Scottish Catholic midwives win appeal over conscientious right not to participate in abortions


Mary Doogan  and Concepta Wood, Scottish Catholic midwives, with the support of the Society for the Protection of the Unborn Child [SPUC], have won their appeal against a ruling by Judge Lady Smith that would have forced them to act against their consciences by making them supervise and support staff and patients involved in abortions. Lady Dorrian, sitting with Lord Mackay of Drumadoon and Lord McEwan, over turned Lady Smith’s judgement,  ruling that:

“In our view the right of conscientious objection extends not only to the actual medical or surgical termination but to the whole process of treatment given for that purpose. ”

This overturns Lady Smith’s ruling that stated:

‘”Nothing they have to do as part of their duties terminates a woman’s pregnancy. They are sufficiently removed from direct involvement as, it seems to me, to afford appropriate respect for and accommodation of their beliefs.”

At the time Archbishop Conti expressed his concern at Lady Smith’s judgement:

‘“I view this judgement with deep concern. I wish to put on record my admiration for the courage of the midwives who have, at very great cost to themselves, fought to uphold the right to follow one’s conscience.  It is fundamental to the functioning of society that all citizens act in accordance with an informed conscience.

“Any law or judgement which fails to recognise this contradicts that most basic freedom and duty which we all have as human beings, namely to follow our conscience and act accordingly.”

He added that any ‘assault on this principle undermines the very basis of the law itself and society’s moral cohesion, which the law should seek to guarantee.’

At the original case before Judge Lady Smith Mary Doogan and Concepta Wood made the following submission through their lawyers:

‘”They hold a religious belief that all human life is sacred from the moment of conception and that termination of pregnancy is a grave offence against human life. They maintain that they hold the belief that that their involvement in the process of termination is wrongful and an offence against God and the teachings of their church.’

Mary Doogan and Concepta Wood claimed that the NHS’refusal to recognise their entitlement to conscientious objection was unreasonable and violated their rights under Article 9 of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) guaranteeing the right to freedom of thought,conscience and religion.  They  sought a legal judgment that their entitlement to conscientious objection to taking part in abortions in terms of the 1967 Abortion Act includes the right to refuse to delegate,supervise and support staff involved in such work.

According to the BBC during their appeal against Lady Smith ruling their counsel Gerry Moynihan QC told the appeal court ‘that in so far as the women were part of a team, their right to conscientious objection extended to the whole of their duties, save for the provision that there was an obligation to participate in life-saving measures.

He said there was clear legal authority that the right to conscientious objection was intended to apply to the whole team whose involvement was necessary to achieve the procedure.

Mr Moynihan said that because the midwives let the administration know of their objection in advance, the health board could manage its staff as a whole to respect their right to conscientious objection.

“The administrative convenience of the health board is irrelevant because the right is a balance between facilitating abortion while respecting the genuine conscientious objection of medical, nursing and ancillary staff,” he said.

Mr Moynihan told the court that the woman said there were “work-around arrangements” to cover their objections prior to 2007.

He argued that “the dividing line” over what was exempt ought to be an individual’s conscience and not a bureaucrat saying that was not in the literal meaning of participation.

Protect the Pope comment: Mary Doogan  and Concepta Wood have paid a high price in being forced by the NHS to legally defend their conscientious right not to participate in the killing of unborn children through abortion. For five years they and their families have had to bear the stress, disappointment, and anxiety of going through the legal system.

Protect the Pope wrote the following at the time of Lady Smith’s harsh judgement, ‘Catholics Mary Doogan and Concepta Wood trained to be midwives to use their medical skills to bring healthy babies into the world and care for mothers, not to cooperate in the killing of babies.  Lady Smith is committing a grave injustice by forcing Catholic midwives to manage staff killing babies and care for women who have decided to kill their children. To do such management and such caring is to cooperate in intrinsic evil, and is a mortal sin. Catholics Mary Doogan and Concepta Wood trained to be midwives to use their medical skills to bring healthy babies into the world and care for mothers, not to cooperate in the killing of babies.  Lady Smith is committing a grave injustice by forcing Catholic midwives to manage staff killing babies and care for women who have decided to kill their children. To do such management and such caring is to cooperate in intrinsic evil, and is a mortal sin.’

