Priest appointed as Pastoral Director of Allen Hall seminary in Westminster poses grave threat to the future of the pro-life struggle in Britain
16 June 2021
By John Smeaton
The United Kingdom has been described as the epicentre of the culture of death. The international headquarters of the International Planned Parenthood Federation, the world’s greatest promoter of abortion and historic supporter of China’s forced abortion regime, is in London – and its deadly work has been massively funded for many decades by both Conservative and Socialist governments.
The United Kingdom was also the birthplace of the pro-life movement worldwide, with the formation of the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children (SPUC), the first pro-life campaigning organization to be established anywhere in the world, in late 1966.
In common with pro-life groups throughout the world, SPUC, albeit founded by Protestants, quickly became an organization, a movement, comprised overwhelmingly of Catholics – and it is clear that there is no way the pro-life movement, in the UK or worldwide, can bring about the paradigm shift needed to defeat abortion without the Church.
It is in this cultural context that the appointment of Fr Philip Dyer-Perry, as Pastoral Director of Allen Hall, a seminary of the archdiocese of Westminster, London, must be judged. One thing is certain. His appointment will come as a great shock to faithful Catholics and those involved in the pro-life movement of all denominations and none.
Fr Dyer-Perry is the parish priest of Our Lady of the Rosary, Staines, Middlesex, on the western fringe of Greater London. On the weekend of Sunday, 1 November 2020, according to Independent Catholic News, he wrote a message to his Polish parishioners, strongly condemning the ruling from Poland’s constitutional tribunal banning abortion in the case of a baby thought to be seriously disabled. He said:
“… this law fails to respect the choice and autonomy of the mother. It is very courageous decision (and arguably right) for a woman to choose to give birth to a child with disabilities – but courage cannot be imposed by government edict. While governments have a responsibility to safeguard all lives, the reality is that the unborn child lives within the woman’s body, is entirely dependent on the mother for life, and therefore the most appropriate person to decide whether to continue with the pregnancy is the mother – assisted of course by medical professionals and others. Matters are not helped when those who seek to impose this new law are, predominately, male.”
I retire as chief executive of SPUC at the end of August 2021 after 47 years working for the Society at national and international level. I cannot recall anyone purporting to speak on behalf of the Catholic Church in England and Wales expressing a position on abortion which so clearly opposes the 5th commandment and which does so in the form of the most commonly used and discredited arguments of the pro-abortion lobby.
The aim of the pro-life movement is to oppose and to defeat the idea, which dominates virtually the entire world, that there is such a thing as a life not worthy to be lived; and to create a society in which God’s law “Thou shalt not kill” is not only written into national and international law, it is also upheld and energetically defended by our fellow-citizens.
A civilisation can be judged by how it treats its most vulnerable members. Unborn children are the most vulnerable members of the human family. While a mother’s womb should be the safest place, it is statistically one of the most dangerous places to live! Unborn children with disabilities, in turn, are the most vulnerable among the unborn. It is, therefore, the protection of these children and their families that is the core characteristic in evaluating the level of our civilisation. Poland has illuminated the way to the rebuilding of a truly civilized society.
Fr Dyer-Perry’s appointment, by way of contrast, constitutes a grave threat to the future of the pro-life struggle in Britain, and its resistance to barbaric anti-life laws, since he will be forming the Catholic priests who form the Catholic people from whose ranks the vast majority of the pro-life movement is made up.
His position on abortion is truly revolutionary in that it openly seeks to overthrow a commandment of God on which Christian civilization is founded and it would not be difficult, drawing from church texts old and new, to demonstrate in detail how this is the case. Suffice it to say that according to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Catholic moral doctrine clearly rejects the notion of the autonomy of the state (from the Church) that is understood as independence from the moral law.1
The poisonous seed of Fr Philip Dyer-Perry’s sentiments regarding the Polish Constitutional decision will fall on fertile political ground at governmental level and in academic circles in the UK.
During the past year, the Covid-19 pandemic has been used by Boris Johnson’s government greatly to increase the number of abortions in the UK (by legalising at home do-it-yourself abortion) and by imposing, after a 55-year battle of resistance led by the Society for Protection of Unborn Children, a fully-funded abortion regime on Northern Ireland. This was done over the heads and against the wishes of the Northern Ireland people and its politicians.
