Saturday, 13 December 2008

Pray that Barack Obama, Tony & Cherie Blair, change to become ambassadors for the unborn

Breda Laffey, a leading Catholic evangelist from Ireland, has made a call for prayer for Barack Obama, the US President-elect - that he will have a change of heart on abortion and go on to become a great US president. Breda was speaking before Mass at a prayer group last night in north London which Josephine, my wife, and I have been attending these last sixteen years. As a Catholic myself, at a time of unprecedented danger for humanity, I strongly support that call. The threat to countless millions of lives following the outcome of the US presidential election is serious and growing ever constantly, as I have been reporting recently. We must use every effort, intellectual, political, and spiritual, to confront this danger.

I also urge my fellow-Christians and believers in God also to pray for Tony and Cherie Blair - that they too will have a change of heart and join the campaign against legalized abortion.

Last week I described how Tony Blair (pictured) was reinforcing his pro-abortion links. I have frequently mentioned his refusal to repudiate, since his reception into the Catholic Church, the anti-life laws and policies he supported and promoted as prime minister and as a Member of Parliament.

Also last week, I pointed out Cherie Blair's long track-record of supporting anti-life and anti-family causes, when I drew attention once again to the scandalous invitation to Mrs Blair to speak at a conference in the Angelicum, a leading Catholic university in Rome.

From the initial reports of the conference, it seems that at no point in her remarks did Mrs Blair state an opposition to abortion, nor did she explain why she has supported the leading pro-abortion organisations IPPF, FPA UK and Human Rights Watch. Neither did she explain her specific endorsement, on her own website, of the inclusion of reproductive rights in CEDAW (the Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women), which the CEDAW committee inteprets to include abortion.

It also seems that a concerted effort may have been made at the conference to caricature critics of Mrs Blair's invitation as being unable to distinguish between abortion and contraception and Mrs Blair's position on them. It should be noted that forms of contraception, by their manufacturers' own admission, can kill newly-conceived human life. The Vatican made the same point last Friday, in their newly published Dignitas Personae.

I fear that the conference may well have been stage-managed so that Mrs Blair did not have to explain her track-record of endorsing pro-abortion organisations, enabling her and others to bubble-wrap her dissent from Catholic teaching. I will be writing to Mrs Blair to put to her the questions which were conspicuously not put to her at today's conference.

I am deeply concerned that both Tony Blair and Cherie Blair may be manipulating the Catholic Church at a time in human history when its uncompromising witness on the sanctity of human life is being threatened by governments and politicians - like Barack Obama - with laws which seek to criminalise conscientious objection to destroying human life.

However, today, as the great feast of the birth of Jesus Christ approaches, who like Barack Obama, Tony and Cherie Blair, and the rest of humanity, lived for nine months in His mother's womb, I put all these matters aside. I appeal to you to follow Breda Laffey's lead. Pray for Barack Obama and for Tony and Cherie Blair: that they will have a change of heart - and that they will use their influence in the world to save lives and become powerful ambassadors in the world for the unborn and for the value and inviolability of human life.

With the election of Barack Obama, this is a time of unprecedented danger for humanity. Christians may like to join me in saying one Our Father daily for the US president-elect and for Mr and Mrs Blair. Write to me at johnsmeaton@spuc.org.uk to let me know if you will join me in this daily prayer. And please share this message with others.

Friday, 12 December 2008

Powerful re-statement of ethical unacceptability of IVF in new Vatican Instruction

In an Instruction published today, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith has powerfully re-stated the ethical unacceptability of IVF.

Fr John Fleming (pictured right), SPUC’s bioethics consultant, and a corresponding member of the Pontifical Academy for Life, has sent me his review of Dignitas Personae which I publish in full below.