The Catholic community of the United Kingdom owe Mary and Concepta, and SPUC who backed their legal cases, our gratitude, and continued support, for defending all our human rights to live and work according to our consciences, informed by the teachings of our Catholic Faith. You are both an example of the courage and  commitment needed to stand up for the Faith during this time of increasing intolerance towards Roman Catholics. God bless you and your families.

Statement by Connie Wood and Mary Doogan:

“Connie and I are absolutely delighted with todays judgement from the Court of Session, which recognises and upholds our rights as labour ward midwifery sisters to withdraw from participating in any treatment that would result in medical termination of pregnancy.

In holding all life to be sacred from conception to natural death, as midwives we have always worked in the knowledge we have two lives to care for throughout labour; a mother and that of her unborn child.

Today’s judgement is a welcome affirmation of the rights of all midwives to withdraw from a practice that would violate their conscience and which over time, would indeed debar many from entering what has always been a very rewarding and noble profession. It is with great relief we can now return to considerations that are all to do with child birth and midwifery practice and less to do with legal matters.

Lastly, we wish to thank the many individuals the length and breadth of Britain and, indeed, further afield, who have given us great help and support throughout the duration of our dispute with GG&CHB. Though too numerous to individually highlight, special mention has to be given to both sets of family,  without whose support we could not have taken on this case, to SPUC and to  our very talented legal team whose expertise and support we could not have done without. Thank you to each and everyone.”

Statement from Paul Tully, SPUC’s general secretary:

 “Today’s verdict is very welcome and we congratulate Connie and Mary on their tenacity and deep sense of professionalism. We hope that the Health Board will abide by this verdict and enable life to return to normal for Connie and Mary. The result is a tremendous victory for these devoted and caring professional women. This outcome will be a great relief to all midwives, nurses and doctors who may be under pressure to supervise abortion procedures and who are wondering whether the law protects their right to opt out.

The difference this judgment makes is that hospital managers must recognise that the legal right to opt out of abortion goes beyond those who directly undertake abortions. For the sake of good morale and good relations with all members of staff, it is important that the Board move to re-establish normal working relations straight away. The mothers and babies depending on the Southern General Hospital deserve no less.

“Mary Doogan and Connie Wood deserve the fullest support and gratitude of their medical colleagues for resisting the pressure to give up their legal protections. It is important to recognise that their stand applies to people of all faiths and none: the right to refuse to participate in abortion is based on conscientious objection, whether religious or purely moral, so it applies to everyone”.

“They are anxious to get back to normal after the protracted internal grievance procedure and legal action. This dispute has seriously disrupted their professional lives over the past 4 years and more”, concluded Mr Tully.

Statement from Archbishop Philip Tartaglia,

The most senior Catholic in Glasgow,  who is also president of the Bishops’ Conference of Scotland, said the appeal ruling was “a victory for freedom of conscience and for common sense”.

Commending the women on their courage, Tartaglia said he hoped other anti-abortion health workers would take their lead.

“As the judges state, the right of conscientious objection extends not only to the actual medical or surgical termination but to the whole abortion process,” the archbishop said.

“I hope that many pro-life health professionals will take heart from this judgment and have the courage to express their own objections if and when they are asked to carry out tasks which are morally wrong and violate their conscience.

“Respect for workers’ freedom of conscience is a hallmark of a civilised society.”

About Gertrude

Sáncte Míchael Archángele, defénde nos in proélio, cóntra nequítiam et insídias diáboli ésto præsídium.
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16 Responses to Scottish Catholic midwives win appeal over conscientious right not to participate in abortions

  1. Mimi says:

    Excellent! It’s so nice to read some good news.


  2. shieldsheafson says:

    In today’s increasingly secular society, the threat to religious freedom comes not at the point of a sword, but from imposed values at odds with the truth that there is a Creator who has given us certain inalienable rights that government is supposed to secure, not supplant.

