Saturday, 10 January 2009

Birthday wish for Sir Stepen Wall, Cardinal Murphy O'Connor's former principal adviser

Sir Stephen Wall, former principal adviser to the Cardinal Archbishop of Westminster, 2004 - 2005, is 62 today, according to The Times. Happy birthday, Sir Stephen.

I have a birthday wish for Sir Stephen Wall, on behalf of those fighting to protect the lives of unborn children and the lives of vulnerable patients, particularly the elderly and disabled.

It's that next December,in the month before his birthday, he does not write in the Catholic media, or in any other publication, attacking the Church's teaching on the sanctity of human life. In doing so, he further undermines the right to life of the most vulnerable human beings, and betrays the Gospel message of the Church which entrusted him with such high office.

As Pope John Paul II put it in the first sentence of his encyclical Evangelium Vitae: "The Gospel of Life is at the heart of Jesus's message."

In December, 2007, he published a badly-informed article attacking the Church on IVF, contraception and on other matters; and last month, he attacked the Church's position on euthanasia in a letter to The Tablet. On 1st December, 2007, The Tablet published his article "Rendering Unto Caesar", in which he wrote:

"Last week, the Church in our own country was arguing that giving same-sex couples access to in vitro fertilisation (IVF) was wrong, because of the harm to be done by bringing fatherless children into the world. Yet this is the same Church which, by proclaiming the iniquity of artificial contraception, wills into the world millions of children who will never know true parental love of any kind ... The Church makes another mistake by giving pre-eminence to its concept of law and disregarding its duty of love. In the case of IVF, we are talking about couples who would not go through the heartache of the process unless they wanted, out of their love for each other, to bring a much-loved child into the world ... "
One of the many problems with Sir Stephen's thinking (only to be fully appreciated by reading his article to which I link above) is its implicit rejection of children who are not "much-loved"; the countless children killed by abortifacient "artificial contraception" - birth control drugs and devices which, according to the manufacturers, can prevent a newly-conceived embryo from implanting in the lining of the womb; and IVF – which gave birth to the first IVF child over thirty years ago – has led to over two million embryos discarded, or frozen, or selectively aborted, or miscarried or used in destructive experiments. (2,137,924 human embryos were created by specialists while assisting couples in the UK to have babies between 1991 and 2005, according to BioNews.)

The recently published Dignitas Personae spells out beautifully the fundamental ethical criterion used in the Catholic Church's teaching (in Donum Vitae) which is to be used to evaluate all moral questions arising from any procedures which involve the human embryo: 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. (Donum vitae, 1,1: 45 80 (1988), 79, cited in DP, n 4)

Dignitas Personae 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"(Dignitas Personae n 14); and it 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" (Dignitas Personae, n 15)

I strongly recommend that Sir Stephen Wall studies this document in order to appreciate that love truly is at the heart of Church's proclamation of the Gospel of life; and that he looks at the compassionate, realistic alternative to IVF to be found in Naprotechnology which has grown to become a comprehensive branch of women’s health medicine, which respects both the natural fertility cycle and the teaching of the Catholic Church.

Fortunately, Sir Stephen's letter to The Tablet last month was answered well by Dr Julian Hughes, as you can see below.

The Tablet, Letters, 20/27 December 2008

Palliative care has limits

My sister, Mary, died from cancer in early December. The day after her death there was a renewed surge of public interest in the question of assisted dying because of the first such death to be shown on British television.In February 2006, at the age of 67, my sister was found to have fluid in the lining of her lung and the fluid contained malignant cells. For the next two and a half years she underwent successive courses of chemotherapy, with little respite. She suffered hair loss, loss of feeling in her feet (makingwalking difficult), nausea and insomnia. But she did not lose her will to live and, when she was feeling well enough, she pursued her life as normally as anyone can who has a death sentence hanging over them and whose life is geared to the rhythms of a nasty disease.

