The just war to restore our inalienable rights
"...confront the all-out attack...
“Pro-life efforts in the UK and western Europe”
John Smeaton, SPUC director,
International Pro-Life Conference, 29 October 2010, Ottawa, Canada
Archbishop Raymond Burke, prefect of the Apostolic Signatura, the supreme court of the Catholic Church, spoke powerfully about the pro-life movement in an historic speech earlier this month to the World Prayer Congress for Life in Rome. He said: “Notwithstanding the grave situation, in our world, of the attack on innocent and defenceless human life and on the integrity of marriage as the union of man and woman in a bond of lifelong, faithful and procreative love, there remains a strong voice in defence of our littlest and most vulnerable brothers and sisters, without boundary or exception, and of the truth about the marital union as it was constituted by God at the Creation. The Christian voice, the voice of Christ, transmitted by the Apostles, remains strong in our world. The voice of men and women of good will, who recognise and obey the law of God written upon their hearts, remains strong in our world ...”
Archbishop Burke, very soon to be a cardinal, continued: “We, therefore, must never give up in the struggle to advance a culture founded on the choice of life, which God has written upon our hearts, and the victory of life, which Christ has won in our human nature. In fact, we witness every day the commitment of God-fearing brothers and sisters who advance the cause of life and the family in their homes, in their local communities, in their homelands and in the world ... ”
Without doubt Archbishop Burke was referring to the worldwide pro-life movement which is made up of people of all faiths and none – and the archbishop was also referring to the particular audience he was addressing at the World Prayer Congress for Life. That Congress, incidentally, was attended by 400 people, principally from Europe, both east and west Europe. A substantial proportion of those 400 people were pro-life leaders.
As a pro-life campaigner who has worked in a well-known political pro-life group, of all faiths and none, for the past 37 years, I want to pay tribute to Human Life International and to Helpers of God‟s Precious Infants, Catholic bodies which are principally responsible for building pro-life groups in countries around Europe. They belong to that part of the pro-life movement which is characterised not only by an unequivocal and absolute defence of the right to life but also by a clear understanding of the relationship of the right to life to the truth about the conjugal act and its essentially procreative nature. This understanding is the foundation stone of a pro-life movement in Europe which is beginning to have a real impact in the European institutions.
This understanding of pro-life work – linking unequivocal defence of the right to life to the truth about the transmission of human life through the marriage act – must become the foundation stone of the pro-life movement worldwide.
As Archbishop Burke put it in his speech in Rome: “The attack on the innocent and defenceless life of the unborn has its origin in an erroneous view of human sexuality, which attempts to eliminate, by mechanical or chemical means, the essentially procreative nature of the conjugal act.
The error maintains that the artificially altered conjugal act retains its integrity. The claim is that the act remains unitive or loving, even though the procreative nature has been radically violated. In fact, it is not unitive, for one or both of the partners withholds an essential part of the gift of self, which is the essence of the conjugal union. The so-called „contraceptive mentality‟ is essentially anti-life. Many forms of so-called contraception are, in fact, abortifacient, that is, they destroy, at its beginning, a life which has already been conceived.”
Archbishop Burke concluded that, because the pro-life and pro-family movement exists in the world, the struggle for human life and for the family “is full of hope”. Archbishop Burke‟s recognition of the existence and importance of the pro-life movement may seem in one way to be an unremarkable observation on the part of such a senior Vatican official. Maybe so. Nevertheless, I believe it‟s one small significant step towards the pro-life movement‟s goal of getting church leaders and religious leaders of good will in every country around the world on the side of the pro-life fight. The pro-life movement cannot win the pro-life battle on its own. As Pope John Paul II put it in Evangelium Vitae, number 2, “The Gospel of God‟s love for man, the Gospel of the dignity of the person and the Gospel of life are a single and indivisible gospel”.
Realism makes us acutely aware that we are, like Archbishop Burke, “full of hope” in a world dominated, even persecuted, by the culture of death.
To begin with the world‟s most powerful politician: President Obama. He and Hillary Clinton, the US Secretary of State confirmed that the Obama administration will be promoting legalised abortion on demand throughout the world, in particular targeting adolescents in their worldwide abortion drive. Hillary Clinton, Obama's appointee as US Secretary of State, has made it clear that when the Obama government speaks of universal access to “reproductive health”, it's a term which includes access to abortion.
