Catholic Medical Quarterly Volume 70(1) February 2020


The Beginning of The End for Catholic Emancipation?

Dr Adrian Treloar

Adrian TreloarIn November 2019 Cardiff University Students' Union adopted an official pro-choice stance. The Union established that all official societies must be pro-abortion and that terminology used in documents etc will be strictly controlled. For example, the term “unborn baby” is not allowed. Instead we must use the less emotive (or perhaps unemotive) term fetus, incase women are upset by any suggestion that an unborn child is human. Humanity is to be obscured by terminology.

In the wake of that Catholic students were told they cannot take part in official societies at Cardiff University. The university chaplain, the Very Rev Fr Sebastian Jones, said that no Catholic could remain a member of an organisation that upholds 'the promotion of, and material support for, the procurement of abortions'. He added: 'For a Catholic to participate in such an organisation would risk them incurring excommunication.'

While the Students' Union said it recognised its responsibility to uphold freedom of speech and to allow students to take a stance on sensitive issues, it is not easy to reconcile what the Students Union motion stated with their response to subsequent questioning.

The Union said in a statement that 'If students vote in favour of a position, it does not mean that students who have opposing views are censored or their views are not welcome,'

And yet the motion that was passed at its AGM stated

“1. Cardiff University Students’ Union will publicly announce their stance as pro-choice and clearly state on the CUSU “Pregnancy Support” webpage and any other applicable webpages such as in the “Policy” webpage. 4
2. Changing the pregnancy and abortion related terminology throughout the Students’ Union to make it unbiased and medically accurate. For example, on the CUSU “Pregnancy Support” webpage referring to a “foetus” at 13-weeks, instead of a “baby”.
5. The VP [Vice President] of Welfare and Campaigns will be responsible for ensuring that the Students’ Union campaigns and strategies support the pro-choice stance to provide an equal, safe and inclusive environment for students.
6. The VP of Welfare and Campaigns, in collaboration with the Mental Health, Women’s and LGBT+ officers, will create a pro-choice awareness campaign that highlights the importance of access to safe and legal abortion using statistically and/or medically backed information.
7. The VP of Societies and Volunteering will be responsible for ensuring that Students’ Union affiliated societies do not spread misinformation about abortion and pregnancy nor participate in activities against SU policy.
8. The Students’ Union and Cardiff University should work together to ensure that students understand their rights to bodily autonomy and abortion.”

Those requirements really do make it impossible for a Catholic, in conscience, to be an officer of the Union. They have been excluded by an intolerant and aggressive secularism.

The chaplain said that Catholic students and those opposed to abortion would be unable to hold offices in societies or voice 'opinions that while acceptable by civic society… are to be suppressed at Cardiff University'.

RailwaylineIt was not until 1871 that the Universities Tests Act opened the universities to Roman Catholics. Until that Act was passed, Catholics were barred from professorships and other teaching roles in Universities. With the passage of that Act, Catholic Emancipation in the United Kingdom was virtually complete.

But reflecting upon that, the Cardiff Students Chaplain likened the plight of his students to the historical discrimination experienced by Catholics which persisted in the Universities right up until 1871. Indeed, we might easily think that the emancipation which was achieved 140 years is being lost once again.

Under UK Law we are all duty bound to respect the diverse views and beliefs of all in our society. That means that silencing those who have pro-life views should, simply, be illegal. The world is duty bound to respect and to listen to Catholics. We have a right and a duty to represent our views and our values in the public square. Both the Catholic Medical Quarterly and the Catholic Medical Association have a duty to support faithful Catholics, and especially Catholic health care workers in that duty. It is after all a part of our vocations.

And that gift of Catholic values to health care must (and surely will) continue to resound throughout the NHS and far beyond.