Friday, 25 September 2009

Head of Catholic Church's Supreme Tribunal calls Catholic politicians to account

A senior Vatican prelate has said that Catholic politicians who vote for anti-life and anti-family policies should not be given Holy Communion or Catholic funerals. Speaking at a Catholic awards dinner, Archbishop Raymond Burke, prefect of the Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura, said:
"To deny these is not a judgment of the soul, but a recognition of the scandal and its effects."
His comments follow the public Catholic funeral for Edward Kennedy, the pro-abortion American senator.

Following Tony Blair's reception into the Catholic Church, some Catholics said that it was wrong to criticise him for his anti-life and anti-family political record, or even to ask him to repudiate it. One of their arguments was that being received into the Catholic Church wiped Mr Blair's slate clean, so to speak, as reception into the Church involved confession of past sins and a stated agreement with all the Church's teachings. Archbishop Burke, however, says:
"[W]ith greatly sinful acts about fundamental questions like abortion and marriage, [a politician's] repentance must also be public. Anyone who grasps the gravity of what [such a politician] has done will understand the need to make it public."
Not only has Tony Blair refused to repudiate his anti-life and anti-family political record, since being received into the Catholic Church, he has extended it with open attacks on Catholic teaching on sexual ethics.

Archbishop Burke's comments are a refreshing antidote to the pampered treatment Mr Blair received courtesy of L'Osservatore Romano, the semi-official Vatican newspaper.

In 2007, Archbishop Raymond Burke published a very thorough scholarly article The Discipline Regarding the Denial of Holy Comminion to Those Obstinately Persevering in Manifest Grave Sin in Periodica De Re Canonica (vol. 96 (2007) pag. 3 - 58. He concluded:
First of all, the consistent canonical discipline permits the administering of the Sacrament of Holy Communion only to those who are properly disposed externally, and forbids it to those who are not so disposed, prescinding from the question of their internal disposition, which cannot be known with certainty.

Secondly, the discipline is required by the invisible bond of communion which unites us to God and to one another. The person who obstinately remains in public and grievous sin is appropriately presumed by the Church to lack the interior bond of communion, the state of grace, required to approach worthily the reception of the Holy Eucharist.

Thirdly, the discipline is not penal but has to do with the safeguarding of the objective and supreme sanctity of the Holy Eucharist and with caring for the faithful who would sin gravely against the Body and Blood of Christ, and for the faithful who would be led into error by such sinful reception of Holy Communion.

Fourthly, the discipline applies to any public conduct which is gravely sinful, that is, which violates the law of God in a serious matter. Certainly, the public support of policies and laws which, in the teaching of the Magisterium, are in grave violation of the natural moral law falls under the discipline.

Fifthly, the discipline requires the minister of Holy Communion to forbid the Sacrament to those who are publicly unworthy. Such action must not be precipitous. The person who sins gravely and publicly must, first, be cautioned not to approach to receive Holy Communion. The memorandum, "Worthiness to Receive Holy Communion", of Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, in its fifth principle, gives the perennial pastoral instruction in the matter. This, in fact, is done effectively in a pastoral conversation with the person, so that the person knows that he is not to approach to receive Holy Communion and, therefore, the distribution of Holy Communion does not become an occasion of conflict. It must also be recalled that "no ecclesiastical authority may dispense the minister of Holy Communion from this obligation in any case, nor may he emanate directives that contradict it" *.

Finally, the discipline must be applied in order to avoid serious scandal, for example, the erroneous acceptance of procured abortion against the constant teaching of the moral law. No matter how often a Bishop or priest repeats the teaching of the Church regarding procured abortion, if he stands by and does nothing to discipline a Catholic who publicly supports legislation permitting the gravest of injustices and, at the same time, presents himself to receive Holy Communion, then his teaching rings hollow. To remain silent is to permit serious confusion regarding a fundamental truth of the moral law. Confusion, of course, is one of the most insidious fruits of scandalous behavior.

