should give a 'sign of contradiction' and unambiguously reaffirm the teaching of the Church
Some while ago, at the Pro Life Umbrella Committee, on which major pro-life groups in Britain are represented, we learned that the bishops of England and Wales were planning a "Day for Life", for the summer of 2003. We were all invited to submit our ideas about how this Day could best be celebrated.
We were thrilled. At last, more than 30 years after the legalisation of abortion, the Church not just independent non-denominational campaigning groups with tacit episcopal support, but the Church in its official capacity, with authority to speak to every parish and every diocese — was to give this issue the status it deserved. We have long been grateful to bishops and priests who have spoken out with courage and sensitivity on issues relating to the protection of this life at all its stages. The late Cardinal Winning was an outstanding example. We eagerly awaited developments.
The Church in England and Wales already has special Days for a host of causes: Prisoners, Racial Justice. Seafarers. CAFOD, Vocations, Home Missions, Education, the Mass Media and that's not an exhaustive list. Each comes equipped with its own Bidding Prayers, homily notes, etc. But the pro-life cause has been out on its own.
Not that it has been neglected concerned campaigners have seen to that. Many churches take pro-life literature. the Pro Life Times is handed out, an "Eternal Flame" has been going the rounds of parishes as a focus for prayer. My own organisation. Human Life International is supported by many clergy and has had the encouragement of our local Bishop, so that people have felt confident in attending our meetings and we have sent speakers into Catholic schools.
But a genuine. official Day for Life — this would be something different, something that did not depend wholly on our own efforts. It could mean that the topics of abortion and euthanasia — horribly real in modern Britain but too often neglected from the pulpit — would be given authoritative treatment and the Church's message, perhaps with quotes from the Holy Father, from Evangelium Vitae and from Veritatis Splendor, would spoken not by a layman at some evening meeting but on Sunday to the People of God in their parish churches.
A committee had been established to make plans for the Day for Life. Were pro-life groups represented on it? No, because none of us is officially registered as an advisory group to the Bishops' Conference. But no matter— some lay groups were invited to send representatives. These include the Catholic Union, Linacre Centre, and Council for Lay Associations (all excellent on medical ethics), and the National Board of Catholic Women.
But this last raises questions. Recently their publication Catholic Woman devoted a front page to a complaint from a lady running a lobby group on housing, saying how tired she was of seeing abortion always highlighted when prolife matters were raised. She felt that housing was also a "pro-life issue" and that it was wrong to single out abortion. She was. quite rightly. taken to task by a leading
pro-life charity (which actually provides housing units. not merely campaigning on the subject! ), pointing out that it is not good enough just to affirm a personal opposition to abortion and then to turn swiftly to other topics: the subject has occasionally to be faced and we cannot wish it away. Our Church calls us to a ''culture of life" and this includes publicly opposing the deliberate killing of babies in the womb. naming the evil deed involved and rallying people to defend the children.
Here in the West with our declining birthrate and fragmented families, the whole idea of being "prolife" seems embarrassing. It is understandable that the National Board might prefer to distance itself from what may be seen as an
obscure cause, albeit Ott that the Board privately supbrts. But the Church cannonake this view. It calls for coral fervour, for real involvelent in the issues of our day ven on controversial topicsAle( in my experience 1)any Catholics. especially yang ones, are challengedan d inspired by the idea of beag a "sign of contradiction".liew Catholic youth movement are taking an active interesti the pro-life cause. They attired of being told that the n I y virtue is "choice". They Pant to choose life — not jia for themselves, but for other
Now 2003 has arrived
we await the results (lie Bishops' committee. am
trying to be optimistic, la in
my gloomier moments I t4gine that the outcome sea be
rather like the damp itib attempts at a Day for Uwe saw in 2001.
Did most Cathics even notice tat there was a Dtbr Life in Deceaer 200 1 '? I thought not. qit we got was some vatny worded Bidding Prasts. What will we get this }e? Will there be prayers ltl'a specifically mention aboan and euthanasia as evils$e opposed publicly? Wilily literature or homily noteim to mention Hurnanae lit? Or will brochures justsk mostly to safe topics sits caring for sick childretzd calling for an end to pot?
What about the facet many families (inclsg Catholics) have swallid the "anti-life" mentality itt essentially sees childreia "choice" and accept abet:_ cient methods of contra_ tion? Wouldn't it be grof the Day for Life could some direct input frone pro-life movement? Wo(t it be great to see the pn::; movement as an asset he cherished, rather than a .t to be placated?
I am West Indian any, wife Aghi is Persian. Our chili are of mixed race and cocir themselves as Catholic and Br,,, Years ago, when black pectli America were victims of k abuse and discrimination, a ti and challenging approach created when they themst, started to say "Black is heath. They claimed their own ten for themselves.
Those who had been priti: supporting them listened.] change occurred. Today, the.. life movement must be allow, do the same.
It's time to come forward ani "Pro-Life is beautiful" at essential for the survival d: culture and our nation. And time for people in authority tot! to us.