by saying “Lord, we do not know where you are going; so how can we know the way?” (John 14: 5) Jesus begins his response with the words “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14: 6)

Those feisty and challenging qualities of Thomas were used by Jesus to unfold his teaching to his Apostles and to reveal himself as the Way, the Truth and the Life for all men and women. Like Thomas, as followers of the one who rose from the dead and bestowed new life on the world, we are called to be followers of the Lord of life, not of death.

As I speak of the feisty and challenging qualities of someone who followed the Lord of Life, I am sure that you like me will smile and remember with warm affection the life of Phyllis Bowman. Since her death, many tributes have already been made to her in the press and online. We will also hear some more reflections on her life from her close friends and colleagues at the end of this Mass.

Nevertheless, I would like to take this opportunity to pay my own tribute to the many years of generous service and the unfailing witness which Phyllis gave to the promotion of the dignity of human life and her unequivocal commitment to the legal protection of human life from the moment of conception until natural death. Her service, witness and commitment was rooted in her for love for God and sustained by the help and support she received from her husband Jerry.

Our faith in the Lord of Life challenges us to promote, in every legitimate way we can: “each human being’s right to life and physical integrity from the moment of conception until death; the rights of the family and of marriage as an institution and, in this area, the child’s right to be conceived, brought into the world and brought up by their parents” [i]. That is what Phyllis did throughout her life. Indeed her work was to form one of the foundation stones upon which some of the pro-life organisations represented at this Mass today were built.

The Catholic Church is absolutely committed to promoting the dignity and value of human life. That commitment is motivated by love, a love which has its source in God’s love for his creation. All of God’s creation is a precious gift and should be cherished. None more so than men and women, who we believe are created in the image and likeness of God. This precious mortal human life begins at the moment of our conception and ends at our death; its dignity and value is raised above all creation because it is destined for immortal life and a loving union with God. Indeed, it was this love and respect for human life which was one of the reasons which led Phyllis to become a member of the Catholic Church.

In his very first encyclical, Deus Caritas Est, Pope Benedict XVI said, “As a community, the Church must practise love. Love thus needs to be organized if it is to be an ordered service to the community.” [ii]For good organisation there also needs to be a shared vision and a unity of purpose.

The love for human life and the commitment to the defence of life’s dignity and value is one which is shared by many people of all faiths and none, and not Catholics alone. That love too needs to be organised well by all those who share this profound moral conviction. It needs to be organised in its practical expression to promote and defend life’s dignity and value. It needs to be organised to provide practical care and support. It needs to be organised in order to be a powerful advocate, to give a voice to the voiceless in the political and social spheres. It needs to be organised to communicate a message which challenges the injustice and the violence done to the unborn but also promotes the beauty and sanctity of life in order to change minds and hearts. It needs to be organised to defend those who are most worthy of our protection: the unborn, the elderly, those who are disabled, ill, or dying. Moreover, a shared vision and unity of purpose must be embraced to enable it to be organised effectively.

The Catholic Church and all who are committed to the promotion of the dignity and value of human life face ever new challenges. For example, only today we see yet another proposal in favour of legalising assisted suicide. This demonstrates the need therefore for all who are pro-life to work together as closely as they can in facing those challenges.

The death of Phyllis and, just a few days ago, the death of her colleague Ken Hargreaves, a former MP and the Chairman of Right to Life, does not mark the end of their witness to the love for life but an entry into a new phase. It is perhaps an opportunity for the pro-life movement in this country to pause for thought at this time; pause to consider how best that love for life should be organised as individuals, as organisations and in partnership with one another.

Phyllis Bowman was without doubt a true champion and, in the mould and spirit of St Thomas, an energetic and resolute ‘apostle’ of the precious gift of human life. May Almighty God grant her soul, peace and rest, and may the prayers of Mary the Mother of God, bring consolation to her husband and family. We pray too, that the Lord will give us here today the courage and determination to work together and organise our love in the interests of promoting the dignity and sanctity of human life as an ordered service to our society.

  • paulpriest

    Ok Your Grace – if you’re sincere – DO IT!!!!
     Go on!

    Challenge placed here and now – if you are absolutely committed to Life as you state – Continue Phyllis’s job in ways she could never imagine because you have the authority, the resources and the manpower to create a National Catholic Pro-Life movement which is intrinsic to the request the Holy Father made of you before he left to look after his sheep..

    …as well as the Social & Moral teachings of Vatican II….

    What would be a more fitting memorial to Phyllis and the 50th anniversary of Vatican II than to actuate a National Pro-Life Directorate – fundamentally Catholic in all moral precepts but readily available to all those of other faiths and none to collaborate and co-operate with in the ongoing struggle to defend the dignity and sanctity of the Life of Our Neighbour?!!

