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Last Updated: Sunday, 27 March, 2005, 09:55 GMT 10:55 UK
Cardinal's 'life issues' message
Cardinal Keith O'Brien
The cardinal called for "defence of life" issues to be debated
Scotland's most senior Roman Catholic has said that society has "lost sight of the sacred nature of human life".

In his Easter Sunday Homily, given at St Mary's Cathedral in Edinburgh, Cardinal Keith O'Brien called for the promotion of "pro-life issues".

He described this week's parliamentary report on embryo research as a "development which would lead to even more destruction of human life".

And he called for "defence of life" to be at the top of the political agenda.

Human life

A controversial report by MPs on the Commons science and technology committee said there was no "compelling evidence" to prohibit couples undergoing IVF from being able to choose to have a girl or boy if that was what they felt was necessary to "balance out" their family.

Cardinal O'Brien said: "MPs said that gender selection and embryo experiments should be permitted - developments which would lead to even more destruction of human life."

All candidates at the forthcoming election should be quizzed on life issues, he said.

The cardinal also referred to the recent return of abortion to the political debate.

He said: "It is apparent that the moral values of our entire society are called into question by the practice of abortion because it is permitted, our laws and medical practice conspire to debase the value of human life and contrary to all logic to allow life at its most defenceless to be attacked and destroyed."

Life usurped

However, he said he endorsed moves to reduce the period during which an abortion can be performed from 24 weeks to 20.

He said he agreed with the Pope that it is "legitimate to make an imperfect choice where the object of that choice is the preservation of the lives of unborn".

The cardinal's Easter message also concentrated on the "life unfulfilled and the life usurped".

He highlighted the conditions of severe poverty in "our own country and in many other countries of the world, especially in Africa" which were preventing people living a full life.

And he also criticised the decision of an American court to allow a feeding tube to be removed from a severely brain-damaged woman.

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