The Obama administration is not going to allow health professionals' conscientious objection to abortion to get in their way. "Universal access" to "reproductive health", to which the Obama government declares itself to be committed, cannot be "universal" if troublesome pro-life health professionals object in conscience to participating in abortion cases or referring them to colleagues.
Obama‟s and Clinton‟s pro-abortion allies at the United Nations have been in top gear. Only last month at the Human Rights Council in Geneva, Ban Ki Moon the UN Secretary General, and Navanethem Pillay, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, launched a report “on discrimination against women, in law and practice, and how the issue is addressed throughout the United Nations human rights system”. In that report they called for the policing of nations worldwide to “address the refusal of physicians to perform legal abortions”.
In the meantime, the anti-life lobby has intensified its campaign in the European institutions. A report on conscientious objection in medicine was debated earlier this month in the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe. The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe consists of elected representatives from the legislatures of the 47 member-states of the Council of Europe. (Please note that the council is entirely separate from the European Union, a body which includes 27 European nations.) The report‟s focus was conscientious objection to abortion, contraception, IVF and euthanasia.
If the report had been passed, Council of Europe member-states, that‟s 47 European nations, would have been put under pressure effectively to abolish in law and practice conscientious objection within medicine.
Thankfully, instead of a pro-abortion victory, the tables were turned, and there was an important pro-life victory instead. Prior to the Council of Europe debate the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children in the UK, of which I am the national director, sent detailed briefings to pro-life supporters and to every Catholic bishop in the 47 nations of the Council of Europe. We urged them to lobby their political representatives to vote against this deadly report opposing conscientious objection. In addition the European Centre for Law and Justice published an invaluable commentary which was circulated widely. Finally, I know that the Holy See worked hard behind the scenes to bring about a good outcome.
The outcome of the debate was radically opposite to the outcome anticipated by the pro-abortion lobby. The pro-abortion report was entitled: “Women‟s access to lawful medical care: the problem of unregulated use of conscientious objection,” By way of contrast, the final resolution on the report was headed “The right to conscientious objection in lawful medical care”. The resolution is not perfect but it represents a huge setback for our opponents. It also presents a major new challenge to the pro-life movement in Europe and, perhaps, worldwide.
When championing and promoting the right to conscientious objection “in lawful medical care”, we must point out clearly to politicians, the media, and to all the relevant professional groups and academic bodies, citing authoritative scientific and medical evidence, that abortion, euthanasia, IVF and human embryo research are not examples of medical care.
When medical professionals kill human beings at the beginning of life or at a vulnerable moment later in life, they are not practising medical care.
On that clear understanding, the pro-life movement, aided by church leaders throughout the world, need to run great campaigns in support of conscientious objection – by doctors, nurses, pharmacists, educationalists and any professional person or other person who may be under pressure to co-operate with anti-life practices. In running such campaigns, the pro-life movement is not seeking to impose religious beliefs on the rest of the world.
On the contrary, the pro-life movement represents humanity‟s consensus on the right to life. Those who oppose abortion and other anti-life practices are seeking to uphold solemn international human rights agreements and to promote ethical practice in medicine and science.
The Universal Declaration of Human Rights 1948 (UDHR) recognizes the primacy of the right to life. The Preamble together with Article 3 makes it clear that the right to life is equal and inalienable and extends to “all members of the human family”. Article 6 specifically deals with the issue of persons by stating that "Everyone has the right to recognition everywhere as a person before the law".
Article 2 asserts “Everyone is entitled to all the rights and freedoms set forth in this declaration, without distinction of any kind, such as race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property birth or other status”– which scholars tell us is a list which was intended to be exhaustive, so that never again, after the horrors of the 2nd World War, could human beings be treated as non-persons, forcibly deprived by governments of human rights.
To dispel all doubt about the status of the unborn child in international human rights agreements, the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child reiterates the right to life expressed in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Furthermore, the Preamble to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child states “childhood is entitled to special protection and care” and “the child, by reason of his physical and mental immaturity, needs special safeguards and care, including appropriate legal protection, before as well as after birth”.
