John Smeaton: Why the pro-life movement needs the Catholic Church

John Smeaton, Chief Executive of the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children and co-founder of Voice of the Family, addressed the Lepanto Foundation on the Feast of the Holy Rosary 7th October 2014.

His talk, which was very well received, addresses the following three key points:

– Pro-life movements must defend marriage

– Leading Catholic officials are cooperating with the ‘culture of death’

– The pro-life movement can only defeat the ‘culture of death’ when Catholic leaders join the pro-life battle

The full text of his talk can be found below.

Address of John Smeaton to Lepanto Foundation, Feast of the Holy Rosary, 7th October 2014

I want to make three points today:

Pro-life movements must defend marriage.

Leading Catholic officials in Britain and elsewhere are co-operating with the culture of death.

The pro-life movement cannot defeat the culture of death on its own: Catholic leaders must join the battle for life and the family.

The national council of the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children (SPUC), which is the Society’s policy-making body, elected by its grassroots volunteers, in November 2011, passed a resolution to defend marriage and to oppose so-called same-sex marriage.

The Society for the Protection of Unborn Children, 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 which lessens protection for unborn children which true marriage provides.

Legalising same sex marriage is not a question of being kind to people with same-sex attraction and letting them get married if they want to.  It is a question of the destruction of the oldest human institution in the world which protects the mental and physical wellbeing of men, women and children; No other grouping offers such the high level of 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.

Research by Dr Patricia Morgan, commissioned by SPUC and presented to Parliament, shows that in countries in which same-sex marriage has been legalized, real marriage and family life are undermined.  Government statistics on abortion clearly show that unborn children are four to five times less likely to be aborted if they are conceived within marriage.

There’s a website I looked up when I was preparing this talk called Rainforest Concern. Rainforest Concern tells us that tropical rainforests took between 60 and 100 million years to evolve containing, they say, over 30 million species of plants and animals – half of the Earth’s wildlife and at least two-thirds of its plant species … These plants provide food and shelter for many rare animals that depend on the rainforest for their survival … Destroy the rainforest and you destroy protection for that wildlife … In the same way, marriage between a man and a woman is the natural habitat of children, of unborn children. Indeed, the natural family, which is based on marriage, is a pre-political and pre-Christian institution. Destroy that institution in society and you destroy protection for children. SPUC has published a lot of literature, including serious analysis of the academic literature on this subject.

The principal way in which the homosexual rights political agenda, the same-sex marriage agenda, is actively undermining the family and the culture of life, is through targeting its message at little children at school. The homosexual rights agenda is targeted at our children and at our grandchildren in their school years.

In “Evangelium Vitae”, number 97, Pope John Paul II makes it clear that there’s no hope of building a culture of life without teaching young people the truth about human sexuality. Pope John Paul II writes:

“In particular, there is a need for education about the value of life from its very origins. It is an illusion to think that we can build a true culture of human life if we do not help the young to accept and experience sexuality and love and the whole of life according to their true meaning and in their close interconnection. Sexuality, which enriches the whole person, “manifests its inmost meaning in leading the person to the gift of self in love”. The trivialization of sexuality is among the principal factors which have led to contempt for new life. Only a true love is able to protect life. There can be no avoiding the duty to offer, especially to adolescents and young adults, an authentic education in sexuality and in love, an education which involves training in chastity as a virtue which fosters personal maturity and makes one capable of respecting the “spousal” meaning of the body.”

I am sorry to have to share with you that homosexual militants are being invited into schools in Britain, including into Catholic schools with the blessing of the local bishop, to train teachers how to educate little boys as young as four years old that they might grow up to marry a man or that they might grow up to marry a woman – and the same with little girls.

And when our children and grandchildren ask their teacher: “Will men who are married to each other and women who are married to each other be able to have children?” the teacher’s answer is clear:

As you know, same-sex couples are demanding the right to have children– making it even more difficult for pro-life groups effectively to oppose surrogacy and in vitro fertilisation.  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 be increasingly viewed as an attack on the rights of homosexual couples. No wonder Pope John Paul said what he said in number 97 of Evangelium Vitae.

I want to say something about the geopolitical significance of Britain and of Britain’s foreign policy in relation to the laws which my country passes on abortion and with related evils; secondly, and in connection with Britain’s foreign policy, I want to say something about the geopolitical significance of the role played by the Catholic bishops’ conference of England and Wales concerning abortion and related evils.

