Friday, 26 March 2010

US health care bill highlights danger of bargaining over babies' lives

President Barack Obama has signed into law the health care bill passed by the US Congress. As feared, the new law provides massive funding for abortion. The National Right to Life Committee (NRLC) has described the law as "the most abortion-expansive piece of legislation ever" before Congress. At the last moment, Congressman Bart Stupak (pictured with President Obama) and other Democrat politicians who claim to be pro-life made a deal with Mr Obama. Mr Obama offered to sign an presidential executive order, allegedly excluding funding for abortion from the bill, if these Democrat politicians would agree to vote for the bill. The deal enabled the bill to pass.

All the main pro-life groups plus the Catholic bishops' conference have rejected the executive order as worthless. Pro-life groups have stripped Stupak of endorsements and prospective honours. Many pro-life groups feel betrayed, considering that they supported Mr Stupak last year when he was successful in having an earlier version of the bill changed with what they regarded as a worthwhile amendment. Some pro-life groups had warned, though, that the amendment was a half-measure which couldn't make the bill ethically acceptable. They feared that the amendment would actually help, not hinder, the passing of an law with many anti-life evils.

The lesson for the UK from the US health care bill is clear. The Church, and pro-life groups, must:
  • oppose, from the very start and throughout its progress, any legislation in which there is a distinct possibility of any individual's right to life being undermined
  • not be cowed from speaking out against bargaining over babies' lives, out of a misplaced fear of divisiveness or disloyalty.
Sadly, Catholic bishops' conferences and many pro-lifers in the UK and Ireland did not see the prudence of this approach during the: All too predictably, this weekend's Tablet greets the health care bill with an editorial headlined "America affirms right to life" and a feature article headlined "Victory for dignity". Both the editorial and feature article are replete with gross misrepresentations. For example, the editorial claims that Mr Obama "buil[t] into his scheme cast-iron guarantees to meet" pro-life objections, yet the main pro-life groups have explained in great detail that Mr Obama's guarantees are worthless deceits. The feature article claims that the bill "received widespread support from a host of pro-life leaders", when in fact Democrats for Life was the only pro-life group to support the bill. The feature article omits mention of the many pro-abortion and other anti-life elements in the bill, and makes specific claims (e.g. on community health centres) which pro-life experts have already debunked. 

Such obfuscation is spread and replicated elsewhere in the Catholic media, by bishops' conferences and their agencies, and by Catholic parliamentarians. Sorting out this problem is a Herculean task akin to cleaning out the Augean stables. We cannot, however, shirk from this task, for the sake of the unborn and the vulnerable born.

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Thursday, 25 March 2010

Northern Ireland power devolution welcome

SPUC has welcomed the devolution of criminal justice in Northern Ireland from the Westminster parliament to the Stormont assembly (pictured). A number of pro-life issues will now become the responsibility of the assembly. The Abortion Act thankfully does not apply to Northern Ireland. From 12 April (when the devolved powers take effect) the assembly will be able to amend the existing legislation in respect of abortion, or not, as it sees fit. Sex education is already a devolved matter, but end-of-life issues are subject to Part II of the Criminal Justice Act (Northern Ireland) 1966. From 12 April the Northern Ireland assembly will assume responsibility for them.

Liam Gibson of SPUC Northern Ireland told the media today:
"Opposition to liberal abortion was one of the few issues which united the people and politicians of Northern Ireland throughout the long years of sectarian conflict. A relentless campaign over four decades by SPUC, its supporters and colleagues in other organisations has helped to ensure that repeated efforts to overturn Northern Ireland's legal restrictions on abortion were defeated. The most recent attempt by the abortion extremists in Westminster to introduce the Abortion Act in 2008 failed due to the fierce opposition of members of the assembly.

“Attempts to undermine the protection of our children, however, will continue. Health officials persist in promoting medical guidelines which do not accurately present the law, guidelines which SPUC is actively resisting through the courts. Foreign pro-abortion agencies continue to pressurise Northern Ireland to change its abortion law.

“Nevertheless, the devolution of criminal justice powers means that Northern Ireland is entering a new period, in which it will much more difficult for the abortion industry to impose its agenda. Northern Ireland remains the safest place in the UK for unborn children, with the best record on maternal mortality. The pro-life movement is now in a much stronger position to safeguard our existing legislation, as well as introduce new measures to protect women and their unborn children.”
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Wednesday, 24 March 2010

Pro-life vigil, Maidstone, Kent, 14 April

"A great prayer for life is urgently needed … prayer and fasting are the first and most effective weapons against the forces of evil." Pope John Paul II, Evangelium Vitae.