This injunction is one of the strongest in human rights statements regarding the requirement to protect life in the womb.
In addition, the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child is the most widely and rapidly ratified human rights treaty in history, ratified by nations representing populations of all faiths and none. Humanity‟s consensus, reflected in the human rights agreements mentioned and others, crosses all boundaries of race and religion.
Despite all of this, however, the European Court of Human Rights has consistently sought to avoid ruling on whether the right to life before birth is protected under Article 2. Since the first case involving abortion was heard, its approach has been to view the question as an issue falling within the “margin of appreciation” granted to individual States.
Yet this position has become increasingly difficult for the Court to maintain. In the case of Vo v France (2004), a case which was not directly related to legalised abortion, the Court was forced to recognise the obvious, that the child before birth “belongs to the human race.”1 Nevertheless, it insisted that the question of when life begins was a matter for individual States2. Inevitably its lack of commitment to natural law interpretation of Article 2 has resulted in the Court moving toward recognition of a right to abortion, or at least access to abortion where abortion is lawful.” In other words “Yes” the unborn child is a member of the human race, but “No” it is not a person and therefore not entitled to protection under Article 2.
In 2007, in Tysiác v Poland, the Court found that Poland's restrictions on abortion breached the right to privacy of a woman who had been denied an abortion because an eye condition from which she suffered was judged to be an insufficiently grave threat to her health to permit an abortion under Polish law. Time does not permit an examination of the conflicting medical evidence or the questionable interpretation put on it by the Court. But the ruling in this case elevated the secondary and conditional right to privacy in Article 8 above the fundamental right to life protected by Article 2.
The Court then found, within Article 8, the right to access abortion. The significance of this ruling was summed-up by the Spanish judge, Javier Borrego Borrego, in his dissenting opinion when he said: “Today the Court has decided that a human being was born as a result of a violation of the European Convention on Human Rights. According to this reasoning, there is a Polish child, currently six years old, whose right to be born contradicts the Convention.
“I would never have thought that the Convention would go so far, and I find it frightening.”
Last year the European Court heard A, B & C v Ireland. Three international pro-life bodies made a joint submission to the European Court of Human Rights in this matter: the European Centre for Law and Justice, the Alliance Defence Fund on behalf of the Family Research Council in the US and the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children in the UK. In that case three women under the guidance of the Irish Family Planning Association complained to the Court that Irish Constitutional protection for children before birth violates their right to have an abortion.
While the European Convention requires that all cases should first be heard in the national courts, this case, almost unnoticed even in Ireland, sidestepped the normal procedures and was directed to the Court‟s Grand Chamber, a forum from which there is no appeal. The judgement is expected sometime in 2010.
The outcome of this case could have devastating consequences and not just for Ireland. There are already powerful interests within the United Nations which try to use human rights agreements to promote abortion on demand. If the European Court of Human Rights rules against Ireland, then no country in the world would be safe from the international abortion lobby.
So this case is also a threat to the right of sovereign, democratic nations to govern themselves.
The pro-life movement must call upon governments and human rights institutions to return to the original meaning of these documents which were drafted in response to the atrocities revealed by the Nuremburg Tribunals. To do this, we must become more familiar with international agreements which were intended to protect all human beings at every stage of life.
In this connection, I commend to you an important international internet-based project entitled “Amnesty for Babies”. Politicians at the federal and state level are invited to sign an on-line petition urging the world‟s governments to uphold their obligations under international agreements to respect the right to life of the unborn. This is a great initiative because it gives politicians, working in a practical way to overcome anti-life legislation, the chance to oppose absolutely and unequivocally, all direct abortion.
It upholds the right to life of unborn children, without exception, just as international agreements, such as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, do. Please speak to me or to Jim Hughes during this conference if you want more information about this.
Let me mention a few other things about Europe – good and bad. Northern Ireland, which forms part of the United Kingdom, has successfully resisted Britain‟s pro-abortion legislation for the past 44 years. It has been SPUC‟s and the pro-life movement‟s biggest success story. I won‟t go into the whole history. Suffice it to say that courageous Protestant leadership has saved not only Northern Ireland, but the whole of Ireland, from legalized abortion. Ian Paisley, the former first minister of Northern Ireland, said he would walk with the Pope on the abortion issue – and SPUC has worked closely and successfully with the protestant leadership in our battle of pro-life resistance. In recent months, the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children has successfully taken the British government to court over its attempts to introduce legal abortion through the back door.