The Vatican’s unambiguous prohibition of IVF is expressed in compassionate terms. As Fr Fleming points out, below: “ … [Dignitas Personae] reminds us that the Church is not unmindful of the ‘legitimacy of the desire for a child and understands the suffering of couples struggling with problems of fertility. Such a desire, however, should not override the dignity of every human life to the point of absolute supremacy.’[1]

Regarding what can be done with frozen embryos, the Instruction rejects destructive research, providing children for other couples, surrogacy and pre-natal adoption. Fr Fleming comments: "Sounding a note of exasperation with the continuing use of embryo freezing, itself an insult to human dignity, and the plight of the 'thousands of abandoned embryos', [Dignitas Personae] describes it as 'a situation of injustice which in fact cannot be resolved.'" [2]

It’s as if the church is saying to the secular world: “You created this situation by wantonly and irresponsibly creating human embryos in vitro and you are asking the church to solve the problem. It’s up to you to solve this unjust situation yourself by stopping creating embryos outside the body and freezing them.” [1] DP, n 16 [2] Ibid and DP, nn 18-19

Fr Fleming's review in full:
The new document on bioethics from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF), Dignitas personae (DP), addresses a range of new issues that have emerged since 1987 in the light of the criteria set out in the Instruction Donum Vitae (1987) (DV). DP also examines some issues that had already been treated in DV but which were in need of additional clarification.

The document has many positive things to say about the importance of science and its achievements. At the same time it recognises that “there are also persons in the world of philosophy and science who view advances in biomedical technology from an essentially eugenic perspective.”[1]

The First Part

The First Part of DP deals with the anthropological, theological, and ethical aspects of human life and procreation. While supporting developments in science which “serve to overcome or correct pathologies and succeed in re-establishing the normal functioning of human procreation”, DP condemns those developments which “involve the destruction of human beings or when they employ means which contradict the dignity of the person or when they are used for purposes contrary to the integral good of man.”[2]

Then DP sets out what it considers to be the fundamental ethical criterion used in DV which is to be used to evaluate all moral questions arising from any procedures which involve the human embryo:

Thus the fruit of human generation, from the first moment of its existence, that is to say, from the moment the zygote has formed, demands the unconditional respect that is morally due to the human being in his bodily and spiritual totality. The human being is to be respected and treated as a person from the moment of conception; and therefore from that same moment his rights as a person must be recognized, among which in the first place is the inviolable right of every innocent human being to life.[3]

The Second Part

Following a detailed discussion of the implications of this fundamental ethical criterion, and especially within marriage, DP then deals with “New Problems Concerning Procreation”.

Again, DP makes it clear that the Church approves techniques which act “as an aid to the conjugal act and its fertility.”[4] Some techniques to remove obstacles to natural fertilisation such as “hormonal treatments for infertility, surgery for limited endometriosis, unblocking of fallopian tubes or their surgical repair, are licit.”[5]

But DP reiterates the ethical unacceptability of in vitro fertilisation (IVF) since “all techniques of in vitro fertilisation proceed as if the human embryo were simply a mass of cells to be used, selected, and discarded.”[6] DP comments on the very high wastage of human embryos associated with IVF and related procedures. “In many cases the abandonment, destruction and loss of embryos are foreseen and willed.”[7]

The case against IVF is forcefully put in terms of the commodification of the embryo as an entity to satisfy criteria which must be satisfied such that the gift of life is not accepted unconditionally.

At this point DP considers the plight of frozen embryos in storage, unwanted and abandoned. What is to be done with them? Immediately excluded are the uses of embryos for destructive experimentation, the provision of children to other infertile couples, and surrogacy. DP describes the proposal for “prenatal adoption” as “praiseworthy with regard to the intention of respecting and defending life”[8], but is nevertheless to be excluded ethically because it occasions similar ethical problems to the transfer of embryos to other infertile couples and surrogacy.

Sounding a note of exasperation with the continuing use of embryo freezing, itself an insult to human dignity, and the plight of the “thousands of abandoned embryos”, DP describes it as “a situation of injustice which in fact cannot be resolved.”[9]

The ethical unacceptability of the dissociation of “procreation from the integrally personal context of the conjugal act” is emphasised again in DP. At the same time DP reminds us that the Church is not unmindful of the “legitimacy of the desire for a child and understands the suffering of couples struggling with problems of fertility. Such a desire, however, should not override the dignity of every human life to the point of absolute supremacy.”[10]

Unacceptable procedures widely practised, but considered by the Church as ethically illicit, also include intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI) [11], freezing embryos [12], freezing oocytes [13], embryo reduction of multifetal pregnancies [14], preimplantation diagnosis with the purpose of ensuring that only embryos free from defects, or being the desired sex or other particular qualities are transferred [15], and new forms of interception and contragestion such as the morning after pill. [16]

The Third Part

The Third Part of DP then moves on to consider “New Treatments which Involve the Manipulation of the Embryo or the Human Genetic Patrimony”. These issues include gene therapy, human cloning, the therapeutic use of stem cells, and hybridisation.

