Saturday, March 22, 2008

Cardinal condemns 'monstrous' legislation

Cardinal Keith O'Brien has a habit of poking his head above the parapet whenever politicians dare to venture into the religio-political domain, as though the authoritative moral position has been imparted to one body and articulated infallibly, and it is to this teaching that all ‘right-thinking’ people must adhere. But he does not hesitate to censure with accusations of bigotry those who seek to address politically issues which are manifestly politico-religious, as though the entire realm of the political is ultimately also subject to his worldview.

On the question of the Government’s ‘Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill’, Cranmer agrees, on balance, with the Cardinal. Though whether he was wise to term it ‘monstrous’, or to suggest that its provisions will permit the creation of Frankenstein's monster, is quite a different matter. If his objective was to go for headlines, and upstage his weak and insipid humble and holy counterpart at Westminster, he has succeeded. But if he were really concerned with the ethical issues in the provisions of this Bill, he would have been wiser to apply pressure behind the scenes.

The Cardinal has turned this into a Church vs State battle – a conflict as old as the Church itself – and by stoking the fire (by pre-disclosing the content of his Easter sermon days before it is delivered), he has made a free-vote compromise difficult if not impossible, as neither party can be perceived to ‘back down’.

Thus Ben Bradshaw – the overtly gay and more covertly Anglican health minister – has been wheeled out to contend with the (Roman Catholic) Church and insist that the Bill is about the easing of suffering. Supporters of the legislation believe hybrid embryos could lead to cures for diseases including multiple sclerosis and Alzheimer's. According to Mr Bradshaw, the Government is therefore right to force through the legislation on a three-line whip, and is manifesting Christian compassion in the process because it will be ‘to the potential benefit of many people in this country’. He said: ‘I think if it was about the things the Cardinal referred to, creating babies for spare parts or raiding dead people's tissue, then there would be justification for a free vote. But it's not about those things. He was wrong in fact, and I think rather intemperate and emotive in the way that he criticised this legislation. This is about using pre-embryonic cells to do research that has the potential to ease the suffering of millions of people in this country. The government has taken a view that this is a good thing.’

The Government is promising a limit of 14 days' development of the embryo, and an assurance that they cannot be put in a woman or an animal. They are (unsurprisingly) supported by scientists who are more at liberty to condemn the Roman Catholic Church than politicians. Dr Stephen Minger of King’s College London states unequivocally that ‘this is yet another example where it is clear that the Catholic Church is misrepresenting science because it doesn't understand the basic facts’. He added: ‘The church should carefully review the science they are commenting on, and ensure that their official comments are accurate, before seriously misinforming their congregations.’

Well, faith and fact are frequently held in tension, and the principal contention is that this Bill will permit scientists to create chimeras - part-human, part-animal embryos for use in stem cell experiments. Looking at some Labour MPs, it is difficult not to believe that chimeras have existed for quite some time, but the Cardinal’s concern (and that of many Christians, Jews and Muslims) is more to do with the spiritual status of the chimera – that is, its ensoulment, and the sanctity of its existence. If humans are made ‘in the image of God’, in whose image is something that is part human part animal? And does such a creation have ‘human rights’, ‘animal rights’, both or none?

Chief Whip Geoff Hoon has offered Roman Catholic members of the Cabinet the option of writing to him asking him to be excused from the vote on ethical grounds, but he has made it clear that they must not vote against it. Des Browne, the Defence and Scottish Secretary, Paul Murphy, the Welsh Secretary, and Ruth Kelly, the Transport Secretary, are understood to be pushing to vote against parts of the Bill. They may be forced to resign if Mr Brown does not back down and allow a free vote on the issue.

But what intrigues Cranmer is the extent to which this is being portrayed as an ‘anti-Catholic’ provision and an exclusively ‘Catholic’ concern. Those who feature in the media appear to be exclusively Roman Catholic, such that the Established Church is perceived as having no point of view at all, and the Evangelicals, Muslims and Jews have ceased to exist altogether (not to mention the Hindus, Sikhs and Buddhists who rarely get a look-in on any matter, yet all of whom might oppose such a bill on the basis of their commitment to the principles of ahimsa).

