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Tuesday, 26 September 2006

Guardian attacks Finigan

There's an article in the Guardian today about St Luke's College called Rights and Wrongs. They are trying to use the College as a cause celebre in opposing compulsory religious education and religious worship. In the course of it, they have a go at Barbara McGuigan, quoting a student who said "She told us if we had an abortion we'd go to hell for ever." (This must be a different Barbara McGuigan from the one who talks about the harm abortion does to women and about God's healing love and forgiveness always being there for the repentant sinner.)

They give their own view on why the Principal Maria Williams "accepted paid leave". They put the expression in scare quotes and attribute it as "according to Fr Timothy Finigan". They say:
"At the time he insisted this was a "neutral action". She had not been fired, and could well return"
I am not sure what we are supposed to make of this. Perhaps it is the Guardian's view that people should just be "fired" without any process at all; or perhaps that there should be some sort of process but that it should not be neutral and the outcome should be a foregone conclusion. Myself, I prefer justice.

The article goes on:
Finigan is an active member of the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children. Five years ago, he wrote in the SPUC newsletter: "Many Nazis sincerely believed that they were the master race. They convinced themselves that it was right to kill millions of Jews and millions of other people ... It was a mistaken view. They were not entitled to hold it. Of course, the Holy Father uses the same argument against abortion and euthanasia. The fact that in some places these are legitimised by popular consensus does not make them right."
Finding out that someone is an "active member of SPUC" is clearly an "Aha!" moment for the Guardian.

I have to hand it to them: the manner of selective quotation is masterly. In fact, Pope John Paul cited the case of crimes against humanity to show that popular consensus does not make something right. It is that "same argument" (popular consensus does not make something right) that the late Holy Father applied to abortion and euthanasia - a line of reasoning that is clear enough in my article. But anyone reading the above text would get the impression that I was saying that Pope John Paul directly compared the abortionists to the Nazis. A rather subtle misrepresentation (nothing you could complain about easily) but the more effective for all that. Clever stuff!

For the record, here is the full text of my article (written for the Pro Life Times in November 2001):
When I read Pope John Paul II's encyclical letter Evangelium Vitae, I was greatly inspired by it, as were all of us in the pro-life movement. But there was one passage which stuck in my mind so strongly that I can recite it by heart: "Everyone's conscience rightly rejects those crimes against humanity of which our century has had such sad experience. But would these crimes cease to be crimes if, instead of being committed by unscrupulous tyrants, they were legitimated by popular consensus?" (Evangelium Vitae 69)

The Holy Father was speaking of the many programmes of genocide which sadly characterised the 20th century. His point is that nobody has the right to commit genocide. There can be no authority for it; no person, state or process can legitimise it. Even if everyone votes for it, it is still wrong.

For example, many Nazis sincerely believed that they were the master race. They convinced themselves that it was right to kill millions of Jews and millions of other people. It was their view. They were wrong. It was a mistaken view. They were not entitled to hold it.

Of course, the Holy Father uses the same argument against abortion and euthanasia. The fact that in some places these are legitimised by popular consensus does not make them right. The sincerely held view that abortion and euthanasia are permissible in certain circumstances is a false view.

Pope John Paul II also spoke of how the mass media are sometimes guilty of "depicting as enemies of freedom and progress those positions which are unreservedly pro-life" (Evangelium Vitae 17). We may assert on the contrary that the pro-life position is the most fundamental guardian of freedom and progress.
I think it is fair to say that the Guardian article depicts me as an "enemy of freedom and progress". All I need to do now is create a graphic button for the sidebar. Any suggestions gratefully received.
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