The battle continues ... but 44 years on, the British Abortion Act 1967 does not apply to Northern Ireland, and earlier this year the power to legislate on the issue was devolved to the Northern Ireland Assembly which has for several decades been overwhelmingly pro-life.
The Republic of Ireland is under intense attack – as my comments on the case currently before the European Court of Human Rights demonstrates. Its Government, its judiciary, and its media, are clearly, strongly, anti-life. They have been working for years to undermine Ireland‟s constitution – which the Irish people famously voted in 1982 to include complete protection for the unborn.
The Government and the Supreme Court does this by means of its policies and perverse judgements on abortion, IVF and abortifacient birth control drugs and devices.
However, ordinary Irish citizens, by a simple slender majority, have even resisted their own Catholic bishops‟ advice to the Irish people which effectively urged Irish citizens to compromise and to permit legalized abortion. There‟s a powerful faithful pro-life Catholic remnant in Ireland, in my view the biggest pro-life, Catholic faithful remnant in the world – albeit a minority. That minority is the yeast that leavens the bread.
Ireland also, with its constitutional ban on abortion, leads the world in its care for mothers-to-be.
According to the World Health Organization 2009 report, Ireland had the lowest maternal mortality rate in the world, with 1 in 100,000 deaths. What does that tell us about legalized abortion when the UK rate is 8 in 100,000 deaths and the rate in the US is 11 in 100,000?
And we must never forget the witness of Ireland‟s leading obstetricians and gynaecologists. On 1st April 1992, Professor John Bonnar and four other leading obstetricians and gynaecologists, said in a letter to the Irish Times: “As obstetricians and gynaecologists, we affirm that there are no medical circumstances justifying direct abortion, that is, no circumstances in which the life of the mother may only be saved by directly terminating the life of her unborn child.”
Europe‟s Ireland remains a bright beacon to the world in its unequivocal, absolute, defence of the sanctity of human life. That‟s the goal towards which the pro-life movement must openly work.
Having said that, Malta is the only country in Europe which is listed on the BBC‟s website as prohibiting abortion in all circumstances. Tragically, protection for Irish babies was undermined - not by the Irish people - but by a perverse decision of the Supreme Court in the X case in 1992. The Supreme Court, contrary to all reasonable expectations, allowed abortions in the case of threatened suicide.
Then last year, on 15th December 2009, the Irish Supreme Court once again ruled in a decision, contrary to all reasonable expectations, that embryos outside the body are not protected under Ireland's constitution. As Pat Buckley, of European Life Network Ireland, and a member of SPUC‟s staff team, commented at the time: "The judges' interpretation of article 40.3.3 excluding human embryos from protection is wrong.
This decision treats human embryos as if they are mere property, when in fact they are equal members of the human family. International human rights law does not exclude human embryos from the equal right to life upheld in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and other human rights instruments. There is no genetic difference between an embryo inside or outside the body. The right to life, which is inalienable, does not change according to location.”
I want to turn now to human rights relating to the family, to marriage, and to parents as the primary educators of their children, particularly in relation to the situation in Europe.
I commend to you in this connection an important talk, given in Qatar, by the distinguished US attorney and bioethicist, William L. Saunders Jnr, who is speaking at this Congress, entitled "Human Rights, the Family and the Education of Children". Mr Saunders explains how the Universal Declaration of Human Rights was drafted so that it upholds marriage between a man and a woman, the family founded on marriage, and parents as the primary educators of their children.
Article 26 (3) states: 'Parents have a prior right to choose the kind of education that shall be given to their children'
And William Saunders says: As article 16 recognized the priority to the state of the family founded upon marriage, article 26 recognizes the priority of the wishes of parents regarding the education of their own children over any designs of the state. Remember, per article 16, the State is obligated to protect the family. If the State presumes to usurp the rights of parents to choose the education of their own children, it damages the family, violates its own obligations, and undermines the foundation of a just society and State."
