Interim Special

Cardinal Thomas Winning, leader of Scotland’s 750,000 Roman Catholics, has received overwhelming offers of cash to bolster his initiative – disclosed in mid-March – to stem abortion.

Unsolicited donations have poured in to the Archdiocese of Glasgow at the rate of up to $2,000 a day – from a pensioner’s offer of $5 a week to a City stockbroker’s pledge of $10,000 a year for five years.

A woman living in the south of England has offered $50,000 from the sale of her house. A leading Muslim has promised to approach Arab countries and Muslims in Britain for financial aid.

Meanwhile, scores of pregnant women from across Britain who were considering abortions have responded to the Cardinal’s offer of financial help, care and counseling.

Speaking exclusively to The Telegraph, he said: “I received several hundreds of pounds in my own post at home. We are not worried about what this initiative could cost because we know that all bishops in Scotland have given their backing. They have resources as a result of pro-life collections over the years.”

Doubts have been raised about whether the Church can take on an open-ended commitment to support pregnant women who take up the offer of cash aid in return for rejecting abortion.

Only five years ago, the Archdiocese of Glasgow was nearly $10 million in the red, but the debt has been reduced to less than $2 million and there is surplus revenue.

Cardinal Winning said: “We know quite well that women in difficulty need moral rather than financial support. If there are people who need financial support we are prepared to do that.”

If a pregnant woman came asking for $400 to avoid an abortion she would receive it. “If she could give us good reasons for wanting $400, if she’s being blackmailed (into having an abortion) we would be happy to do it,” the Cardinal said.

A Church spokesman said media interest in the Cardinal’s initiative has been unbelievable. Archbishop Luigi Barbarito, the Papal Nuncio or Pope’s ambassador in London, said Cardinal Winning was a “hero of the Church.”

But Dr. Andrew Fraser, public health director of the Highland Health Board, warned that they cardinal’s offer of money might persuade young girls to become pregnant deliberately.

The Cardinal appeared to be dealing with only an aspect of a complex problem, he said.

Cardinal Winning and the Scottish bishops issued guidelines to Catholics in the run-up to the election. Prior to the Labour party victory, he said: “We are not telling you what party to vote for. We are saying. ‘These are the issues you ought to think about and reflect on.”