    Religious believers are being confronted by lawmakers, bureaucrats, regulators, human rights commissions, and others demanding that they submit to so-called neutral laws of general applicability that venerate such concepts as toleration, non-discrimination, and choice.

    These modern arbiters of twenty-first century enlightenment don’t mind if you don’t want to comply. But there’s a catch: You won’t be able to earn a living in your chosen profession. Today’s barbarians seek not to end the free exercise of religion with a single knock-out blow, but rather to strangle it, gradually.

    We are all at risk in a world where the government believes that outside the four walls of a church building – religious freedoms don’t apply; churches, religious organizations, non-profit and for-profit businesses, health-care providers, and anyone. In a world where such people and organizations are relegated to second-class status, or told to find a different line of work, or find signs on public facilities that says religion not welcome here, we have entered an era not of tolerance, but intolerance.


  3. Zellie M. Quinn says:

    Reblogged this on Zellie M. Quinn and commented:


  4. johnhenrycn says:

    Very, very pretty avatar, Zellie. You’re gorgeous. Which is why I never use one. An avatar, I mean. If I did, if I had one, people here would be blown away at how incredibly handsome I am.
    Where was I?


  5. Roger says:

    A virigin shall concieve. Isaac, Son of David. The Visitation. For knowledge of babies and parentage is explicit in Christianity. Did Isaac or John The Baptist Evolve? They were created in the image of God. Who created what? Well St Paul man is soul, spirit and body. The Soul is created by God which is why we pray the Our Father! The body is the shell or framework that is inhabited by the soul and the spirit.
    It is true about denying education or getting on in the world for Christians! But where is the spirit of the Early Christians. To enter or argue over when a foetus becomes human is to deny the Creation of the unique human that God has sent into this world. We are seeing the murder of entire generations millions and millions every year.
    It isn’t necessary to apologise for the Truth! Governments that murder are tyrants! These Laws are the siblings of Hitler and Stalin and those that obediently carry out these Acts are as culpable as those tried for war crimes.
    The question facing Christianity in the 20th century was placing God and His rights before those of tyrants. Fatima placed the clear Evils of that atheist Revolution in Russia before the eyes of Christians and said Consecrate Russia to the Immaculate Heart of Mary else these Evils will spread! Well as is clearly seen a secular anti christian world is the consequence of the failure of a hierachy to Obey God before man!
    I unhesitatingly say that the destruction of millions and millions of babies is the fault of a hierachy from 1960’s todate. They do not place God’s interests before Man’s. Even in the field of religions they do not put Christ First!


  6. Toad says:

    “I unhesitatingly say that the destruction of millions and millions of babies is the fault of a hierachy from 1960′s to date. “
    Is Roger right? What about the countless abortions before Vat Two, which, I suppose, is what he’s referring to?

    And, in the wake of yet another fatal earthquake – in China ths time, 150 or so dead, – is it all right for God to kill numerous babies in this manner, (all right- not stop numerous babies being killed) but not all right for us to abort them?
    Obviously not. But where does the guilt end? Or begin, come to that? Silly questions. No doubt.


  7. Roger says:

    Toad thank you for your response. Luke 13 deals with a number of like issues! We have of course the Holy Innocents and Genesis coupled with the ten commandments. Genesis 3 verse 17 because diligence clearly is an issue. What happens if Adam doesn’t work and toil? What happens? What happens when Men are negligent? We have Free Will and there are consequences and requirements placed on Man and Men in their Fallen State! Why blame God for Mans failures? We know Thou shalt NOT Kill! Abortion is the intended taking of Life by Man , there is no accidential element it is clear intent!
    So your silly questions raise an appreciation of the consequences of the Fall and the Death of Innocent Victim to repair that Fall. Consequences of malice and negligence (mans Free Will) and the very Laws placed as a Justice by God on the Fallen sons of Adam. Abortion is the intent to Kill


  8. kathleen says:

    I unhesitatingly say that the destruction of millions and millions of babies is the fault of a hierachy from 1960′s todate. They do not place God’s interests before Man’s.”

