Former British Prime Minister Criticized on Catholic Conversion and Abortion

International   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Dec 24, 2007   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

Former British Prime Minister Criticized on Catholic Conversion and Abortion Email this article
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by Steven Ertelt Editor
December 24
, 2007

London, England ( — Former British political leader Tony Blair converted to Catholicism on Friday as Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor, Archbishop of Westminster, received him in a ceremony at his residence chapel.

However Blair is coming under fire for refusing to oppose legalized abortions — an important policy position for the Catholic Church.

Blair’s conversion came under criticism from former Tory MP Ann Widdecombe, who converted to Catholicism in 1993, and she said his public positions had often "gone against church teaching.”

In an interview with the BBC, Widdencombe said Blair’s move is ironic given the differences.

"If you look at Tony Blair’s voting record in the House of Commons, he’s gone against Church teaching on more than one occasion. On things, for example, like abortion," she said. "My question would be, ‘has he changed his mind on that?’"

Meanwhile, John Smeaton, director of the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children, a leading British pro-life group, said in an interview earlier this month in The Spectator that Blair needed to repudiate his pro-abortion views to be fully accepted by pro-life Catholics.

“We need to hear a full repudiation from him,” Smeaton said. “Without one, having Blair as a Catholic is like having a vegetarian in a meat-eating club. It simply does not make sense.”

Father Tim Russ, the pastor of the Catholic parish Blair attended when he was prime minister, previously told The Guardian newspaper that it appeared Blair may be beginning to move towards the pro-life direction. Russ said Blair confided to him that he had doubts about the moral status of embryonic stem cell research that destroys human life.

Blair told Fr. Russ, "We are acting beyond our competence,” the priest told the newspaper and he said he concluded that Blair thought “matters of life were not within men’s competence to decide.”

But Widdencombe brought the debate home, saying, “The crucial thing to remember is at the point you are received [into the Catholic church] you have to say individually and out loud: ‘I believe everything the church teaches to be revealed truth.’”

“That means if you previously had any problems with church teaching – as Tony Blair obviously did over abortion – you would have to say you changed your mind,” she told Sky News.