Cardinal attacks "Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill"

Friday 20 March 2008

Cardinal Keith O'Brien will   use his Easter Sunday Homily on 23 March 2008 to launch a
powerful attack on the Government's   "Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill"   currently  
going through Parliament.

In the homily, the Cardinal will describe the proposed legislation as "a
monstrous attack on human rights, human dignity and human life" adding "In
some other European countries one could be jailed for doing what we intend
to make legal"

Cardinal O'Brien will also accuse Gordon Brown of denying Labour MP's "the
right to vote according to their conscience" and backing a law which will,
"add to the 2.2 million human embryos already destroyed or experimented
upon.... (allow) scientists to create babies whose sole purpose will be to
provide, without consent of anyone, parts of their organs or tissues......
sanction the raiding of dead peoples tissue to manufacture yet more embryos
for experimentation..... deny that a child has a biological father, (by)
allowing tampering with birth certificates, removing biological parents, and
inserting someone altogether different. And this Bill will indeed be used to
further extend the abortion laws."

The full text of the Cardinal's homily is shown below.


Peter Kearney  
Catholic Media Office
5 St. Vincent Place
G1 2DH  
0141 221 1168
07968 122291

Notes to Editors:

1. The homily will be delivered during the 11.30am Easter Sunday (23 March) Mass at St.Mary's Cathedral in Edinburgh

2. An MP3 audio clip of Cardinal O'Brien commenting on the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill is available for download at:

3. For images of Cardinal O'Brien at St.Mary's Cathedral on Easter Sunday contact: Paul McSherry on 07770393960






Just one week ago I began our Palm Sunday liturgy with the following words:

For five weeks of Lent we have been preparing, by works of charity and self
sacrifice, for the celebration of Our Lord s Pascal Mystery .

Today Easter Day we celebrate the culmination of that Easter mystery “ that
culmination in which we celebrate the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the
dead.   Our celebrations continue during the fifty days of Easter time
leading to the great feast of Pentecost, the coming of the Holy Spirit on
the Apostles “ and this Easter time our fifty days includes all of the month
of April.  

At Easter and during these fifty days of Easter time we think with great joy
of that glorious resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead; and we remember
once more that during the first Easter time Christ clarified and confirmed
for his followers an essential aspect of their Christian vocation. They were
to be a missionary people: Go out to the whole world and proclaim the Good
News to all creation!


I think with you today first of all on the death and resurrection of Jesus
Christ himself.

A particular poignancy was brought to our commemorations this Easter in our
Cathedral. News was brought to us some two weeks before that Father David
the father figure of this Cathedral Parish had died suddenly and tragically
in Barcelona in Spain. It was on the weekend of Palm Sunday that his remains
were brought here to our Cathedral and remained until noon on the Monday of
Holy Week when our solemn liturgy for the dead was celebrated and followed
by his burial in the cemetery in Culross near Oakley in Fife.

Obviously there was much grieving here in our Cathedral Parish and indeed
throughout our diocese and all of Scotland as people remembered this gifted
young man who seemed to have the ability to relate in a very easy and
positive way with all with whom he came in contact.

However our liturgies of Holy Week reminded us of how natural everything had
been in David s life and death. Born as one of a large family with a devoted
mother and father he answered the call of God to the Priesthood and lived
out that call to the full until his death in Barcelona. The day following
his funeral, on the Tuesday of Holy Week, the priests of our Archdiocese
gathered to renew our own personal commitment to service “ all having in
mind, I am sure, that service rendered by Father David and our own ongoing
commitment to serve until the Lord calls us to himself.

One might say that when thinking of the Death and Resurrection of Jesus
Christ we realise that is what our own Christianity is all about. Brought
into the world by the love of two devoted parents, raised to adulthood in
our own families, every action is indeed in someway or another a preparation
for our new life in Christ.

I think that the words used in many European countries to describe a death,
sum up very beautifully our basic Christian belief: He has gone to the home
of the Father!


At this time as well as thinking of the death and resurrection of Jesus
Christ we are asked to consider again what I have described as the
essential aspect of a Christian vocation “ namely to be a missionary
people .   I think that there is a greater need than ever before for each and
every Christian to be aware of that call at this present time.

So many people are worried about the future “ the possibility of banks
failing; the increased cost of living with regard to food, petrol and many
of those things which we find essential; our concerns about climate change
and global warming; our increasing worries about the dangers of nuclear

But I think that a fundamental concern of all of our people at this present
time and one which we ourselves as Christians must take very seriously is
that concerning the future of human life itself.

The beliefs which we have previously held, and the standards by which we
have lived throughout our lives and by which Christians have lived for the
past 2000 years are being challenged at this present time in ways in which
they have never been challenged before!