One third of the world’s population (approximately 2.3 billion people) live in common law jurisdictions or in systems mixed with civil law. In particular, common law originated in England in the early Middle Ages, and remains the basis of the legal system in England and in those countries which trace their legal heritage to England, such as former colonies of the British Empire.

The British Foreign and Commonwealth website states:

“Fifty-three countries are members of The Commonwealth. Our countries span Africa, Asia, the Americas, Europe and the Pacific and are diverse – they are amongst the world’s largest, smallest, richest and poorest countries … Leaders of member countries shape Commonwealth policies and priorities.”

For decades, Britain and its foreign office have successfully exported so-called abortion law reform through common law jurisdiction and British Commonwealth countries from Australia to South Africa and elsewhere.

The British Government is now committed to promoting worldwide homosexual law reform and same-sex marriage legislation through the Commonwealth, the European Union and other international bodies. Currently, the web site of the British Foreign and Commonwealth Office provides a Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transsexual toolkit to promote these legal changes world-wide.

British Prime Minister, David Cameron has threatened to withhold UK aid from poor countries that do not conform saying in connection with the homosexual rights agenda, and I quote: “British aid should have more strings attached”

Furthermore, the British government and the European Union have enacted a body of law on the equal employment rights of male and female homosexuals, and bisexuals and transsexuals, which is to be enforced with the threat of severe legal sanctions. The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales has produced Diversity and Equality Guidelines, a policy statement which (whilst it includes elements of Catholic doctrine) welcomes, seeks to implement and states that it will monitor Government policy within the Church, including in Catholic schools.

A pro-abortion document[1] prepared at the request of the EU Commission on the right to conscientious objection, links rights relating to sexual orientation to other supposed rights, including the “right” to abortion and the “right” to euthanasia and assisted suicide. The EU Commission document quotes, in part, the Diversity and Equality Guidelines of the Catholic bishops of England and Wales in a generally approving way.

Thus the policy of the Catholic bishops’ conference of England and Wales in its Diversity and Equality Guidelines is helping the British government to promote the homosexual rights agenda, throughout Europe via a document from the European Commission which, in its turn, links homosexual rights to abortion rights.

Tragically, in Britain, induced abortion and birth control drugs and devices are provided to children at school, including at Catholic schools, under the age of 16. This is happening with the co-operation of the Catholic authorities.

In my own country and throughout the world we are witnessing the fulfilment of the prophetic message of Humanae Vitae, Pope Paul VI’s historic encyclical which celebrated its 40th anniversary six years ago. Speaking about the inseparable connection between the unitive and procreative aspects of sexual intercourse he wrote: “Finally, careful consideration should be given to the danger of this power passing into the hands of those public authorities who care little for the precepts of the moral law. Who will blame a government which in its attempt to resolve the problems affecting an entire country resorts to the same measures as are regarded as lawful by married people in the solution of a particular family difficulty? Who will prevent public authorities from favoring those contraceptive methods which they consider more effective? Should they regard this as necessary, they may even impose their use on everyone.” When Pope Paul VI wrote these words, he was referring to governments imposing birth control practices on whole societies. His words apply, tragically, with terrifying consequences for our families, to Catholic bishops’ conference of England and Wales who co-operate with government policy of imposing birth control practices on families like mine.

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. Countless millions of unborn children are being killed each year and the policy of very many Catholic bishops in Europe is contributing hugely to this deplorable situation.

Parents therefore have an urgent, absolute right to totally clear teaching on the truths expressed in Humanae Vitae in these areas, in particular on the inseparability of the unitive and procreative aspects of sexual intercourse. The tragic evidence of the past half century overwhelmingly makes the case for doing this, a case which has been brilliantly presented by Dr Mary Eberstadt in her paper entitled The Vindication of Humanae Vitae published by First Things in August 2008.

By way of complete contrast, I would like to extend my heartfelt thanks as a parent to the Catholic bishops of Nigeria:

Earlier this year, the Catholic bishops of Nigeria publicly thanked Goodluck Jonathan, Nigeria’s president, for signing into law the Same Sex Marriage (Prohibition) Bill, 2011, which prohibits same-sex marriages, civil partnerships, and the promotion of homosexuality.

Archbishop Ignatius Kaigama, president of the bishops’ conference, commended President Jonathan for his:

“decision…not to bow to international pressure in the promotion of unethical and immoral practices of same sex union and other related vices”

and spoke of: “the conspiracy of the developed world to make our country and continent, the dumping ground for the promotion of all immoral practices, that have continued to debase the purpose of God for man in the area of creation and morality, in their own countries.”

