Saturday, 23 January 2010

Our families risk being thrown to the wolves

During recent weeks there have been a number of reports of Catholic bishops standing up for life and family in different countries:
  • Archbishop Michael Miller of Vancouver, Canada, has told his flock that abortion is a "slaughter of the innocents", and said that pro-lifers“have an irreplaceable role to play: we need – the Church needs, society needs – evangelists, heralds, of life, people willing to confront the weakness of a culture which has trivialized the gift of life.”
  • The US Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) has written all 19,000 parishes in America, urging the faithful to take immediate action to stop Congress voting to include abortion in health care reform. The US bishops have also praised the courage of those politicians who defended the traditional definition of marriage in the New Jersey Senate in a recent vote. On behalf of the US bishops, Archbishop Joseph Kurtz said: “Preserving marriage between one man and one woman is...one of the premier social justice issues of our time."
  • Cardinal Norberto Rivera Carrera of Mexico City has responded to critics of the Church's opposition to same-sex unions saying: "[W]e cannot be silent ... Mexico is a country that loves the family, which is its basic cell and the center of social cohesion. For this reason we are very concerned about the attacks on marriage". 
  • The Mexican bishops' conference has pledged its support for Cardinal Rivera's stand, saying about adoption of children by same-sex couples: “The family institution is responsible for procreation and for ensuring children have the guidance of a father and a mother for their education and development as persons". 
  • Last month Pope Benedict XVI sent a message of support to pro-life/pro-family groups in Spain battling their government’s attempts to usher in abortion on demand. He made his address on the same day as a host of Church leaders joined a massive rally in Madrid which I blogged about. Pope Benedict said: "[O]ne of the greatest services which we as Christians can offer our fellow men and women is to show them the serene and solid witness of a family founded upon marriage between a man and a woman, defending it and protecting it, because it is of supreme importance for the present and future of humankind." He reiterated that the family unit, and therefore parents, should be a child’s primary educators: "In truth, the family is the best school in which to learn to live the values that dignify individuals and make peoples great."
This respect for the role of parents as the first and foremost educators of their children will be trampled on by the government’s Children, Schools and Families bill, currently being considered by committee in the House of Commons.

Last November the government told parliament that it had accepted all the major recommendations of the fifth annual report by the Teenage Pregnancy Independent Advisory Group (TPIAG). Among the TPIAG's major recommendations are that 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"

In the light of the bold statements on the part of so many church leaders in other parts of the world, including the Pope, it is all the more disappointing that both the Catholic and Anglican authorities in England and Wales are in general supporting the government's proposals to force all state schools to teach sex education throughout the school years (from ages five to 18).

In addition, the Catholic Education Service of England and Wales (CESEW) continues to welcome into Catholic schools Connexions, a British government agency. Connexions’ staff are trained to tell children that they have a right of access to abortion and contraception without parental knowledge or consent, a training manual which I am happy to send to anyone who requests it.

Christian families and non-Christian families, in England and Wales have the right and the duty to demand better protection from their pastors for their families and their unborn children and grandchildren. Christian leaders need to take a leaf out of overseas' prelates books. Currently, our families risk being being thrown to the wolves.
*In Evangelium Vitae paragraph 97, Pope John Paul II taught that 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.

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Thursday, 21 January 2010

Euthanasia bill a threat to people with illness and disability

Margo MacDonald, a member of the Scottish parliament (MSP), launched a bill this morning which would allow euthanasia.

SPUC Scotland is urging MSPs to oppose the End of Life Assistance (Scotland) Bill because it attacks the first human right - the right to life - and is a threat to all people with illness or disability.

It's a sad day for the Scottish Parliament that one of its leading politicians, Ms Margo MacDonald, is proposing such a dangerous bill.

SPUC Scotland told the media this morning:
"Among its dangerous proposals is that helping kill someone who is ill or incapacitated will enable ‘dignity in dying’ and that only a procured death is dignified. This is wholly wrong and is a terrible message to impart to our society.

"What hasn’t changed with the bill, however, is that once again it’s the terminally ill and the severely disabled or ‘physically incapacitated’ who are being targeted as qualifying for having their lives deemed ‘not worth living’ or being ‘right to want to die.’

"Not only are the measures in the bill against international human rights legislation but they do not restrict the 'assistance' to doctors. They call for friends and relatives to be permitted to assist, no doubt because most medics oppose assisting suicide.

"Nor are the suggested safeguards any protection for vulnerable in Scotland. We see in those countries where it is legal, such as Holland, that non-voluntary euthanasia always follows. The threat is loud and clear to the ill and disabled: you are the target."
Alison Davis of No Less Human, a division of SPUC, who lives with severe spina bifida and other debilitating conditions that have brought her to the brink of suicide in the past, also told the media:
"The Dutch experience showed that, once euthanasia or assisted suicide is allowed, despite any number of so-called ‘strict safeguards’ such as that the killing must be ‘voluntary’, it is likely to go on to include victims who either did not, or could not, volunteer.