    That’s a pretty serious accusation Roger! I see it as unfair to the many orthodox, traditional bishops and priests who do insistently and frequently talk about the evil of abortion, and every other sin in the prevalent ‘culture of death’ of our times.

    When a terrible sin like this is committed – here we are talking about abortion – the first of those who should be considered at “fault” are the perpetrators themselves, i.e., the woman who decides to kill her child, those encouraging her to do so, the abortionist and his collaborators, etc.
    If one wants to look further into who should be accused as ‘partners in crime’, the acceptance and toleration of abortion in our modern western society today, is certainly partially to blame.

    The Catholic Church herself (unlike other churches) cannot be accused in any way of teaching anything other than the Truth: that abortion is a mortal sin, and the killing of an innocent, defenseless human being. This has always been the Church’s teaching, prior to, and post VII, and will never change.

    However, (and here is where I do agree with you), why don’t we hear sermons on this more often? Members of the clergy, Catholic teachers, parents…. in fact all those who in any way should and don’t teach this to those to whom they have in their charge, can then also be accused of failing in their duty.
    It is true that it is not a teaching we hear enough of from the pulpit….. and in many liberal parishes it’s become unpopular to harp on about sin and all those nasty negative things!!! I also think that there are too many priests, fond of preaching fuzzy ‘feel good’ sermons, rather than talking about the evil of abortion, the terrible consequences of all mortal sin, thus the need to go to the sacrament of confession… and the four last things.
    As you say, they have become too attached with the things of the world, instead of saving souls. They are not (as you say) to blame for the sin of abortion itself…. but perhaps of the sin of omission, for not warning their flocks of the true evil of abortion.

    This is where the laity should protest to their bishops if their pastor fails to listen to their pleadings for true Catholic doctrine and teaching. And pray, pray hard, for vocations to the priesthood for traditional, faithful, and holy priests.


  9. Roger says:

    Thank you Kathleen.
    The only weapons that Our Lord left to his Church are Spiritual. Spain suffered 500 years from Islam in its south because of one Bishop! England has suffered from 1534 todate because the King, the Bishops and the Lords followed the Concupscience of Henry VIII. St Athenaeus when the majority of the hierachy became arian!
    Now why do I say 1960’s because of the disobedience of Rome to Our Lady. Followed by the revelation of Eccelesiastical Masonry (never denied) in the Curia. Fatima wasn’t Private revelation it was a publically announced Miracle seen for a radius of 20 miles. Followed by the Prophesy of the second world war. This was 53 years ago now and what are we seeing?
    Abortion? Decline in Vocations? Heaven has permitted the revelation of scandals and abuses and the secularisation of Christendom with Laws against the Divine Laws.
    So why do I blame the Shepherds? because it is their Vocation. The red is the colour of Blood for a reason! That a cardinal is prepared to give His Life for the Faith!
    Toad accuses God of Killing? Well what is the judgement? Souls condemn themselves principally by accusing God of their perception of wrong. God so loved the world that he sent His Son!
    Abortion and Social engineering this is what Socialist Russia and Socialist Germany were all about! The secular social engineering includes Divorce , Birth Control, Abortion and yes calling the Bible myths!! Why should Heaven send Vocations to a hiearchy that will not put Our Lord first (the first commandment). That will not put Faith before Reason?
    Why do I say this? Because service is paid to the Truth. Ask for a specific and Public yearly Mass to Our Lady of the Aborted! Have this publically celebrated in the Vatican and for the destruction of the sacrament of Marriage! Fight with the spiritual weapons provided by Our Lord.
    If St Peter and St Paul had been yes men there would have been NO Church!
    So right Now lets call down Gods Curse on Ecclesiatics who will not fight for the Faith even to the point of martydom!


