By Hilary White, Rome Correspondent

ROME, December 12, 2008 ( – This morning, at a lecture at the Pontifical University of St. Thomas Aquinas (the Angelicum) in Rome, Cherie Blair said that as a lifetime practising Catholic, “it would be rather strange if I didn’t adhere to the teachings of the Church” and that although she may have “difficulties” with the Church’s teaching on artificial contraception she upholds the principle of the right to life.

She admitted, “I am on the record as having had difficulties with accepting the current [Catholic] teaching of responsible parenthood,” but added, “there is a real danger in this debate if we ally contraception and abortion as the same and the Church needs to engage in this issue properly.”

Despite asserting her adherence to Catholic teaching on the sanctity of life, however, pro-life leaders pointed out that neither in her speech nor in the brief question and answer session following did Mrs. Blair repudiate or explain her support for the UK’s leading abortionist organisation, the Family Planning Association. Neither did she explain her support for International Planned Parenthood or the UN’s Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), a leader in the movement to legalise abortion around the world.

On her website, Mrs. Blair writes, “(CEDAW) is the only human rights treaty which affirms the reproductive rights of women and targets culture and tradition as influential forces shaping gender roles and family relations.”“Reproductive rights” is a euphemism in wide use in the U.N. that includes abortion on demand.

  Blair, a human rights lawyer and the wife of the UK’s former Prime Minister Tony Blair, himself a strong advocate of abortion and embryonic stem cell research, claimed that the assertion by pro-life advocates of her dissent from Catholic teaching on contraception and abortion are merely an inexplicable “misunderstanding” maliciously generated by “misleading” articles on the internet.

John Smeaton, the director of the UK’s Society for the Protection of Unborn Children said, “We fear that the conference may well have been stage-managed so that Mrs. Blair did not have to explain her track-record of endorsing pro-abortion organisations, enabling her and others to bubble-wrap her dissent from Catholic teaching.”

Her comments came at the end of her speech in which she criticised the Catholic Church for what she characterised as its failure throughout its history, until the 20th century, to become involved with the development of wider recognition of human rights. She said that women in the Church are under-represented in leadership roles, asking rhetorically what the Church would be like if “half of all Curia posts” were filled by women.

She was unambiguously defended by Fr. Bruce Williams, a professor of moral theology at the Angelicum, who, speaking from the floor, said he believed that Mrs. Blair is in conformity with Catholic teaching. “It was crystal clear to me at least,” Fr. Williams said, “that you see abortion as morally repugnant and that you are in line with the teaching of the Church.”

Fr. Williams’ went on, saying that the reason he was paying “special attention” to her remarks on human life, was that “the way you came across was decisively contrary to the way you have been pictured recently by a number of websites that describe you as pro-abortion and anti-family and which protested against our university giving you a platform.

“What you have just said inclines me all the more to think that those accusations were at the very best rash, if not outright calumnious, and I regret that you were subjected to that.”

Blair professed her innocence of being pro-abortion and praised the Angelicum for going ahead with her appearance, despite conference organisers having received hundreds of messages asking that it be cancelled. Her appreciative audience of nuns, seminarians, lay students and faculty laughed and applauded when she concluded, “I’m very pleased that this university was confident enough in the Catholic message not to be put off by assertions about me. I’m not Miss Perfect, that’s for sure, but I really don’t think I have horns and a tail.”

  Read related coverage:

Angelicum University Refuses to Believe Cherie Blair’s Pro-abortion and Anti-Family Reputation

“No Question” of Cancelling Cherie Blair: Angelicum Conference Organiser Adds Fuel to Fire

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“Principal Architect” of the Culture of Death Tony Blair Invited to Speak at Catholic Youth Conference in Rome