LONDON (ChurchMilitant.com) - The Anglican archbishop of Canterbury has come under severe criticism for apologizing for a historical massacre in India while citing a non-existent convention to excuse his absence from a parliamentary debate on abortion.
None of the 26 bishops who serve as voting members of the House of Lords were present during the debate on July 17 for the critical vote that resulted in the imposition of abortion on Northern Ireland.
Justin Welby has now defended the bishops' absenteeism, citing convention.
"The bishops in England, specifically those who sit in the House of Lords, by convention do not comment on issues specific to Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland," a Lambeth Palace spokesperson told Church Militant, responding to a request for an explanation.
"This is part of an ongoing agreement with the Anglican Church of Ireland," Owen Jones, correspondence manager to the Anglican archbishop of Canterbury, added.
However, the Anglican Church of Ireland has denied any such existing agreement or convention.
"I can confirm that there is no such convention," a spokesperson for the Church of Ireland insisted after an exchange of emails.
Dermot O'Callaghan, member of the Church of Ireland's General Synod, also verified he had "not found anyone who knew of this protocol."
"The principle of the Church of England not rocking the Church of Ireland boat is a worthy one, but in this case the boat is being rocked by secular storms and urgently needs to be stabilized by the application of Christian principles," O'Callaghan commented.
"Northern Ireland's future will not be enhanced by permitting abortion. Replacing one way of rejecting 'Thou shalt not kill' with another is not what we need," he added, referring to Welby's apology in Amritsar, India, for a massacre that resulted in the gunning-down of 400 Indians.
On Tuesday, Welby fell prostrate on the ground at the Jallianwala Bagh memorial and apologized for the slaughter "in the name of Christ."
Dave Brennan, executive director of Brephos, a pro-life organization, told Church Militant:
Welby did not hesitate in prostrating himself in shame over the Amritsar massacre of 1919 — something done by British troops (not by the Church) in a foreign land long before he was born. He said that we must learn from history — and yet we are headed for an even bloodier massacre in Northern Ireland — something the archbishop could actually help to stop.
The bishops needed to be reminded of Jesus' words to the Pharisees — "You nullify the word of God for the sake of your tradition. You hypocrites!" — if a supposed convention was stopping them from speaking against abortion, Brennan said.
Brennan pointed out:
Many of the bishops who refused to speak on behalf of the unborn of Northern Ireland together wrote a letter against a No Deal Brexit. In it they specify that the Irish border is not a mere political totem and peace in Ireland is not a ball to be kicked by the English: respect for the concerns on both sides of the borders is essential.
The 24 bishops who signed the "open letter" are the very same members of the House of Lords who played truant during the abortion debate. Even though they had pastoral responsibilities in England, "We also recognise that our obligations go beyond England and impact on relations with the wider UK and our neighbours in the EU," the bishops emphasized.
Catholic politician Ann Widdecombe, member of the European Parliament, told Church Militant: "There is nothing in the Bible or early Fathers of the Church about Brexit but there certainly is about protecting innocent human life in the womb."
The outspoken former member of Parliament who left Anglicanism for Rome, lambasted the bishops:
It's reprehensible the Church of England bishops will shout their personal political opinions on Brexit but remain scandalously silent about the House of Lords attempt to impose abortion on the people of Northern Ireland. Protecting human life at its earliest stage is an issue which unites both Catholics and Protestants in that area.
Anglican Bp. Gavin Ashenden, former Queen's chaplain, was equally scathing, saying, "There was deep disappointment when the archbishop of Canterbury and his colleagues failed to speak out in defense of the pre-born and instead chose to make political statements against Brexit."
"If the reasons Welby gave for doing so were, as it appears, spurious, it will suggest that either his judgment is seriously flawed or he has taken refuge in untruth. It is hard to know which of those two scenarios is more dangerous both for church and country," Dr. Ashenden remarked.
Welby has also faced criticism for remaining silent on the persecution of Christians in India while declaring a "climate emergency" during his 10-day trip to that country. On the very first day of his visit, the Indian state of Himachal Pradesh imposed a draconian anti-conversion bill primarily targeting Christians and threatening priests with a jail term of seven years if they indulged in missionary activities.