Holy War; News Focus: The Abortion Row That Threatens to Split the Catholic Church and Labour

By Clarke, Julia | Daily Record (Glasgow, Scotland), January 10, 1997 | Go to article overview

Holy War; News Focus: The Abortion Row That Threatens to Split the Catholic Church and Labour


Clarke, Julia, Daily Record (Glasgow, Scotland)


In the shadow of a General Election, the relationship between the Catholic church in Scotland and the Labour Party is being stretched to breaking point over abortion.

The church hierarchy stands accused of threatening to turn the Catholic vote away from Labour unless they become more anti-abortion.

And Cardinal Thomas Winning, Archbishop of Glasgow, claimed Labour MPs are being pressured into supporting party policy instead of voting with their conscience.

The church has NOT decreed that Scot-land's 750,000-strong Catholic community should vote against Labour on the single issue of abortion.

But many Catholic families now have divided loyalties.

The question they face is: Should we vote for party or church?

Today, the Daily Record gives both sides their say.

THE CHURCH

Young Catholic couple who will follow Cardinal Winning's lead

John Deighan and his wife Angela, who have always voted Labour, describe themselves as `natural' Labour voters.

But the East Kilbride couple will not be voting Labour at the next election.

They agree with Cardinal Winning's sentiments that some moral issues are so vital that they transcend party politics ... and their candidate, Adam Ingram, does not share their anti-abortion views.

John, 30, a lecturer at Motherwell College, says: "Along with many other Catholics in Scotland, we are disenfranchised.

"But as practising Catholics, we don't feel we can vote for any party that is not pro-life, so we will have to abstain.

"And I know many who feel the same way."

John says many Catholics will be facing a crisis of conscience at the election, and, for many like him, it has become a single-issue election.

He adds: "There is such a strong empathy with Labour values in Scotland over issues like poverty and the NHS.

"But voting for Labour would be like voting for Hitler when he's gassing Jews, just because he had a good roads policy.

"Though, of course, it is terrible that the poor are getting poorer and the rich richer."

But John believes that social justice must still take second place to a strong stand against abortion.

He says: "Poverty is an evil. But at least people who vote for Conservative policies don't intend evil, unlike the killing of unborn children, which is a deliberate evil."

The Deighans, who have two children - two-year-old Sean and six-month- old Clare - believe that the churches should be giving a strong moral lead and are central to political debate.

John admits: "I was pleased Cardinal Winning spoke out on the issue because politics and religion are both to do with how people live their lives.

"Wrong is wrong and the church has a moral right to speak out. I just have to look at our children to know that protecting the young and the vulnerable has to be a priority."

It's a priority endorsed by the Catholic church, though the Cardinal's Press secretary, Father Noel Barry, stresses that it is possible to be a member of the church and just about any political party.

He says: "Cardinal Winning is aware that there are many issues Catholic voters will take with them into the election, including housing, unemployment and the NHS, all of which are pro-life issues.

"But when they go into the polling booth, they must weigh up which is the greater good. You have to make a difficult choice - it must be an informed one and you must prioritise.

"That is the challenge facing every single socially-conscious Christian."

The Catholic church says that ultimately how a person votes is down to their conscience, but that they should protect the vulnerable and needy, including life at its earliest.

Father Barry adds: "At the moment, the abortion law is discriminating against the very young. The challenge is to be active in political parties and seek to effect change for the good. …

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