Card. O’Brien writes hard letter to PM Gordon Brown!

My friend Fr. Blake of St. Mary Magdalen in Brighton has posted a letter of His Eminence Keith Patrick Card. O’Brien, Archbishop of St Andrews and Edinburgh, to Prime Minister Gordon Brown.


28 October 2008

Dear Gordon

I write this open letter to you on a matter of immediate urgency, namely tomorrow’s debate in the Lords on the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill. Although I was relieved that last week’s debate in the Commons on the Bill did not address the issue of abortion, I remain convinced that the Bill is misguided and certain sections are potentially most harmful.

Among these is Schedule 3 which has never been properly discussed in Parliament. It provides for taking tissue from incapacitated adults and children without their consent for the express purpose of creating embryos for research. [hideous] It will be debated in the House of Lords tomorrow (Wednesday 29 October) with Government support.

The Bill could allow for the derivation and use of human eggs from the ovarian tissue of aborted baby girls, a proposal which was first aired by the HFEA in 1994. The HFEA public consultation at that time showed that 83.2% of the 9,000 respondents opposed the practice, and even the few in favour underlined the necessity of consent.

Should this Bill become law, removing tissue from incapacitated adults or children, without their specific consent in order to create animal-human hybrid or other embryos would be permissible, as would creating artificial sperm or artificial eggs from bone marrow or even cord blood.

The grotesque implications of these procedures are utterly horrifying. [You can say that again.] The proposals in this Bill represent a breach of 50 years of ethical medical research. They by-pass the Declaration of Helsinki, the Human Tissue Act, the Mental Capacity Act and the Human Rights Act. Removing parts of people’s bodies without their consent, utterly flies in the face of all BMA and GMC guidance on consent to research.

Such behaviour was last seen under the Nazis. Following the liberation of the concentration camps in 1945, the full horrors of the Nazi’s atrocities were revealed to a shocked world. The hideous savagery of their experiments convinced the civilized world that such practices must be outlawed forever. I am appalled that you are promoting a Bill which seeks, by stealth, to create a regime where extracting tissue and cells from human beings no longer requires their consent or involvement.

I am staggered that you would endorse legislation, which describes the creation of embryos from a person without their consent as ‘non-invasive’ and which enshrines the concept of ‘presumed consent’ in UK law. This legislation would set a nightmarish precedent, by allowing scientists to experiment on those lacking capacity – in the absence of explicit consent – largely as they see fit. [And as they interpret "capacity".]

I urge you to amend Schedule 3 of the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill as a matter of great urgency and human decency.

Yours sincerely in Christ

+ Keith Patrick Cardinal O’Brien
Archbishop of St Andrews and Edinburgh

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  1. Kradcliffe says:

    I am ashamed to say that I didn’t know those details of the debate. I knew there were arguments over experimenting on embryos and discussion of human-animal hybrids, but the use of human ova and tissue without any sort of consent is entirely news to me. CRAZY!

  2. TJM says:

    Whatever the details, that is ONE, STRONG letter! Congratulations Your Eminence! Tom

  3. John Polhamus says:

    I hate to say it, and don’t want to sound unduly pessimistic, but where have the bishops been on these issues for the past forty years? Largey silent. I applaud Card. O’Brien’s emphatic language, but fear that they are a day late and a dollar short. A friend of mine said last night “We are entering a period of ‘Velvet Barbarism’.” From my pew in the US electorate, I hate to admit he may be right.

    In the last couple of days I began reading “The Gulag Archepelego” just to remind myself where the current socialist political trends lead when you follow them to their base. I was chilled to the bone when I read the passage about the assault on the Orthodox church, and the “Living Church” with a program of “Renewal” which subverted it from within AND from without. The terminology rang all too clearly.

    As Christians and particularly as Catholics, we are in a fight for our lives. Our best defense is in public prayer, and street processions. We must henceforth be more visible as a church, for the protection not only of the rights of the church not to have its beliefs re-termed “Hate Speech”, but also for our own American constitutional right to free speech. I would urge Catholics to resist in the face the muzzle that the left is trying to force over the mouth of the church, and to take to the streets to preserve both our faith and our rights.

    “Objectivism” might often best be described as “an inconvenient truth,” and an “objectivist” as “an inconvenient person.” Be an objectivist, that your own suppression (should the left attempt it) will be as inconvenient for them as possible, both for your own sake, and for those around you.

    Ad Majorem Dei Gloriam

  4. Erik Huntzicker, PhD says:

    It is important to keep in mind that the HFE bill seeks merely to regulate atrocities that are already taking place, even in the US. For instance,the derivation of eggs from the ovaries of aborted human girls (the ovaries are grown to maturity in mice) has already taken place at Stanford University in California. Much of this research is funded by the state’s Institute of Regenerative Medicine, by which I was funded for work on adult stem cells. The cavalier attitude of many of my colleagues toward unborn human life can only be described as bone-chilling (and frankly demonic).