In fact, the very issues now being raised by leading Roman Catholics were raised by the Archbishop of Canterbury as far back as January 30th. Dr Williams called for the Government to allow a free vote on the 'big issues' of conscience, posed by the proposals on hybrid embryos in the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill and the removal of the clause on the need for a father.

He said: 'The hybrid question - there has been a lot of rather extreme and alarmist talk about this and I fully accept that it is not about the breeding of monsters, but at the same time, I think there remains this very instrumentalist view of the human embryo: we use it for something and then destroy it, and I find that ethically very hard to accept. The hybrid embryo is just an aspect of overall attitudes to embryo research. In this country, more than in many others we seem to be taking for granted that it is all right to regard the human embryo as something to be used instrumentally - that is my big moral concern.'

He further said that he 'regretted' the proposals on removing the need for a father, saying it was a 'downgrading of the ordinary processes of reproduction and upbringing' in favour of a 'highly technological view' of what human reproduction was about.

There has been no reporting of this in the wider media, and absolutely nothing on the scale as that achieved by sundry Roman Catholic cardinals, archbishops and bishops. It is as though the Established Church speaks with no moral authority, yet when Rome speaks Parliament must listen.

This is not an exclusively ‘anti-Catholic’ Bill; it is a fundamentally anti-Christian one, and some might say an anti-religious one, for it is secular to the core. While the Prime Minister pontificates about his manse upbringing, and quotes Scripture as evidence of his ‘moral compass’, he is quite blatantly unsympathetic to religious orthodoxy, and is manifestly hypocritical in his politics.

And when one considers the some of those who are jumping on this bandwagon (like the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Birmingham, the Most Reverend Vincent Nichols) it is difficult not to perceive this as jockeying for position in the battle to succeed Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor.

But Cranmer is further intrigued by Cardinal O’Brien’s condemnation of the Bill on the grounds that ‘the government has no mandate for these changes: they were not in any election manifesto, nor do they enjoy widespread public support’.

As an aside, Cranmer has not heard the Cardinal demanding a referendum on the Treaty of Lisbon on the basis that the Government has no mandate for the ratification, or that the referendum promise was a manifesto pledge, and the demand evidently enjoys widespread public support. The Cardinal simply appeals to these criteria on issues with which he has no sympathy: he is dedicated to the break-up of the United Kingdom, and in favour of an ‘independent’ Scotland within the European Union.

And the Cardinal calls for the establishment of a ‘single permanent national bioethics commission’ as ‘the only way in which the issue could be "adequately discussed".’ But who will sit on this commission? How and by whom will they be selected? To whom will they be accountable? Do we not have enough quangos already doing the business of government and deflecting the accountability of our elected representatives?

One can only guess at the Cardinal’s hopes and aspirations, but it is certain that he intends that such a commission should include prominent Roman Catholics. So what happens then when they are out-voted? Or is the make-up of the commission somehow to be rigged?

Whipping MPs is of course for the maintenance of party discipline. Where members rebel against the Whip, the worst they can expect is political oblivion. Yet when they ignore their consciences, reject their religion, and rebel against God, there is the distinct possibility of eternal damnation. For the devout, there is no contest. But the wisest political leaders would never force such a scenario. David Cameron has said that Conservative MPs will get a free vote on all aspects of the legislation. This is just as it should be. Sensible fellow.


Blogger ENGLISHMAN said...

Another commission?This subject will, like the eu constitution, keep comming back until the tyrants get the answer that they require,though they simplified matters with the constitution by not asking us in the first place,but human embryology was discussed some years ago ,by the WARNOCK commission,who wholly supported the fact that such "science"was entirely UNETHICAL,i had always thought that if a thing was unethical it was so for all time,as with values and morality,apparently though we now have a sliding scale,according to who can make the most money from any "discoveries"which will result in humanity being reduced to having "existences" instead of real lives.

22 March 2008 at 12:26  
Blogger dizzyfatplonka said...

The pictures just crack me up :-D

22 March 2008 at 12:37  
OpenID curly15 said...

I have been preaching against this "Frankenstein Bill" for weeks now, the government really ought to wake up to the fact that this is a non political issue, and that a free vote is the least that we should expect for ALL honourable members.

22 March 2008 at 12:48  
Anonymous Gustav said...

Could His Grace identify a single prominent bishop of the Established Church who has ventured to criticize the bill publicly? If the news media do not report Anglican episcopal output, perhaps it is because there is none to report.

