by Deacon Nick Donnelly

The vote for the next leader of the UK Labour Party will close on Thursday 10 September 2015, with the results announced on Saturday 12 September 2015. The following is an assessment of the four candidates from a Catholic perspective.

Jeremy Corbyn

Jeremy Corbyn was brought up in a Christian family and attended Church with his father and went to a Christian school. Admitting that he is not “religious at all” he has expressed a positive appreciation of faith and the role of faith communities in society. He said in a recent interview:

“I think the faith community offers and does a great deal for people. There doesn't have to be wars about religion, there has to be honesty about religion. We have much more in common than separates us.”

His political views on the alleviation of poverty, both domestic and international, are in accord with the Social Teaching of the Catholic Church. Earlier this year he spoke in the House of Commons on behalf of:

“…very large numbers of people in this county feel passionately about inequality in the world, about the Ebola crisis and about many other crises, and that they believe that donating money, through the taxpayer and individually, to help to alleviate that terrible suffering involves a moral duty as well as a public good.”

Jeremy Corbyn’s political views and voting record on a range of moral issues are opposed to the doctrines of the Catholic Church:

  • Corbyn is a long time proponent of the LGBT agenda, including so called same-sex marriage. During the leadership campaign he has made the commitment to introduce same-sex marriage legislation to Northern Ireland, despite wide-spread opposition across the community.
  • Corbyn supports abortion and signed a letter demanding legislation to ban pro-life groups witnessing outside abortion clinics. He has also made the commitment to introduce abortion to Northern Ireland despite popular opposition.
  • Corbyn has consistently voted against the legalisation of assisted suicide and voted for legislation to prevent euthanasia.
  • He has been described as “not a particular fan of faith schools, though has no plans to dismantle them.

Yvette Cooper

During a radio interview Yvette Cooper admitted that she "didn't really 'do' God", adding that she was "vaguely agnostic". During her swearing in as an MP after the 2015 election she chose to affirm allegiance to the Crown rather than swearing an oath on a holy book, which is an option for non-believing Members of Parliament.

As Shadow Home Secretary and Shadow Minister for Women and Equalities Yvette Cooper upheld freedom of religion during the debate on so called same sex ‘marriage’:

“No church or religious organisation should be forced to conduct same sex marriages. Freedom of religion is a very important part of our society. It is embedded in Article 9 of the European Convention on Human Rights, the courts will continue to respect that, and Parliament will be able to reaffirm that when legislation is debated.”

Yvette Cooper’s emphasis on the eradication of child poverty is in tune with Catholic Social Teaching.

Yvette Cooper’s political views and voting record on a range of moral issues are opposed to the doctrines of the Catholic Church:

  • Cooper recently tweeted her endorsement of public criticism of Pope Francis upholding the Church’s doctrine on contraception.
  • Cooper was instrumental in defeating a bill that sought to protect the unborn from sex selection abortion because she objected to references to the ‘unborn child’. She wrote, “Legislation on abortion and other medically-related legislation refers to the fetus rather than the unborn child. Across our legislation and common law, children are accorded a wide range of protections and rights that are not accorded to the fetus.”
  • Cooper has made the commitment to introduce compulsory sex and relationships education from the age of seven. This is contrary to the Church’s insistence on the parent’s rights as primary educators of their children, and the Church’s understanding of ‘dormancy’ in a child’s psychosexual development.
  • Cooper has assumed a leading role in the campaign to ban pro-life groups from witnessing outside abortion clinics. She argues that the right to protest against abortion should be limited to parliament and away from abortion clinics.

Andy Burnham

Andy Burnham was brought up in a Catholic family in Liverpool and attended a Catholic comprehensive school during the 1980’s. In a recent interview he spoke positively about his Catholic upbringing:

“I think of the church of my youth, and the priests that I knew, the feeling and overriding mood was quite forgiving really, quite humane, humorous, irreverant, even the priests.”

