The Archbishop of Westminster, Vincent Nichols, who is the second most senior Catholic in Britain, has given words of support for the defeated abortion amendment in interview with the Independent.
"In the eyes of the Catholic Church abortion is a tragedy," he says in a voice that still bears a hint of his Liverpool upbringing. "Our principle objective must be to try and win greater sympathy for that perspective and for the value of human life from its beginnings.
"In that sense independent counselling would appear to be reasonable. But our main principle would be the nature of abortion itself and that it is an act that destroys human life and is difficult to bear, not only for the person who has the abortion."
Not great words of support mind, you wouldn’t describe them as gushing. However, it’s the first time any prominent Catholic in England has put his head above the parapet on this issue.
This is surprising as Catholics in Liverpool, Glasgow and other major cities are crying out for church leadership to be bolder and braver. Churches and priests used to be described as the ‘pillars’ of communities in an acknowledgment that communities require support, to be propped up.
One could argue that the retreat of the church into its white carpeted offices could be one reason why we live in the midst of a broken society and disintegrated communities.
I am grateful to the Archbishop of Westminster, with just those few cautious words he has done far more than Rowan Williams or any other church leader. The Archbishop of Westminster is from Liverpool. Liverpool Labour MPs voted against the reduction of the upper limit from 24 weeks to 20.
If MPs are answerable to their electors then it’s about time the church got stuck in and reflected on the reason why it exists in the first place and what exactly it is supposed to be doing.