At the end of November, my sister was found to have a perforated bowel. She was not strong enough to undergo a repair operation and, on the advice of her doctors and with her consent, treatment was stopped because it would have been pointless and painful and she was admitted to hospital for palliative care. She said that she hoped she could go out "on a pink cloud"and the palliative care team said they would do their best to achieve just that. In the event, she died exactly two weeks later.

Ever-increasing doses of morphine and other sedatives kept my sister's pain under control. But she was not at all times pain-free and she was certainly not free from distress. Some days before her death, when she was still able to whisper, she asked me, "When is this going to end? I cannot bear it much longer". At that point, had her carers had the power to give her an amount of morphine, or other drug, that would have peacefully ended her life she - and we - would have accepted with gratitude. Yet all of us were powerless under the existing law.

There is something hypocritical about the present law. It allows ever-increasing doses of morphine, which are undoubtedly a contributorycause of death, however precisely and clinically they are measured. Yet it does not allow the combined consent of the patient, family and medical advisers to foreshorten the period of pain and anguish. Is that the will of a loving God? I cannot bring myself to think so.

(Sir) Stephen Wall, London SW18

The Tablet, Letters, 3 January 2009

Yes to care, no to killing

Even those of us who are very inclined to agree with Clifford Longley’s arguments (20/27 December) about the dangers of autonomy as far as physician-assisted suicide is concerned cannot but be moved by Stephen Wall’s story about the sad death of his sister (Letters, 20/27 December). Nonetheless, Sir Stephen’s suggestions must be challenged.

Sir Stephen accepts that medication kept his sister’s pain under control, but goes on to say that she was not always pain-free and "certainly not free from distress". He says he cannot bring himself to think that this is the will of a loving God. He is right that we are confronted by a difficulty here, but it’s not one confined to palliative care. It’s the problem of evil generally: how does the loving God will any of the enormous suffering that occurs in the world? If we cannot answer this question, and understand to some degree the role of suffering in our lives, there are difficulties for our belief in the idea of a loving God.

Secondly, Sir Stephen suggests that ever increasing doses of morphine are "undoubtedly a contributory cause of death". Palliative physicians would rightly respond that morphine, when used for pain, even in high doses, does not cause death. And there is still the doctrine of double effect, that it is licit to do things, foreseeing their bad consequences, but intending good. This is a cause of much philosophical dispute, but the doctrine underpins quotidian medical decisions: I foresee side effects from all drugs, but I aim at some sort of good when I prescribe them.

Sir Stephen asserts that there is "something hypocritical about the present law". But the prohibition on ending innocent human lives remains a cornerstone of civil society, which would be removed by Sir Stephen’s call for euthanasia. My suggestion would be that we need better palliative care, not intentional killing.

In saying this, however, I suspect that the line between the two is often thin and indistinct in practice. Clinical judgements have to be finely made with a good deal of practical wisdom, courage and compassion. One fear about a change to the present law is that it would undermine the basis of such virtues.

(Dr) Julian Hughes, Newcastle upon Tyne

Support Helpers of God's Precious Infants to give witness to the evil of abortion

I mentioned last week a pro-life vigil on Wednesday, 21st January, in Maidstone, organized by the Helpers of God's Precious Infants, which will be of particular interest to Catholic supporters.

The same group is holding a vigil later that week, Saturday, 24th January at Buckhurst Hill in Essex and you can find details of Fr Finigan's blog here.

Abortion is a crime against humanity. Here's a group of people who, through their prayer and witness, are working to save mothers and babies from abortion; who refuse to allow the killing of babies in the cities and suburbs of Britain to be seen as normal and acceptable.

Tragically, through the unknown numbers of silent killings through abortifacient birth control drugs and devices - misrepresented by the manufacturers as contraception - acceptance of the killing of babies has spread right into the heart of the community, even of the church communities upon whom the pro-life movement depends for its support. With virtual total silence on the prophetic teaching of Pope Paul VI in Humanae Vitae on the part of so many church leaders, though not all, no wonder there is such opposition on the part of church leaders to making abortion an issue in the general election. And yet nothing could be more important than the killing of 500 - 600 innocent children daily. Why are people, with the power to influence opinion in the country, failing to point out the most terrible abuse of human rights to have occurred in British history and to urge voters to judge parliamentary candidates accordingly? Imagine if the killing of born children were allowed by law and hundreds of politicians supported it! Wouldn't all other issues pale beside the importance of such a terrible enormity? Will someone please explain to me: what's the difference between unborn children and born children that we're prepared to treat them differently in this way?