And in recent years, Jeff McMahan, a professor of philosophy at Oxford University, has endorsed infanticide as an option in certain circumstances. In a paper entitled Infanticide published in the philosophy journal Utilitas in 2007 McMahon writes:
“the common view that infanticide is morally different in kind from abortion is difficult to defend, given that there can be no intrinsic differences between a viable fetus and a newborn infant of the same age (calculating age from conception rather than from birth). To achieve consistency, we may need to abandon either the view that post-viability abortions can be justified, even to avert a significant harm to the pregnant woman, or the view that infanticide is morally just as serious as the killing of an older child or adult” 2
I understand that the Fr Dyer-Perry’s appointment was made by His Eminence Cardinal Vincent Nichols. You may like to review the full text of his message to his Polish parishioners (also reprinted below) and write to His Eminence expressing your concerns. His Eminence’s email address can be found here: https://rcdow.org.uk/contacts/
1 Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF), Doctrinal Note on Some Questions Regarding the Participation of Catholics in Political Life (24 November 2002), no 6.
2 McMahan, J. (2007). Infanticide. Utilitas, 19 (2), 131- 159
John Smeaton, the chief executive of the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children, has been involved in the pro-life movement at the national and international level for the past 47 years. He has been at the forefront of campaigns not only against abortion but also euthanasia and same-sex “marriage”. John Smeaton is the vice-president of International Right to Life Federation and a co-founder of Voice of the Family.
Reflection on Polish government’s ruling on abortion
ICN – Independent Catholic News, 1 Nov 2020
Fr Philip Dyer-Perry, Parish Priest at Our Lady of the Rosary Church, Staines, has written the following message to Polish parishioners in his newsletter this weekend:
A few words for our Polish parishioners
It’s clear that the recent decision of the Polish government to ban abortion in all but the most extreme circumstances has caused an unprecedented level of anger and concern both in Poland and also among many of you in the Polish community here in Staines. Although I am not Polish, and my knowledge of Polish politics is limited, I am commenting because you are part of our parish community, we are united by our international Catholic faith, and I want to reach out to those who are perhaps dismayed or concerned by this issue.
Let me start by being absolutely clear: As a Catholic and as a priest, I am pro-life. To be pro-life means to respect and cherish human life consistently and in every circumstance. So I support measures to prevent loss of life through Covid-19, I support the welfare of migrants and refuges, I support Black Lives Matter, I support those seeking equal rights for LGBTQ persons, I support the rehabilitation of prisoners, the worldwide abolition of the death penalty, the care of the elderly, nuclear disarmament, and all efforts to make sure that every man, woman, or child is able to live free from any form of abuse. And I also support the protection of unborn children.
Nevertheless, and with due respect, my personal impression (and I fully respect your other opinions) is that the recent decision of the Polish government is a bad one.
– Firstly, it fails to recognise the complex reality that women and medical staff face, imposing a blanket rule in place of careful medical judgement. There are situations where the abortion of a pregnancy, tragic though it is, may be the least-worst and most appropriate decision. Likewise, there will be times when it is only right to carry the child to term. Political and religious leaders do not necessarily know best!
– Secondly, this law fails to respect the choice and autonomy of the mother. It is very courageous decision (and arguably right) for a woman to choose to give birth to a child with disabilities – but courage cannot be imposed by government edict. While governments have a responsibility to safeguard all lives, the reality is that the unborn child lives within the woman’s body, is entirely dependent on the mother for life, and therefore the most appropriate person to decide whether to continue with the pregnancy is the mother – assisted of course by medical professionals and others. Matters are not helped when those who seek to impose this new law are, predominately, male.
– Thirdly, the imposition of a law that has met with almost universal protest, even among those who are even more ardently pro-life than me, threatens all the progress the pro-life movement has made in recent years. It serves to harden the resolve of those who would seek to remove all safeguards around abortion, and fails to win over the ‘hearts and minds’ necessary for building a culture of life. Rather than building a broad consensus that abortion should be ‘safe, legal, and rare’, it divides people into two distinctive and opposing camps – pro- and anti-abortion. This is not the way to progress the protection of the unborn child.
The desire to reduce the number of abortions is an admirable one. Every life is important, and every loss of life is a tragedy, but if a government (any government) is serious about preventing further loss of life, there are other steps that can and should be taken. These include proper sex and relationships education, life-long support for those seeking to raise a child with disability, as well as other measures which, to its credit, the Polish government already takes to support families.
At present, the situation reminds me of the words of Jesus ‘Woe also to you scribes! You impose on people burdens hard to carry, but you yourselves do not lift one finger to touch them.’ I very much hope the Polish government will rethink their decision. I also hope the leaders of the Church in Poland will support those protesting and work to promote the lives of unborn children in a sensible and sustainable way.
I am open to your comments and reflections on this issue, but please be respectful to others in the manner of your replies. Also, if like me, you are not Polish, bear in mind how your comments may come across.
Fr Philip [Dyer-Perry]