The Helpers of God's Precious Infants is an international pro-life group founded by Monsignor Philip Reilly under the direction of Bishop Thomas Daily of New York. Its main work is prayer vigils at abortion facilities. To date, 5 cardinals and over 100 bishops worldwide participate, including Bishop Bernard Longley of Westminster, Bishop Thomas McMahon of Brentwood, Bishop John Hine of Southwark and Bishop Arthur Roche of Leeds. The spirituality is one of solidarity with Jesus in the person of the forgotten poor: “Whatever you do for the least of these my brethren, you do for me.” (Matt.25:40).

The Helpers will be holding a vigil, with full police co-operation, on Wednesday 14 April at the Marie Stopes abortion facility, Brewer Street, Maidstone, Kent ME14 1RV. The proceedings will start at 10.00am with the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass at St Francis’ Church, Week Street, ME14 1RH celebrated by Father Paul Johnston S.O.L.T.
10.30am: prayerful and peaceful procession to Marie Stopes abortion facility, processing with image of Our Lady of Guadalupe, Holy Rosary.
12.00pm: return procession with prayers. Break for tea and get together (please bring a packed lunch).

Directions: Connex South East runs a direct line from Victoria to Maidstone East Station, which is directly opposite St. Francis Church.
By road: The M20 – come off at Junction 6. Follow signs to town centre then to Maidstone East station. There is a car park at the station and also two car parks in Brewer Street and one in Wheeler Street, both of which are accessed by Lower Boxley Well road. The shaded areas on the map are pedestrian areas only.

The Helpers ask those unable to join the procession to join them spiritually.

For further information contact:
The Helpers Of God’s Precious Infants, P.O. Box 26601, LONDON, N14 7WH
Telephone: 020 8252 3109 E-mail: info@hgpi.co.uk Web: www.hgpi.co.uk

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Tuesday, 23 March 2010

Shameful message from Westminster archdiocese education director

Fr Richard Parsons, parish priest of St. Theresa of the Child Jesus, Headstone Lane, where my wife and I often go to Mass, has shared with me a message he received last weekend from from the office of Archbishop Vincent Nichols of Westminster. Fr Martin Hayes, the archbishop's secretary, wrote that the archbishop has asked Paul Barber, the archdiocese's director of education,
"to assist [the archdiocese's] understanding of issues around the subject of sex and relationship education in Catholic schools".
Mr Barber has written the following:
"There has been much misinformation about this topic put about by sections of the media, some politicians and various organisations. This short e-mail is intended to advise you, as briefly as possible, about the current situation as far as our schools are concerned.

"1. All Catholic schools in the Diocese teach sex and relationship education, and are required to do so in accordance with the teachings of the Church.

"2. There is nothing in the current Bill which will prevent Catholic schools from continiuing to teach sex and relationship education in accordance with the teachings of the Church.

"3. Parents have the right to withdraw their children from sex and relationship education: under the Bill they will continue to have this right until the child reaches 15.

If you would like more information, and see the actual documentation, please go to the Diocesan website:
http://www.rcdow.org.uk/education/default_view.asp?library_ref=8&category_ref=171&content_ref=2716

or the CES website:
http://www.cesew.org.uk/sre

I hope this information is reassuring" [etc.]
I can say that, as a practising Catholic living and worshipping within Westminster archdiocese, Mr Barber's message is certainly not "reassuring". In fact, it is shameful that such misinformation is being disseminated to clergy and parishes in the archbishop's name. Mr Barber's message almost totally ignores the large and growing number of cogent, detailed arguments which have been made by clergy, laity and by concerned expert groups, who have already debunked Mr Barber's scanty assertions. The link to the archdiocesan website provided by Mr Barber claims that:
"[T]he longstanding parental right of withdrawal from sex education is extended to SRE, although it now ends when the child reaches 15 (in accordance with the principles laid down by the House of Lords in the Gillick case)."
But, as I pointed out last night, the Gillick judgment applies to consent to medical treatment, not education. And what is also not pointed out is that schoolchildren will not have any right to withdraw themselves from SRE at any age. The net result of the Catholic authorities' support for the bill will be that, if the bill is passed,
  • abortion, contraception, homosexuality and "a wide range of [sexual] practices" will be promoted and facilitated in schools
  • pupils will forcibly be taught anti-life/anti-family sex education. I can certainly envisage situations where pupils will be taught against their consciences.
In common with the CES's statements, Mr Barber expresses no concern whatsoever about pupils in non-Catholic schools, which includes large numbers of Catholics.

