Saturday, 14 November 2009

Top lawyers and former judges attack assisted suicide guidelines

What The Daily Telegraph today describes as an "unprecedented coalition" of "leading lawyers, peers and former judges" has warned that the “interim prosecuting policy” for assisted suicide from the director of public prosecutions (DPP) poses "serious dangers for public safety".  Read the story in full here as well as an excellent commentary by Lord Carlile (pictured), also in The Telegraph.

The consultation on the DPP guidelines closes in mid-December.  There's still time to order flyers from SPUC to alert the public to the dangers of these dangerously flawed guidelines which, according to Lord Carlile, "fly in the face of the principle that the law must afford equal protection to all, irrespective of age, sex race, religion and state of health", and, I would add, irrespective of disability. You can also order SPUC's briefing on making a submission to the DPP.  Write to me for leaflets (state quantity) or a briefing at johnsmeaton@spuc.org.uk

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Ignoring personhood leads to concentration camps says archbishop

I was struck by the simplicity and force of what Archbishop Luis Ladaria, the Secretary for the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith(CDF), said to university students in Rome last week - as reported by Zenit:
Science has proven that there is human life from the moment of conception, the archbishop affirmed, hence, the new being already has a soul and a spirit.

He explained: "If it is a human, it is always a person. There is nothing abstract in him."

From the moment the zygote begins to exist there is no change in its nature, he said.
The archbishop was explaining the teaching in Dignitatis Personae, an Instruction published by the CDF last year. (A useful summary of the Instruction, by Dr (Fr) John I Fleming, the leading bioethicist, can be found here.)

Interestingly, Dame Mary Warnock, whose thinking was used by the British Government in 1990 to justify the legalisation of human embryo experimentation up to 14 days, also concluded that, from conception, the nature of the human embryo does not change.

In July 1982, the British 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.

Read carefully in the next paragraph, taken from the report, the argument which Mary Warnock used to justify lethal experiments on human embryos, up to the 14th day after conception:
"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 italics):

“ … 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 decided to make a completely arbitrary decision in order to fool Parliament and the public into thinking that they had 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.)

Archbishop Ladaria observes in his talk to university students last week that thinking like this led to the concentration camps. Zenit reports:
"Why do Christians give so much importance to the concept of person?" the archbishop asked.

The prelate affirmed: "Man and woman have been created in the image and likeness of God.

"The concept of person is essential for approaches to the mystery of the Trinity and the Incarnation. Man is a person, Christ is a person in his relationship with the Father; he is Son."

Archbishop Ladaria pointed out that this type of argument is ignored when ideologies are promoted that go against life. Often, he lamented, man "is considered a number."

The prelate recalled: "In concentration camps they wanted to eliminate human dignity, so they gave a number. This is a way of offending the person, of reducing him."

Dignity, he explained, goes beyond a number, and is related to "unique and unrepeatable characteristics."
The idea of personhood applying to all human beings, including the unborn child from the beginning of his or her existence, is by no means an exclusively religious concept. It's the universal consensus of humanity as expressed in international human rights instruments, as I explained in my closing address to the 4th World Pro-Life Congress in Saragossa, Spain, last weekend (which is available in EnglishSpanish and Italian).

Tragically, on the basis of Dame Mary Warnock’s report, which, on its own admission, arbitrarily ignored the right to life of the human embryo, 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.

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Friday, 13 November 2009

Next national day of prayer & fasting for life is next Wed 18 Nov

From the Good Counsel Network:

Monthly national day of prayer & fasting for life, Wedneday 18th November, Dedication of the Basilica of St Peter & St Paul.

A great prayer for life is urgently needed. Pope John Paul II

Join us in:
  • fasting: Fast from all food except bread and water for the day or fast from a particular food or luxury, e.g. chocolate, alcohol, cigarettes, TV. Fast from whatever you can given your state of health etc, but make sure it is something that involves a sacrifice to yourself.
  • prayer: We are asking people to say a Rosary (or an extra Rosary if you say it daily already). You could also offer an extra effort such as going to Mass (or an extra Mass) on the day, or going to Adoration. You can even pray before a closed tabernacle if Adoration is not available near you.
And He said to them; This kind (of demon) can go out by nothing, but by prayer and fasting. (Gospel of Mark 9:29)

On Wedneday 18th November please pray and fast for the end of abortion and euthanasia. Your prayer and fasting is urgently needed.

For information on the day of prayer and fasting contact The Good Counsel Network on 020 7723 1740.

And the people of Ninevah believed in God; they proclaimed a fast and put on sackcloth, from the greatest to the least…God saw their efforts to renounce their evil ways. And God relented about the disaster which He had threatened to bring on them, and He did not bring it. (Jonah 3:5,10)

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Thursday, 12 November 2009

Pro-family amendment is a victory for common sense

There was an important victory yesterday in Parliament in defence of the culture of life with the passage of an amendment by Lord Waddington (pictured) in the House of Lords.

The Waddington amendment reads:
“For the avoidance of doubt, the discussion or criticism of sexual conduct or practices or the urging of persons to refrain from or modify such conduct or practices shall not be taken of itself to be threatening or intended to stir up hatred.”
Quite apart from its obvious common sense, the amendment is important for our building of a culture of life in Britain.  SPUC is not a religious organization, but I know from experience that many of our members, of all faiths and none, would fully concur with Pope John Paul II's words in Evangelium Vitae (97):
"it is an illusion to think that we can build a true culture of human life if we do not offer adolescents and young adults an authentic education in sexuality, and in love, and the whole of life according to their true meaning and in their close interconnection."
Last year I welcomed  Bishop Campbell's translation of Pope Benedict's 2008 Christmas Address to the Roman Curia. (Bishop Campbell is now the bishop of Lancaster.)

It was clearer than ever from this papal address, given two days before Christmas, that Catholic teaching on the full truth about human sexuality - "the nature of the human being as man and woman" - is intimately linked with Catholic teaching on the sanctity of human life.

In an illuminating passage, Pope Benedict urges the world to re-read Humanae Vitae. He reminds mankind, showing no fear of the hostility of politically-correct opponents of church teaching:
"The great Scholastic theologians have characterised matrimony, the life-long bond between man and woman, as a sacrament of creation, instituted by the Creator himself and which Christ – without modifying the message of creation – has incorporated into the history of his covenant with mankind ... Beginning from this perspective, it would be beneficial to read again the Encyclical Humanae Vitae: the intention of Pope Paul VI was to defend love against sexuality as a consumer entity, the future as opposed to the exclusive pretext of the present, and the nature of man against its manipulation ... "
Pope Benedict echoes Pope John Paul when he says the devaluation of the "language of creation" leads to "the self-destruction of man".

Paul Lennon, SPUC's parliamentary consultant, provides the following background to yesterday's amendment:
"When the Government last year introduced a new offence of inciting ‘homophobic hatred’, a free speech shield was tabled by Lord Waddington and accepted by the Government in May 2008 because they did not want to loose the Bill. However, they said that they would repeal it at the first opportunity.

"In March this year MPs agreed to delete it. However, this was reversed by the House of Lords in July. Earlier this week, the House of Commons overturned it, but last night Peers fought back and insisted on their disagreement. The Government then backed down.

"The free speech clause reads: “For the avoidance of doubt, the discussion or criticism of sexual conduct or practices or the urging of persons to refrain from or modify such conduct or practices shall not be taken of itself to be threatening or intended to stir up hatred.”

"Once again, the House of Lords voted in favour of the pro-family Waddington amendment to the Coroners and Justice Bill. By 179 votes to 135 the House voted to insist on the amendment. Some very strong speeches from Lord Waddington, Baroness Butler-Sloss, Lord Dear, Lord MacKay of Clashfern, the Bishop of Winchester, Lord Clarke of Hampstead, Lord Henley (who announced the Conservatives had a free vote), Baroness Falkner who spoke for the Lib Dems (who had a free vote) and Baroness Paisley. The only speakers against were Baroness Turner (known as “Old Labour”) and Lord Smith of Finsbury.

"The Government have now backed down and will no longer disagree to the Waddington amendment. A motion has been tabled by Justice Secretary Jack Straw – which will be debated for up to one hour this morning - to agree with the Waddington amendment. This is a very big pro-family victory. The debate can be seen here."
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Spain's pro-life movement is impressive

I wrote earlier this week about the 4th international pro-life congress held last weekend in Saragossa (Spain), at which I had the honour of delivering the closing address.

I am grateful to Bob Lalonde, who heads up the international work of Priests for Life, for sharing with me one of the pictures (right) he took of an impressive act of witness which took place over the weekend: a million candles for life, representing the one million babies killed under Spain's abortion law. As Bob said to me, and as evidenced throughout the Congress, the vigour and the imagination of the Spanish pro-life movement are most impressive.

A number of readers have been asking me for further details of the "Truce of 1968", through which a false doctrine of conscience has undermined the Catholic Church's doctrine on the transmission of life in Humanae Vitae. I spoke about this in my closing address (which is available in EnglishSpanish and Italian).

George Weigel writes about the "truce of 1968" in The Courage to be Catholic published by Basic Books; and the facts of the case can be studed in The Vatican Collection, Vatican Council II, Volume 2, More Post Conciliar Documents, General Editor, Austin Flannery, O.P..

I'm pictured here at the Saragossa conference with Bob Lalonde (r-h) and with Mrs Pilar Gutierrez (centre), the co-ordinator for Priests for Life in Spain.
And here I am with Joe Lee, SPUC Scotland's newly-appointed development officer, who joined me for the Congress in Saragossa. He was promoting SPUC's international pro-life student conference in Glasgow next March, as well as sharing with our international pro-life colleagues SPUC's most recent publications for doctors.

I'm also photographed with Marlene Gillette-Ibern (l-h), a pro-life lawyer from Puerto Rico, and Esperanza Puente (centre), one of the most effective voices in Spain, especially in the media, where she speaks out powerfully and courageously about her personal abortion experience.

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Wednesday, 11 November 2009

Government's teen pregnancy strategy undermines parents and betrays children

The government has today accepted all the major recommendations of the latest report by the Teenage Pregnancy Independent Advisory Group. In a written ministerial statement today, the department for children, schools and families said that:
"The Government has taken forward all the major recommendations including making sex and relationships education statutory within Personal, Social, Health and Economic Education from 2011."
The report's appalling major recommendations include:
  • "The Government's current review of SRE should...
    • ...[s]tate clearly that all schools including faith schools must teach all aspects of SRE within the context of relationships in an anti-discriminatory way; contraception, abortion and homosexuality are all legal in this country and therefore all children and young people should be able to learn the correct facts
    • ...[m]ake explicit links to young people's advisory services and provision of contraception and sexual health services and demonstrate this by teaching young people how to access services"
  • "abortion and contraceptive services should be joined up at national and local level so that the cost-benefits of contraception, particularly long-acting reversible contraception (LARC), can be set against the greater costs of terminating an unwanted pregnancy"
  • "the removal of the restriction on promoting condom use before the 9pm watershed"
  • "government should continue to provide strong leadership to champion the Teenage Pregnancy Strategy"
The government is trying to suppress the right of parents to be primary educators of their children, a principle enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. This is a point I fully explored in my concluding address to the fourth International Pro-Life Congress, in Saragossa, Spain (which you can find in full here in EnglishSpanish and Italian).The state is also attempting to make parents and schools complicit in introducing children into an adult culture of sexual activity and abortion. The Teenage Pregnancy Strategy is a disastrous failure which has contributed to the rise in abortions and sexually transmitted infections among young people. SPUC is writing to schools, urging them to resist the goverment's manipulation.

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Tuesday, 10 November 2009

Slight increase in abortions in Northern Ireland

New statistics suggest there has been a slight increase in the numbers of abortions in Northern Ireland. Liam Gibson of SPUC Northern Ireland told the media today:
"Even a slight increase in the number of abortions is a matter of grave concern since every abortion means the death of a child. The law in Northern Ireland protects both women and children. Any medical intervention which would risk a child's life is only lawful if the doctor considers it necessary to save the mother's life. It is not lawful for a doctor to intend the child's death.

"There is evidence, however, that abortions have been performed simply because the child may have been disabled. Abortions for disability are form of fatal discrimination and are unlawful in Northern Ireland. It is very worrying, therefore, that the health minister claims he doesn't know the reasons for which abortions are carried out in Northern Ireland. How can the health department tell if these abortions are lawful if it hasn't verified the reasons for them? As a matter of urgency, the minister should tell the Stormont assembly what monitoring procedures he will establish to prevent unlawful abortions.

"Abortion is not health care. There is never any medical justification for ending a child's life. No one has ever shown a verifiable medical benefit to abortion. There is a growing body of research detailing the damaging physical and psychological effects abortion can have on women. Abortion is never a compassionate response to a crisis pregnancy."
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Sunday, 8 November 2009

There's a third world war on unborn children and on parents as primary educators

Today at Saragossa, Aragon in Spain, I gave the concluding address to the fourth International Pro-Life Congress (which you can find in full here in EnglishSpanish and Italian). I congratulated the Spanish bishops and people for their defence of human life, of marriage and of parents as the primary educators of their children. I said, however, that a third world war had begun on unborn children and against parents as the primary educators of their children.

Both the Spanish and British prime ministers had promoted the lie that pro-life people wanted to impose religious beliefs on society. We actually represented humanity’s consensus on the right to life. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights said the right to life extends to “all members of the human family”. The UN Convention on the Rights of the Child said: “the child, by reason of his physical and mental immaturity, needs special safeguards and care, including appropriate legal protection, before as well as after birth”.

Wellington Webb, President Obama's adviser to the US mission to the United Nations, had said that America would promote legalised abortion throughout the world. Mrs Clinton, secretary of state, has said that, when her government speaks of reproductive health, it includes access to abortion.

I warned that on Friday (13 November) Mrs Christine McCafferty, Labour MP for Calder Valley, would be promoting abortion on demand in the Council of Europe's Parliamentary Assembly. I urged congress delegates to email members of the assembly's social, health and family affairs committee about Mrs McCafferty’s pro-abortion report which is called Fifteen years since the International Conference on Population and Development Programme of Action.

Archbishop Fisichella, president of the Pontifical Academy for Life, had reinforced the attack upon Archbishop Sobrinho of Recife who had upheld the right to life of two unborn babies. A sustained pro-life reaction to this scandalous situation had resulted in the publication of a document from the Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith correcting Archbishop Fisichella's article.

The British government had a policy of providing access to abortion and birth control for children under 16 without parental knowledge or consent yet the Universal Declaration of Human Rights said: "The family is the natural and fundamental group unit of society and is entitled to protection by society and the State." It described parents as the primary educators of their children.

Birth control and abortion referral were being provided to children at British schools, including Catholic schools, under the age of 16 without parental knowledge or consent. This was happening with the co-operation of the Catholic authorities. At one Catholic school a nurse used a plastic model to show children how to put on a condom. The pupils were then given a card explaining where to get free contraceptives and morning-after pills, as well as giving address of a website which helps you get abortions. Catholic church leaders in England and Wales were also prepared to refer homosexual couples to other adoption agencies.

I told the congress: "Our crisis began with the rejection of Humanae Vitae. It will end with its acceptance and implementation." This restoration could only come about with a radical change in the policy for nominating Catholic bishops in Europe. Rome should only appoint men to the episcopate who had a sustained and genuine track record of fidelity to the teachings of the Magisterium on the transmission of human life (Humanae Vitae) and on life. The present situation was costing too many babies' lives.

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