Over the past forty to fifty years throughout the world, the pro-life movement has had its achievements, it’s saved many lives and protected the welfare of countless mothers and countless fathers whom we must never forget. For example, in the UK we’ve kept the British Abortion Act and similar legislation out of Northern Ireland for over four decades, working closely with politicians of all major parties and faiths. There is more unity in Northern Ireland on abortion between people of different faiths than in any other part of the world in which I’ve worked.

In addition, SPUC has fought and won many costly legal battles. Most recently last April in the Scottish courts a landmark legal victory, funded by SPUC, confirmed that pro-life senior midwives can refuse to oversee abortions performed by other midwives. Sadly the midwives’ employers have announced that they will appeal to the Supreme Court in London. We are working very hard in Britain to raise the funds for this case that has so far cost SPUC £250,000 and will cost us perhaps the same again as we fight on at the Supreme Court.

However, I believe that we cannot defeat that culture of death on our own – as the recent experience of Ireland, of Brazil, of The Philippines and so many other countries so eloquently and so tragically testify, as they succumb to pressure from the most powerful countries in the world, in particular, the USA and the EU.

Yes, in the UK and in other parts of the world we have had our pro-life successes. We must be full of hope but we mustn’t kid ourselves:

  • The forced abortion regime in China is funded by the taxpayers of virtually every nation on earth as the IPPF, Marie Stopes International and UNFPA, funded by governments worldwide, co-operate with the China government’s policies.
  • Developing nations worldwide are under pressure from our powerful western governments to legalize abortion, population control measures, and a homosexual rights agenda which threatens our children.
  • And in our own nations countless millions of abortions take place annually, recorded under the abortion statistics, and unrecorded under the guise of so-called contraceptive drugs and devices so overwhelmingly accepted throughout society and widely in use even within the Catholic community.

Let’s not kid ourselves. The pro-life movement, however hardworking, however well-informed, however blessed and strong we may be in our initiatives, the pro-life movement cannot defeat the culture of death on our own .

Let’s be quite clear about this, if you put all our membership lists and all of our finances together, we are infinitesimally tiny in comparison with the worldly power, riches, and reach of the culture of death.

When we’re working at our best, pro-life organisations are catalysts for action on the part of the wider community, and we often punch way above our weight in terms of the human resources available to us. What we lack in numbers, we endeavour to make up for with our nearly five decades of experience, expertise, and spiritual commitment and support. And our greatest achievement is that we exist.

However, we cannot defeat the culture of death, which threatens constantly to overwhelm us, on our own. Pro-life organizations and the wider community must be fortified by unequivocal, unyielding voices of Catholic Church officials and bishops throughout the world.

Tragically, however, some of the most pernicious influences where legalised abortion is concerned come from officials within the Catholic Church.

I appeal today to church leaders to church leaders throughout the world, to church leaders gathered for the Family Synod here in Rome, to all Catholic Bishops in the World,  as the chief executive of the oldest pro-life organization in the world, I appeal to you remember the words of Pope John Paul II in Evangelium Vitae (82) that you “… 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: the silence and equivocation that we have seen for the most part on the part of the bishops worldwide for the past 40 to 50 years. If it were Catholic priests or Jews who were being killed, or threatened with being killed, by national laws in Britain or in other parts of the world – would we expect, any day of the week, ever to enter a Catholic Church for Mass without the matter being mentioned, or being prayed about at that Mass?” Would we not be denouncing, and rightly denouncing, the killing of Catholic priests or Jews, in every pulpit in the world – notwithstanding the past sins and scandals associated with members of the Catholic church? The Jew, the priest, the unborn child are all created in the image and likeness of God.

Also, 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 passed last year 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? 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. I ask you again, 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?

Antoine de Saint-Exupery, in his book Wind, Sand and Stars, writes:

 “Water is worth its weight in gold; the smallest drop kindles in the sand the green spark of a blade of grass. If rain falls anywhere, a great exodus brings life to the Sahara.”

Modern Europe and the Catholic Church in many parts of the world, like the Sahara, seems to be a lifeless desert. Yet just beneath the surface life waits to be given the opportunity to spring forth. Our pro-life activists worldwide are the leaders who are seeds of this life, waiting to spring forth. Let us pray that the pro-life harvest is very great in the months and years ahead.


[1] The Right to Conscientious Objection and the Conclusion by EU Member States of Concordats with the Holy See, EU Network of Independent Experts on Fundamental Rights, 14th December 2005