    Go on: Do it!!!

    And don’t say you can’t afford it – nothing Conference could do would be a more worthy pearl of greater price…

    Ttony reminded us on here what Vatican II said on the issue:

    “Furthermore, whatever is opposed to life itself, such as any type of murder,
    genocide, abortion, euthanasia or wilful self-destruction, whatever violates the
    integrity of the human person, such as mutilation, torments inflicted on body or
    mind, attempts to coerce the will itself; whatever insults human dignity, such
    as subhuman living conditions, arbitrary imprisonment, deportation, slavery,
    prostitution, the selling of women and children; as well as disgraceful working
    conditions, where men are treated as mere tools for profit, rather than as free
    and responsible persons; all these things and others of their like are infamies
    indeed. They poison human society, but they do more harm to those who practice
    them than those who suffer from the injury. Moreover, they are supreme dishonor
    to the Creator.”
     
    Gaudium et Spes 27

  • shaoxiaotian

    tinyurl.com/73huk6r

  • CM

    Many Catholics already belong to ‘Life’ & ‘SPUC’ so why split resorces by forming another group for Catholics? This is divisive. The protection of life from conception to the grave is something we can do much better with a larger pool of Christains which would also promote ecumenism and possibly even unity amongst Christians in areas we already agree in.

  • paulpriest

    Oh Ma’am seriously – stop playing to the wearisome delusory mantra of the ‘all faiths and none who all share common goals’

    We don’t!
    We never will…
    Not only in Inter-faith so-called dialogue. We have a Commons all party Pro-Life group and NOT ONE – Not even one [Catholics included!] could be seen as fully Pro-Life conducive to Catholic teaching…not even Ed would deny it…

    Even the so-called pro-Life archimandrites like Lord Alton or Ann Widdecombe all fall short in some way which sells out and our neighbour in the womb or petri dish is sacrificed for some utilitarian ‘greater good’.

    We’re Catholics – and as Catholics we should be represented in all fields with OUR agenda – our voice – our message…

    Divisive?
    Oh good grief! Only a few blogthreads away your mates are arguing for a splitting up of the so so-called present Pro-Life movement into separate anti euthanasia & anti-abortion lobbies…

    You lot sicken me…you really do!

    The Church should be taking a lead but if that were to happen all the present ‘amateur self-appointed wannabees’ who merely by turning up consider themselves as cogs in the machinery – would all find themselves as little fish in a much bigger pond…and they don’t like the prospect!

    Especially when they’re not experts in the medical, ethical, moral, administrative, media, journalist or political spheres.

    They’d soon find their noses were well and truly out of joint when the real professionals took over the roles and the authentic Catholic message was being promoted and defended
    [instead of the present situation of 'winging it' with a few pro-life anecdotes or dodgy statistics or appeals to personal circumstances and in general - rather than Catholic teaching - it's more 'best-guess wishful thinking' - faking it with never a hope of making it because you're not trained, not educated , not informed and ultimately not capable for the battle that's demanded...]

    Forty-five years of Pro-Life movements and what successes have there been?

    [even when demi-gods like Phyllis sacrificed everything and anything - even the roof over her head - just to try to save lives]

    Answer: Virtually none!

    Why?

    Because it was always the Church’s job to do it – and it didn’t!
    ..and it still isn’t doing it….

    But it should be doing it…NOW!

    Divisive? Don’t you begin to understand the arrant hyocrisy in such an accusation?

    Maybe if you lot began to care a little bit more for the sanctity of Life rather than the sanctity of your chair at the committee table or the sanctity of your position at the next social handwringing group-hug event or the sanctity to self-promote in Catholic newspapers/journals on critical moral issues where you’re totally out of your depth and counterproductively incompetent and banal?

    Then maybe we’d begin to get somewhere!!

    You’re all arguing for this ‘fantasy’ never-to-exist ‘all faiths and none’ pro-Life umbrella group because its never existing is very beneficial to you lot – it ensures that those who are self-appointed movers-and-shakers among chattering Catholics get to maintain their positions even when they’re proven incompetents, well past their sell-by date or just plain goddamn awful…..

    Wilfully denying the plain and simple fact that the Church could do so much that it hasn’t even attempted to begin in the past half-century…and why?

    You state it’s because it should be all-embracing, multifaith and integrationalist…
    The truth is that the present shambles suits all you jumped-up amateurs very nicely thank you very much…and also allows the Church to scandalously abrogate its moral , pastoral, baptismal and apostolic duty.

    It’s a repulsive situation!