  10. johnhenrycn says:

    Kathleen’s last comment, especially starting at: “However, (and here is where I do agree with you)…”, speaks the truth. My 77 year old parish priest, a conscientious, hard working, witty, avuncular and thoughtful man, has never, while I’ve been there, ever talked about sin. Any sin. Except in the most ambiguous and anodyne way. Much as I love him – and we lunch together now and then – Catholics need a bit more of the 18th Century Protestant Jonathan Edwards’ Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God to put fear in their guts.


  11. johnhenrycn says:

    …but I submit, the good Rev. Edwards was a product of his age and less developed understanding. There has been some progress in the past 250+ years since he died. Does anyone disagree? Does any Christian seriously believe anymore that our God could ever be “angry” at us? That is so laughable. I was very, very angry at my children, sometimes, but I am not God. The passages in the Holy Bible about His anger are mythic truth and parabolic truth, and they are not directed at us, but at the situations we fall into. God has no emotions (Love is not an emotion). Which is not to say that preaching about the grave consequences of sin is laughable. It most definitely is not, because we can be separated from God. Our doing, not His. An unending separation? I know not. I hope not.


  12. Toad says:

    Toad would also suggest re-reading ‘Portrait Of The Artist As A Young Man.’ If you haven’t got time to read it all, (which would be a shame) then just ChapterThree, where Stephen is told about Hell during an Irish Catholic retreat.


  13. Toad says:

    ” Spain suffered 500 years from Islam in its south because of one Bishop!”
    That is not the case, Roger. Spain ‘suffered’ the Musims because they were more united, better organised and militarily superior to the disorganised and warring natives.
    When Catholic Spain finally became united, it won back the country.
    (And the Muslim rule reached very far North, including Compostela, practically everywhere except Asturias and the basque Country..)
    That’s enough boring history.


  14. Roger says:

    Salvific History is replete with examples of what happens when the Faith is lost or polluted. At certain times Heaven sends its Angels to restore and rebuild. Moses, Elias, David etc.. Solomon and His idolatry. The consequences and rational for centuries of suffering are part of the fabric of Salvific History. Our Lord’s Life Passion and Resurrection are because of the original Sin of Adam and Eve not only that but Our Lord was taken from a Garden and died the Death! Our Lady at the foot of the Cross gives us the perfect picture of reparation from the Sin of Adam and Eve.
    In 1858/9 with Lourdes Heaven again brought this Truth to the modern world. I am the Immaculate Conception! (Conceived without the original Sin of Adam and Eve) . In 1859 Darwins Origin of the Species was published. Darwinian materialism leads to disunity , eletisim and abortion. Hitlers master race is a logical consequence of darwinism.
    Fatima in 1917, Look at Christendom how masonry and masonic free thinking nations were embroiled in the godless wars of 20th century. Socialism and materialist social engineering without God. How this Godless society spread materialism across old Christendom. The Holy Rosary and Our Lady Help Of Christians that defeated Islam at Lepanto!
    Toad points out the fragmented, disunified Christendom that fell prey to the heresy of Islam. Why was Christendom disunified Toad!! Because of the disunity and lukewarm state of the Faith! So I go back again to repeat that a recurring theme in Salvific History has been the failings of hierachy. Heavens Natural laws (ten commandments) bind ALL men obviously if men choose to ignore these there are consequences! Consequences that lead to murder and great suffering actually hell on earth.
    As for the confusion of Love and God!! This is unbelievable. Our Lord is True God and true Man! Public Revelation is about Love, Our Lord isn’t some abstract myth! His sacred humanity and Love pours through like a living flame. He is alive!! His sacred humanity. God is Love.
    If we listen to Him we can overcome this world BUT if we do not listen to him then we are to blame for the consequences! We not him!
    The sacred Laws and Dogmas, Traditions passed to Us from the Apostles are the Royal road to Peace and Unity in the mystical Body of Christ! His Church. But when these sacred Laws and traditions are thrown aside for novalties then we are playing with Fire, disunity and Hatred.
    I repeat the disobedience of the hiearchy in 60’s is the reason for the loss of vocations and Abortions in Christendom!