I hope that the vital witness and prayers of the Helpers of God's Precious Infants - as they seek to give witness, save lives, and implore for God's help - is well supported. We must turn this country round, and pray for key groups and the spiritual leaders in this country of various faith groups, so that appropriate action is taken - politically, educationally, spiritually - to seek to stop the evil of abortion.

Friday, 9 January 2009

Anti-life Tony Blair's enduring political ambition is dangerous

Today’s Guardian (Tony Blair for President of Europe? Interview suggests he wants the job) explains why pro-lifers must keep pressing Tony Blair, the UK’s former Prime Minister and one of the world’s leading architects of the culture of death, on his refusal to repudiate the anti-life laws and policies he has steadfastly pursued throughout his political career.

He should not be allowed to shield himself from political scrutiny simply by being received into the Catholic Church and/or by virtue of his invitation to speak in Westminster Cathedral.

Since leaving office he has compounded his anti-life political record by reinforcing his pro-abortion links and I have recently challenged Cherie Blair, his wife, on her long track record in supporting anti-life and anti-family causes.

Tony Blair’s political ambition is dangerous and reception into the Catholic Church is proving no guarantee of a Pauline conversion. In fact thus far, the contrary seems to be case.

Thursday, 8 January 2009

Open letter on abortion to Cherie Blair

I've sent the open letter below to Cherie Blair, about whose scandalous invitation to speak at a conference in the Angelicum (a leading Catholic university in Rome) I have blogged in recent weeks. I will let you know her reply.

8th January 2009

Open letter

Dear Mrs Blair,

I am writing to you further to your participation in the Angelicum university's conference on women and human rights.

Our supporters remain deeply concerned about the support you give to some of the world's leading pro-abortion organisations, including those to which I refer below.

Will you now state publicly your opposition to the International Planned Parenthood Federation (IPPF), the Family Planning Association (FPA) UK, Human Rights Watch (HRW) and the UN Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW committee), considering that these organisations are among the world's most prominent promoters of legal access to abortion?

Will you state publicly that no country should interpret the reference to "reproductive rights" in the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW convention) to include abortion?

I look forward to hearing from you.

Yours sincerely,

John Smeaton, SPUC national director

Wednesday, 7 January 2009

Autistic babies should not be killed. Period.

Under the headline “Autism test ‘could hit maths skills’” the BBC reports today that pre-natal testing for autism and the abortion of babies thought to be affected may not be far off.
In an interesting article, Professor Simon Baron-Cohen (pictured), the director of the Autism Research Centre at Cambridge University, says that mathematical excellence and autism may be linked. He writes:

“ … assuming such a test is developed, we would be wise to think ahead as to how such a test would be used. If it was used to 'prevent' autism, with doctors advising mothers to consider termination of the pregnancy if their baby tested 'positive', what else would be lost in reducing the number of children born with autism? Would we also reduce the number of future great mathematicians, for example? … Caution is needed before scientists embrace prenatal testing so that we do not inadvertently repeat the history of eugenics or inadvertently 'cure' not just autism but the associated talents that are not in need of treatment.”

It’s not clear what Professor Simon Baron-Cohen means in his final sentence above. Is he sounding a warning against the eugenic killing of the disabled? Or is he concerned principally, or solely, as the BBC’s introductory paragraphs put it, that “caution is needed to ensure associated talents, like numerical abilities, are not lost if the test or a "cure" become available”? Or is Professor Baron-Cohen unaware that we already have repeated the history of eugenics – both in Britain and elsewhere in the world – in our determined pursuit of the extermination of the disabled (as Alison Davis who has spina bifida and who is the leader of No Less Human, makes abundantly clear in her paper “A disabled person’s perspective on eugenic abortion”)?