The discussion of these issues is carefully nuanced with somatic cell gene therapy being seen as generally acceptable while germ line gene therapy is not. Gene therapy put in service of enhancing a human being as distinct from a therapy for pathology is also called into question. It is seen as an attempt to create a new type of human being” such that “one can recognise an ideological element in which man tries to take the place of his Creator.” [17]

Human cloning is seen as intrinsically illicit whether done for so-called reproductive purposes or so-called therapeutic purposes. [18] On the other hand the use of stem cells is evaluated positively when stem cells are taken from the human body in ways “which do not cause serious harm to the subject from whom the stem cells are taken.” Examples of this are when stem cells are taken from an adult, the blood of the umbilical cord at the time of birth, and from foetuses which have died from natural causes. The taking of stem cells from a living human embryo invariably causes the death of the embryo and is therefore gravely illicit. [19]

There is a long discussion on hybridisation with the Church drawing attention to the significant moral and health dangers associated with the mixing of animal and human genetic material.

In its conclusion DP notes that the Church often seems to be presented as having a moral teaching which contains too many prohibitions. DP answers this criticism, and refers to the many other moral prohibitions with which all would agree, such as slavery, racism, unjust discrimination and marginalisation of women, children, and ill and disabled people. In other words the Church continues to apply the principles of the culture of life which exclude certain practices in order that the intrinsic dignity of the human being and his or her inviolable and inalienable rights are properly safeguarded, and not discounted to meet utilitarian considerations.

[1] DP, n 3 [2] DP, n 4 [3] Donum vitae, 1,1:^45 80 (1988), 79, cited in DP, n 4 [4] DP, n 12 [5] DP, n 13 [6] DP, n 14 [7] DP, n 15 [8] ibid [9] ibid and DP, nn 18-19 [10] DP, n 16 [11] DP, n 17 [12] DP, nn18-19 [13] DP, n 20 [14] DP, n 21 [15] DP, n 22 [16] DP, n 23 [17] DP, n 27 [18] DP, nn 28-29 [19] DP, n 32

Thursday, 11 December 2008

A great prayer for life is urgently needed

Here is a message which may be of particular interest to Catholic readers who live in London and the home counties - or to Catholic visitors to London.

It's a message this week from our pro-life colleagues in Good Counsel Network. They say:

"To make reparation on the 40th anniversary, for the passing of the Abortion Act in England on the 27th October 1967, in October 2007 the Good Counsel Network started to have Mass, Adoration & Benediction on each Monday & Tuesday. We have continued to have Mass, Adoration & Benediction on each Monday & Tuesday since. We are now trying to increase this to cover each weekday, Monday to Friday.

"We normally start with Mass at 12noon followed by Adoration until Benediction at 5pm, but times do vary so we will send out times as we book them. We really are in urgent need of more people to come for Adoration. If you can commit to a regular hour that would be a great help, but if not please don't be put off, you can tell us the day before or even on the day if you are coming. Your attendance is still helpful. Just telephone 020 7723 1740 to let us know when you plan to attend.

"This week will be the first full week that we will have, starting on Monday 8th December Feast of the Immaculate Conception with Mass (Old Rite) 12noon followed by Adoration until Benediction at 5pm, Tuesday Mass 12noon followed by Adoration until Benediction at 5pm, Wednesday Mass (Old Rite) 12noon followed by Adoration until Benediction at 5.15pm, Thursday Mass 3pm followed by Adoration until Benediction at 6pm and Friday, Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe, Mass 12noon followed by Adoration until Benediction at 5pm. Please pray for the success of this undertaking and that enough Priests will agree to come for Mass and Benediction. I hope to see you soon."

