British Bishops Accused of Party Politics

Their Document Attacks Culture-of-Death Issues

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LONDON, MAR. 23, 2001 ( Catholic bishops were criticized for playing party politics after they urged voters to make election issues of euthanasia, abortion, human cloning and embryo experimentation, The Times reported.

Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor of Westminster insisted that he was not endorsing any particular party by emphasizing “life” issues, but he appeared to be encouraging Catholics to vote Conservative.

Tory candidates are much more likely to take a pro-life stance than their opponents. In a recent Times survey, 61% of Conservative candidates in the most vulnerable Labor seats said that they would support restricting the rules on abortion. In the last House of Commons vote on abortion in 1998 just four Labor members of Parliament voted for a tightening of the abortion rules in Scotland.

Cardinal Murphy-O’Connor also emphasized issues of “justice” such as global poverty and fair treatment of asylum seekers, The Times said.

His intervention received a warm welcome from the Conservative Party, which congratulated the bishops for their strong support for marriage and the family, the newspaper said. David Lidington, the Tories’ home affairs spokesman, said: “We strongly welcome publication of the document issued by the Catholic bishops. Moral questions can never be divorced from politics, and the bishops are to be congratulated for their strong support for marriage and the traditional family.”

Women’s sexual health groups such as the Brook Clinic attacked the cardinal for advising people to vote for candidates who support a tightening of the abortion laws. A spokesman said: “We would consider that to be a very backward step.»

In their document, Vote for the Common Good, the bishops say that there could be an attempt to legalize euthanasia in the next Parliament. “To do so would be both wrong and dangerous,» the document said. «Whatever the motive, euthanasia amounts to murder. It is wholly against the common good.”

In the document, the bishops effectively urge their members not to vote for the Liberal Democrats, who have pledged to set up a Royal Commission on the subject.

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