“I know from my own experience that what is needed is not to be abandoned or presumed to be ‘better off dead’ or to have one’s fears of being ‘burdensome’ confirmed, but rather to be surrounded by those who care. Friends and family may not be able to take the pain away, but their presence can be a source of enormous comfort.

"Sometimes what desperate people, disabled or not, need is to be given hope. What they definitely don't need is to be told they are right to feel so unhappy and that they would be better off dead. This is simply the moral equivalent of the practical example of seeing a person about to jump off a high bridge and giving them a push."
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Legal academic pens hard-hitting rejection of assisted suicide guidance

Dr Jacqueline Laing (pictured), a legal academic, has written a hard-hitting article in the Solicitors Journal against the director of public prosecutions (DPP)'s guidance on assisted suicide. Among other things, Dr Laing says in her article:
  • "[T]he guidance is unconstitutional, arbitrary and at odds with human rights law"
  • "[A]n alteration in the substance of the law is precisely what is envisaged by the guidance"
  • "Of the factors outlined against prosecution, many – for example, that the victim had a severe and incurable physical disability – are observably at odds with the demands of non-discrimination (articles 2 and 14 [of the Human Rights Act]) and the equal dignity principle."
  • "The inclusion of the factor that the suspect had previously attempted suicide also prompts the suspicion that the most vulnerable and depressed are being discriminated against."
  • "Nowhere else in the criminal law does the motive of ‘compassion’ as distinct from involuntariness, a defence which affects human control, operate to exculpate"
  • "[E]uthanasia, whether de jure or de facto, erodes respect for the value of human life, undermines the goals of medicine, endangers the vulnerable and imperils those who may indeed be a burden to others"
  • "Once this unconstitutional and illegal guidance becomes normalised, financial, scientific and medical interests will incentivise what can only be described as homicidal practice."
It is interesting to note that the criteria in the DPP's guidance is the same as the criteria in the bill proposed by Margo Macdonald before the Scottish parliament. I'm reliably informed that Mrs Macdonald will be launching her bill this morning at a press conference.

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Wednesday, 20 January 2010

Jury in Inglis murder trial showed great courage

A jury at the Old Bailey (London's central criminal court) today convicted Frances Inglis of murdering her son Thomas. Mr Inglis claimed she killed her 22-year-old son to end his suffering after he sustained severe head injuries when he fell out of a moving ambulance.

Paul Tully, SPUC Pro-Life's general secretary, has told the media this afternoon:
“There are no reports that Thomas ever expressed any wish to die. Like Tony Bland, who survived the Hillsborough football stadium tragedy but was later killed by his doctors, Thomas Inglis’ killing was non-voluntary euthanasia.

“Frances Inglis called her son’s life a ‘living hell,’ and claimed he was in ‘constant pain’. These are phrases that we often hear about disabled people, when others want to impose a ‘right to die’ on them. This reflects the fact that voluntary and non-voluntary euthanasia are two sides of the same coin. In either case, the key fact is that the person doing the killing regards the victim as better off dead. This is unacceptable.

“It is most regrettable that Miranda Moore QC, the prosecution's lawyer, seems to have accepted, without evidence, that when people like Thomas Inglis were killed it ‘put them out of their misery’. Nevertheless, she secured a conviction, which is some recompense for those who, like Thomas, are unable to communicate their feelings freely.

“Some media reports have evoked great sympathy for Mrs Inglis, but in highlighting her conflicted feelings, they are masking other important facts.

“The jury has shown great courage in bringing a verdict according to the evidence."
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Tuesday, 19 January 2010

Act now to defend life and family from Council of Europe reports

Pat Buckley of the European Life Network has alerted me to two anti-life and anti-family measures to be debated by the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) in Strasbourg next week. Please read the information below fully and please act immediately.

The first measure is the report “Discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity” by Andreas Gross, a member of the Socialist group. The Gross report will be debated on Wednesday 27 January. According to a memorandum by the European Centre for Law and Justice, the Gross report's promotion of radical homosexual rights threatens to damage:
  • the family
  • the higher interest of children*
  • States’ sovereign interest and right to protect public morality, family and the best interests of the child
The Gross report also attempts to:
  • create an artificial concept of the family and of marriage
  • require national legislations to recognise same-sex marriage or partnership
  • create a right to adopt a child.
The second measure is the report “Fifteen Years Since the International Conference on Population and Development Programme of Action” by Christine McCafferty, a veteran anti-life member of the British Labour party. The McCafferty report will be debated on Friday 29 January. The McCafferty report involves the promotion of abortion as a means of family planning and population control. A comprehensive memorandum on the critical issues involved in the McCafferty report has also been prepared by the European Centre for Law and Justice (ECLJ).

Please contact the members of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) from your country and ask them to reject these measures. Please copy any replies you receive to political@spuc.org.uk

*In Evangelium Vitae paragraph 97, Pope John Paul II taught that 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.