The killing of disabled babies is infinitely more significant than any loss of human skills and talents. Whilst the Professor’s article is interesting and thought-provoking, the BBC’s headline provides a chilling reminder of modern Britain – in which countless human beings are killed as though they’re rubbish, simply because they’re disabled, and people in the media worry about the possible loss of maths skills. Autistic babies should not be killed. Period.

Tuesday, 6 January 2009

Reasonable-minded citizens should be genuinely frightened of Mary Warnock

In Belfast last night, Dame Mary Warnock said that doctors who refuse to help terminally ill patients to kill themselves are “genuinely wicked”.

Last September, I noted Dame Mary Warnock’s view that people with disabling conditions have a duty to die prematurely.

And in November, she told the Irish that there is an “absolute moral obligation” to conduct embryonic stem cell research, and that a scientist who chose not to conduct it would be "failing in their moral duty".

I am genuinely frightened when I hear Dame Mary Warnock say these things. Her distorted reasoning has heralded changes in British law which have led to the killing of countless vulnerable human beings in Britain and overseas.

Go back nearly thirty years to July 1982: Her Majesty’s Government invited Mary Warnock to chair a Committee of Inquiry into the ‘social, ethical and legal implications of recent, and potential developments in the field of human assisted reproduction’. The report of that committee is called the Report of the Committee of Inquiry into Human Fertilisation and Embryology, Cmnd. 9314, London, 1984.

Follow carefully in the next paragraph the argument which her Committee used to justify lethal experiments on human embryos, up to the 14th day after conception, paving the way for the Government’s legislation in 1990 (which has been copied in many parts of the world):

"While, as we have seen, the timing of the different stages of development is critical, once the process has begun there is no particular part of the developmental process that is more important than another; all are part of a continuous process, and unless each stage takes place normally, at the correct time, and in the correct sequence, further development will cease. Thus biologically there is no one single identifiable stage in the development of the embryo beyond which the in vitro embryo should not be kept alive. However we agreed that this was an area in which some precise decision must be taken, in order to allay public anxiety.” (My emphasis)

In other words (my comments in red):

“ … once the process has begun … ”: Since this paragraph is all about allowing experiments up to the 14th day after conception, this phrase clearly refers to the moment of conception.

“ … there is no particular part of the developmental process that is more important than another … ”: the Warnock Committee admits there’s no special significance whatsoever (biological or philosophical) about the 14th day after conception, or any other day after conception. The significant thing is that a human life has begun.

“ … Thus biologically there is no one single identifiable stage in the development of the embryo beyond which the in vitro embryo should not be kept alive … ”: Put plainly, whatever the age of the embryo or unborn child he or she should not really be killed.

“ … However we agreed that this was an area in which some precise decision must be taken, in order to allay public anxiety … ” The Committee has decided to make a completely arbitrary decision in order to fool Parliament and the public into thinking that we have reached a profound conclusion based on weighty scientific evidence, and so we've plumped for 14 days. As Clarke and Linsey noted " … this is a clear case of extrinsic criteria being used to solve a problem which requires the determination of firm and unequivocal intrinsic criteria ... "(Clarke, P.A.B. and A. Linzey Research on Embryos: Politics, Theology and Law. Lester Crook, London, 1988, p. 26.)

On the basis of Dame Mary Warnock’s report, Parliament went on in 1990 to legalise destructive research on human embryos for the following purposes: promoting advances in the treatment of infertility; increasing knowledge about the causes of miscarriage; increasing knowledge about the causes of congenital disease; developing more effective techniques of contraception; developing methods for detecting the presence of gene or chromosome abnormalities in embryos before implantation; or for such other purposes as may be specified in regulations; and last year Parliament approved the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act 2008, amending the 1990 law, which approved the licensing of more procedures that will harm or kill embryos created in the laboratory and which extends the ways in which embryos can be artificially created and manipulated - including hybrid (animal-human) embryos.

