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Church should be more ‘evangelical’ on pro-life issue, bishop says

Bishops comments come as MSP backs the March for Life and reveals difficulty of speaking against abortion — By Peter Diamond and Ryan McDougall

The Bishop of Paisley Diocese has said the Church needs to be more evangelical about life following last weekend’s March For Life event in London.

An MSP has this week also revealed that he believes one of his responsibilities as a politician is to speak up for the unborn.

Bishop John Keenan told the SCO that ‘the issue of life is always at the heart of the Church’ but it has to be more ‘evangelical’ on the subject.

When addressing the 5000-strong crowd at the rally in London on Saturday May 11, Bishop Keenan recalled William Wilberforce’s role in abolishing slavery and how slaves had been dehumanised as ‘non-persons.’

Similarly, abortionists need to dehumanise the unborn child so they could kill him in the womb, the bishop added.

Courage and bravery

Bishop Keenan said: “If you’re a leader in society, civic, as an MP, or in the Church as a priest or a bishop, be brave, be courageous, because this battle will be won not just by the truth, but it will be won by courage, too.”

Speaking to the SCO he added: “I think the life issue is a societal issue and St Pope John Paul II was the first to distinguish the civilisation of love against the culture of death.

“What he meant by ‘death’ was a culture of despair, a culture that says, ‘there’s nothing you can do about big problems’ except extinguish them by death. It’s a kind of a culture against hope that ultimately becomes a culture of the destruction of human beings.

“So I think it’s an issue for politicians, certainly, but it’s an issue for the whole of society and I think what is important is that it is an issue which is always at the heart of the Church.

“We are probably the last institution now that is pro-life in the world, but we need to be evangelical about it, we need to say it’s not just that we believe this, we’ve got to make that belief transformative of society.

“So it’s really important for Catholics to come together, clergy, laity, to drop everything when there’s a pro-life issue, and get involved.

“This March For Life—I was on it last year too—is phenomenal, it takes over the green outside of the Houses of Parliament and it becomes an event that is significant across the whole of London, so we’re beginning to make an impact, but I think before the politicians will get involved more and more, the Church has to be more evangelical about life.”

Hefty criticism

Campaigners from across the UK took part in the March For Life UK on Saturday. Starting from Church House in Great Smith Street, the 5000-strong march finished in Parliament Square for a rally at which participants sang hymns and prayed.

A Glasgow SNP politician this week extended his support for March For Life UK and the pro-life cause in Scotland, stating that it is very difficult for politicians to speak out on life issues because of the ‘hefty criticism’ they might be subjected to.

John Mason, MSP for Shettleston, said: “I was delighted to hear of the great turnout for the March for Life recently.

“Some of the slogans really make the point: ‘Pro Woman, Pro Life’ and ‘Every Life Matters—Love them Both!’ to mention just two.

“It is good that women are leading in this movement. Of course, it is also good that men like myself speak out; however, some people do think that men speaking out against abortion are somehow anti-women and it can be difficult to overcome this misconception.

“There are a number of MSPs who are pro-life. Some are more open about it and speak up, while others are perhaps more inclined to keep their heads below the parapet.

“Along with other controversial issues like assisted suicide and the transgender debate, MSPs speaking out about abortion are likely to come in for some hefty criticism on social media and elsewhere, so I do not criticise colleagues who keep silent but who will vote the right way when the time comes.”

Praying for politicians

Mr Mason added that the best way to win politicians over is not by ‘verbal assaults’ but through ‘calm discussion.’

“We each have to choose which battles to fight and that is something you should pray about for all our elected politicians.

“Let’s also remember that on all these issues, some have not made up their minds—hard as that may be to believe—and are open to a calm discussion. Launching a full-on verbal assault on every politician you meet may not be the best way of winning him or her over.

“I have long believed that life begins at conception as I can see no other logical point in time when we could say that life begins.

“And one of my responsibilities as an MSP is to speak up for those who have no voice. Who else needs me to speak up for them more than an unborn baby?”

Seven years of marching

March for Life has been taking place in the UK annually since 2012. Last year the march was held in London for the first time attracting 3000 people.

Louise Grant of SPUC Scotland (Society for the Protection of Unborn Children) has been an MC at the event for three years.

Ms Grant said: “It’s really important to make that public witness at Parliament Square. There is real meaning and substance behind it because that’s where all the laws get passed in this country.

“There are maybe more politicians than we know who are out there and are pro-life but are just too frightened to speak up.

“We need more politicians who are willing to put their head above the parapet and we need witnesses in general to defend the unborn.

“Getting the message out can be hard—there were no mainstream media covering the March for Life.

“What we are finding is that the one-to-one conversations we have with people are winning hearts and minds over which in turn has a ripple effect but it’s a slow process. There always has to be compassion if we want to build a culture of life.”

Scottish universities

Around 60 people from Scotland travelled to the event including a number of students from the pro-life university groups.

A spokesman for Glasgow Students for Life said: “Having recently won our struggle to gain affiliation to our University Students Representative Council, we understand the need to witness for life, both for those families and individuals affected by the tragedy of abortion.

“We were proud to have strong representation at the March for Life UK in London last weekend.

“We each have a moral imperative to defend life, and this march has reaffirmed our conviction that, with care and compassion, we will once more make abortion unthinkable in this country.”


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