William Saunders‟ important talk explains the historical significance of the Universal Declaration's insistence on parents as the primary educators of their children. Quoting Professor Mary Ann Glendon, former US ambassador to the Holy See, William Saunders points out that the UDHR‟s protection of parents is rooted in the world‟s bitter experience of Nazi Germany and was “influenced directly by recollections of the National Socialist regime's efforts to turn Germany's renowned educational system into a mechanism for indoctrinating the young with the government's programme”.
"In other words" William Saunders comments "one of the most important lessons drawn by the framers of the Declaration from the experience of the Second World War was that parental choice in education is a fundamental plank of international peace and security".
For many years in Britain, our government has been pursuing a policy of providing access to abortion and birth control drugs and devices to children under the age of sixteen without parental knowledge or consent, thus contravening the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Similar policies are being pursued by the Spanish and Portugese governments and, no doubt, others too.
Tragically, over 60 years on from the Universal Declaration and the Second World War, it seems that the lessons have not been learned, and similar pressures are developing in Ireland and, without doubt, throughout Europe.
This is World War Three and it's primarily a war on the unborn and on parents as the primary educators of their children.
Sadly, the situation is made even worse by church leaders who appear to have imbibed the spirit of the age. While the teaching of the Catholic Church is that there is a congruence between faith and reason on matters such as homosexual adoption, Catholic church leaders in England and Wales were prepared to refer homosexual couples to other adoption agencies - thus putting children at serious risk.
In addition, tragically, in Britain, induced abortion and birth control drugs and devices are provided to children at school, including Catholic schools, under the age of 16 without parental knowledge or consent. This is happening with the co-operation of the Catholic authorities.
Britain is witnessing the fulfilment of the prophetic message of Humanae Vitae, Pope Paul VI's historic encyclical which celebrated its 40th anniversary two years ago. Speaking about the inseparable connection between the unitive and procreative aspects of sexual intercourse he wrote: "Finally, careful consideration should be given to the danger of this power passing into the hands of those public authorities who care little for the precepts of the moral law.
Who will blame a government which in its attempt to resolve the problems affecting an entire country resorts to the same measures as are regarded as lawful by married people in the solution of a particular family difficulty? Who will prevent public authorities from favoring those contraceptive methods which they consider more effective? Should they regard this as necessary, they may even impose their use on everyone."
When Pope Paul VI wrote these words, he was referring to governments imposing birth control practices on whole societies. His words apply, tragically, with terrifying consequences for our families, to Catholic bishops in England and Wales, who co-operate with the British government policy of imposing birth control practices on families like mine.
Moreover, the use of contraceptive drugs and devices by so many Catholics, which may, according to the manufacturers, cause an early abortion, is draining the pro-life movement of the support of the community most likely to support the battle against abortion. Couples who may be turning a blind eye to the practice of abortifacient birth control in the intimacy of their married lives may well find it difficult to support our unequivocal campaigns against abortion, IVF, human embryo research and euthanasia.
This is one of the reasons why I said earlier: “This understanding of pro-life work – linking unequivocal defence of the right to life to the truth about the transmission of human life through the marriage act – must become the foundation stone of the pro-life movement worldwide.”
The artificial separation of the unitive and procreative elements of sexual intercourse is not only the basis of contraception, it's also the basis of early abortion and in vitro fertilisation. It underpins today's culture of death.
Let me turn again to Archbishop Raymond Burke‟s historic speech to the World Prayer Congress for Life in Rome earlier this month. He said: “A most tragic example of the lack of obedience of faith, also on the part of certain Bishops, was the response of many to the Encyclical Letter Humanae Vitae of Pope Paul VI, published on July 25, 1968. The confusion which resulted has led many Catholics into habits of sin in what pertains to the procreation and education of human life.”
I am quoting the good Archbishop Burke because the pro-life movement in Canada and around the world receives much of its support from Catholics – and the failure of Catholic bishops to teach their flocks on matters relating to the fundamental right to life is directly responsible for great confusion and, consequently, for the failure of the overwhelming majority of Catholics, both clerical and lay, to provide truly effective resistance to the greatest legalized slaughter of human beings in the history of the world. Countless millions of unborn children are being killed each year and the policy of very many Catholic bishops is contributing hugely to this deplorable situation.