Though Andy Burnham describes himself as “not particularly religious” he still retains admiration for the Church’s social teaching expressed in the Catechism of the Catholic Church, which he describes as “powerful and strong and right”. During a recent radio interview he admitted a contradiction in no longer considering himself a believer but still sending his kids to a Catholic school.

Burnham has expressed criticism of the pontificate of Pope Benedict XVI accusing the Holy Father of being “judgmental and “more obsessed with sexuality and issues related to sexual behaviour”. However, even the liberal Catholic newspaper The Tablet took Andy Burnham to task for misrepresenting Pope Benedict when he said in an interview, “And in that period, I drifted more and more away and Ratzinger said he wanted a smaller, purer Church, which I found quite terrifying actually.” In fact since the 1970’s Pope Benedict XVI has prophetically cautioned that as a consequence of the ascendancy of secularism in the West the Church would become smaller, a ‘mustard seed Church’.

Andy Burnham’s campaign for “a true living wage for all ages, banning forced zero-hours contracts & unpaid internships” accords with Catholic Social Teaching.
Andy Burnham’s political views and voting record on a range of moral issues are opposed to the doctrines of the Catholic Church:

  • Burnham expresses personal satisfaction that he has opposed the teachings of the Church on homosexuality and so called same sex marriage as a Member of Parliament. He told the gay newspaper Pink News: “I have been repeatedly at odds with the Catholic church for all of my time as an MP. I have always been going against what they were saying, and that is challenging. That creates a personal challenge – I’ve been at odds with my own family, and that has been to some personal cost at times in terms of relationships with people.”
  • Burnham advocates that Catholic schools should be forced to teach about homosexuality and same sex “couples”. He also supports compulsory sex education in schools, overriding the parent’s role as their children’s primary educators.
  • Burnham supports legislation to ban psychological and psychotherapeutic interventions to assist homosexual persons lead chaste lives free from homosexual attraction and arousal.
  • During the vote to reduce the upper limit for abortion Burnham voted to keep the limit at 24 weeks. He also voted to support the creation of embryonic human beings to be used as spare parts for siblings.
  • Burnham has also voted in favour of IVF.

Liz Kendall

Liz Kendall was brought up in a Christian family, and admits to having a great respect for faith. During a recent radio interview Liz Kendall said that when she was younger she considered herself an atheist but she now “classed herself as agnostic.”

Surprisingly, Liz Kendall was one of 57 MPs who signed in 2010 the Westminster Declaration of Christian Conscience which, among other things, states:
“'We believe that protecting human life, protecting marriage, and protecting freedom of conscience are foundational for creating and maintaining strong families, caring communities and a just society. Our Christian faith compels us to speak and act in defence of all these.”

However, though the Westminster Declaration upholds the sanctity of life of the unborn and marriage as the union of one man with one woman Liz Kendall pro-choice about abortion and is a strong supporter of LGBT rights, voting for the leglisation of so called same sex marriage.
Liz Kendall’s commitment to ending social inequality, eliminating low pay and properly financing the care of vulnerable elderly people is in tune with the Church’s Social Teaching.

Liz Kendall’s political views and voting record on a range of moral issues are opposed to the doctrines of the Catholic Church:

  • Liz Kendall describes herself as a ‘warrior for LGBT rights’ and would seek to legalise same sex marriage in Northern Ireland despite widespread opposition.
  • Liz Kendall supports compulsory sex education, including compulsory lessons about homosexuality and LGBT rights. However, she also believes that sex education should be age-appropriate which is the position taken by the Catholic Church.
  • Liz Kendall is strongly committed to banning psychological and psychotherapeutic interventions to assist homosexual persons lead chaste lives free from homosexual attraction and arousal.
  • Liz kendall was a close ally of Yvette Cooper in defeating a bill that sought to protect the unborn from sex selection abortion. She shared Cooper’s objection to references to the ‘unborn child’, concerned that it would give rights to unborn children.

There used to be a traditional affinity between Catholics, who were on the whole working class, and the Labour party. It is clear from the political views and voting records of all four candidates for the leadership of the Labour party that no such affinity remains on many fundamental moral issues.