ORLANDO, FL, February 10, 2014 (LifeSiteNews.com) - The annual Legatus Summit, held this year at the Ritz-Carleton in Orlando, Florida, had an all-star cast of pro-life leaders, four of whom were selected as recipients of the prestigious Cardinal John J. O’Connor Award.  The only non-American recipient was John Smeaton, head of the UK’s Society for the Protection of Unborn Children (SPUC), which is the oldest pro-life group in the world, founded in 1966.

Over 400 of the most influential and faithful Catholic business leaders in the United States were awed by inspiring speakers all weekend, and yet the crowd nevertheless rose to their feet in ovation at Smeaton’s rousing address – the final one of the summit.

Speaking of the recent vote in Ireland where many Catholic politicians voted to support a bill in favour of abortion, Smeaton called on Ireland’s bishops and indeed all the bishops of the world to refuse such Catholic politicians Holy Communion.

“In the spirit of friendly dialogue, I implore all Catholic bishops throughout the world to speak out clearly and categorically that politicians who vote for and publicly support abortion legislation such as that just passed by the Irish Parliament, must publicly retract and refute the position they have adopted before receiving the Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Our Lord Jesus Christ in Holy Communion in Whose image every unborn child targeted by wicked abortion legislation is made,” he said.

Rejecting the common objection to such a move, Smeaton said, “It’s an absurd rationalization to suggest that bishops speaking up clearly and categorically on the public sacrilegious reception of the Holy Eucharist is turning the Sacrament into a battleground or circus, as has been claimed.”

Driving his point home, Smeaton added, “I ask you … if Catholic priests or bishops were targeted by the legislation passed by the Irish Parliament, for example, so that they could be executed with impunity, would you or would you not say publicly that politicians who voted for or who supported such legislation, without apologizing, retracting and refuting their position, may not go forward to receive Holy Communion?”

“What is the difference in God’s eyes between the sanctity of life of a priest or a bishop or the sanctity of life of an unborn child?” he asked.

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Speaking as the leader of a non-religious human rights group, he reminded the bishops of the world of the admonition of soon-to-be ‘saint’ Pope John Paul II that bishops “are the first ones called to be untiring preachers of the Gospel of Life.”

“Silence, and silence includes equivocal or half hearted words, in the face of the daily slaughter, the maiming of mothers’ and fathers’ lives, simply will not do,” he said.

Smeaton recalled that in 2012 Legatus had given the same award to Cardinal Raymond Burke, who among the world’s bishops has been the most ardent defender of the Eucharist against sacrilegious reception by pro-abortion politicians.

“It’s time,” he said, “for all responsible Catholics to challenge church officials at the highest level to appoint bishops who will carry out the duty spelled out for them in Pope John Paul II’s Evangelium Vitae.” The pro-life leader then read from paragraph 82 of the encyclical:

Preach the word, be urgent in season and out of season, convince, rebuke, and exhort, be unfailing in patience and in teaching" (2 Tim 4:2). This exhortation should resound with special force in the hearts of those members of the Church who directly share, in different ways, in her mission as ‘teacher’ of the truth. May it resound above all for us who are Bishops: we are the first ones called to be untiring preachers of the Gospel of life.

Spelling out the sobering consequences of failure in this regard, Smeaton said, “Throughout Britain, Ireland and Europe, 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.”

The SPUC leader appealed to the Legatus members especially to “use your influence at the highest levels of the church to beg the Pope to appoint bishops who will uphold the teaching of the Church in our countries.”

“Churchill, Britain and Europe needed America to come to our aid in the Second World War,” Smeaton said in conclusion. “You came to our aid. You laid down your lives and you saved the world for freedom and we loved America for what you did. We still love America. This is World War 3. It’s now a war on unborn children …  and Britain and Europe need America’s Catholics to help us save the Catholic Church in our countries in order that we can win this war.”

John Smeaton’s full talk is available in a PDF file here.