Note: John Smeaton has worked in the pro-life movement for 41 years, and currently serves as President of the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children (SPUC), the world’s oldest pro-life organization. He delivered a longer version of this article at the second annual Rome Life Forum on Saturday, May 9.
ROME, May 11, 2015 (LifeSiteNews) – When the pro-life movement came into existence almost fifty years ago it was in response to the legalisation, and rapid spread, of abortion around the world. Our task was to secure legal protection for unborn children.
However, in recent decades we have witnessed the culture of death expand into new areas of human life; including, for example, the most vulnerable unborn children of all – newly-conceived human embryos – who are more and more threatened by the giant anti-life in-vitro fertilisation industry, just as newly-conceived human embryos have been threatened for many decades by the pharmaceutical industry and by so-called “contraceptive” drugs and devices, which also work by stopping newly-conceived embryos from implanting in the womb.
There’s nothing left out there, except the family, based on the marriage between a man and a woman, to pick up the billions of broken babies, the billions of broken lives, and start again.
The culture of death, based on contraception and abortion has also expanded to our children at school who are threatened by destructive anti-life, anti-family sex education. It has spread more and more to targeting and eliminating the disabled, the sick and the elderly who are threatened by euthanasia and “assisted suicide.” And the very nature of marriage and the family – the exclusive lifetime union of a man and a woman, open to life and committed to the nurture and protection of their children – is being undermined and denied by those who hold power and influence.
The consequences of all this is catastrophic, not only for millions of individuals, but for the whole of our increasingly globalised society.
A deafening silence
The silence of the Synod last October was deafening – on abortion, on contraception, the foundation stone of the culture of death, on euthanasia and assisted suicide, on pornographic anti-life sex education, on the suppression of parents as the primary educators of their children, and on the indoctrination of children into the homosexual ideology.
There is every reason for us as pro-life leaders to focus on this scandalous silence on these moral crimes in the Synod documents, for the sake of giving witness to Christ who founded the church, for the sake of authentic church renewal, for the sake of the pro-life movement and for the sake of our families who have been betrayed by the Synod authorities.
The issues at the Family Synod last year which have caught, above all, the attention of the world’s media and political establishment, are, firstly, marriage and, in particular the reception of Holy Communion by divorced persons living in invalid civil unions; and secondly, homosexual unions.
The treatment of these issues was summed up, amongst others, by Cardinal Raymond Burke. He said that the interim Synod report was “a gravely flawed document and does not express adequately the teaching and discipline of the Church and, in some aspects, propagates doctrinal error and a false pastoral approach”.
Marriage: the greatest protector of children, born and unborn
Why should the pro-life movement care about such this?
Voice of the Family and the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children care about this because sacramental marriage, binding a man and a woman together in an indissoluble union, is the greatest protector of children born and unborn.
In November 2011 the national council of the Society for the Protection of Children, our organisation’s policy-making body, elected by its grassroots volunteers, passed, without opposition, a resolution to defend marriage and to oppose so-called “same-sex marriage.”
The Society for the Protection of Unborn Children (SPUC), as a pro-life organization, decided to fight against “same-sex marriage” legislation for two reasons: First, statistical evidence on abortion clearly shows that marriage as an institution protects children, both born and unborn; secondly, “same-sex marriage” represents an attempt to redefine marriage, thus undermining marriage and family life, as a growing body of academic research clearly shows. It is this undermining that lessens the protection for unborn children that true marriage provides.
No other grouping offers such a high level of that security and stability that human beings need to flourish. Research shows overwhelmingly that children growing up within marriage do better in terms of health, educational success, happiness, careers and their own marriages. It is precisely because children matter, that real marriage between one man and one woman matters so much.
The destruction of traditional family structures has very grave consequences for all members of society, but it is children, born and unborn, who are especially vulnerable. Government statistics show that in Britain children conceived outside of marriage are four-to-five times more likely to be aborted than those conceived within marriage.
Additionally, same-sex couples are now demanding the right to have children– making it even more difficult for pro-life groups effectively to oppose surrogacy and in vitro fertilisation. According to peer-reviewed research, for every baby born by IVF, 23 are either discarded, or frozen, or used in destructive experiments, or miscarry. Defending the right to life of unborn children will increasingly be viewed as an attack on the rights of homosexual couples.
Homosexual indoctrination thus leads to increased contempt for the sanctity of human life.
Historically, our nations’ laws protected unborn children from being killed, and so, quite logically and rightly, pro-life movements worldwide have worked tirelessly to restore, or to uphold, such laws. By the same token, historically, families based on the indissoluble union in marriage of a man and a woman, have provided children, both born and unborn, with their best hope of life and fulfilment in life … so, quite logically and rightly, pro-life movements worldwide must work tirelessly to defend marriage and the family.
