Thursday, 22 May 2008

John Smeaton and Division

I'm slightly mad at the moment. The pro-life movement has taken a bit of a battering these last few days. We were defeated by a large majority on every single amendment we tried to put through.

Many organisations tried to oppose the bill itself, but we all knew it was going to go through... To deny that fact is both idiotic and unrealistic. So many of the pro-life (excluding SPUC) joined forces to try and unite, put differences to one side and to try and put forward positive legislation that would have been a major step forward and a significant shift in our culture with regards to how we value human life.

Now, as we turn back to reflect and to ask ourselves how to move forward, we see the SPUC director making some outrageous statements which reflect his somewhat exclusive attitude to anyone with a badly formed conscience.

Today in lifesite see article here John Smeaton has asked Mrs Claire Curtis-Thomas MP to stand down from the all party parliamentary pro-life group because she supports a woman's right to choose, yet she wants the abortion limit to be 12 weeks, rather than the current limit which is 24.

Let's look at this for a moment. A labour MP, with no real protection or political allies, stands up and talks about how she feels uneasy about abortion... That's brave. Yes, she is wrong and possibly a sign like a lot of our culture of having a badly formed conscience and looking at life as simply as an aesthetic reality rather than anything else. But she does care and she is prepared to say that. We need to love this woman and help her, not cast her out simply because she doesn't follow the catholic faith. REALITY CHECK - HARDLY ANYONE IS A CATHOLIC IN THE UK

The fact is, a reduction in the time limit to 12 weeks would have saved lives. It would have also signalled a certain 'uneasy' feeling about abortion in our country. Of course I do not accept women have the right to choose, but the only way we will win this war is to actually play the politicians at their own game. To accept minor changes when the opportunity comes our way is a cause for celebration, and a chance for the pro-life movement to unite with one voice and one heart. Yet Smeaton seems keen to abilterate any positive movement, whilst his political officer tries to wind others up by saying we are political mugs for trying to force a change in our country.

My response to both men are that those people whom you criticise have done more in this country over the last 40 years to try and make a difference, a small difference, but a positive one. Absolutism in politics is not possible in anyway, shape or form and that is a consqeunce of democracy, of a free society. To change the law on abortion, we will need to accept gradual change, but also as pro-life people dedicated to saving lives, we need to unite and stop bickering and causing even more division. It's a little sick really that people see the need to act triumphant at a time when our country heads down the road of a culture of death.

As a Catholic, I see it is my duty to love, love and to love even more. Maybe the problem in our faith at the moment is we love only ourselves and that we fail to see the need to show the truth of what we proclaim in truly loving way which involves being honest and obiediant to the truth; but it also involves working with others who do not believe what we believe... Shoving the faith down other peoples throats will get us nowhere fast. We need to plant the seeds and help them grow. Frankly I see John Smeatons comments as both sad and a reflection upon the current way the pro-life movement works at the moment... It's divided, it's cenetered on personality and it doesn't address the current needs of men and women in the 21st centuary.

There needs to be a change and it needs to happen now, because we see our crumbling ship sink, maybe it's time to think about how we are going to re-build, and we can do that together.

I should add that these comments are not directed at those many wonderful, faithful people who work and support SPUC, I am simply expressing my own thoughts upon how we need to move forward and to start a debate on how we can bring about the civilisation of love called for by Pope John Paul II.


Sam Burke said...

Hear, hear! It's about time these things were known. They've long criticised everyone else - it's about time they faced a few home truths.

SPUC tactics are not in the least bit constructive - worse still, they're often naive. You do not, by convention, oppose a Bill at Second Reading in the Lords so we can put that charge to one side straight away.

On Claire Curtis-Thomas: sure, I think she's wrong to back a woman's "right-to-choose". But why call for her resignation? Is there to be no recognition of how far she has come since entering Parliament on Emily's list (a criteria of which is to be pro-choice)? Is there to be no acknowledgment of her courageous attempts to prevent the Mental Capacity Bill coming in? It would seem that SPUC disregard any sense of balance in their incendiary remarks.

For the record, they offered nor gave any help with the Parliamentary Bill itself. We wouldn't have even been debating abortion, if was up to them! We'd have given the other side an open goal and missed an opportunity to awaken public indignation on abortion - particularly late-term abortion.

This whispering campaign marks a new low for SPUC. I really despair at what their motivations are: what good could come from this sniping? Of course, they had to put this tripe overseas as they're not listened to over here.

John Paul said...

Completely agree Sam.

holdingonforaHoyos1962 said...

