All I know of the Bishop of Palencia in northern Spain, Jose Ignacio Munilla, is what I've raked from Google, which isn't much. But he's mentioned because I was struck by an answer he gives in an interview to a question about the Spanish Church's failure to prevent the Spanish government's further liberalisation of the country's abortion laws. He says:
"The Church's aim [meta] is not to stop laws from being passed, but to awaken and enlighten consciences".
And he adds:
"I think the Church is writing one of the most beautiful pages of its history in expending its reputation and its energy in defending the weakest and most innocent of all human lives -- those who have been conceived but not yet born."
The response to Bishop Munilla -- who is, incidentally, very active in pro-life endeavours in his diocese -- is obvious: surely one of the most important and effective means of awakening consciences is public opposition to anti-life legislation?
But his point must still be considered. The aim -- meta is more than "aim": "purpose", or "raison d'etre" might translate better -- of the Church's pro-life stance is to awaken consciences. If the bishop is right, and I think he is, then this must be the criterion of the success of a pro-life stance, not whether it succeeds in changing this or that law.
Here in the UK, I've watched -- and been part of -- many attempts to reform laws on abortion and embryo experimentation; seen the phenomenal energy and money and time spent by campaigners on the issue, without success; and wondered what would happen if those same resources were put into a campaign for changing minds and hearts.
It has been done before.
William Wilberforce, the great Christian anti-slave trade campaigner, eventually realised that there were too many vested interests and closed minds in Parliament to effect change there. In 1771, following yet another failure of his slave trade abolition bill, he told his followers: “It is on the general impression and feeling of the nation that we must now rely, rather than on the political conscience of the House of Commons”.
From then on, it was a campaign to shake consciences -- through stories, town-hall meetings, petitions, boycotts, testimonies (above all, the testimonies). Gradually, over the next decades, people awoke to the humanity of the slaves; and as the value of that humanity rose in people's eyes, what was once considered a regrettable but acceptable sacrifice for the sake of other benefits – prosperity, trade, and so on – became an insuperable moral obstacle.
The change in the law followed the awakening of consciences.
It can happen again.