They learnt their lesson well when their "church" was first founded: mustn't criticize government, no matter how tyrannical.

22 March 2008 at 15:24  
Blogger Skin One Up said...

...Church v. State...he has made a free-vote compromise difficult if not impossible

I would argue the contrary. Cardinal Keith O'Brien is trying to put some backbone into his troops in order to intimidate the whips. This is skilled gamesmanship. The Catholic church is not two millenia old because it plays daft.

...cures for diseases including multiple sclerosis and Alzheimer's. According to Mr Bradshaw, the Government is therefore right to force through the legislation on a three-line whip

The one-dimensionality of these people's minds is so disappointing. There is an important screw gone totally missing from this man's head. This affair has a smack of the Poll Tax about it.

Looking at some Labour MPs, it is difficult not to believe that chimeras have existed for quite some time

Cranmer, you made me laugh and I dropped my spliff. Please don't do it again.

...the Established Church is perceived as having no point of view at all

So true. I expect he's frit after the last fiasco. So you're in charge, then. But now it's your turn to disappoint:

This is not an exclusively ‘anti-Catholic’ Bill; it is a fundamentally anti-Christian one, and some might say an anti-religious one, for it is secular to the core.

Poppycock. What it is is an insensitive and poorly judged attempt to drive a tank through a moral minefield. Hopefully the tank will get blown up and teach some rather narrow-minded people a lesson. This is my secular opinion. Secular is not synonymous with evil, Cranmer. Your attempts to conflate the two do not escape the observant.

22 March 2008 at 16:29  
Blogger Cranmer said...

Mr Gustav,

The Archbishop of Canterbury criticised this Bill and raised the precise issues now being raised by leading Roman Catholics as far back as January 30th. No mention at all in the wider media.

A link has now been added.

22 March 2008 at 17:49  
Anonymous The recusant said...

How does Your Grace explain the absence of ‘comment’ from our overtly critical free press if the ABC made similar comment in January, why have his objections to this bill been effectively sidelined by politicians and the media alike? Why would the comments of a Catholic Cardinal (and a Scottish one to boot) raise such ire when those of the leader of the English state church are ignored? It is well known that Your Grace has issues with Cardinal Keith O'Brien, as is evident from previous posts but the question has to be asked why are comments from the Catholic Church attacked by the 3rd and 4th estate so vociferously and comprehensively when those of the good Dr Williams in his official capacity, left swinging in the wind.

I hold the opinion that it is all to do with the credibility of the threat (one has it the other lacks it) and I wonder if His Grace is letting his passion for knocking the Archbishop of Saint Andrews and Edinburgh get in the way of his usual sound judgement.

"It is difficult to imagine a single piece of legislation which, more comprehensively, attacks the sanctity and dignity of human life than this particular bill...This bill represents a monstrous attack on human rights, human dignity and human life. "

He was already under attack last night in the BBC studios for daring to tell the unvarnished truth.

22 March 2008 at 18:28  
Blogger Cranmer said...

Mr Recusant,

As His Grace has already stated, on balance he agrees with the RC Archbishop of Saint Andrews and Edinburgh on this matter.

His Grace much appreciates your affirmation of his sound judgement.

The question is why the mainstream media did not publicise Dr Williams' speech in the same fashion as it has these sundry leaders of the RC Church. Is it that Cardinal O'Brien used the terms 'monstrous' and 'Frankenstein', while Dr Williams was more measured (ie non-'sound-bite') in his phraseology?

Or is it, as you say, to do with the level of the perceived 'threat'. And if so, what is it precisely that the Cardinal is threatening?

22 March 2008 at 18:57  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I spent a few hours watching the parliament channel during the debating of this issue.

Not one secular Lord or Religious leader, RC, CofE or any other made a very good case in favor of this, the gates of hell themselves, Bill.

However many if not all, did a very fine impassioned job at doing the exact opposite.

So why is this bill going to pass though the HOP anyway, whatever anyone says or does outside the HOC?

I am very sad to say the reasons are so fundamentally evil in such an outrageously nasty way, I can not bring myself to say what they are. Explaining them could also make people start to believe that I should be sectioned under the mental health act, for being in an acute state of certifiable paranoia.

However if my last two sentences have not put the fear of Gods retribution running right down your spine. Then it should do, as they were designed to have that affect.

