Sunday marks 50 years since the Abortion Act received Royal Assent and became law. Since then, it is estimated that there have been almost nine million abortions in Britain. Every working day around 700 take place.
The Act was steered through parliament in 1967 by Liberal MP David Steel. In 2007 he told the Guardian: “I don’t think we had expected anything like those numbers but when people say there are ‘too many’ I say: ‘All right, you give me the right figure.’ ”
What the British media are saying
In general the British media have taken a pro-choice stance, though a recent BBC programme, Abortion on Trial, featured a variety of arguments. However, pro-lifers said the programme was slanted. The Mail on Sunday also claimed that producers “cherry picked” favourable results from a specially commissioned ICM poll, such as that 87 per cent of religious people support abortion in some circumstances.
Some of the survey’s more noteworthy findings were that less than half of respondents (46 per cent) approved of abortion in the case of rape, and only 45 per cent if the mother’s life is in danger. Also, despite a campaign from abortion lobbyists for “decriminalisation”, only six per cent said that there should be no legal time limit on abortion.
What pro-lifers are saying
in the Spectator, Melanie McDonagh said that public debate over abortion had become increasingly narrow. Not only are pro-lifers such as Jacob Rees-Mogg publicly vilified, but there is little honesty about the realities of abortion. For instance, the law only permits abortion when a birth would cause greater mental or physical danger. But, McDonagh asked, “do you know anyone – anyone? – who’s had an abortion who actually fell within the legal requirements?”
A one-minute silence will be held at 11.04 on Friday morning – the exact moment of the Bill’s passing – in Old Palace Yard, Westminster, and a Mass and prayer vigil will be held in Westminster Cathedral that evening. The Pro-Life Alliance are encouraging churches to toll their bells 50 times on Sunday morning.
✣The number of Catholics increases – again
The number of Catholics in the world increased by 12.5 million in 2015 to a total of nearly 1.3 billion people, according to Fides News Service, based on data from the Pontifical Mission Societies. The increase is on all continents except Europe, which decreased by 1.3 million. Africa saw the largest increase, by 7.4 million.
Why was it under-reported?
There may be several reasons why this news has been overlooked by the secular press. First, it’s a continuing trend, so is not something new for journalists to report on. The number of Catholics worldwide has grown from 437 million in 1950 to 650 million in 1970; now it’s twice that. Secondly, the rise in the number of Catholics goes against the “secularisation thesis” of continuous religious decline, which has been held for decades not just by sociologists but also by many commentators.
What will happen next?
The trend is expected to continue. It has been estimated that there will be at least 1.6 billion Catholics in the world by 2050. Part of this is due to demographics. The fastest growth of Catholics is in Africa – and the population of the continent rocketed from 100 million in 1900 to around a billion today. Indeed, the new figures show that although the number of Catholics rose, the world percentage of Catholics decreased by 0.05 per cent to 17.72 per cent, as the total world population grew at an even faster rate.
✣The week ahead
A service commemorating the 500th anniversary of the start of the Reformation will be held in Westminster Abbey at noon next Tuesday. The Archbishop of Canterbury, the Most Rev Justin Welby, will give an address. It will be followed by a symposium, “Liberated by God’s Grace”, in St Margaret’s Church. Speakers include Catholic historian Eamon Duffy.
The 49th Annual Catholic Women of the Year luncheon will take place next Friday at the Amba Hotel, Marble Arch in London, celebrating women who have made an outstanding contribution to the Catholic Church in Great Britain.
The annual Eastern Catholic Bishops of Europe conference takes place this weekend at the Focolare Centre, Welwyn Garden City. The theme is “Kerygma – Catechesis – Mystagogy”. The conference includes a Pontifical Divine Liturgy at Westminster Cathedral on Saturday, with Patriarch Sviatoslav Shevchuk of the Ukrainian Catholic Church (left) officiating.
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