LONDON – Britain’s two cardinals reminded Catholic politicians that it is unacceptable for them to vote for abortion rights.
Cardinals Keith O’Brien of St. Andrews and Edinburgh, Scotland, and Cormac Murphy-O’Connor of Westminster, England, denounced the 1967 Abortion Act May 31 as the act approaches its 40th anniversary.
“I remind them to avoid cooperating in the unspeakable crime of abortion, and the barrier such cooperation erects to receiving holy Communion,” said Cardinal O’Brien, president of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Scotland, during a homily at St. Mary’s Cathedral, Edinburgh, to mark the church in Scotland’s Day for Life.
“I speak most especially to those who claim to be Catholic,” he said. “I ask them to examine their consciences and discern if they are playing any part in sustaining this social evil.”
Cardinal O’Brien said Catholics must be “unwilling to give our vote” to politicians who supported abortion.
He urged Catholics to hold their elected representatives accountable and called upon “politicians to have no truck with the evil trade of abortion.”
“For those at Westminster, this means finding means of overthrowing the legislation, which makes the killing possible,” he said.
Noting that 7 million unborn children have been aborted in Great Britain since the act was passed, Cardinal O’Brien said, “The scale of the killing is beyond our grasp.”
The cardinal compared the rate of abortion in Scotland to the equivalent of a classroom of children dying every day.
The Day For Life will be marked in England and Wales July 1.
In a May 31 statement, Cardinal Murphy-O’Connor, president of the English and Welsh bishops’ conference, urged “all Catholics, especially those who hold positions of public responsibility, to educate themselves about the teaching of the church and to seek pastoral advice so that they can make informed decisions with consistency and integrity.”
He added, “The longstanding tradition of the church teaches that anyone who freely and knowingly commits a serious wrong should approach the Eucharist only after receiving faithfully the sacrament of penance.”
The abortion act was among the powers reserved by the London-based British Parliament when the Scottish Parliament was established in 1998.
It permits abortion with the written consent of two doctors in the first 24 weeks of pregnancy except in cases of “severe fetal abnormality,” when abortion is permitted up to birth.
Ninety-five percent of the 198,070 abortions carried out in 2005 in England, Wales and Scotland were performed under the part of the act that permits abortion if the “physical or mental health” of the woman requires it.
Pro-life campaigners have argued that the liberal interpretation of the clause in effect allows abortion on demand.
The rate of abortion in Britain is continuing to rise although the government has sought to reduce the rate of conception by making contraceptives and the morning-after pill available more easily.