ONE day soon the Abortion Bill will almost certainly become law. The debate has been going on for a year now, but only in recent months have Catholics begun to organise their opposition. Few believe that the Bill can be stopped at this late stage. and several have said their ambition is simply to "go on record" as opposing it.
Catholics regard the destruction of the foetus as murder, yet all we can do is "go on record" as opposing it, demand a "conscience clause" for Catholic doctors and nurses and say things about Catholics not demanding "that their own convictions should he imposed by law upon all citizens."
'Take the conscience clause. In effect, we are saying: Yes, you can take life, but don't ask us to. As long as we save our own souls, we will stand back while you murder unborn children. And why shouldn't we try to convince other people of the truth of our convictions? Have we lost our nerve?
What we have failed to capitalise on is the big public relations hoax that the public has fallen for. The press, radio and T.V. has been full of heartbreaking stories about teenage girls who have been raped and then died at the hands of the "back street abortionist", of mothers who go insane because they cannot cope.
We must have sympathy for these, of course, but why haven't we been hitting back with stories from the other side of the fence: the happy child who would have been the victim of an abortion had not the mother been persuaded to change her mind, the happy unmarried mother who faced the criticisms and hypocrisy, the mother of many children who welcomed another because she received help.
Our protest has arrived belatedly, but even now can one say it is a truly Christian protest? Have there been Christian offers of help for the unmarried mothers, the distraught mothers, the deformed child? Have we said to them: Come into our homes, we will help you. How far is our protest Christian if it does not include this positive expression of Christian love?
A natural winner
MISS WORLD 1966 is a Catholic. I phoned for an interview with her and Miss Reita Faria invited me to "come over right away".
She is 23 and only three months from being a qual.ified doctor. She says her religion is very important to her, and intends to "abide by it tooth and nail". Her day starts with Mass. "My fiancé thinks I'm a fanatic because I attend all the novenas and devotional services going." But she adds that her training as a gynaecologist has made her "rather broad-minded".
As a Christian in India. Reita is one of only 12 million in a country of 500 million people. Hinduism,
Buddhism, Islam and Sikhism claim the loyalties of the rest of the population.
She seems genuinely surprised that she has been chosen as Miss World, and admits that she is "somewhat disinterested". She is still wondering why she bothered to come after all. Reita has refused to go into films "because it just doesn't appeal to me" and is interested only in returning to her medical studies.
I ler sole aim as Miss World is to do whatever she can for the good of her country, and she thinks she will enjoy all the travelling, plus, of course, the money that goes with the title.
As the Sunday Times has noted, lacking greed, narcissim, gullibility or delusions of pulchritude, Reita is far from the classic queen. But, believe me, she's a very nice queen.
Some moral fibres
Ahl ER the Catholic Traditionalist Movement in America they've got a new Catholic conservative magazine called Triumph. One of its editors is Professor Thomas Molnar of Brooklyn College.
The Professor has recently published a book and in it he writes of national achievements "that words cannot express: a moral vigour, an undivided loyalty to a cause which may appear annoying to the superficial observer, but which reveals the fibres of which great nations and great enterprises are woven."
Only three Western nations, he says, currently possess this moral vigour: America, Portugal and South Africa.
Fan mall from the Russians
,THE BBC Russian Service may not be the most swinging station on the air. but it is a very important one. For four hours each day the Russians can hear all about life in the West and Western reactions to life in Russia. Significantly. there is now no jamming of the programmes.
Fr. Vladimir Rodzianko is the head of its religious broadcasts department. He has three spots each week, one on Saturday and two on Sunday. His output ranges from Services to courses on Teithard de Chardin. It is estimated that several million people listen to each broadcast, and Fr. Rodzianko can even rely on a steady flow of fan mail.
A typical letter is one he received recently from a woman in Moscow: "Dear Fr. Vladimir. I want to express my deep sympathy with all the mothers who lost their children in Wales. Yesterday at midnight when you were speaking of them, we knelt together with you to the anthem 'Blessed is the, Lord'."
Fr. Rodzianko was born in Russia and ordained in 1941. He was imprisoned in a Yugoslavian concentration camp for, the official document had it, "excessive religious propaganda: illegal". He says conditions varied from very hard to quite good. It was hard, for instance, when he and other prisoners had to push a train five miles because tile authorities had lost the engine.
He left Yugoslavia in 1952 and came to England. Besides his job at the B.B.C. he also. helps look after the 1,500 Serbians who live in London and the Home Counties.
Like many other priests of the Eastern Church,
VE been doing the rounds of the London toy
shops. Besides soft toys, pedal cars and train sets I have been offered a baffling assortment of models of toys of war.
I could have had a Molotov Cocktail for 7s., or a hand grenade for the same price. Or perhaps a Marine Motar at 25s. 6d. to go with my Tommy Gun kit complete with steel helmet, battledress, lace-up hoots and sub-machine gun.
If I need more strength to back up my Commando Outfit at 46s. 6d., I could use the Tactical Artillery kit. And if my troops are wounded I would use my "authentic equipment for the movable fighting man" with crutches, bandages and a syringe.
Toy shops agree that such articles are among their best-sellers at Christmas and all the year round. It seems that fond parents and uncles and aunts are keen to introduce their children to war games at an early age. Cowboys and Indians were a good rough and tumble, but this kind of thing seems different.
For too long we have glorified war. No doubt the Pope will appeal for peace this Christmas, and with a hit of good will on both sides the fighting in Vietnam will cease for 24 hours. Meanwhile, our children will be shooting each other with their Automatic Guns ("exclusive branded bullets") under the Christmas Tree.
which is in Communion with Rome, Fr. Rodzianko is married. He has two children. "It is nonsense to say that a wife is an impediment to a priest," he says. "Mine is a wonderful help in running the parish."
It's still going UP!
A GOOD week this for the £2,000 Christmas Appeal. Contributions up to Wednesday raised the total collected so far to £700. With another £300 we shall have reached the half way mark. A large number of old age pensioners continue to write. I.ife is very rewarding when you receive letters like this: "I am sending you 10s. towards your Christmas fund. I am 74 and up to the moment I am able to look after myself. My feet are painful but I hope I shall always manage. If not it would have to be a home for me."
"Here is a little P.O. for your fund. Sorry I can't make it more but I'm only an old age pensioner with an odd day's work here and there to help out." Of course, there are letters from all kinds of other people too: mums and dads, priests, teenagers, nuns. Up to fifty come in each day. Incidentally, all the money you send is given to the four charities. Postage and administrative work is paid for by the Ca-ruoue
HERALD.v.y you give something this week? Anything you can afford will be welcome. Please send it to me, Kevin Mayhew, Catholic Herald, 67 Fleet Street, London E.C.4.