Well done! I haven't heard sense like that for a long time. It is unbelievable to me that anyone who heard Claire Curtis-Thomas' speech (as I did) should react by declaring her anathema and rushing to push her out of the fold. Of course, her conclusion on being 'pro-choice', just like Nadine Dorries, is one that is contrary to right reason, but to say that these politicians should be excoriated and excluded from the pro-life coalition because they have not had the benefit of a Catholic formation, is seriously misguided. We could debate pro-life strategy for hours on end; however, the real problem with the comments of John Smeaton is that they display a common attitude in Catholic circles which Dwight Longenecker identified a while back. So long as these individuals are within the pro-life movement I can guarantee that there will be no change for the better: they do not attempt to convince the British public or our politicians but simply to re-affirm their own moral goodness and the ideological purity of their position. They are blessed to know the truth but by pouring scorn on poor souls who seek it sincerely, they fail to give it proper reverence.

John Paul said...

You know I'm very suprised to hear all these positive comments. I think there is a feeling that if you're a trad you must support SPUC, but that's 3 of us especially holdingonforahoyos1962 and all in equal condemnation.

Ottaviani said...

As a Catholic, I see it is my duty to love, love and to love even more.

Well you certainly seem to do little of that in this post.

John Paul said...

I take it you see love as a sort of sensor for speaking out. I'm not saying John Smeaton was not right to say she was wrong in the fact she said women should have a choice, I'm criticizing the way in which he did it.

Pius_X said...

I must disagree with the cavalcade of positive comments you have had, I completely disagree with your take on events, and your view of SPUC.

I have worked very closely with SPUC over the last few years, and I am proud to call myself a member. SPUC has learnt from its mistakes and thought that a push on weeks grounds at this time in this parliament would not only fail but might back fire on the pro-life cause like it did in 1990 (and this is turning into a reply of 1990).

On the Claire Curtis-Thomas thing, the simple thing is that she isn't pro-life. She might be a good woman, she might well be a woman who pro-lifers can work closely with in the near future, but she is not pro-life. From her statements it is clear that she supports the decriminalisation of abortion, repeat she supports the decriminalisation of abortion, and she's meant to be vice-chair of the parliamentary pro-life group! That would be like having someone who doesn't support the existence of Israel on the All-Party Parliamentary Friends of Israel Group. It makes absolutely no-sense.

Some of the people making comments have absolutely no idea of the grassroots level work, real work, that SPUC is doing to promote the cause, whilst other groups are too willing to compromise themselves and their principles in order to seem half-respectable to the 'general public', and it doesn't wash!

At the moment SPUC have made the political decision (something that you might disagree with, I do not) that being pro-active in UK parliament is not going to work, and that it might backfire (as seems to be happening). So SPUC is focusing on: young people, student groups, the UN, and the EU. If you had any idea of the amount of the work SPUC puts into international organisations, whilst other British groups do nothing, you would be amazed.

SPUC does have problems, but those problems are nothing compared to those in every other British pro-life group. I agree that pro-life politics has become to personality based also, but that is the fault of the Ann Widdecombes and Lord Altons of this world rather than those at SPUC.

John Paul said...

Sorry Pius X, however everyone who has made a comment in this forum thus far, other than yourself and ottiavani actually works in the pro-life movement, including myself as a paid employee. We are dealing with the issues every, single, day. Also privately I've had a number of E-Mails from professional lobbyists agreeing with this position.

As I said I'm not criticizing the people who work for SPUC, I worked very closely with SPUC and still do. All of them are fantastic people, however John Smeaton refuses to engage the culture and locks horns with it all the time. That is not the way to work and it's not going to win us any battles.

John Paul said...

On the Lord Alton & Anne Widdecombe points; I fear you are severely misguided and misinformed...

LizzieD said...

You linked to an article by Hilary White which mentions Lord Alton, and Ann Widecombe's ambiguous pro life stance. Are you saying that that article is inaccurate? I am rather horrified by what it reveals - especially re their support of IVF. Surely Catholics have a duty to stand out against the falsehoods being promoted within secular society - even if it leads to one's personal martyrdom. (And that goes for myself, I hasten to add). I believe that if people like Mr Smeaton don't stand up for the full truth, then you end up with those awful compromises you get when you have "Catholic" adoption agencies giving children to homosexuals to be adopted, and "Catholic" aid agencies supporting the use of condoms - in some circumstances. No, you won't change anything in the political sphere by lying in bed with those you agree with "up to a point". You need to withdraw, and PRAY. (You seem not to have considered, in your other post, that your friend's prayers on his retreat may have helped his friend's circumstances too). It's not up to US to convert people, only up to God, and we do what we can where we can, and that sometimes means not saying a dicky bird, sometimes means shouting out the full truth...