So when Dame Mary Warnock says that doctors who won't kill their patients are "genuinely wicked", reasonable-minded citizens would be wise to genuinely frightened.

The Guardian newspaper's anti-life ideology made crystal clear

It is now crystal clear that there was an anti-life ideological agenda behind the Guardian's censorship of comments critical of Peter Singer (pictured), which I reported on here and here. The censored commentator "ContraSign" complained to the Guardian and ContraSign has copied to me the correspondence (ContraSign in black, Guardian in red):

Dear [ContraSign],

Thanks for getting in touch. Your comment was removed for misrepresenating our author's views, and also for making an ad hominem attack: "Peter Singer, who supports infanticide and euthanasia, is no person to lecture anyone about saving human lives". Both of these fall foul of our community standards, which can be found here: http://www.guardian.co.uk/talkpolicy

Regards,

James
Moderator

Dear James,

Many thanks for your reply. Firstly, may I ask, in what way did my comment mispresent the author's views? Peter Singer's support for infanticide, euthanasia and eugenics is widely and authoritatively documented, and in my estimation they would, if fully implemented, lead to the deaths of many more human beings than those possibly attributable to Mr Mbeki.

Secondly, may I ask why you consider my comment to be an ad hominem attack? I did not attack Peter Singer as a person, I questioned his locus standi in a debate about saving human lives, because his views on infanticide, euthanasia and eugenics make his attack on Mbeki hypocritical. My comments re Singer are similar to those of Nazi-hunter Simon Wiesenthal re Singer to the organisers of a Swedish book-fair in 1997: "A professor of morals ... who justifies the right to kill handicapped newborns ... is in my opinion unacceptable for representation at your level." http://www.jewishworldreview.com/cols/feder102898.asp

Thirdly, why did you deem my comments as mispresentations and ad hominem, but not those of "stevehill" on the Pope (or for that matter those of "nightships": "Mbeki most likely has AIDS himself and as usual the control freak, malignant narcissists, chronic scapegoater, uncorrectable grab bagger in denial, has sacrificed millions others with coercion, reckless abandon and impunity to promote his own out/hypocrite self image of good. Unfortunately the SOB is not alone. At this time and stage of world history there are one too many SOB like him. The top of the list starts with George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, Don Rumsfeld, mata hari Condi Rice, Tony Blair, Brown, Saddam. The Kenyan Presidents the current and Arap Moi, Robert Mughabee, Castro, A. Sharone, the Pakistani strong man Musarraf, to name a few.")

May I suggest that you have made an editorial misjudgement, reflecting the Guardian's support for its author Peter Singer and his views? As "Rapido" posted:

"Justification is that the comment criticised eugenics, infanticide and euthanasia and linked in Peter Singer's documented support of all three. Not allowed here. They only allow the Pope and Thabo to be called killers."

I look forward to hearing from you,

[ContraSign]

Hi [ContraSign],

Thanks for your reply. While Peter Singer may indeed provide a philosophical justification for regarding the killing of newborns as less problematic than the killing of other human beings, this does not amount to advocating infanticide. As your comment conflated the two, it carried potential legal problems and, in such cases, we have to err on the side of caution.

Best wishes,

Todd
(Community Moderator)

Dear Todd,

Many thanks for your reply. Sorry, Todd, I didn't conflate the two: it is abundantly clear from Peter Singer's own words (see http://www.utilitarian.net/singer/by/1993----.htm and many other places online and in print) that he advocates legal permission for infanticide (as well as euthanasia, and eugenics generally), because he believes that killing certain newborns (and certain other human beings) is morally permissable, and at least as good as, and sometimes better, than not killing them. Your assertion that:
While Peter Singer may indeed provide a philosophical justification for regarding the killing of newborns as less problematic than the killing of other human beings, this does not amount to advocating infanticide
is your rebuttable opinion, not fact. I don't see how publishing my comment could have caused legal problems for the Guardian - my interpretation of Singer's position is fair comment, and one which has been made online and in print all over the world for years. I await a reply to my second (re "ad hominem") and third (re the Pope and other figures) points.