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Monday, 18 January 2010

SPUC reports from the March for Life in Paris

Anthony Ozimic, SPUC's communications manager, and his fiancée Magdalena, have just returned from representing SPUC at the March for Life in Paris last Sunday, and Anthony has sent me the report below.

"Sunday's march was preceded on Saturday evening with a prayer vigil (right) for Catholics at L'Église St Francois-Xavier, a particularly beautiful church. Between seven and eight hundred people, mostly in their twenties, attended. We were impressed by the sermon given by Monsigneur Chauvet, the parish priest. He explained very clearly the Catholic Church's teaching on the dignity of the human person, the important place of conscience and the respect due to the human body. The young people were therefore well-versed in the reasons for participating in the next day's march.

"Sunday's march started at the Place de la République (left). The Place soon overflowed with thousands of young people bearing placards, t-shirts and balloons with clear, strong messages. One placard which caught my eye read: "No children, no pensions!" Representatives of pro-life groups from various countries were invited to speak. Magdalena, a talented linguist, translated my speech to the marchers. We explained to them SPUC's history, its international outreach and the importance of solidarity within the European pro-life movement. I was also interviewed by Agence France Presse (AFP) and other reporters.

"The march then started on its route (right, with Magdalena in the foreground). As the march is organised and led by young adults, the spirit is very boisterous, with catchy songs, witty chants and plenty of bonhomie. I was amazed to see one group called "Musicians for Life", another group called "Socialists for Life" and a third group of hunting-horn players! Walking behind the main march was a Catholic prayer procession, featuring parents and their children and led by superiors and representatives of several religious orders.

"The march ended three hours later outside the Paris Opéra, one of the city's finest landmarks (left, with me in the foreground). The organisers estimate there were 20,000 marchers. Although 25 French bishops sent messages of support, it's a pity that only one attended. Nonetheless, such a event is an impressive achievement considering the strong anti-life trend in France. The youthful vigour on display makes one hopeful for the future."

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Episcopal policy in England and Wales is undermining the culture of life

Caritas in Veritate (Latin for "charity in truth"), the wonderfully-named blog of Fr John Boyle (pictured), carries an important reflection on a worrying report in The Tablet concerning Bishop Malcolm McMahon, the chairman of the Catholic Education Sevice, an agency of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of England and Wales.

Bishop McMahon reportedly told The Tablet that:
" ... the backgrounds of potential school leaders were not the concern of the Church and it should be up to applicants themselves to decide whether they were able to live according to church teaching ... "
The Tablet says:
"[Bishop McMahon] also said that the Church was not opposed to civil partnerships. 'Civil partnerships are precisely what they say they are. They’re not gay marriages or lesbian marriages. They’re simply a legal arrangement between two people so that they can pass on property and other rights in which they were discriminated against before,' he said. 'We have many gay people in education and a large number of gay people in the Church, at least the same as the national average. I think a person who is leading a church school should live according to the Church’s teaching whether they are in a civil partnership or not. A civil partnership is not a marriage, it’s not a conjugal relationship.'
Fr Boyle's commentary is well worth reading. He is a canon lawyer and contributor to the newsletter of the Canon Law Society of Great Britain and Ireland.

Bishop McMahon's worrying reported statement comes in the wake of considerable concern regarding previously published episcopal policy in England and Wales. I have blogged before about the Diversity and Equality guidelines, a publication of the Catholic bishops' conference of England and Wales. This policy document welcomes, seeks to implement, and says that it will monitor the implementation (in the Catholic Church, including in Catholic schools) of British government and EU law on the equal employment rights of male and female homosexuals, and bisexuals and transsexuals.

I note that the Catholic Bishops' Conference website currently states of these Guidelines:
"Please note that the law in this area has already changed in certain respects since the Guidelines were published and it is likely to change further in the light of new equality legislation due before parliament in 2009. New comprehensive Guidelines will need to be written and published after the Bill has been enacted."
I do hope and pray that the bishops will reverse their policy in any newly-written guidelines and that they will repudiate Bishop McMahon's reported statement. Their guidelines and the bishop's statement have the effect of undermining the culture of life. As I said in my earlier post:
"With the bishops of England and Wales now welcoming and guaranteeing the presence of homosexual, bisexual and transsexual teachers in Catholic schools in England and Wales, and in the light of Evangelium Vitae, paragraph 97 (above), is it not completely unrealistic to expect that Catholic sexual morality, including the sacredness of human life before birth, will be taught in these schools?

"A pro-abortion document, prepared at the request of the EU Commission on the right to conscientious objection, links rights relating to sexual orientation to other supposed rights, including the “right” to abortion and the “right” to euthanasia and assisted suicide. The document quotes, in part, the Diversity and Equality Guidelines of the Catholic bishops of England and Wales in a generally approving way. The bishops’ guidelines and the EU experts’ document clearly agree that, subject to limited and narrow exceptions, Catholic organisations must ensure that no job applicant or employee receives less favourable treatment than another on the grounds of sexual orientation."
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