John Paul said...

Lord Alton and Anne Widdecombe have done more in their time in office to try and make a difference. They both toured the country recently to get people to oppose this bill and inform people on the issues involved. Alton has not supported IVF, he said from a secular view point in ethics there can be nothing wrong with it if no destruction of the embryo takes place, yet from a catholic view point it would still be illicit because it took place outside the natural act of love. He was clarifying that point.

As for my friend, I'm not saying there is a right or wrong way here, all I was doing is pointing out an alternative. Human beings a made to be in relationships and that includes friendships (theology of the body), and although religion is not all about feelings, our culture is. Christ uses people (like priests at the mass and the disciples in the Gospels, and saints in our time) to spread the faith... We are all called to become great saints. What we have to be careful of is that we don't get in the way of God, but rather allow ourselves to be used as an instrument of his Grace in the world.

Anonymous said...

Recognition is one thing, putting someone who is not actually convinced that the innocent should be protected from conception to a natural death more or less in charge of your representative organisation seems like a good way of giving up before you start.

It is great that she is uneasy about the subject, great that she wants to have the time limit reduced. Isn't it wonderful to have people with whom one can co-operate in particular cases?

Think about it thought. You might think it wonderful if some of the Burmese junta formed a wee group for reform. But it's unlikely you'd make one of them vice-chairman of your Committee for Free Democratic Elections. It wouldn't do much good for his credibility among the rest of the junta, and you would hardly trust him to back your plans to the hilt.

And not-having-democracy is not actually an evil in and of itself, unlike killing innocent people.

Pius_X said...

I'm sorry John, but how do you know where I do or have worked?

You also failed to deal with any of the substantive points I made, which is fine you don't have to.

It is interesting that you criticise the cult of personality in the pro-life movement, but fail to recognise that two of the most well-known personalities might be to blame for that.

As for your follow-up post on this, it is unsubstantial and patronising. Do you intend to tell us what goes on in those meetings? And furthermore one doesn't have to work for a pro-life organisation to have an opinion.

Furthermore, on your comparison to Pope John Paul II's life I feel that a better example might be that of Isiah of Jerussalem and Jeremiah who lived as "signs of contradiction" in their age.

John Paul said...

Pius X; I meant no criticism of you in referring to the people commenting working for the pro-life movement. I was responding to your criticism that nobody posting has any idea of what goes on with these things which is completely untrue, as the first lot of comments were from two people both employed in the movement.

Of course you don't have to work in the movement to have an opinion...

These meetings of the all party group actually hold good discussions and talk about future strategy. I don't think you fully appreciate the full position that Claire Curtis-Thomas is in. She's a labour MP, with no allies, no power, and a MP who came in (as Sam pointed out) on Emilys list. To be pro-life in the labour party is not an easy task and I think in private (in fact I know) she would surprise you with her views.

You stated in your first comment that pro-life lobbying is backfiring - that's true. Because SPUC, Right to Life and CORE are all duplicating each others work and standing on peoples heads, there are also mixed messages with notable differences between what SPUC is saying and the others. They must unite and form one pro-life lobby group, but because of personality issues I'm not sure that will happen. So what is happening is that personality is taking over and babies are still dying. That's a pretty big failure.

Can you enlighten me on these personalities?

Yes, your comparisons are excellent. But I'm afraid if you mean that John Smeaton is standing up as a sign of contradicition, well that might be one way to put it. I think another way might be to say that your examples both spoke to the people in a language they understood. Like Jesus Christ. I don't see much of that in the recent comments from Mr Smeaton.

holdingonforaHoyos1962 said...

pius_x. Do you think that the actions of anti-slave trade campaigners were wrong on the grounds that the law which parliamentarians voted on simply banned the trade rather than slavery per se? Your logic would suggest so.

I am puzzled by your position which seems to suggest that in order to bear witness we must completely disengage from the political process in parliament and just rant absolutes from ivory towers.

If we adopt this 'strategy' those politicians who want to facilitate the killing of more babies will succeed without any opposition; I can just envisage the smile on the face of Evan Harris MP if your enthusiastic carping of Clair Curtis Thomas MP was to result in pushing her away from the incremental pro-life campaign (one supported by Cardinals Murphy-O'Connor and O'Brien).

Those who are not against us are for us in this step-by-step project: Wilberforce commanded support from those who were not fully opposed to slavery and I imagine you approve of the way in which full emancipation was (eventually) achieved.

Writing to MPs asking them to oppose a Government bill at second reading is, as Sam explained, politically naive and should be exposed for what it is: counsel from cloud cuckoo land.