27 November 2019, The Tablet

Excommunication threat in SU pro-choice row

'A matter of deep regret.' Archbishop Stack on the students' union pro-choice policy.

Excommunication threat in SU pro-choice row

Archbishop George Stack, pictured here in Westminster, London.
Andrew Parsons/PA Archive/PA Images

Catholic students have been urged not to participate in official societies of Cardiff University’s Students’ Union after it voted at its AGM last week to adopt an official pro-choice stance.

The Catholic chaplain, Fr Sebastian Jones, said that no Catholic could remain a member of an organisation that upholds “the promotion of, and material support for, the procurement of abortions”. He warned that participation, “would risk [students] incurring excommunication”.

Archbishop George Stack of Cardiff told The Tablet this week: "It is a matter of deep regret that the Student's Union of Cardiff University has adopted this policy”.

"It stifles the right of free speech on this important issue and such freedom of speech, thought, and ideas, should surely lie at the heart of a university education,” he said.

However, the Students’ Union has noted that “if students vote in favour of a position, it does not mean that students who have opposing views are censored or their views are not welcome”.

Two days before the annual meeting on 21 November, Fr Jones wrote an open letter to the Catholic Society saying the motion offends the University’s Catholic community. “It introduces new divisions and will fuel new prejudices among student societies,” he wrote. He said the motion “would violate Cardiff University’s principle of inclusivity and diversity which to date has extended to all people of faith”. He particularly feared discrimination against the Students for Life Society. When the Students’ Union adopted the pro-choice motion, the Catholic Society immediately left the guild of societies.

Fr Sebastian expressed "great personal sadness" that other Christian groups supported or did not speak against the motion. The Cardiff Anglican and Methodist Society, which supported the motion, suggested that the motion itself was, “in reaction to the formation of the Students For Life Society, whose very existence is misogynistic and divisive – it is a society created to target people who choose to have abortions”. It added: “A ‘pro-choice’ position acknowledges different situations students may find themselves in and having the Union’s official position be ‘pro-choice’ is clearly the best option that ensures a safe space for all.”


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