Sunday 19 March 2017


Wendy Savage has given an interview to the Mail On Sunday that deserves some comment.
Professor Savage said: ‘Because of this sort of anxiety [ie that women may choose to abort female children] some places won’t tell the woman the sex of the foetus, which is outrageous. It’s her body and her foetus, so she should have that information... If a woman does not want to have a foetus who is one sex or the other, forcing her [to go through with the pregnancy] is not going to be good for the eventual child, and it’s not going to be good for [the mother’s] mental health.
There is a lot that is wrong here. Firstly, let's look at the use of the possessive pronoun, 'her.' Savage refers to 'her body' and 'her foetus' as though the word has the same meaning in both cases. But it clearly doesn't. Consider 'her body' and 'her daughter.' Clearly the implications are different: in the first case, 'her' signifies identity, agency and autonomy; in the second, a complex web of relationships and responsibilities. To say it is 'her foetus' is true in the second, not in the first, sense.

Secondly, she appears to be arguing that 'this sort of anxiety' is unfounded  and therefore the response 'is outrageous' and then immediately afterwards, arguing that women should be able to do precisely what she claims is unfounded. 

Thirdly, the use of the word 'forcing' is particularly loaded. What she opposes is not the use of force; rather it is the law preventing the use of force against the unborn child. To talk of allowing a natural process to proceed as 'forcing' is intellectually dishonest.

Fourthly, her claim that allowing the pregnancy to proceed to full term in such circumstances 'is not going to be good for the eventual child' is particularly problematic. 'Eventual' is another lie: the child is already present. And there is no evidence to suggest that if a woman who originally wanted a boy then has a girl, the girl suffers any adverse effect from that. Whereas abortion, of course, is certainly not going to be good for the child.

Fifthly, her claim re the mother's mental health is without any foundation whatsoever.
She has previously signed a letter claiming sex-selective abortion is ‘not gender discrimination’ as that term ‘applies only to living people’.
That is just silly. It is a classic 'No true Scotsman' fallacy. It is no argument at all to define terms in such a way that you do not have to address the substantial issues.
Speaking today in a personal capacity, Prof Savage also insisted a woman should have the legal right to demand an abortion at any stage of pregnancy, saying: ‘It is the woman’s right to decide.'  ‘It’s her body. She is the one taking the risks.'
Again, Savage departs from the truth. It is not the woman's body that is most germane here, but the body of her unborn child - a completely separate, even if completely dependent, human being.
The foetus is a potential human life at that stage [in the womb]; it is not an actual human life... I think you’ve got to concentrate on the [rights of the] woman.’
And this is simply untrue. It is demonstrably alive, and it is demonstrably human. We have arrived at the post-truth world where facts count for nothing at this stage in her argument.

Her problem, of course, is that she needs to justify abortion, as she has performed so many in her career; it would take huge courage and honesty to face the truth about that. And that problem is compounded by the fact that there is no sound justification for abortion on this scale (or on any scale, of course).

Pray for her.

An Inclusive Church?

One of the truths of modern life that seems completely unquestionable is that we should always be (or at the very least, strive to be) inclusive. Especially the Church.

I think this bears examining. 

And especially for the Church.

For nowhere in the Gospel do I hear Our Lord preaching that inclusion is a virtue. And indeed, time and again, we read of him selecting people, and thereby, of course, excluding others.

This struck me particularly as I was reflecting on the Transfiguration. Christ had chosen 72 (to the exclusion of many others, doubtless). He chose 12 men (excluding all women and many other men). And then He chose Peter, James and John to ascend the mountain and witness the Transfiguration.  What did the other apostles make of that? They were a querulous bunch, so I bet they had something to say about it...

And whenever He talks of His return in glory, He talks of separating out: sheep from goats, those who clothed, fed and visited Him from those who did not, and so on.

And yet this drive for inclusion seems to dictate so much that has changed in the Church: the removal of the altar rails, the opening up of the sanctuary to all and sundry, girl altar servers, blessings at the altar steps for those not receiving (when all are blessed at the end of Mass), the Sign of Peace ritual, lay people reading, the bidding prayers, the choir that anyone can join (whether they can hold a tune or not) and which therefore cannot attempt serious music, and now, the reception of communion by those living in a public state of sin.

I think much of this is misguided, though well-intentioned, because it is driven by a secular standard and not by the example or teaching of Our Lord or the traditions of the Church.

Traditionally, Catholics excluded others from their worship (even catechumens had to leave before the Canon of the Mass). We excluded women from the Sanctuary during worship (with the symbolic exception of the Nuptial Mass). And so on...

'But... but... you can't want to exclude people!'

My point is, inclusion and exclusion are a particular frame we put around certain social situations. 

In some cases it may be a relevant frame, but in others it may not be. 

But insofar as I would argue for the exclusion of (say) public sinners from Holy Communion, it is because a higher set of values comes into play: ones that are rooted in the Gospel - values such as charity, and truth.