  15. Toad says:

    “The Holy Rosary and Our Lady Help Of Christians that defeated Islam at Lepanto!”
    No, Roger.
    ‘Modern’ fire power, guns, heavy cannons and crossbows – defeated primitive Turkish bows and arrows.

    “Ali Pasha’s fleet approached in a giant crescent formation, and seeing the opposing fleet, he also ordered his fleet split into three divisions. Ali Pasha himself took up the middle position opposite Don John, and charged forward to engage Don John’s ships. The Venetian galleasses opened fire, and almost immediately eight Moslem ships were hit and began to sink. The Catholic galleys, their decks filled with soldiers, opened fire with arquebuses and crossbows as the Moslem ships drew alongside. Ali Pasha’s men attempted to board the Catholic ships, but the Spanish soldiers were experienced and well disciplined. Attack after attack was beaten back with deadly shots from their crossbows and arquebuses. “
    (From a blog by a historian named McMullen. Who seems to be a Catholic.)

    “At certain times Heaven sends its Angels to restore and rebuild.”
    Well, what’s the problem, then? Let’s just sit back, relax, and let the angels sort it out.
    When they’re ready..


  16. Roger says:

    I cited Moses for a good and obvious reason that should have sounded bells! Because heaven creates and sends souls (Angels since in Heaven Man is like the Angels) . The soul is created by God which is why He is Literally Our Father. The Lords Prayer is replete with depths and answers for this generation.
    Right Chesterton and the Battle of Lepanto!! Triumph of united Christendom and the Rosary. The Christian Fleet was outnumbered and the disorderly were left behind!
    In 1571 Turkish Muslims amassed a huge naval fleet of galley ships in the Bay of Lepanto off the coast of Cyprus in an attempt to control the Mediterranean Sea, destroy the Christian fleet and invade the whole of Europe. Don Juan of Austria, the exiled illegitimate son of the king of Spain found himself selected as commander-in-chief of the outnumbered Christian fleet in what history would record as the bloodiest deck-to-deck sea battle in naval history.

    Pope St. Pius V, a former Dominican monk, strove to unite the naval forces of Venice, Spain and the Holy See to meet the Muslim threat and entrusted the Christian fleet to the protection of the Blessed Virgin Mary. The pope sent his blessing to the fleet commander, Don John of Austria, recommending him to leave behind all soldiers of evil life, and promising him the victory if he did so. Realizing the importance of the impending battle, the pope ordered public prayers, and increased his own supplications to heaven and led the people of Rome in vigils and processions from dawn to dusk as they prayed the rosary to Our Lady of Victory.
    The rosary became the spiritual weapon of the Christians as thousands joined together in prayer on the day of the Battle of Lepanto, October 7, 1571. That night while meeting with the cardinals, he suddenly stopped and opened the window and looking at the sky, he cried out, “A truce to business; our great task at present is to thank God for the victory which he has just given the Christian army”. He burst into tears over the victory which dealt the Muslim power a blow from which it never fully recovered. The decisive victory in the Bay of Lepanto destroyed all but a third of the enemy fleet and drove-off those that survived the conflict.
    Pope Pius V established October 7 as a feast day of Our Lady of Victory in honor of the Blessed Virgin’s assistance in securing the victory, freeing some twelve thousand Christian galley slaves and securing the safety of Europe. In memory of this triumph he instituted the first Sunday of October the feast of the Rosary and added to the Litany of Loreto the supplication “Help of Christians”. He was hoping to put an end to the power of Islam by forming a general alliance between the Italian cities and those of Poland, France, and all of Christian Europe.
    Two years later Pope Gregory XIII changed the name of the feast day to Our Lady of the Rosary because it was through the praying of the Rosary that the battle had been won. October became the month of the Most Holy Rosary in the Church’s calendar. Pope Leo XIII added the invocation “Queen of the Most Holy Rosary, pray for us” to the Litany of Loreto. Below, from various historical sources is the account of the battle.