As Pope John Paul II said in Evangelium Vitae (100): "A great prayer for life is urgently needed a prayer which will rise up throughout the world"

Wednesday, 10 December 2008

Tony Blair reinforces his pro-abortion links

Tony Blair (pictured) has now teamed up with one of Canada's best-known pro-abortion figures. Belinda Stronach (also pictured), a prominent businesswoman and former MP, has joined her foundation with Mr Blair's Faith Foundation in order to promote the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). The British government under Tony Blair interpreted the MDGs as including a universal right to abortion on demand. When an MP, Belinda Stronach said that women's groups should only receive government funding if they are pro-abortion. The Blair-Stronach partnership will also promote the Faith Acts Fellowship, which the Tony Blair Faith Foundation runs in partnership with the InterFaith Youth Core. The InterFaith Youth Core is bankrolled by major pro-abortion foundations.

How much more evidence do religious leaders need about the close-knit ties of Mr & Mrs Blair to the culture of death before they realise they must act to block the Blairs' infiltration of faith communities?

Prescription-free birth control scheme is based on failed ideas

A trial to supply hormonal birth control without prescription is based on previous failed schemes.

"Previous pilot schemes, which promoted the morning-after pill through pharmacies claimed success because making them free increased the uptake" said Paul Tully, SPUC's general secretary, in a comment to the media today.

"The trials, however, were not shown to have decreased pregnancy or abortion rates. Nor did they bother to monitor the effect on sexually transmitted infections. Sexually transmitted infections may have been made worse, since the rampant increase in sex disease may be partly due to greater reliance on morning-after pills.

"We deplore this new move which threatens women, and promotes the silent abortion of early embryos in some instances - this is a recognised but hushed-up effect of many forms of hormonal birth control.

"The government is determined to promote birth-control drugs and devices to achieve its policy objectives, in defiance of common sense and evidence - as well as concern for health of women, some of whom suffer adverse reactions from hormonal birth control.

"Since the Teenage Pregnancy Unit was set up, it has intensified failed policies (like school-based sex ed, sex clinics for children, and more and more birth control for teens) and introduced new initiatives that have been equally futile (teen pregnancy co-ordinators across the country, school nurses as condom pushers).

"The determination of health service officials to pursue the failed policy of providing birth control drugs - including drugs which the manufacturers say are abortifacient - is further evidence of the contempt in which conscientious practitioners are held. If this route is pursued, only those prepared to co-operate in the surreptitious corruption of children will be allowed to run pharmacies."

Sky TV's assisted suicide documentary

SPUC is concerned about the ethics of tonight's Sky documentary which follows the assisted suicide of Chris Ewert (pictured) at the Dignitas suicide centre in Switzerland.

Anthony Ozimic, SPUC political secretary, commented to the media this morning:

"We are concerned that focusing upon one particular case will have a disproportionate effect upon the debate on assisted suicide, skewing viewer's perceptions. Many people, including patients themselves, often don't know that palliative care is highly successful in alleviating the symptoms of motor neurone disease. Craig Ewert's fears about his quality of life and the effect on his family could have been properly addressed with correct medical advice and full personal support. We fear the documentary will obscure the broader issues of how allowing assisted suicide devalues human life and endangers the vulnerable.

"Many terminally ill and disabled people, and the vast majority of medical professionals, are opposed to legalising assisted suicide. Assisted suicide sends a message to the terminally ill that caring for them is a waste of time, that their lives are no longer worth living and that they are better off dead.

"Assisted suicide also sends a message that no one really has dignity unless they have the option to be poisoned. Killing is not a valid answer to human suffering or a perceived loss of dignity. Every human being has equal and absolute dignity simply by being human. Assisted suicide makes a mockery of our laws on equality."

Tuesday, 9 December 2008

Vatican backs Bishop of Lancaster in his stand against the culture of death

In a timely Vatican statement, Bishop Patrick O’Donoghue has received the strong endorsement of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Rome (CDF) for his teaching document, Fit for Mission? Church which called on schools and parishes "to protect our young from the cultures of death that seek to corrupt and exploit them".