Let‟s hear what Archbishop Burke had to say in Rome: “Catechesis is a most fundamental responsibility which the Bishop exercises on behalf of the good of the faithful entrusted to his care, ultimately, of their eternal salvation ... Pope John Paul II declared „It is therefore the duty of every Bishop to give real priority in his particular Church to active and effective catechesis. He must demonstrate his personal concern through direct interventions aimed at promoting and preserving an authentic passion for catechesis‟”.
Archbishop Burke continues: “Obedience to the Magisterium is a virtue and is attained through obedience. When the shepherds of the flock are obedient to the Magisterium, entrusted to their exercise, then the members of the flock grow in obedience and proceed, with Christ, along the way of salvation. If the shepherd is not obedient, the flock easily gives way to confusion and error. The shepherd must be especially attentive to the assaults of Satan who knows that, if he can strike the shepherd, the work of scattering the flock will be made easy.
I affirm that my own archbishop, the archbishop of Westminster, Archbishop Vincent Nichols, was not being obedient to the magisterium when he said on BBC television that he did not know if the Catholic Church would eventually sanction gay unions. I affirm that Archbishop Nichols and the Catholic bishops of England and Wales are not being obedient to the magisterium in their co-operation with the British government policy of providing children at Catholic schools with access to abortion. I affirm that Archbishop Fisichella, president of the Pontifical Council for the Promotion of the New Evangelisation is not being obedient to the magisterium when he stands by the original wording of his article in L‟Osservatore Romano last year which implied that there are difficult situations in which doctors enjoy scope for the autonomous exercise of conscience in deciding whether to carry out a direct abortion.
These are far from isolated examples. I hear in country after country throughout Europe about the disobedience of bishops to the magisterium and everyone knows that the flocks are well and truly scattered, not least on abortion, IVF, human embryo research, euthanasia and issues relating to homosexuality.
In his historic speech in Rome, Archbishop Raymond Burke, the prefect of the Apostolic Signatura, the Catholic Church‟s supreme court, empowered Catholics and all people of good will to be scandalised, and to speak publicly about the scandal, of Catholics “who claim to be practising their faith but who refuse to apply the truth of the faith in the exercise of politics, medicine, business and other human endeavours ...”
He said: “One of the ironies of the present situation is that the person who experiences scandal at the gravely sinful public actions of a fellow Catholic is accused of a lack of charity and of causing division within the unity of the Church ... What causes wonderment in such a society is the fact that someone fails to observe political correctness and, thereby, seems to be disruptive of the so-called peace of society.
“Lying or failing to tell the truth, however, is never a sign of charity. A unity which is not founded on the truth of the moral law is not the unity of the Church. The Church‟s unity is founded on speaking the truth with love.
The person who experiences scandal at public actions of Catholics, which are gravely contrary to the moral law, not only does not destroy unity but invites the Church to repair what is clearly a serious breach in Her life. Were he not to experience scandal at the public support of attacks on human life and the family, his conscience would be uninformed or dulled about the most sacred realities.”
I believe that it‟s an essential part of the mission of the pro-life movement in Europe, in Canada, and throughout the world, in the words of Archbishop Burke, “to experience scandal at public action of Catholics which are gravely contrary to the moral law” and “speaking the truth with love” to build unity within the church on the moral law. May I commend, in particular, whilst I‟m in Canada, the extraordinary charity demonstrated by the team which runs and supports LifeSite, one of the pro-life movement‟s greatest gifts to the modern world.
I believe that the values of Nobel Prize Winner Mother Teresa who said in her acceptance speech: ""[T]he greatest destroyer of peace today is abortion" will prevail over the values of Nobel Prize Winner, Barack Obama who has called for abortion on demand to be legalized throughout the world.
Through our work in the years ahead, the dignity and inviolability of every human life will once again be reflected in people's consciences and national law, just as it's deeply entrenched in universally-binding human rights agreements.
On the other hand, the values of the pro-abortion, pro-human embryo research lobby, reflected in the callous rhetoric of choice which tramples on human lives, born and unborn, will be consigned in the not so very distant future to a tragic chapter of human history.