As the eyes of the world look to Britain as host of the 14th Summer Paralympic Games, James Parker, the Catholic Coordinator of the 2012 Games and first ever lay Catholic chaplain to serve at the Paralympic Games, in a pre-recorded interview for Vatican Radio to be broadcast later this week, calls for Christians and others who value human life to challenge leaders and politicians with renewed effort to change Britain’s “discriminatory and outdated abortion laws”.
As the Paralympic Games draw to an end, Parker spoke of his time working with the Games and directly with some of the athletes: “My own experience of the Paralympic Village, the heavily guarded home to all the athletes and officials alongside the Olympic Park, is that it is a sacred place.”
He spoke of how “the Village is strewn with wheelchairs, crutches, bodies of every shape, size, and so-called ‘disfigurement’ imaginable. And yet there is a stronger sense of community, and a vibrant tangible passion for life, that not even the greatest town or city could boast. The organising committee, LOCOG, has taken great care to provide an amazing ambience where people of every ability can live with ease.”
“The joy in the Village is palpable.” he said. “It is a place where everyone is celebrated and honoured whether a medallist or not, and each person is in service of their neighbour. I am constantly reminded of the words of St Lawrence when, in the year 258, he was commanded by the Emperor Valerian to bring to him the Church’s treasury. Days later he brought before the Emperor the poor, crippled, and maimed and stated: “Behold the jewels of the Church!” He was then martyred for such a simple action.”
Speaking about the lead up the Games, Parker mentioned that “we see the word ‘Superhumans’ on our billboards and yet Paralympians are no different to any other human being. They often have greater degrees of adversity to overcome but this is an aspect of any life that truly wishes to be lived to the full.
“What is astounding is that Britain is enabling the eyes of the world to be opened to the giftedness and potential of those with disabilities through its hosting of the Paralympic Games. However, its own laws vehemently and shockingly discriminate against any new life in the womb that might possibly be affected by a physical handicap, genetic problems or a mental defect.
In conversations with a number of Paralympians in recent days he was astonished to discover that “many of them don’t even realise that, should their team mates have been conceived in Britain today, they would most likely be aborted. If Britain wishes to retain its place towards the head of the medals table at future Paralympic Games in decades to come then it needs to seriously consider changing its laws to stop discriminating against what is presently termed as an ‘unacceptable quality of life’. Games aside, any society that wishes to be healthy needs to increasingly value disability and non-disability equally.
“The Christian community needs as a whole, along with others who share our beliefs on the dignity of human life, to continue to take the lead and, like St Lawrence, to stridently work towards changing Britain’s discriminatory and outdated abortion laws. If this issue is not addressed as we wave goodbye to the Paralympic Games from our shores, then it is hard to imagine when another opportunity of this sort will pass our way when British society and the world as a whole is celebrating the incredulous achievements of those with disabilities.
“Imagine how much lesser of a nation we would be without the lives of athletes like Ellie Simmonds, and how much greater a Britain we could be if more ‘disabled’ people of her ability were to be born, affirmed and celebrated.”