The studied ambiguity of the Synod authorities’ published documents on the questions relating to homosexual unions in general and on children brought up by homosexual couples is of huge significance for the pro-life movement. If the Church at the highest levels insists on imposing its will on these matters, without prejudice to Catholic doctrine which can never change, and continues to proclaim an ambiguous message which gives aid and comfort to the homosexual lobby in our countries back home, our pro-life work may effectively all but disappear off the world map.
The Kasper proposal: A ‘stalking horse’
So, we must ask, why is sacramental marriage now being challenged at the highest levels in the Church?
Cardinal Pell has publicly stated that the Kasper proposal, to allow divorced and ‘remarried’ Catholics to receive communion, is a “stalking horse” being proposed by “radical elements” within the Church “who want wider changes, recognition of civil unions, recognition of homosexual unions.”
Let us be clear: Cardinal Pell is telling us that there are figures, at the highest levels of the Church, who want the Church to approve of homosexual unions. Indeed, the Archbishop of Westminster, Vincent Cardinal Nichols, one of the Synod fathers, has twice indicated publicly that the Church may one day recognise such unions.
Faced with this new threat, not only to our faith, to our families, and to our children, but also to the existence of the pro-life movement itself what can the Catholic laity, and non-Catholics too I would say, do? Everyone has a stake in this matter.
In the first place we must follow the call made by the Latvian archbishop, the Archbishop of Riga, Archbishop Stankevičs, and commit ourselves to prayer. We must pray unceasingly for the pope, for the cardinals, for the bishops, and for clergy, religious and laity that we may all remain firm and unyielding in our profession of the gospel.
“But though we,” says St. Paul, “or an angel from heaven preach a gospel to you other than that which we have preached to you, let him be anathema” (Gal. 1:8).
Secondly, we must remember that we, the lay faithful, have both the right and the duty to make known to our pastors our views about the crisis engulfing the Catholic Church.
We have a right and a duty to require from our clergy and from the Holy Father unwavering obedience to the natural law and the teaching of the Church. No authority, not even the pope, has the power or the right to alter in any way that which has been revealed to the Church by Almighty God.
Canon 211 of the Code of Canon Law states: “All the Christian faithful have the duty and right to work so that the divine message of salvation more and more reaches all people in every age and in every land.”
This is followed by Canon 212, which states: “The Christian faithful are free to make known to the pastors of the Church their needs, especially spiritual ones, and their desires.
According to the knowledge, competence, and prestige which they possess, they have the right and even at times the duty to manifest to the sacred pastors their opinion on matters which pertain to the good of the Church and to make their opinion known to the rest of the Christian faithful, without prejudice to the integrity of faith and morals, with reverence toward their pastors, and attentive to common advantage and the dignity of persons.
There’s nothing left…but the family
The most notable achievement of the pro-life movement is that we exist. Yes, pro-life organizations have enjoyed successes and saved lives. We’ve also had our setbacks. But, brutally realistically, we’re tiny – compared with the overwhelming reach of the culture of death, and compared with the universal reach of the Catholic Church in particular. That’s why Catholics – and everyone who has an interest in the common good – must study what’s happening at the highest levels in the Catholic Church and take action and we must have the maturity to speak out when things are badly wrong at the highest levels of the Church.
Moreover, the pro-life movement must embrace the defence of marriage or face defeat. Embracing the defence of marriage is primarily about handing on what we know to be the truth about the nature of marriage to the next generation, upon whose shoulders the burden of the pro-life struggle is rapidly falling: that marriage is the exclusive lifetime union of one man and one woman which is open to life and committed to the nurture and protection of their children; I refer in particular, of course, to the inseparability of the unitive and procreative dimensions of the marriage act.
I think in a sense, speaking on behalf of the oldest pro-life organization in the world, after nearly 50 years, our work is just beginning. Where do we begin? We begin with empowering families, with empowering mothers and fathers as primary educators. Parents, as the primary educators of their children, must find ways of teaching their children, including our older children who have fled the nest, the truth about the sanctity of human life and its transmission, the truth found in Humanae Vitae and in Evangelium Vitae and in Familiaris Consortio, because we have the right and the authority to do so and because, at this point in human history, the overwhelming majority of Episcopal leaders, who also have authority, are failing to do their duty.
There’s nothing left out there, except the family, based on the marriage between a man and a woman, to pick up the billions of broken babies, the billions of broken lives, and start again. We as leaders of pro-life and pro-family groups must help them to do that.
Find more coverage from the 2015 Rome Life Forum here.