Someone help us please. Because it is clear that god has forsaken us already. When he understands what these people really have in mind for this legislation we will fully deserve whatever we WILL certainly receive. It wont be pretty and it wont be swift.

Atlas shrugged

22 March 2008 at 20:05  
Blogger ultramontane grumpy old catholic said...

I agree with the Cardinal's stance. I think the RC Hierarchy has at last realised what some had observed many years ago - that is is impossible to be a Christian and vote Labour. True, there are still a few very good Labour MPs - Frank Field for one. But they are being marginalised, much as David Alton was marginalised in the Liberal Party.

But I fear that the Cardinal's call for a bioethics commission, if it were ever implemented, would backfire.

Baroness Warnock has boasted that she was able to fend off any Roman Catholic experts from her commission way back in the 90's.

You can be sure that anyone with a Christian ethic would be persona non grata.

22 March 2008 at 20:42  
Anonymous Voyager said...

The Church of England should be making waves and aligning a coalition of Muslims, Sikhs, Jews and Roman Catholics on such clear moral issues - it should be humiliating the BBC and making fools of the print media journalists.

The trouble is that much of the superstructure in the C of E is burned out and regurgitates Guardian editorials rather than scripturally-based calls to the faithful.

With an A of C who eschews any form of leadership we have a parapet which towers above him.

It may simply be that the era of parliamentary politics is over and that new forces will be unleashed as the ancien regime continues to discredit itself....I favour Evangelical Protestantism building on the ruins of the splintered post-Lambeth 2008 C of E with US funds and satellite and Net to propagate a Samizdat Church

22 March 2008 at 21:17  
Blogger Cranmer said...

Mr Voyager,

Your resurrection has made His Grace's Easter.


22 March 2008 at 21:28  
Anonymous Sir Henry Morgan said...

Regulars know I'm a secularist and atheist. Objections to this Bill are nothing to do with religion. The thought of splicing together human and non-human genes makes my flesh creep, as does the thought of xenotransplantation. I cannot adequately articulate my feelings on this, but you just KNOW when something is ugly and dangerous.

No, I don't mind use of embryos for their first few days of development; no, I have no objections to abortion or voluntary euthenasia; no, I have no objection to killing in general if it's necessary (yes I know - the argument is over when is it necessary). But mixing human and non-human genes makes me shudder. I strongly suspect that they do a lot of this sort of stuff just because they can, and never see the possibilities into the future. Wasn't it Robert Oppenheimer who later came to regret his part in the Manhattan Project? Far too late, of course.

Maybe I've read too much science fiction?

22 March 2008 at 21:54  
Anonymous hear o israel said...

your grace
i would like to know how having a moral stance has become antiquated , as though whatever progress we are given should be accepted or face the wilderness.

a cardinal and a bishop speak , a whole nation suffers some sort of mis compute and they return to worrying about diesel being 155p a litre. when the church understands exactly how the monstrous plan for de valuing the church works , we should see that revival.

as for father less children , i oppose most strongly. the scientists seem to think that religion hasnt quite understood conciousness and so stand by there "its just a group of cells". the nice little trick of assurance that neither human or animal will be used to implant, does not inform of the developements in japan on the "artificial womb" so far touted for agricultural improvements.

i suggest the PMs interests may be more in finding party donation money (the lab party is £25 million in debt) the bio tech companies i am sure must be needing this bill more than the cardinal does !!!

22 March 2008 at 23:25  
Anonymous Voyager said...

Your Grave is most kind. I have indeed been coping with 1 Corinthians 15:26 and Easter is a very good time to reflect

23 March 2008 at 08:25  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This Bill is not being pushed by our Brain dead Puppets but by the Global Elite Puppetmasters, There is a lot of Money to be made in this research.

To give you some Idea of how little the Global Elite care about ethics, morality and how much they crave Money and total life or death power have a look at this, Now why oh why would someone create such a Monstrosity as Terminator seeds if not for Absolute life or death control over individuals and or Nations by the Global Elite.

These Monsters Must be stopped.

23 March 2008 at 13:26  
Anonymous tiberswimmer said...

To my mind, the Church of England never ever has a clear stance on any moral issue. The established Church has always accommodated itself to prevailing thought - in the process becoming perfectly expert at compromise and deliberate ambiguity. (Your Grace bears no small personal responsibility for this, by the way.)

