or Bishops Gone Wild III (the first two parts being the statement that gays cause floods and Rowan Williams’s unexpected advocacy of the ideas of Heinlein).

According to the Torygraph, Patrick O’Donoghue, the Catholic Bishop of Lancaster, has said that educated Catholics have let the side down. It seems influential graduate Catholics in politics and the media have been tainted by the dark side of university education, which he helpfully lists as “radical scepticism, positivism, utilitarianism and relativism” (dialectical materialism’s good enough for meeeee).

The Bishop has produced a report aiming to make Catholics “better-equipped to challenge the erroneous thinking of their contemporaries”. I’d suggest a series of informational films, starting with Catholics, Know Your Limits, which would be a bit like this classic, but adapted for the problem at hand, so:

VOICEOVER: Look at this wretched unfortunate. He went to university. Hard to believe he’s under 25. Yes, over-education leads to ugliness, radical scepticism, positivism, utilitarianism, relativism and people mistakenly thinking they can live happy and productive lives without God.

UNFORTUNATE: Feck! Girls! Drink! etc.

The views of the Roman Catholic Church on contraception are well known, although perhaps fewer people appreciate that they form part of a pro-life viewpoint (including opposition to capital punishment, for example) derived from the RCC’s understanding of natural law. The current dire warnings on the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill are, to the bishops sending the warnings, an obvious extension of these ideas. It’s a bit less obvious to the rest of us, though.

Cardinal O’Brien’s sermon betrays some misunderstandings about what the Bill allows. According to various source (including this one, from a real biologist on LJ), the “hybrid” embryos it allows are not going to be viable and would never be allowed to be implanted anywhere, so conjuring visions of ghastly chimeras is just plain scaremongering. Indeed, our LJ biologist objects to these things being characterised as embryos at all. What they seem to be (and I’d welcome comments from any other biologists out there) is factories for making cells of interest to researchers.

Like Yellow, I’m not sure how anyone knows what “natural” means in a technologically advanced world. Aquinas’s natural law isn’t merely the claim that anything which doesn’t occur in nature is bad, but rather seems to be an attempt to start from things which are basic in nature and argue to an ethical stance on a particular issue. Starting off with “respecting human life is a good thing” and ending up with “this Bill is bad” is requires an excursion into RCC precedents for what “respecting human life” means, which come to some surprising conclusions that you’d struggle to get from the Bible, even (no little rubber devices on your John Thomas, no abortion despite the soul entering the body at birth, and so on). They’re certainly not the sort of arguments you’d expect a secular legislature to take notice of, so I’m disturbed to see how much influence the bishops have over the British government. What was the Glorious Revolution for, you might wonder? (The commenter on the BBC’s Have Your Say site who called for “disestablishment now!” seems to be a few hundred years behind the times).

A free vote seems the best way forward now, as the excellent editorial in the Times argues. If the bishops and their flock in Parliament do sink this thing, I hope we’ll see a few MS sufferers picketing episcopal residences, as well as a few MPs who are unpleasantly surprised to learn that they made a courageous decision come the next election.