Archbishop Luis Ladaria S.J. , Secretary to the Congregation, (pictured) expressed the hope that not only the faithful of Lancaster, but also 'Catholics throughout Britain, will find hope and encouragement' in Fit for Mission? Church.
If I may say so, Your Excellency, non-Catholics throughout Britain also find hope and encouragement whenever Bishop O'Donoghue raises his prophetic voice against prevailing trends in England and Wales!

Vatican endorsement of Bishop O'Donoghue's stand against the culture of death being promoted in schools could not come at a more important time, particularly when the position of the Catholic Education Service regarding the government's anti-life policy in schools is giving rise to such concern.

The government and its policy advisors are now promoting access to abortions through schools in the following ways: establishing school based health & sex clinics in all secondary schools; appointing ‘teenage pregnancy’ monitors – whose job is to keep down teenage births; giving school nurses and advisors (such as Connexions ‘personal advisors’) a clear remit to refer for abortions without informing parents; contributing to the early sexualisation of children by making sex education a statutory subject in all schools starting from age 5.

Earlier this year Cardinal Renato Martino, President, Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, and Archbishop Mauro Piacenza, Secretary, Congregation for the Clergy, congratulated Bishop Patrick for his challenging document promoting an authentic Catholic identity for today’s Church. First published in August 2008, in response to popular demand Bishop Patrick brought out an expanded edition with the Catholic Truth Society in October.

In March 2008 Cardinal Levada, Prefect to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith wrote a foreword to Bishop Patrick’s expanded edition of Fit for Mission? Schools. (CTS Do 779).
In the light of the recent controversy widely reported in the press concerning Fit for Mission? Church, Bishop Patrick is particularly encouraged by the CDF stating so clearly, ‘You and your collaborators are to be congratulated for alerting the faithful to the dangers of secularism and hedonism’.

Bishop Patrick expressed his delight at receiving Archbishop Ladaria’s letter on behalf of the CDF:

‘I would just like to express my heartfelt thanks to the Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith for supporting the programme of renewal I have now fully set out in Fit for Mission? Church, and Fit for Mission? Schools. At the heart of both documents is the urgent appeal to Catholics throughout our country to reject the misinterpretations of the Second Vatican Council that have become so wide-spread. Once again we must commit ourselves without reservation to the fullness of doctrinal, moral and liturgical truth safeguarded by Peter!’

The Catholic Truth Society's expanded edition of Bishop Patrick O'Donoghue's "Fit for Mission? Church" is available at: http://www.cts-online.org.uk/

Further details:

Rt Rev Patrick O’Donoghue
Bishop of Lancaster
Bishop’s Office
The Pastoral Centre
Balmoral Road
LANCASTER

Tel: 01524 596050

I'm sure that readers may wish to write to Bishop O'Donoghue to congratulate him on the backing he's receiving from the Vatican for his brave stand against the culture of death.

Monday, 8 December 2008

False idea of academic freedom no defence for inviting Cherie Blair

As I blogged last week, Cherie Blair has been invited to speak this Friday at the Angelicum, a leading Catholic university in Rome, on the subject of women and human rights. Mrs Blair has a long-track record of supporting anti-life and anti-family causes, in opposition to Catholic teaching. Sister Helen Alford, the dean of the Angelicum's social sciences faculty, has replied in response to the more than 200 complaints made to the Angelicum demanding Mrs Blair's invitation be cancelled. The first part of Sister Helen's reply reads:

"By inviting Mrs Blair, we, as a faculty of social sciences, are following the example of the Pope’s own social sciences institute, the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences, based in the Vatican itself. Mrs Blair was invited to make an address to its 2006 plenary assembly, which focused on children and young people ... Obviously, in doing so, neither the Vatican as a whole, nor the Pope personally, was in any way endorsing a pro-abortion point of view, and neither are we."

Whom the Pope meets in audience is an entirely separate matter. Everyone knows that any Pope must meet a wide range of prominent public figures in order to carry out effectively his pastoral ministry and diplomatic role.