*"[…] nessuna autorità ecclesiastica può dispensare in alcun caso da quest'obbligo del ministro della sacra Comunione, né emanare direttive the lo contraddicono." PONTIFICIUM CONSILIUM DE LEGUM TEXTIBUS, "Acta Consilii: I, Dichiarazione", Communicationes 32 (2000) 161; English translation from L'Osservatore Romano, Weekly Edition in English, 12 July 2000, 4.
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Thursday, 24 September 2009

Malta stands up for life and family at the United Nations

Pat Buckley has this week been representing SPUC at the the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva, Switzerland, and he has just sent me the following report:
"The United Nations Human Rights Council reviews periodically the situation on human rights in UN member-states. The council has just released the report of its review of Malta. In the review process, the Maltese government 'reiterate[d] that the right to life is an inherent right of every human being – this includes the unborn child, from its conception. We will retain our existing national legislation on the question of abortion.' Malta also made clear its opinion that 'whether or not to legislate to recognize the relationship between two partners, irrespective of their sex, remains a matter of national competence.'

"The Holy See (the government of the Catholic Church) supported Malta within the council by recommending that Malta 'continue its policy in defence of the right to life' and 'continue its policy to protect the family as the natural and fundamental group unit of society based on the stable relationship between a man and a woman.'

"Malta's resolute and courageous stand for life and family values in the face of considerable pressure from pro-abortion and anti-family forces is to be commended. The Holy See is also to be commended for supporting Malta's pro-life and pro-family laws."
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Wednesday, 23 September 2009

Pope will be visiting Britain the valley of the culture of death

When the Pope visits Britain next year, the country he will find is the valley of the culture of death.

In Britain, the government organises secret abortions on schoolgirls behind parents' backs. The chief prosecutor has today issued rules tolerating assisted suicide, under which the disabled will be treated as second-class citizens. The leaders of the major political parties all voted for sinister destructive experiments on embryonic children. I hope that Pope Benedict will issue stern reminders to church leaders and Catholic parliamentarians of their absolute duty to place the right to life from conception to natural death at the top of Britain's moral and political agenda."

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Disabled people face legal downgrade in DPP assisted suicide guidelines

SPUC Pro-Life has made a detailed response to the new interim policy on prosecuting assisted suicide issued today by Keir Starmer, the director of public prosecutions (DPP).

In summary, SPUC Pro-Life's detailed response is that the interim policy:
  • says prosecutions will be less likely in cases where the deceased had been disabled or terminally ill
  • will legally downgrade the right to life of disabled or terminally-ill people
  • confirms the fears of disabled people that the law deems their lives to be inferior
  • contradicts the fairness and objectivity requirements of the existing general code for prosecutors
  • will be a useful guide to anyone who wants to promote the suicide of their troublesome relatives with impunity
  • goes against the government's national suicide prevention strategy.
We will be encouraging disability groups, and all those affected by suicides and suicide attempts, to lobby the DPP to enforce the law against assisted suicide justly and fairly.

SPUC Pro-Life's response in detail:

Paul Tully, SPUC Pro-Life's general secretary, commented:

"The new interim policy for prosecuting assisted suicide issued by the director of public prosecutions (DPP) today confirms the fears of disabled people that their lives are regarded as of inferior quality by the law."

"The right to life of terminally-ill and disabled people will be legally downgraded under this policy, despite the lip-service paid to the right to life of disabled people during the House of Lords hearing.

"This is a subtle but significant downgrading of disabled people - we are seeing withdrawal of legal protection by stealth.

"In the newly-published prosecuting policy, physical disability of a suicide victim is listed among the factors that count against prosecuting someone who either encourages or helps a suicide".

The document says:
"The policy says that it is a 'factor against prosecution' if the victim had:
  • a terminal illness; or
  • a severe and incurable physical disability; or
  • a severe degenerative physical condition;
from which there was no possibility of recovery" (p5, (4))

"This stands in stark contradiction to the existing general code of the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) which says:
  • "Crown Prosecutors must be fair, independent and objective. They must not let any personal views about ethnic or national origin, disability, sex, religious beliefs, political views or the sexual orientation of the suspect, victim or witness influence their decisions. They must not be affected by improper or undue pressure from any source."
"This new assisted suicide policy introduces pressure on Crown Prosecutors from within the service to be unfair and subjective.

