A Catholic, Basil Goldstone, will become President of the Liberal Party in September. Last October, you were kind enough to publish comment I made on the subject and perhaps some repetition will be acceptable in the light of current correspondence I wrote:
'Basil was speaking and writing in Liberal circles against abortion on demand even as the ballot was being taken for the presidency and without concern to the votes he might lose ...
'This is an appropriate moment to deny the oft repeated allegation that 'the Liberals brought in the Abortion Act'. The Bill was introduced as a Private Member's Bill by David Steel, but the Liberal Party was in no position to 'bring in legislation' having only 12 MPs in the House at the time, "Thus. the Act which followed the passing of the Bill in Parliament was, if anything, the result of the actions of the numerically greater members of other parties. Also there exists within the Party a 'Liberals Against Abortion' lobby composed of Catholics and nonCatholics ..."
I think it is fair to suggest that an Abortion Bill would have been Introduced in the sixties by one of a number of our representatives of any party, inasmuch as, rightly or wrongly, they perceived this as the next step in a line of "liberalising" legislation demanded by society.
This included the Suicide Act, the Homicide Act (forerunner of abolition of capital punishment), rejection of the Mountbatten Report on Prison Security, the Family Planning Act and Vasectomy Bill, which had all led to a point where the Homosexual Reform Bill was going through the House contemporaneously with the Abortion Bill.
A fascinating account of the background and in-fighting is given by Leo Abse in his book, "Private Member," in which he admits to being politically blackmailed, for it 'was made clear to me by many members, not a few of whom have since repented, that if I pursued my course (of opposition) on the Abortion Bill they would withdraw their support from • me on the Homosexual Bill."
What of the opposition of organised Catholicism in this country at that time? Generally, it wills be known that influential Catholic organisations were mute — in response to guidance from Cardinal Heenan who in turn had been advised by (non-Liberal) Catholic politicians to adopt a low profile.
It is time that those involved in this miscalculation told the full story, but my main concern is not with recriminations. More importantly, the ramifications of our inaction go beyond the Abortion Act and party politics, as they affect united Catholic reaction to future so called "social reform."
Questions of compulsory religious education in schools and the lowering of the age of consent are with us now: the euthanasia protagonists may want a few more years to indoctrinate with the "Mercy killing" euphemism before overtly embarking on a campaign which I suspect will have a measure of "all-party support." This time let us look forward to positive leadership. participate in formulating clear policies and unite in our own "all-party support." Denis Christian Liberal Parliamentary Candidate for Colchester, October, 1974 9 High Beach, Felixstowe, Suffolk.
As a Catholic Liberal, may I reply to certain points raised by Peter J. Walsh (July 23) and others in reply to Tim Beaumont's article?
I. The present abortion law, although sponsored by David Steel, was approved by the whole House of Commons on a free vote. Much as we. deplore abortion, it is very unfair and "scapegoatish" to identify the whole Liberal party with abortion. There are many Liberal activists like myself who do not accept the party line on this subject. 2. To resign from the party, as did Mr Walsh, simply because David Steel won the leadership, betrays unreasonable bias against the individual. Does Mr Walsh approve IOU per cent of Mr Callaghan's and Mrs Thatcher's personal convictions? (if indeed we know what they are)?
He apparently forgets other Liberal policies which arc accepted, indeed encouraged, by Papal Social Encyclicals and statements, eg: European Unity.
Support for UNO. Unequivocal anti-racism.
Aid to the Third World.
Industrial co-partnersh i.p.
Encouragement of free enterprise. The fight against excessive bureaucracy and statism.
Emphasis on personal freedom. Campaign against the arms trade.
3. No modern political party enshrines Christian teaching in all its particulars. No party leader, in our pluralistic society. can he ex pected to satisfy the Catholic conscience in its entirety.
voted for John Pardoe. but I consider liberal and democratic values far more important than transient things like leadership. David Steel has won this election fairly and squarely. All Liberals, Catholic and otherwise, would do well to take into account his undoubted compassionate nature and dedication to liberal and democratic concepts, while reserving their position regarding abortion.
84 Codsall Road, Larry McLean Wolverhampton.
As both a Catholic and a Liberal I would like to associate myself with Lord Beaumont's support for David Steel as the new leader of the Liberal Party (Herald, July 16). I believe that Mr Steel will provide the Liberal Party with responsible and courageous leadership at a time when such leadership is badly needed.
Both as a Liberal and a Catholic, my support for Mr Steel is far from unconditional. I strongly oppose the role he has played — and continues to play — over the issue of abortion. No doubt in the future there will be other issues about which I will fundamentally disagree with him. The areas of policy about which I agree with him however are much greater — social policy, race relations, overseas aid, etc. David Steel is a man of integrity and honesty and his ability to lead the Liberal Party committed to Liberal values is unquestionable.
Finally, those Catholic Liberals who oppose David Steel for the leadership solely because of abortion must answer the question What is the alternative? The alternative was Mr John Pardoe — a man equally committed on the question of abortion but, I suggest, considerably less committed than David Steel on those other issues of human rights which Catholics consider so important.
Mary-Ann Sheehy 27 Baalbec Road,