    Don John of Austria met his fleet off Messina and saw that he had 300 ships, great and small, under his command. The Pope himself had outfitted twelve galleys and the depth of his war chest had paid for many more. Don John’s eye must have gazed with pride on the 80 galleys and 22 other ships that had been provided by his half-brother Philip II of Spain. Each of these Spanish galleys held a hundred soldiers on top of the rowers who propelled the ship through the water and no less than 30,000 men in the service of Spain would fight at Lepanto. The next largest contingent was that of Venice. No longer the dominating power of yesteryear, the Venetians could still assemble a fleet of more than a hundred vessels beneath the winged Lion of St. Mark standard. The Venetian ships were poorly manned and the necessity of stationing Spanish soldiers on Venetian ships led to friction and in some cases blows.

    It was the Venetians, however, who provided the technological cutting edge that was to win the battle. In the Venetian fleet were six galleasses. Broader in the beam than regular galleys and with a deeper draught they were so difficult to maneuver that they had to be towed into battle by speedier vessels. Despite their lethargy of movement, they were the most powerful ships in the Mediterranean. Their broad beam and deeper draught gave them a stability as a gun platform hitherto unknown. On their prow was constructed a kind of walled platform mounted with swivel guns that presaged the armored turrets of later battleships by almost 300 years. The sides and the stern of the galleass were also heavily armed and a wooden deck protected the rowers. On its bow there was a long point that could effectively crush any smaller vessel that was unfortunate enough to be in the galleass’ way. A total of 80,000 men manned the ships of the Holy League. Of these 50,000 toiled at the oars and the remaining 30,000 were soldiers on the decks.

    On September 17th 1571, Don John moved his fleet eastwards and at Corfu they heard that the Muslims had recently landed and terrorized the Christian population. They then moved on and as they lay anchored off the coast of Cephalonia, terrible news reached them. Famagusta, the last Christian stronghold on Cyprus had fallen to the Muslim invaders. All the defenders who had survived the assault were tortured and then executed. The news enraged the men of Don John’s fleet and stiffened the resolve of the commanders to engage the Moslems as quickly as possible. There was one other piece of disturbing news: the Moslem fleet under the command of Ali Pasha had been reinforced by a Calabrian fisherman turned Moslem and corsair. His name was Uluch Ali and he was now the Bey of Algiers, that notorious nest of the Moslem corsairs feared by all Christian ships plying their trade in the Mediterranean. Don John moved his force towards the anchorage of Lepanto where he knew the Turk mercenaries would be waiting and during the night of October 6th, with a favorable wind behind him, Ali Pasha moved his fleet westward toward the mouth of the Gulf of Patras and the approaching ships of the Holy League.

    The action that was to follow was the biggest naval engagement anywhere on the globe since the Battle of Actium in 30 B.C. and the tactics had changed little since then. Both commanders hoped to rapidly come to grips with their enemy, board them and let the soldiers fight it out to the end. The only major difference was that in 1571 the ships carried guns and those on the galleasses in particular would have a crucial effect. When the Turkish fleet was sighted, Don John split his force into three sections. On the right of the Christian line he placed the Venetians under Barbarrigo, on the left Andrea Doria leading the Genoese and papal galleys. The centre he took for himself. In reserve was Santa Cruz with a force of 35 Spanish and Venetian ships. Before the action began Don John ordered his men not to fire until they were close enough to be splashed by Moslem blood. He also ordered the iron rams to be removed from his ships as he knew that gunfire and close quarter fighting would be of more use than attempts to ram. Two galleasses were towed into position in in front of each Christian division.