In contrast, it was not justified of the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences to have invited Mrs Blair to speak in 2006, nor is it justified of the Angelicum today. Let us suppose that, in the 1930s a lawyer had hosted, celebrated and endorsed organisations which promoted, performed and/or demanded the killing of Jews. Would it have been right for Catholic universities and academies to have invited such a lawyer to be a featured speaker? There is no moral difference between the killing of Jews and the killing of unborn children. Whatever the views of the Angelicum, the Angelicum's invitation to Mrs Blair to be a featured speaker implies that the killing of unborn children is less morally significant than the racist killings of born people.

The second part of the Sister Helen's reply basically says that the presentation of the other featured speaker at the conference, Professor Janne Haaland Matlary, will be strongly pro-life. I'm delighted to hear it, but that fact doesn't make the invitation to Mrs Blair any less unacceptable. In the 1930s, inviting an anti-Holocaust speaker would not have made inviting a pro-Holocaust speaker any less unacceptable. It should be noted that Friday's event at the Angelicum is not a debate between Prof. Matlary and Mrs Blair but a conference with featured speakers.

Nothing has been said in advance about what Mrs Blair will say in her presentation "Religion as a Force in protecting Women's Human Rights", though there is nothing to prevent her using her speech to oppose Catholic pro-life/pro-family teaching. The Angelicum says the conference will celebrate the 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, "remember that the full recognition of the rights of women is still a goal to be achieved" and "examine the dangers that relativistic thinking poses for the future of human rights". Yet the anti-life/anti-family organisations that Mrs Blair has endorsed all believe abortion to be a universal human right yet to be achieved, and are the world's leading promoters of the very same relativistic thinking which endangers the future of human rights. The Cherie-endorsed IPPF and FPA UK both endorsed the failed campaign to remove the Holy See from the United Nations. (Mrs Blair is pictured above cutting a special 75th anniversary birthday cake for FPA and offering the cameraman a condom.)

Mrs. Blair's failure to defend Catholic pro-life teaching is explained by her strong, personal endorsement of anti-life/anti-family organisations. She has said explicitly on a number of occasions that she rejects Catholic teaching on sexual morals. And when asked in May by the Catholic Herald newspaper what she thought of her husband's voting record in favour of abortion, she was reportedly stuck for an answer, saying: "I think that...", pausing before replying: "I don't think I want to answer that."

Some people may say withdrawing the invitation to Mrs Blair would be to suppress academic freedom. The good of academic freedom is not absolute, nor it is equal to the good of human life and its defence. There is a massive difference between Catholics researching the anti-life/anti-family movement in order to combat its arguments, and giving a platform to an active supporter of the anti-life/anti-family movement, a platform which she (or he) can use to espouse those arguments. The truth of the sanctity of human life is not a relative concept, to be equated with the anti-truth of abortion, as if the former was just an opinion and the latter a viewpoint one may dislike.

In any case, there are many other experts on women and rights whom the Angelicum could invite instead, who are totally pro-life and pro-family. Just because a speaker has expert knowledge in a particular area doesn't mean all other considerations are irrelevant. Why not invite Osama bin Laden to speak on Middle East politics or pro-infanticide bioethicist Peter Singer to speak on neo-natal medicine?

Dietrich von Hildebrand, the Catholic intellectual, wrote a popular book entitled "Trojan Horse in the City of God", which explained how certain figures were undermining the Church from within. I can think of no better description of Cherie Blair (or her husband). Defenders of life and family must re-double the pressure upon the Angelicum to withdraw Mrs Blair's invitation. You can contact the following relevant persons at the Angelicum:

Sister Helen Alford O.P, dean of the Angelicum's Faculty of Social Sciences
Email alford@pust.urbe.it
Tel +39 06 67 02 353

The Angelicum's Faculty of Social Sciences
Email fass@pust.urbe.it
Tel: +39 06 67 02 402, fax +39 06 67 02 417

The Angelicum's secretariat, email segreteria@pust.urbe.it

You may also like to contact His Eminence Zenon Cardinal Grocholewski, Prefect of the Congregation for Catholic Education:

by fax: +39 06 69 88 41 72
by post: Congregation for Catholic Education, Palazzo della Congregazioni, Piazza Pio XII 3, 00193 Roma, Italia