So is it any wonder the British people increasingly look to Rome when desiring to discern the authentic Christian viewpoint on any given matter?

23 March 2008 at 13:33  
Blogger chrisitanmongrel said...

didn't the medical profession get to where it is in part by desecrating graves? Isn't morbid curiosity spuriously justified certainly a factor? And who is there to call us all to fast and pray?

23 March 2008 at 14:48  
Anonymous The recusant said...

Your Grace,

I believe the threat is simply this; that the Cardinal will not be silent and he will not temper his message to placate the sensibilities of the Liberal establishment, what else can he do after all, to borrow that well known phrase: How many divisions has the Pope?

I notice the BBC set up Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor’s call for a free vote and then gave free reign to Dr Death, Evan Harris MP to poison the airwaves with his particular brand of hate crime and lies, he said on the BBC news without being reproached [no surprise there] that the Catholic Church taught that homosexuals deserve punishment. In his case ignorance is not an excuse, he knew full well he was lying and the effect he wanted from it but that’s OK with the BBC because he’s one of Toynbee’s boys.

The vote will succeed with or without a free vote, of that I am certain, we have gone too far down the road to perdition to expect any attack of conscience in the backbenches to change that outcome. That and the particular slant the BBC has painted, the secularists now see it as a battle against the fundamentalist religious right, not about human dignity and truth which they wouldn’t recognise if it slapped them in the face with a wet Mackerel.

Brown really is the true successor to Blair, long may we have troublesome priests.

Mr Voyager,

You have been sorely missed from His Graces August Blog. I hope your sabbatical was beneficial and that we are once again to benefit from your valued contribution on a regular basis.

Happy Eater to all

He is Risen Alleluia Alleluia.

23 March 2008 at 16:39  
Blogger Thomas B said...

If I was feeling cynical, I'd suggest there's an alternative reading for why Cardinal O'Brien's comments got wide publicity rather than Archbishop Williams.

In these debates, the likes of Evan Harris like to paint the Roman Catholic Church as being luddite and opposed to scientific progress - by publicising the comments - especially with the strength of opinion expressed by the Cardinal, the image is given that this is simply the Catholic Church trying to impose it's values on modern Britain.

It's a bit harder to play that card if you have the likes of the Archbishop of Canterbury making similar comments. So you don't give him the publicity.

24 March 2008 at 10:59  
Anonymous DocBud said...

"So is it any wonder the British people increasingly look to Rome when desiring to discern the authentic Christian viewpoint on any given matter?'

This article indicates that Christians are a small minority of the British people and that, while Catholocism may be nudging aheads of Anglicans, the overall numbers are falling.

Christianity should not be allowed to impede progress, if their Christian conscience prevents MPs representing their constituents then they should resign. Christians are free not to be part of the 21st century, but they should not expect their minority position to influence the rest of us.

24 March 2008 at 13:56  
Anonymous DocBud said...

Sorry, here is the article to which I referred:

24 March 2008 at 13:58  
Anonymous Martin said...

I agree that this Bill is not only of concern to Catholics but to people of other faiths and none who are alarmed about certain provisions of this proposed legislation. It is a damning indictment of British journalism that the press and media have chosen to highlight only the Catholic position making it seem an exclusively Catholic issue and I can only presume that it is the easier and "sexier" option and the one that fits its agenda best: painting the Catholic Church as confrontational and anti-science.

While the Archbishop of Canterbury might have disagreed with the more unpallatable clauses of this bill in January, what official guidance has he issued to Anglican MPs and others who might have reservations about this bill?

The statements made by Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor and Cardinal O'Brien are not new. The Catholic bishops have for months been consistently criticising this bill and asking for a free vote in both houses of Parliament.

24 March 2008 at 21:01  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The Archbishop of Canterbury clearly doesn't want to tackle the government on this. His language is equivocating. Why report the fact that he 'regrets' something??!!

The Catholic Church has used the publicity that Christianity receives at Easter to full effect. Bringing pressure to bear on a government intent on allowing an act that is indeed monstrous.

By the way if we Christians can't agree that creating human - animal hybrids is morally repugnant then heaven help us. The C of E needs to toughen up on this issue, as with some other moral teaching.

24 March 2008 at 21:13  

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