Ruth Kelly forced to vote for Bill condemned by the Roman Catholic Church
Traditionally, members are given a free vote on issues deemed to be a matter of conscience, but this appallingly amoral government considers that such issues should be determined not by the collective moral wisdom but by the politics of power. Labour’s Roman Catholic MPs have a particular dilemma insofar as they will defy their church if they vote in favour of the bill.
The legislation regulates animal/human embryo hybrids, allows new cloning techniques to eliminate life-threatening inherited illnesses and updates rules around the use of embryos. It also includes recognition of same-sex couples as legal parents of children conceived through the use of donated sperm, eggs or embryos. Under the Bill, there would no longer be a need for a father before providing IVF treatment. The Bill also states that where a lesbian couple have engaged in a civil partnership, both will be entered as the legal parents. And two men will be able to apply for a parental order to become parents of a child conceived through a surrogacy arrangement.
Cardinal Murphy-O'Connor, ever at the forefront of such criticism, has said that the Bill is ‘profoundly wrong’ because it subordinates the rights of the child to the desire of the women: ‘The bill proposes to remove the need for IVF providers to take into account the child's need for a father when considering an IVF application, and to confer legal parenthood on people who have no biological relationship to a child born as a result of IVF. This radically undermines the place of the father in a child's life, and makes the natural rights of the child subordinate to the desires of the couple. It is profoundly wrong.’
The Pope has made clear the manner in which Roman Catholic politicians are to participate in public life. As Cardinal Ratzinger he issued ‘Doctrinal Note on some questions regarding the participation of Catholics in Political Life’, which leaves one in no doubt as to how Mrs Kelly must vote. But will she obey her Cardinal and Pope or her Whip and Prime Minister?
Mrs Kelly's adherence to the extremist Catholic Opus Dei sect has been the cause of previous controversy, specifically when she was Communities Secretary. She was criticised by gay rights groups for refusing to answer when asked if she believed homosexuality was a sin. And she managed to delay the Sexual Orientation Regulations - rules to outlaw discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation in the provision of goods and services – while consideration was given to a possible exemption for Roman Catholic adoption agencies.
Cranmer’s hunch is that she is likely to absent herself from the Chamber, and will be away ‘on Government business’.
And, incidentally, the Archbishop of Canterbury has said this on the matter: