Gordon Brown ‘caves in to Catholics’
• Preventing fertility clinics from refusing treatment to single women and lesbians - under current legislation clinics must take account of the welfare of the unborn child including "the need for a father". This will be replaced by the "need for supportive parenting".
• Creating a child with the correct tissue match to save a sick brother or sister.
• Creating so-called hybrid animal/human embryos to aid stem cell research.
But when it is apparent (as it shall be) that it is the majority view of the House of Commons that all of the above are to be permitted, Labour’s three-line Whip shall return, and all members shall be obliged to vote in favour of all of its provisions. This deal is reportedly acceptable to Labour’s Roman Catholic rebels.
But Cranmer is bemused that this is deemed by then to represent any kind of deal at all.
It is widely reported that the Church’s belief is that the price for supporting this Bill is too high: any procedure which involves selecting embryos and destroying those which are unwanted or which have been used for research - for whatever end - is an affront to human life and dignity. That remains so, yesterday, today and forever.
So what kind of acceptable compromise is it that permits Labour’s Roman Catholic members to vote against the Bill on Tuesday but be obliged to support on Wednesday? If God opposes chimeras and fatherless children one day, he is hardly going to be displeased if, on Judgement Day, the Christians who voted in favour of the Bill yesterday adduce a neat defence tomorrow of ‘it was another day’.
How can obedience to God be so variable? A conscience vote does not change from day to day, depending on the vicissitudes of democracy. As Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor has stated: ‘Catholics in politics have got to act according to their Catholic convictions’.
He did not say that this only applied on Tuesdays and Fridays, and the rest of the week is a moral free-for-all. Their yes should be yes and their no should be no. It is not a very firm belief or opinion that constitutes a ‘conviction’ one day and may be dispensed with the next simply because the votes aren’t going your way. Indeed, that is very antithesis of conviction, and contributes to the perception that MPs are shallow hypocrites, spineless dissemblers and manipulative liars.
But there are some who are prepared to hurl such insults straight back.
While it is no surprise to see that Lord Winston accuses the Roman Catholic Church of ‘lying’ over the Bill, it is somewhat surprising to read that David Cameron has accused Roman Catholics of misrepresenting its provisions, and cautioning them to moderate their criticisms of it.
But then he has nothing to fear from troublesome priests.