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The Abortion Lie

Temperatures Rise in British Debate

By Father John Flynn, L.C.

ROME, JUNE 11, 2007 (Zenit) - The abortion debate was rekindled with a vengeance recently in Britain. In a sermon May 31, Edinburgh's archbishop, Cardinal Keith O'Brien, strongly criticized the assurances given when abortion was legalized in Britain.

The cardinal described the claims given when the 1967 Abortion Act was approved as being "lies and misinformation masquerading as compassion and truth." People were told that abortion would be infrequent and only used in extreme cases, he explained.

The sermon was delivered on the occasion of the Day for Life celebration of the Church in Scotland. The date was chosen to coincide with the feast of the Visitation, which Cardinal O'Brien described as "the affirmation of the immense value of life from its very conception."

"With every life conceived God acts directly to create a new and unique human being, a person destined to life everlasting," stated the cardinal.

He added that unfortunately in today's world, pregnancy is not always welcomed. In the almost 40 years since the introduction of legal abortion in Britain around 7 million lives have been ended, Cardinal O'Brien noted.

Just prior to his homily, figures were published that showed an increase in abortions in Scotland. An all-time high of 13,081 pregnancies were terminated in 2006, compared with 12,603 the previous year, the BBC reported May 29. The number of abortions for teenagers under 16 also hit a new high, with 362 in 2006, up from 341 the year before.

"The scale of the killing is beyond our grasp," Cardinal O'Brien declared in his sermon. "In Scotland we kill the equivalent of a classroom full of school children every day."

Cardinal O'Brien also had strong words for politicians. He urged them to have nothing to do with "the evil trade of abortion," and to find means to overturn the legislation allowing it. For those politicians who "claim to be Catholic," the cardinal said, "I ask them to examine their consciences and discern if they are playing any part in sustaining this social evil."

As well, he touched on a theme much debated in the United States when he also adverted that cooperating "in the unspeakable crime of abortion" implicates a barrier to receiving Communion.

Life is sacred

The very same day, the archbishop of Westminster, Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor, issued a statement on the sacredness of life. His comments were in preparation for the annual Day for Life, which the Catholic Church in England and Wales celebrates July 1.

All life, from the moment of conception to the point of natural death, is sacred, declared Cardinal Murphy-O'Connor in the May 31 press statement.

"I would urge all Catholics, especially those who hold positions of public responsibility, to educate themselves about the teaching of the Church, and to seek pastoral advice so that they can make informed decisions with consistency and integrity," he added.

The cardinal also recalled the teaching of the Church that those who have freely and knowingly committed a serious wrong should not receive the Eucharist before having gone to confession.

These words were backed up shortly afterward by Archbishop Peter Smith of Cardiff, Wales. Politicians who vote in favor of abortion should not receive Communion, he stated, according to a June 2 report by Reuters.

Archbishop Smith said he would not actually bar such politicians from Communion, but he added that he would expect the politician involved not to seek it.

Critical reactions

The issue of Catholic politicians and abortion proved to be a sensitive point, as evidenced by a number of strong reactions by the press and commentators. A June 1 editorial in the Scotsman newspaper acknowledged Cardinal O'Brien's right to express his opposition to abortion.

The newspaper was less approving of his words on politicians, saying he was "on dangerous ground by seeming to interfere in politics."

A June 2 editorial in the Guardian newspaper intoned that on the issue of abortion the efforts of the Catholic Church "must be resisted." In a somewhat patronizing concession, however, the Guardian did add that it approved of the Church's interventions in public life when it comes to the issue of canceling the debt of the developing world.

In a June 3 opinion article for the newspaper Scotland on Sunday, Dani Garavelli, who described herself as a practicing Catholic, dismissed Cardinal O'Briens' words as "emotional blackmail."

Characterizing the cardinal's admonishment to Catholic politicians as "sinister," Garavelli derided Catholic leaders as "ideologues."

A more favorable reaction came from Jemima Lewis, writing in the opinion columns of the Independent ...

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