    The Turks, initially arrayed in a giant crescent-shaped formation, quickly separated into three sections also. The center, under Ali Pasha, pushed forward and the action opened when the cannon of Don John’s two centre galleasses began to do great execution among Ali Pasha’s advancing ships. Seven or more Turkish galleys went down almost immediately. The Turks were not lacking in courage, however, and they pressed on in the face of intense fire from the galleasses, the galleys’ guns and arquebus and crossbowmen on the Christian decks. Ali Pasha tried to come alongside the Christian ships in the hope of boarding and here the legendary steadfastness under fire of the 16th and 17th century Spanish infantryman came to the fore and attack after attack was beaten off by killing shots from their arquebuses. Then Don John gave the order to board Ali Pasha’s flagship. In a wild melee of attack, retreat and counterattack played out on decks awash with the blood of the slain, the air rent by the screams of the wounded and dying. The Spaniards forced their way onto the Turkish galley three times. Twice they were beaten back but finally they stormed the Turkish poop and a wounded Ali Pasha was beheaded on the spot. His head was spitted on a pike and held aloft for all to see and the Ottoman battle flag, never before lost in battle, was pulled down from the mainmast. The Moslem center broke and retired as best it could, their courage forgotten by the elated Spaniards.

    On the flanks things had not gone so well. Mohammed Sirocco, commanding the Turkish right, sailed in close to the rocks and shoals of the northern shore of the gulf to outflank Barbarrigo’s Venetian galleys. On the left of the Turkish line Ulach Ali did the same, swinging as close as he could to the southern shore in an attempt to surround Andrea Doria’s ships. Sirocco knew well the waters of the Gulf Of Patras and he succeeded in his maneuver. Barbarrigo was surrounded by eight enemy galleys and fell dead from a Turkish arrow. His flagship was taken and retaken twice and when aid finally came and Sirocco’s galley was sunk, the Turkish admiral was ignominiously pulled from the water and, like Ali Pasha, immediately beheaded. Mercy was a quality not much in vogue in the wars between the crescent and the cross. On the Christian right, Ulach Ali, perhaps lacking the knowledge of local waters that had given Sirocco his initial success, was unable to turn the Genoese flank. He did, however, spot a gap in the line and skillfully brought some of his galleys through and took part of Don John’s center in the rear. The Capitana flagship of the Knights of St. John, its commander skewered by five arrows, was boarded, seized and towed off as a prize of battle. In the Christian reserve, Santa Cruz saw this happening and made haste to recover the captured ship. Uluch Ali, realizing that discretion is often the better part of valor, pulled back leaving the Capitana in Christian hands. Doria’s division had been roughly handled by Uluch Ali’s remaining ships and it was only after Don John had secured the Christian center and came to Doria’s aid that the last of the Algerine ships were beaten back.

    The engagement lasted for more than four hours and when the smoke finally cleared it became apparent that this was a major victory for the Holy League and a bitter defeat for the Turks. Almost 8,000 of the men who had sailed with Don John were dead and another 16,000 wounded. On the brighter side 12,000 Christian galley slaves had been released from their servitude to the Ottomans. The Turks and Uluch Ali’s Algerines had suffered much more grievously: at least 25,000 of them had been killed.

    The day belongs to Don John, the Holy League and Christendom. When the news of the victory broke, church bells were rung all over in Europe in a spontaneous outburst of joy and thanksgiving.

    What we never do is tempt God! Sitting back and relaxing is an abomination! Where is the Faith and selfless belief. As I have pointed out whom are these Angels sent at various times? Well Elias, St Francis , St Dominic, St Pio. But the work and pray go together! We do our part and Heaven will do its part. Called Free Will.

    Abortion is of Hell and as in Moses day and in Our Lords Nativity is targetted to destroy the Angels sent by Our Heavenly Father in Our Times. As Our Lord pointed out each and every generation KILLS those that God sends!

    What prevents Heaven in this time is unbelief! This unbelief and materialism is the death of souls what a generation! Toad the devils advocate is always welcome But the lethargic cynic that undermines the little ones of God Falls under Our Lords condemnation.

    I repeat the only weapon left by Our Lord for His Church is Spiritual and it is All she needs to overcome the World, the Flesh and the Devil. Since 1960’s onwards the Spiritual has been ditched for worldly rational. Well under this folly the World, the Flesh and the Devil are running riot! I blame the hierachy and its rejection of Spirituality and its folly to restructure a Church for modern man! Is it any wonder that Vocations are in a crisis!!!


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