"The new policy as drafted will be a useful guide to anyone who wants to promote the suicide of their troublesome relatives with impunity. Among the factors that count against a prosecution are that the victim:
  • indicated unequivocally to the suspect that he or she wished to commit suicide
  • asked personally on his or her own initiative for the assistance of the suspect.
"Knowing these factors will help the perpetrators of crime avoid prosecution, simply by making statements about what the victim allegedly said to them - and the victims will not be able to deny it.

"Today's policy not only contradicts the CPS prosecuting code, it also goes against the government's National Suicide Prevention Strategy, which seeks to identify and dissuade people at risk of committing suicide. The DPP's new policy says that encouraging or helping someone with a history of suicide attempts is less rather than more likely to deserve prosecution. This contradicts the positive approach of the suicide prevention strategy, which seeks to identify potential suicides and ensure that they get the help they need to give them hope. This is vital for the many thousands of people each year who become suicidal and need positive support".

We will be encouraging disability groups, and all those affected by suicides and suicide attempts, to lobby the DPP to enforce the law against assisted suicide justly and fairly.

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Tuesday, 22 September 2009

Suicide guidelines could undermine the law

Yesterday, I highlighted how the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) seems to be on a PR bandwagon that's preparing the public for his guidelines on assisted suicide which are due out tomorrow. It looks like he will say that the authorities will only take action against those who help friends or relatives kill themselves if there's evidence of coercion or ulterior motives.

Paul Tully of SPUC has pointed out how parliament recently voted against letting people take others abroad for suicide, adding: "Now the legal authorities are forcing a weakening of the law against helping people to kill themselves. There is a democratic deficit in their action." He said that the DPP's failure to take action on high-profile assisted suicides had weakened the law. The guidelines could undermine disabled people.

The DPP is issuing these guidelines because of a House of Lords ruling. Lord Phillips (right), now president of the new supreme court, expressed sympathy for people who wanted to kill themselves.

The prime minister's spokesman restated Mr Brown's opposition to assisted suicide but would not be drawn on the DPP's guidelines. Mr Cameron, the leader of the opposition, has called moves to tolerate assisted suicide "dangerous for society". We must hold these politicians to account. We must also build a massive public campaign against any guidelines which allow assisted suicide in practice. The present law, which unambiguously forbids helping someone to kill themselves, should not be undermined.

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Monday, 21 September 2009

Chief prosecutor seems to be part of PR exercise

The Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) is due to issue his guidelines on assisted suicide on Wednesday. The House of Lords told him to do this in response to Mrs Debbie Purdy's request. She wants to know if her husband will get into trouble if he takes her abroad to kill herself. Although the guidelines aren't due out yet, Mr Keir Starmer, the DPP (right), has been on the media talking about his new policy.

Yesterday, he spoke to Andrew Marr on BBC television about the case of Daniel James. He said: "Daniel James had a clear, settled intention to commit suicide. His parents were acting purely out of compassion; and whilst assisting him weren't encouraging him, and they had nothing to gain. Now it's obvious that those factors are going to feature fairly heavily in the policy we're publishing on Wednesday."

It would seem that the policy will mean that people like Mr and Mrs James will continue to escape prosecution, even if (as Mr Starmer recognizes) they assist a suicide. Elsewhere in the interview, Mr Starmer says: "Well we're certainly not changing the law. Assisted suicide is an offence; it'll remain an offence."

It is very disturbing to see these comments being made in advance of the publication of the new prosecution policy. It suggests that there is a public relations strategy that is driving the DPP's action. The strategy seems to be to soften up public opinion in advance of the new policy.

Statute law has not been changed but the DPP's policy could well make a difference in the way people behave in circumstances of a person's suicide. The court decision in which Mr Starmer was instructed to issue this new policy included a legal argument to say that committing suicide was part of one's right to private life which is protected in article eight of the European Convention on Human Rights.

All this is very dangerous indeed and it's why SPUC intervened in Mrs Purdy's case.

