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Diocese of Arundel and Brighton News Item

Electing for the Common Good: Promoting the intrinsic dignity of life

An article prepared by Pauline Gately, A&B Diocese Cherish Life Network Lead

The Bishops Conference has issued a letter for distribution to all Catholics. It offers some considerations as we decide how to vote. Included are issues connected with family and life and, in particular, we are invited to establish whether our candidates will “support measures to promote the intrinsic dignity of life at every stage”.

The intrinsic dignity of life is not promoted when life is intentionally ended. So the defence of life regardless of stage or condition must be a key element in our considerations. As St John Paul put it in Evangelium Vitae (#101):

“It is impossible to further the common good without acknowledging and defending the right to life, upon which all the other inalienable rights of individuals are founded and from which they develop”

Although the last Parliament soundly rejected an attempt to legalise assisted suicide, challenges to the law continue in the courts and there is no doubt that the advent of a new Parliament will be seen as an opportunity to make a further attempt there. So we need to question our candidates on their voting intentions (not views) on this matter. For further guidance on this topic see this from the excellent Anscombe Bioethics Centre.

In addition, shortly before the end of the last Parliament a Private Members Bill was tabled which would make abortion legal in all circumstances and right up to birth. MPs had the opportunity to reject this Bill outright but chose, by a margin, to let it proceed to debate. This process was automatically ended when Parliament was prorogued but there is no doubt a further attempt will be made in the next Parliament. Again, we should establish our candidates’ voting intentions.

There are many other issues of concern related to the protection of the vulnerable at all stages of life. These include the campaign to deny the Life Charity Government funding for their work supporting vulnerable pregnant women, the proposed extension of human embryo research to 28 days and the incremental denial of conscience rights for healthcare professionals.

The general election offers the opportunity both to establish your candidates’ voting intentions and, through your enquiries, to demonstrate that these are matters of concern to their constituents. But there is more: After many years of lobbying and observing media and Parliamentary debate I am convinced that the role of constituents is not only to seek support for our concerns from our MPs but it is also to inform them. Because it is quite evident that Parliamentarians (and would-be Parliamentarians) are not always well-informed on the matters on which they must decide: Sometimes it is only through personal, well-informed, evidence-based lobbying that this can be rectified. General elections can provide a useful opening for this.

CHERISH LIFE NETWORK

Our Diocese has established a network for all those already engaged, or interested in becoming engaged, more deeply on these issues. Our aims include promoting spiritual support and giving witness. We also seek to help: we know that women are very often driven to abort for lack of the support they need to continue with their pregnancy - and are then left to carry alone the burden of the ‘choice’ they never really had. We will aim, as we build, not only to assist the organisations which offer such support but also to reach out to those in need of comfort and healing. We also recognise that there can be concerns about essential, life-sustaining care and treatment at all stages of life and we aim to steer those who have concerns to the guidance and support they need.

Through our network you can find out who else in your area is engaging on these matters, meet and work with them and then raise awareness and promote further engagement in your area. We will also aim to support and assist you in this.

These are ambitious aims and we need your help. You can find out more about our Cherish Life Network here.

For further information contact the Network lead, Pauline Gately e: p.gately@btinternet.com