The norm has always been that children have been born as the result of the
love of man and woman in the unity of a marriage. That belief has of course
long been challenged. However I believe that a greater challenge than that
even faces us “ the possibility now facing our country is that animal “
human embryos be produced with the excuse that perhaps certain diseases
might find a cure from these resulting embryos.

What I am speaking of is the process whereby scientists create an embryo
containing a mixture of animal and human genetic material. If I were
preaching this homily in France, Germany, Italy, Canada or Australia I would
be commending the government for rightly banning such grotesque procedures.

However here in Great Britain I am forced to condemn our government for not
only permitting but encouraging such hideous practices.

Our Prime Minister, Gordon Brown has given the Government s support to the
Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill. It is difficult to imagine a single
piece of legislation which, more comprehensively, attacks the sanctity and
dignity of human life than this particular Bill.

With full might of government endorsement, Gordon Brown is promoting a Bill
that will allow the creation of animal “ human hybrid embryos. He is
promoting a Bill which will add to the 2.2 million human embryos already
destroyed or experimented upon. He is promoting a Bill allowing scientists
to create babies whose sole purpose will be to provide, without consent of
anyone, parts of their organs or tissues. He is promoting a Bill which will
sanction the raiding of dead peoples tissue to manufacture yet more embryos
for experimentation. He is promoting a Bill which denies that a child has a
biological father, allows tampering with birth certificates, removing
biological parents, and inserting someone altogether different. And this
Bill will indeed be used to further extend the abortion laws.

Further it seems that Labour MPs are not to be allowed a free vote on this
Bill and consequently are denied the right to vote according to their
conscience “ a right which all other political parties have allowed.

This Bill represents a monstrous attack on human rights, human dignity and
human life. In some other European countries one could be jailed for doing
what we intend to make legal. I can say that the government has no mandate
for these changes:   they were not in any election manifesto, nor do they
enjoy widespread public support. The opposite has indeed taken place “ the
time allowed for debate in Parliament and indeed in the country at large has
been shockingly short. One might say that in our country we are about to
have a public government endorsement of experiments of Frankenstein
proportion “ without many people really being aware of what is going on.

Many excuses are being made for this present legislation, particularly that
cures will soon be found for various diseases which afflict mankind through
this legislation. Rather the opposite seems to be the case when cells
required for ongoing investigation into cures through medical science can
take place through cells obtained in other ways from human bodies and
certainly not through the creation of animal “ human embryos.

I contend that matters of such concern to the peoples of our countries
should not be left quite simply to a vote by members of Parliament. Along
with my colleagues in England and Wales and my brother Bishops here in
Scotland I would maintain that the establishment of a single permanent
statutory national bioethics commission is something which would indeed
bring considerable benefits. As I indicated recently in a letter to the
Prime Minister: This would appear to be the only way that the issues raised
by the swiftly developing biotechnology industry can be adequately discussed
and weighed up in a body which engages with public concerns and informs the
government and parliament on matters which will continue to raise such
unimagined and complex ethical questions .

Our voice must be heard and that voice must be listened to especially by the
members of Parliament who will soon vote on this issue in the House of
Commons. Sadly many members of Parliament do not seem concerned “ or rather
are in a certain ignorance of what is going to happen. In January of this
year our Catholic Parliamentary Office wrote to all of Scotland s 59 members
of Parliament asking them how they intended to vote. As of today only 9 have
bothered to reply. Over three weeks ago Bishop Philip Tartaglia of Paisley
wrote to Gordon Brown urging him to allow all his MPs a free vote “ as of
today he has not even had an acknowledgement!

Our Church, and I personally, have, I think, done all the ˜right things .
We have responded to the consultation document; we have sent letters to all
of Scotland s Members of Parliament; we have written to the Prime Minister;
we are speaking publicly about what is going on in our name and in our
country.   Further, I recently signed a letter with other Church Leaders
which concluded:   This Bill goes against what most people, Christian or
not, reckon is common sense.   The idea of mixing human and animal genes is
not just evil.   It s crazy! .


Today as we celebrate in the resurrection the triumph of life over death I
urge you to ensure that life continues to triumph over these deathly
proposals. I know that many of you have already made your views known to
your members of Parliament. I ask you to continue to do that.

Being a Christian and acting as a Christian must be one and the same thing.
Gathered here on this Easter Day we realise that we are indeed followers of
Jesus Christ and with that comes responsibilities. One of those
responsibilities is as I have indicated to be missionary . May God indeed
help us all to be missionary at this present time and to hand on the saving
message of Jesus Christ in a world which does not seem prepared to receive

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