George Pitcher in today's Telegraph reminds us of how Lord Falconer said that the Archbishop of Canterbury lacked compassion because he opposed assisted suicide. Mr Pitcher writes: " The DPP … has dutifully played his role in this legislative charade. He made some respectable noises after the Law Lords' ruling that it wasn't for him to change the law. Then he proceeded in effect to do just that." He warns that, once the law has been undermined by this guidance, the law will itself be changed. Mr Pitcher even predicts a suicide clinic in Britain and calls on David Cameron to reverse this worrying trend.

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Sunday, 20 September 2009

Let's give three cheers for the world's independent pro-life movement (part one)

Two stories caught my eye this week which prompt me this morning to give three rousing cheers for the world's independent, vigorous, good-humoured and peaceful pro-life movement.

Firstly, Vienna's Cardinal Schönborn forbad Bishop Andreas Laun (pictured), an auxiliary of the Salzburg diocese, from attending a peaceful pro-life protest outside Vienna's City Hall. "Bishop Laun is an excellent and brave man", according to Dr Tom Ward, president of the National Assocation of Catholic Families (NACF), who knows him - and you can find here the faithful bishop's dignified comments on television during a Mass which preceded the rally outside the city hall. Inside, Vienna's mayor was leading a celebration marking the 30th anniversary of "a busy abortion clinic".

The TV pictures show a characteristically cheerful group, including many young people, giving eloquent witness on behalf of unborn children whose right to life is being swept aside by Vienna's mayor - just as the Nazi party began to sweep away the rights of Jews in Vienna in 1938.

Secondly, a number of British journals this week, have carried reviews of an autobiography by Baroness Williams of Crosby in which it is claimed: "When, in the course of her victorious campaign for the SDP in the [1981] Crosby by-election ... the Society for the Protection for the Unborn Child threatened to flood every Catholic church in the constituency with leaflets urging support for her Tory opponent, she simply picked up the phone to Archbishop Warlock of Liverpool and got the whole thing stopped."

For the record, SPUC did not urge support for the Tory opponent (more of that below***).

Whatever the late Archbishop Warlock may or may not have sought to do, SPUC's Crosby branch continued to campaign vigorously to spread the pro-life message during that by-election. Since then, over the years, it's grown to become probably the largest local pro-life group in Britain.

It's a good job it is really because SPUC Crosby's ethically-challenged Member of Parliament, Claire Curtis-Thomas,a Catholic, and a vice-chair of the all-party parliamentary pro-life group, said in a House of Commons debate on abortion last year: "For the record, and contrary to many of the statements that I have read this week which purport to know my views, I am not opposed to abortion. I believe that women should have the right to choose; I just hope that they do not choose to have an abortion." Claire Curtis-Thomas confirmed her anti-life stance in correspondence with a constituent later in the year - and she has politely refused my offer of a public debate on her position.

In connection with these stories, we must constantly bear in mind that we are living through a period of history many pro-lifers are posing the question: "Are there subversive elements at work within the Vatican who are intent on appeasing Barack Obama and Tony Blair and their anti-life policies?"

In this grave crisis, it's vital that pro-life, pro-family movements, maintain their vigour, their independence, their good humour and their entirely peaceful character. Many of our members are inspired by the unchanging teaching of their Christian faith, whilst others, without a faith, simply respect the right to life which continues to be upheld in universal human rights instruments for all members of the human family. The pro-life movement is here; we’re growing; we’re passing on our experiences of failures and successes to the next generation who are beginning to join us in growing numbers.

Whatever the considerations which guided Vienna's Cardinal Schönborn earlier this month to make his decision about the pro-life rally in Vienna, and whatever Archbishop Warlock did or did not do in the Crosby by-election nearly thirty years ago - let's give three cheers for the world's independent pro-life movement.

***N.B. I was general secretary of SPUC in 1981 and I wrote to our supporters in November 1981 telling them exactly what the Society was saying to Crosby voters. Contrary to Lady Williams' reported claim, our practice then, as now, was to inform the electorate of the voting records and voting intentions of parliamentary candidates. We never express a preference for any party.


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