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Assessing The Contra-Catholic Scene Candidly – Part 2

The contra-Catholic scene is worsening because bad trends are not being even halted but extended. That is especially evident in abortion. Britain and Ireland differ in the lengths of time during which it has had public and statutory approval, but its opponents in both countries face some similar questions. No answers have made a significant difference to the status quo in Britain.

‘How we stand’
2019: “… one woman, one baby at a time, we are stopping abortion.” That is true in the sense that abortion is stopped (i.e. prevented, or averted) in the case of each woman who, having listened to a pro-life message, decides to let her baby be born, but if the subject of “stopping” abortion is discussed the word is very likely to be interpreted as ‘banning’ it (i.e. stopping its legal availability). By comparison with that meaning, a reference to individual one-at-a-time decisions to keep the baby seems rather silly because numerically it is ‘clutching at straws’. In the year in which the comment was made (and it has been made by more than one person), more than 200,000 abortions were notified to the Government in Britain, despite some people’s decisions to keep the baby. Such decisions will not stop other people from making the contrary decision. Persuasion to keep the baby is predicated on, and unavoidably acknowledges the legitimacy of, choice. Pro-lifers are pro-choice, because they would object if the choice to keep the baby were taken away. Encouraging a pro-life decision is all that opponents of abortion can do, but it shows recognition of the futility of arguing for ‘no choice’.

2022: “In the half-century since the Abortion Act 1967 was passed, and despite the best efforts of the [pro-life] movement, precious little progress has been made in changing the law or the attitudes of the general public.”

2023: “in the past several months, [we’ve] been laying the foundations for growth.” Note, more than fifty years after the statutory disaster it is still a matter of laying foundations for trying to mitigate the damage. The writer acknowledged that “For 50 years, the general public have told us that they don’t think they can live without abortion access, and they jealously guard that access. But they’ve also told us that abortion is a miserable choice, that abortion was never their goal and they didn’t want to end up there, and that motherhood can be joyful and fulfilling if only they felt able to embrace it.” Probably nearly all of them believe also (as my legislative representative has shown in his letters to me) that whatever is their own or others’ opinion of abortion people should be allowed to do what they believe to be right for them; which leaves the situation just where it is.

2024: “Only one per cent of women [in Britain] want legal abortion for any reason up to birth” (as some pro-abortion campaigners do). Even if that aspect of the “extreme” pro-abortion agenda has very little support, that is a weak factor by which to discredit that agenda; it implies that the worth of a proposal is proportionate to public support for it. Furthermore, almost certainly even fewer than one per cent of women in Britain support (as they should do) the ‘polar-opposite’ extreme proposition: that abortion for any reason at any stage should be illegal.  

The ‘message’ which should be conveyed
2016/17, I believe: “[When we put our arguments] with love, gentleness, humility and compassion…we start to win. I believe we’ve started already which is why I think I can feel the tide turning.” I can’t.

2019: “Every abortion is a tragedy.” “A tragedy” is a ‘liquorice-stick’ alternative to ‘an abominable evil’.

2023: “Abortion is always a tragedy” (the same speaker, still limp).

“As Catholics, we’re called to act with compassion and understanding.”  There seems to be far more socially-acceptable talk of compassion and understanding than controversial talk of appalling evil. A twisted version of ‘compassion’ and ‘understanding’ was the basis on which abortion was legalised and is sustained. It is the basis also of the campaign to legalise assisted suicide and euthanasia, and (until those objectives are achieved) to influence prosecution-authorities, juries, and judges to adopt an attitude of maximum lenience. Our side help them when using such ‘soggy’ and ambiguous expressions. 

“We need to speak to the culture in relevant ways that cut through to change people’s attitudes to abortion.” Despite decades of world-wide legal abortion, the search for “relevant ways” to rectify people’s attitudes has not made much impact – unless you are satisfied with the (‘any day will do’) crumb of comfort that ‘we are changing minds one at a time’. 