Kind regards,

[ContraSign]

Hi [ContraSign],

The reason for your comments removal was the potential legal issue that arose. There is, indeed, a difference between advocating legal permission for infanticide (as you state below) and advocating infanticide (as your comment stated). The comment may have been an interpretation of Singer's position, but it was stated as fact, and out of context, which is where the legal problem arose.

Best wishes,


Todd
(Community Moderator)

Dear Todd,

Many thanks for your further reply. I really can't see how there could have been a potential legal issue. Countless times over recent decades, online and in print, all over the world, people have stated as fact Peter Singer's position in exactly the way that I did, and no legal issues have arisen. (In any case, Singer is clear in his work "Should the baby live?" (OUP, 1985) that new-borns in certain circumstances should be killed.) May I suggest that your assertion that
There is, indeed, a difference between advocating legal permission for infanticide (as you state below) and advocating infanticide (as your comment stated)
and the deletion of my comments reflects the Guardian's own rebuttable opinion that pro-choice does not equal pro-abortion/infanticide? To advocate legal permission for infanticide is to advocate for and support infanticide. There is no effective or real difference between the two: it is a distinction without a difference. Your deletion of my comments denied Guardian readers the opportunity to challenge me on these points. My comments were not out of context: the context was an article in which Peter Singer expressed opinions about personal responsibility for lives which may be, or may have been, saved or lost as the consequence of an individual's ideas. My comments addressed the same subject and the credibility of Peter Singer's opinions on it. I still await a reply to my second (re "ad hominem") and third (re the Pope and other figures) points.

Kind regards,

[ContraSign]

Monday, 5 January 2009

Vatican heaps more praise on Bishop O'Donoghue's defence of Humanae Vitae

I have often mentioned the prophetic significance of Catholic church teaching on the separation of the unitive and the procreative in the conjugal act - as expressed in Humanae Vitae. I believe that the rejection of this teaching both inside and outside the church has led directly to the catastrophic devaluation of the sanctity of human life both inside and outside the womb - as well as to the provision of secret abortions, without parental knowledge or consent, to schoolchildren under the age of 16, (including in Catholic schools not least as a result of the ambiguous policy of the Catholic Education Service in England and Wales).

It's therefore extremely good to hear of the Vatican heaping yet more praise on Bishop O'Donoghue, the bishop of Lancaster, (pictured top) and his powerful promotion of the Church's teaching in Humanae Vitae in Fit for Mission: Church?

Last month it was the Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith who gave the bishop's teaching document strong backing.

Now, Cardinal Antonelli (pictured right), the president of the Pontifical Council for the Family, has added his warm commendation. Very pointedly, Cardinal Antonelli points to the exact page in Bishop O'Donoghue's Fit for Mission: Church in which he sets out some of the disastrous social consequences - for families, for young people and for respect of the sanctity of human life - of rejecting, arguably, the Catholic Church's most important encyclical letter of the 20th century.

The Cardinal writes:
"The section on Marriage and Family Life is also well done and a good response to the perils of the philosophy of gender which is so widespread nowadays. Your underlining the importance of Self-Gift is also very pertinent as well as giving explicit example and statistics (p.69) regarding the consequences of the culture of death that surrounds us, is also useful in bringing home the point. The encouragement to deepen the notion of the Theology of the Body is also a sound idea to be encouraged."
So let's see what Bishop O'Donoghue says about the consequences of separating the unitive and procreative nature of sexual love on page 69 of Fit for Mission: Church?
"10.6.2 The Current Situation

"The following statistics provide a snap shot of the health of marriage in our country:

• There were 17.1 million families in the UK in 2006.
• Most families are headed by married couples (71%), although the proportion of cohabiting couple - families increased from 9% in 1996, to 14% in 2006.
• The average number of children per family in the UK has dropped - from 2.0 in 1971 to 1.8 in 2006.
• There were 148,141 divorces in 2006.
• Marriages in England andWales fell by 4% to 236,980 in 2006, the lowest marriage rate since records began in 1895. Religious marriage ceremonies only accounted for 44% of marriages in 2006.