    Currently there is a gaping vacuum in legislation regarding these matters. The HFE bill is the UK’s misguided attempt to address this. Unfortunately it enshrines into law experimentation that, as the good bishop points out, does great violence to the dignity of its subjects. If the bill is not passed into law, the experiments will still occur, they will simply not be regulated. Therefore eliminating this kind of research will require not only NOT passing a bill like HFE but in ALSO passing laws that categorically and positively forbid these atrocities committed in the name of science.

    Please pray for the conversion of scientists involved in human embryonic stem cell work, that they may focus their God-given gifts on the development of therapies that will benefit humans while respecting their dignity.

  5. Crusader Airman says:

    I have to say…silence of the lambs for a generation notwithstanding…I am grateful for our shepherds speaking up. Would that every Christian would speak out so bravely. God bless ’em, e’ry one!

  6. Pearl says:

    It’s great that at least one Cardinal in the UK has his eye on the ball. Westminster is a very tired See.

  7. supertradmom says:

    Thank God for a brave bishop. It is unimaginable that such a law, written supposedly to help an out-of-control atmosphere of illegality, would be passed.

    Pray for all involved. Also, pray for our youth, who do not seem to understand, nor have a moral framework, from which to judge such issues.

  8. Dan says:

    This is very encouraging to see. I’m an American student at the University of St Andrews here in Scotland right now, and from what I’ve observed and experienced over here in the UK, the situation for both church and state is a lot worse than what it is in the US (which is by no means great…) As one priest here told me, at least abortion and traditional marriage are still being debated in the US, whereas over here the debate is over. I’ve been very encouraged by the reports on this site and elsewhere about the US bishops acting with one voice to teach true and authentic church dogma during this election year, and seeing Cardinal O’Brien’s statement leads me to believe that that energy and grace has made its way to at least one Cardinal in the UK!

  9. Monica says:

    Happy Birthday Fr Z!

    If our election goes badly, I wonder how long it will be before our bishops will be writing such a letter.

    I had no idea the Regenerative Institute was doing that kind of work — esp when they have such mind-blowing success with adult/autologous cells.

    Scary world.

  10. Nickkname says:

    Prayer and penance, prayer and penance, prayer and penance.

  11. Joe says:

    I fear the debate will soon be over in the USA over abortion and same sex marriage. Obama has promised to sign the Freedom of Choice Act. The big bucks are being spent to make sure that same sex marriage remains lawful in California and after that, more states with a similiar ideological bent will follow.

    Look at what has happened in Canada. Each province has a Human Rights Commission that operates outside of the law and seeks to punish anyone accused by certain groups (those groups usually being homosexuals and other fringe groups).

    I fear God’s wrath on the Western World. We have brought it upon ourselves and we can’t say we haven’t been warned.

  12. G says:

    Soylent green.

    (Save the Liturgy, Save the World)

  13. The last trad standing says:

    This is the “Culture of Death” that Popoe john Paul II warned the world about.
    We are entering dark days for the unborn.
    Our Lady of Fatima’s message of the Rosary and penance is more pressing than ever.
    Tonight we all need to be on our knees implring the Lord Our God to save all the tiny babies that will be ground up and fed to the demon of abortion.
    Mother of Sorrows, pray for the unborn!

  14. Howard says:

    “The big bucks are being spent” in the Devil’s cause? Unprecedented!

    Politics seems set to turn power over to an evil man? Surely the Church has never before overcome such an obastacle!

    Alas, what hope do we have in the unforseen circumstance when the rich and powerful are on the side of wrong?

    At least our ancestors never had to deal with such a situation….

    ANS: See Nickname’s post.

  15. Andrew says:

    It was a pleasure for me to meet Cardinal O’Brien during World Youth Day in Sydney.

    I thanked him for his courageous stance in upholding the rights of the unborn, and drawing attention to the evil of abortion, a legacy of the United Kingdom since it passed the Abortion Act in 1967, the first country in Europe to do so.

    Now his intervention here with the Human Fertilization and Embryology Bill, is equally as forthright.

    Along with what we are seeing in the United States too, let us pray that this heightened attention from our shepherds will bring many fruits, and the end of this merciless killing of the unborn.

  16. Maureen says:

    Lamh laidir! With the feast of his martyred kinsman and fellow bishop coming up (the Blessed Terence Albert O’Brien, Oct. 30), I am glad to see this strong statement coming out from the good Archbishop.

    The bill makes me think of what Justin Martyr said in the First Apologia, with a little bit of paraphrasing to alter the emphasis:

    “And as the ancients are said to have reared herds of oxen, or goats, or sheep, or grazing horses, so now we see you rear children only for this shameful use…. And you receive the hire of these; and duty and taxes from them whom you ought to exterminate from your realm. And any one who uses such persons, besides the godless and infamous [act], may possibly be [doing it to] his own child, or relative, or brother….”

  17. In partibus infidelium says:

    Could the Prime Minister not be reminded of the morality of his father who, as an orthodox Calvinist, would share the outlook which used to be common between Catholics and Churches of the Reformation?

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