Lib Dem leader Tim Farron, who is a Christian, found himself in an awkward moral position for a second time, following his earlier grilling on whether gay sex is a sin.
In a 2007 interview in the Salvation Army’s War Cry magazine, he said he believed abortion was wrong: “Personally I wish I could argue it away,” he said.
Now, as party leader, he says: “I am pro-choice. I believe that abortion should be safe and legal and that the limit should be set by science.”
What the British media are saying
Quentin Letts in the Daily Mail expressed disappointment in Farron. With his trademark acerbity he wrote: “Selling his soul may be precisely what it feels like to the Liberal Democrats’ pink-faced young leader. This is his first general election in charge and, poor man, he is making a hash of it.”
The Lib Dems, Letts wrote, “have lost sight of the meaning of tolerance”, insisting on one view prevailing. Farron “has been taken prisoner by that hectoring tendency, and it is no surprise he has often looked so unhappy during this campaign. I feel sorry for him, yet I can no longer respect him.”
Conservative blogger Tim Montgomerie tweeted: “Can’t believe that @TimFarron is impressing any side of the abortion debate with his U-turn.”
What Catholics said
Perhaps surprisingly, Catholic writers have shown some sympathy for the beleaguered Farron.
Comparing “the hounding of Tim Farron” by the media to the 17th-century Test Acts designed to bar non-Anglicans from public positions, Catholic historian John Charmley wrote at Christian Today: “Tim Farron may, or may not have changed his views, but the way in which the media and some of his colleagues have behaved reminds one of heresy hunts.”
Melanie McDonagh wrote in the Spectator that “it’s a kind of field sport for interviewers to torment Tim Farron about faith and morals … What fun to watch him squirm, and get a paid-up working-class Christian to conform to the standard secularist take on these things. But he doesn’t put up much of a fight, does he?”
✣Is Francis re-examining Humanae Vitae?
Reports have surfaced online suggesting that Pope Francis may be about to re-examine the Church’s teaching on contraception.
Anonymous sources say that he is setting up a secret commission which could potentially look at the Church’s position as reaffirmed by Pope Paul VI in 1968 in his encyclical Humanae Vitae.
Why was it under-reported?
There are good reasons why this story has been under-reported. The Church’s teaching is settled; and the report is unconfirmed – little more than a rumour. Also, Pope Francis has praised Humanae Vitae more than once. In 2015 he said that Paul VI “had the strength to defend openness to life”.
But Francis’s further comments on that occasion might suggest that he wishes to say more about the doctrine; he spoke of “ensuring that pastoral [efforts] take into account people’s
What will happen next?
On questions of morality Francis has often spoken about discernment. He has said: “We run the risk of getting used to ‘white or black’, to that which is legal. We are rather closed, in general, to discernment.”
Humanae Vitae confirmed the Church’s teaching, which was also stated by previous popes, but the controversy over the document has never ended. Next year’s 50th anniversary of the document will doubtless intensify those debates, and it seems unlikely that Pope Francis will not make some comment.
✣The week ahead
A new oratory will be launched in Bournemouth next Wednesday. The community, consisting of Fr Peter Edwards, Fr Dominic Jacob and one student brother, will be based at Sacred Heart Church in the town centre, and will offer daily Adoration, Mass and Confession. It is the fourth Oratorian community to be set up in England and Wales in the last four years.
On Saturday Pope Francis will travel to Genoa. During his trip he will visit a factory, address clergy and Religious at the cathedral (pictured), have lunch with refugees and the poor, visit a children’s hospital and celebrate an outdoor Mass.
On Thursday two of Britain’s leading experts on the suffering Christians of the Middle East will be giving a talk in London SW1. Gerard Russell, author and former diplomat, will be joining John Pontifex of the charity Aid to the Church in Need at 6.30pm at the Notre Dame University campus. To attend, please call 020 8749 1321 or email @catholicunion.org.uk.
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