"I believe a reliable indicator of the health of marriages is how it impacts on the well-being of children.

• More than a quarter of British under-16s regularly feel depressed. (UNICEF)
• Around 13 per cent of girls and 10 per cent of boys between 13 and 15 years old suffer from mental health problems. (UNICEF)
• More than 1,300 mentally ill children are currently being treated on adult psychiatric wards. (UNICEF).
• The NHS reports that between 2006-2007, 4,241 children under 14 attempted to commit suicide.
• 193,700 unborn children were killed through abortion in 2006; a rise of 3.9%.
• 2,000 potentially handicapped children were killed by their parents through abortion in 2006.
• A total of 40,244 abortions were carried out on girls aged between 15 and 19 years in 2006.
• 3,990 abortions were carried out on girls aged under 16 - the age of consent – in 2006.
• Teenage pregnancy rates for girls under 18 in England and Wales in 2003 was 42.3 conceptions per 1,000 girls.

"These statistics reveal the shocking depth and extent of the suffering and impoverishment of so many families and children due to the separation of the unitive and procreative nature of sexual love, and the wide-spread practice of pre-marital sexual behaviour. I am convinced that there must be profoundly damaging consequences for the family in a country where contraception and abortion are so wide-spread. No wonder so many children are suffering depression and mental illness in a country that is such a hostile environment for human life. Nowonder divorce is so prevalent when family life is so often characterised by a lack of generosity or self-giving love.

"10.6.3 Proclaim the Theology of the Body

"We, the Catholic Church, must be more confident and proactive in presenting our rich and fulfilling understanding of marriage, sexual love and the family. The strength of the Church’s doctrine of the inseparability of sexual love and procreation is that it respects the unity between the spiritual and biological dimensions of humanity. Personal meaning is informed by the biological meaning of the human body, which Pope John Paul II calls ‘the language of the body’.

"The Catholic theology of the body understands the meaning of married, sexual love as follows (cf.WilliamMay, Catholic Bioethics and the Gift of Human Life, p. 68-69):

"The Unitive Meaning: Husband and wife become personally ‘one flesh’ in and through sexual intercourse, renewing the covenant they made during the sacrament of marriage. The marital act expresses their sexual complementarity: the husband’s body, which expresses his person as male, has a ‘nuptial significance’, for he is so structured to give himself to his wife by entering into her body, and so give himself to her. The wife’s body which expresses her person as female, also has a nuptial significance, for she is so structured to receive his body into herself, and in receiving him, to give herself to him.

"The Procreative Meaning: In becoming ‘one flesh’ – through the sacrament of marriage – husband and wife also become one complete organism capable of generating human life. Precisely because they are married, they have capacitated themselves – according to revelation – to be co-creators with God in a way that responds to the dignity of persons – self-giving love that is faithful and permanent.

"As a people, culture and Church, we must get over misplaced shyness about sexual matters which inhibits us from spreading the Church’s positive and personal vision of sexual love. We cannot leave this area of human life to the purveyors of pre-marital sex and so called safe sex to the detriment of families and young people. As I wrote in Fit for Mission? Schools, continence outside marriage and fidelity in life-long marriage are the only true and secure ways of protecting our families and young people from physical and psychological harm, such as STDs, HIV/AIDS, cervical cancer, psychological lack of self esteem and an inability to express love.

"I recommend that clergy and parents study and teach the theology of the body. I recommend the following:
• John Paul II, The Theology of the Body, Boston: Pauline Books, 1997.
• Theology of the Body for Teens programme. www.tobforteens.com
• Christopher West, Theology of the Body for Beginners, Ascension Press, 2004. Theology of the Body
Explained, Pauline Books, 2003; Good News about Sex andMarriage, Questions and Answers, Charis Books, 2000."

I pray that Victoria Lambert will forgive herself for her abortion

Victoria Lambert (pictured right with Rowena, her daughter, aged four), a journalist, writes a must-read, powerful article in today's Daily Mail about the abortion of her disabled baby.

