CATHOLICS are far from alone in the battle to respect human life opposing abortion and other anti-life practices. But they do posses an often undervalued gift which is vital for victory. This is the gift of unity and it is sorely need by pro-life organisations in Britain as the toll of abortions rises daily and the threat of legalised euthanasia grows.
Because of Catholic unity, leaders like Cardinal Winning and the late Cardinal Hume have had two of the most respected voices in Britain during the past two decades in defence of the sanctity of human life. When they have spoken, the public and the politicians have listened.
Without a shadow of a doubt, their influence has been critical in keeping legislation permitting euthanasia off the statute book in recent years. And with pro-life MPs heavily outnumbered by their opponents in the present Parliament it is vital that such voices from the church — expressing Catholic unity and strength on pro-life issues —continue to be heard in the months and years ahead.
However, the Catholic Church recognises that only the widest coalition of movements both secular and religious, can defeat the current attacks on human life. As the Bishops of England and Wales put it in The Common Good, "everything involving the use or disposal of human life, as a means to another end, must be categorically rejected. The Catholic community has to renew its efforts to awaken the conscience of the majority of the fellow-citizens in these matters, and should draw encouragement from the widespread evidence of unease in the public mind".
The educational and political work of the pro-life movement has been largely responsible for touching the conscience of the public which has lead to the sense of "unease" to which the bishops refer.
In addition, the Society for the Protection of Unbom Children and our sister pro-life groups have been responsible for building a wide pro-life coalition in society, creating links across communities, religious bodies, academic disciplines, professional groups and between those who believe in God and those who have no religious THE ESTABLISHED pro-life groups in Britain, therefore, have a lot to offer the Churches and others involved in the fight for life, and we also have a lot to learn.
SPUC's primary service is to provide our fellow citizens with the hard facts they need to lobby their Members of Parliament intelligently. Our latest campaign, "Operation Outreach", aims to reach out with solid arguments in a simple, readable format to evangelical leaders, disability groups, Muslim leaders, other profamily and pro-life groups — and to every group in society which can answer "yes" to the following questions: 1. Are you concerned by the fact that there are 500 abortions a day in Britain, and by the prospect of abortion becoming even more easily available?
2. Do you think it is wrong that the Government should seek to impose permissive abortion in Northern Ireland even though the great majority of the people there are united in opposition to it?
3. Are you concerned by campaigns to increase the availability of the "morning after" pill?
4. Are you concerned by the Government's failure to rule out all cloning of human embryos? 5. Are you worried by moves in Parliament and in the medical profession to promote the deliberate killing of patients by neglect (e.g. starvation and dehydration)?
But as well as teaching others, the Society for the Protection of the Unborn Children has a lot to learn. As Pope John Paul II put it in his Evangelium Vitae, "no single person or group has a monoply on the defence and promotion of life. These are everyone's task and responsibility..."(EV,91).
Quite simply, we are kidding ourselves in SPUC if we think we can defeat the culture of death on our own. Whilst never losing SPUC's primary focus on the parliamentary battle, at national and at local level we must co-operate ever more effectively with all the major faith groups, and other associations which include respect for life in their beliefs of organisational ethos.
Amongst these groups, few would dispute that the Roman Catholic Church is one of the most influential bodies on prolife issues in the world. It has a membership which has an unparalleled potential for both obedience to well-explained moral and social teaching and creativity in spreading that teaching to the rest of society.
The Government is clearly considering legislation which could put euthanasia, by deliberate omission, on the statute book for the first time. Such legislation would devastate what remains of medical ethics in Britain and could force prolife doctors and health workers out of their profession. At such a dangerous time in history, the pro-life movement needs the unity and strength of the Catholic Church — and the active support of all people of good will — as never before.
Finally, whilst always respecting the richness and diversity of the pro-life movement, the truth is that the vast majority of those involved in pro-life and pro-family groups throughout the world do believe in God and that we are engaged in a battle against an evil which is simply too great for our human imaginations to grasp. All over the world tens of millions of human beings are being killed in a conspiracy against life involving the most powerful institutions in the world.
This is a battle which we cannot win without appealing for God's help — any more than the people of Israel could escape from slavery without God's intervention — and prolife workers and leaders must unashamedly appeal for prayer if we are to win the battle for life against such overwhelming odds.