“[T]he key to reaching the general public is a… story marked by optimism and hope,” and “relationships and love are what matters most.” Such vague concepts are far too feeble to be a threat to the status quo. Political Parties compete with each other to offer optimism and hope, but their respective interpretations of those words tend to win only temporary popularity, and their opponents implement different policies when elected. Religious office-holders typically adopt optimistic and hopeful attitudes, and talk all the time about relationships and love, but have not thereby prevented the visible abandonment of religion. This ecclesiastical ‘tip-toeing’ style seems to have ‘caught on’ among the laity, even within pro-life circles. The most-often-promoted policy takes the form of socially-acceptable and clichéd expressions of understanding and sympathy for archetypal girls and women in difficult circumstances. The priority seems to be to avoid saying anything which could upset those who have taken the legally-provided murderous ‘easy way out’ (if post-abortion remorse were as common and intense as is often alleged by abortion’s opponents, we could reasonably expect that it would be publicised in the mainstream mass media – suppression of it by abortion-supporting journalists seems an implausible reason for the silence). A good example is March for Life UK.[1] A recurring theme in messages from the March organisers has been celebration and sympathy instead of protest, and publicity for the 2023 ‘March’ pointed out that “No graphic images are permitted at this event and we work closely with post-abortive groups to ensure all our content is sensitive to those who have been affected by abortion.” Instead of being a protest, “The event is,” said the publicity, “joyful, peaceful and prayerful – a powerful witness…” (but not powerful enough to make much difference to the abortion-industry; probably there is fear also of being branded as ‘judgmental’ by people who have no inhibition about expressing their own judgments). One pro-life group, whose status as a registered charity might be endangered by display of a ‘stronger’ attitude, has spoken of wanting “to gently and non-judgmentally lower” the abortion rate.

Whether any progress can be made

2016: “Currently in the UK, some 200,000 women have abortions and we can’t allow this to continue. So…help us turn the tide on abortion once and for all.” As if ‘one more heave’ will ‘do the trick’.

2017: “I think there’s some room now for a big counter-attack.” Signs of it beginning are not obvious.

2021: “There is no way the pro-life movement can bring about the paradigm shift needed to defeat abortion without the Church[, but] over the past fifty-five years Catholic prelates, with notable exceptions, have become less and less visibly opposed to attacks on the sanctity of human life, even to the point of co-operating with policies that include abortion and related anti-life, anti-family laws. … [I]t is only a matter of time before killing elderly and sick people becomes acceptable… [W]e in the pro-life movement can slow things down, but ultimately, without the help of the Church, the culture of life cannot advance.” And it hasn’t.

A few moments later, that speaker contradicted his own pessimism when he said that despite “apparently overwhelming setbacks, the pro-life movement appears to be poised in 2021 to grow immensely in numbers, in influence, and in its strategic planning” (from what evidence does that ‘appear’ to be the case?), and he foresaw (perhaps ‘dreamed of’ would be a better expression) being “energised by fresh ideas in order to carry out our campaigns more effectively.”

2023: ‘The vast majority of doctors in Ireland neither support nor participate in abortion’. That has not prevented the industry from becoming established and ‘doing-away’ with an increasing number of babies. Many gynaecologists in Britain were averse to abortion when legislation removed almost all obstacles to it, but it increased rapidly, the gynaecologists gradually retired, the medical profession adjusted to the new law, and most doctors must be assumed to approve of it.

“There is reason to hope that it may not be long before the tide turns and Ireland becomes strongly pro-life again.” “In Ireland, there is a real sense of optimism among all who advocate for the inherent value of human life from conception.” No evidence for credibility was mentioned, unless it was believed to be a 10,000 participation in the annual Rally for Life; there were 100,000 in a similar rally just before the abortion referendum, according to a report at that time. Zeal might be difficult to sustain after clear defeat, but, in so far as the number at a rally is evidence of support, the pro-life campaign seems to have diminished by 90%.

“No law can take away the factual reality that unborn babies are part of the human family.” But the law can take away from them the law’s protection, and has done so, and is certain to continue to do so for the foreseeable future. Probably there is no country in the world – including ‘Catholic’ ones – in which, once that protection has been removed, it has been restored.

[1] That began in 2012 in Birmingham, with a few hundred participants. By 2017 the number had reached about 2,500, which was declared to be too many for Birmingham to accommodate (no such difficulty has affected an annual LGBT etcetera ‘Pride’ parade, for whose sake traffic is diverted), and the event was moved to London. Participation has become more numerous, but if compared with support for minority-interest groups represented in relevant General Elections it has been lower than the votes for the Monster Raving Loony Party.* If, furthermore, the approximate average annual increase of ‘Marchers’ since 2015 (785) were to be maintained indefinitely, it would take nearly a hundred years to reach the 1970s’ peak of British pro-life processions, which had not the slightest effect on the relevant law and were never repeated.

201220152016201720182019202020212022 2023
March for Life
Estimated Participation
Monster Raving Looney Party
votes received in most recent three UK general elections

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