It begins:
"When I see boys at my daughter's school, all gangly limbs and scruffy hair, I wonder what my own son would have looked like. He would be nine now. He would have blond hair and blue eyes - his father and I shared that colouring.

"He might have my prominent chin, definitely a grin all his own. But my son would also be unable to speak, walk or possibly even think for himself.

"He would have extra digits and a heart defect. For the first child I conceived had Patau's syndrome - also known as trisomy 13, which affects one in 10,000 births ... Over the years, I've allowed my imagination to run unchecked; I've seen him playing conkers, glued to a PlayStation, eating pizza. Yet all this can only ever be conjecture, for I had a termination in my 13th week of pregnancy, two weeks before the turn of the millennium.

"It was an experience that has scarred me in ways I could never have anticipated. Put simply: my decision and its consequences have tortured me for the past nine years ... "
With harrowing honesty, Victoria Lambert takes the reader step-by-step from the joy of her pregnancy, looking forward to her baby being the start of a large family, to being wheeled to the operating theatre for an abortion and waking up crying. Her story speaks volumes about the tragic reality behind one woman's experience of ante-natal testing and abortion - the fear, the bitter regret following an abortion, and the difficulty in self-forgiveness (which is so important for women and men who have experienced an abortion, and is the principal focus of the outreach of British Victims of Abortion, a group run by the SPUC educational research trust). She writes:

" ... In the past nine years, not a week has gone by when I haven't thought of him. Despite the support that others - including those closest to me - expressed for my decision at the time, I don't think I can ever truly forgive myself for what I did ... "
Sadly, Victoria Lambert continues "I'm not against abortion per se, and never have been" and she appears to accept, albeit, perhaps, reluctantly, the eugenics which may motivate others to abort a disabled child.

But I think Victoria's deepest feelings about abortion have already emerged in the article when she writes:
" ... The decision was not mine alone, anyway: my husband was convinced of the correctness of this course of action, and his point of view was as valid as mine. He was worried for my health, too - would carrying such a sickly child put me at risk? We knew so little.

"We struggled on until Monday and drove to the hospital for the operation. Here, I met the one person who allowed me to question what was happening - an anaesthetist who threw everyone out of the room and sat down on the bed to ask whether this was what I really wanted.

"I wish she had been there 24 hours earlier; by this time, it was too little, too late. I'd lost all willpower, all ability to do anything but cry. I said: 'Yes, I'll do this.' And with that, I gave permission - and I cannot put this any other way, try as I may - to murder my unborn baby ... "
I hope and pray that Victoria Lambert's story will help other women who may be under pressure to abort their child - whether that child has a disability or not. And I pray, above all, that she will find peace and learn to forgive herself.

Sunday, 4 January 2009

Peaceful prayer and witness at Marie Stopes abortion facility

I am delighted to see that the Helpers of God's Precious Infants have a Vigil at the Marie Stopes abortion facility, Brewer Street, Maidstone, Kent ME14 1RV, on Wednesday 21 January. Catholics may be particularly interested in this important initiative. You can find the details here.

You can find more about the work of this group of pro-life people, dedicated to defending and upholding the dignity of human life, here. Their mission is to save the lives of unborn children through the spiritual conversion of their mothers.

This is a time when Christians, including Christian leaders, are being seduced by politicians who are firmly committed to promoting abortion worldwide. It's therefore all the more important to support pro-life action (and prayer) which witnesses fully to the evil of abortion. As Pope John Paul II put it: "Disregard for the right to life, precisely beause it leads to the killing of the person whom society exists to serve, is what most directly conflicts with the possibility of achieving the common good" (Evangelium Vitae, 72).

He also pointed out the nature of the problem pro-lifers are facing within the Church when he wrote: "We need to begin with the renewal of a culture of life within Christian communities themselves. Too often it happens that believers, even those who take an active part in the life of the Church, end up by separating their Christian faith from its ethical requirements concerning life, and thus fall into moral subjectivism and certain objectionable ways of acting." (Evangelium Vitae, 95)