Also in common with the CES's statements, Mr Barber fails to explain or reference "the teachings of the Church". The almost total silence by the Catholic authorities in England and Wales about the Magisterium's key document on sex education, "The truth and meaning of human sexuality", simply increases the impression that those authorities dissent from Catholic teaching in this area.

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Monday, 22 March 2010

The CES condemns itself from its own mouth

The correspondence below between the Catholic Education Service (CES) and an enquirer has been forwarded to me. Although it dates from November, it is very much applicable to the current situation regarding the Children, Schools and Families (CSF) bill.

Enquirer: "What will happen to Catholic pupils at non-Catholic schools?"
CES: "CESEW does not have authority over pupils at non-Catholic schools, so queries relating to any such schools ought to be directed to DCSF" [JS note: Ed Ball's Department for Children, Schools and Families]
JS comment: This is a shameful comment. Instead of showing concern for Catholic pupils, the CES abandons them to the most pro-abortion and anti-family government in British history.

Enquirer: "What will the sex education be based upon?"
CES: "Ed Balls emphasised that the approach to Sex and Relationships Education (SRE) will be determined by each school’s governing body, and this should be in accordance with the ethos of the school. In the case of Catholic schools, this means that SRE will be taught in accordance with the teachings of the Catholic Church."
JS comment:
  • There is nothing in the bill which says that Catholic schools will be able to teach SRE "in accordance with the teachings" of the Catholic Church. The government has never used this language; it has always spoken only of the "ethos" of schools and of teaching which "reflect[s] the school's religious character".
  • The CES never explains (at least clearly or adequately) what it means by "the teachings of the Catholic Church" regarding SRE.
  • Many Catholic schools are teaching, facilitating or promoting anti-life/anti-family practices. There is no evidence that the CES is doing anything concrete about it.
  • The bill requires schools to teach SRE according to the principles of "equality", "diversity" and "rights". These concepts are interpreted by the government to mean abortion, homosexuality* and non-marital sexual acts, including contraceptive intercourse. It is the government's interpretation that will have most influence before the courts and with regulatory bodies - which are often all too willing to follow an anti-life/anti-family agenda.
  • The bill requires information presented in SRE to be "accurate" and "balanced". These concepts are interpreted by the government in a way which excludes pro-life facts, such as the physical and psychological damage caused to women by abortion, and the abortion-inducing mode of many birth control drugs and devices.
  • The bill requires that the SRE taught "is appropriate to the ages of the pupils concerned and to their religious and cultural backgrounds". This is interpreted by the government to include exposing primary school children in faith schools to pornographic representations of sexual activity.
Enquirer: "Will pupils be taught about abortion and contraception? If so at what age?"
CES: "The programmes of study are available online: http://curriculum.qcda.gov.uk/key-stages-1-and-2/subjects/personal_social_and_health_education/keystage1/index.aspx?return=/key-stages-1-and-2/subjects/index.aspx and http://curriculum.qcda.gov.uk/key-stages-3-and-4/subjects/pshe/index.aspx?return=/key-stages-3-and-4/subjects/index.aspx Whilst pupils will be taught the factual content within these frameworks, in Catholic schools this content will be placed within the context of Church teaching."
JS comment:
  • The answer avoids the question.
  • Again, the CES never explains (at least clearly or adequately) what "within the context of Church teaching" means.
Enquirer: "Will they follow DCSF guidelines?"
CES: "Yes, DCSF guidelines apply to all schools within the state sector."
JS comment:
  • The government's draft SRE guidance is an anti-life/anti-family corncupia, including the promotion and facilitation of abortion, contraception, homosexuality and a "wide range of [sexual] practices".
  • The CES helped draft the guidance and welcomed it as "a positive step forward".
  • In saying that the Catholic state schools will follow the guidance, the CES is going even further than the law, which requires state schools to "have regard" to the guidance.
  • This answer shows that the CES is colluding with the government to promote and even impose the culture of death in Catholic schools.
Enquirer: "How does all of this square with paragraphs 78 and 83 of the Vatican’s Truth and Human Sexuality http://www.vatican.va/roman_curia/pontifical_councils/family/documents/rc_pc_family_doc_08121995_human-sexuality_en.html [JS: These paragraphs teach pre-pubescent children should not be exposed to direct sex education.] Is this move announced yesterday [JS note: SRE from age five onwards] not in contradiction with Vatican teaching?"
CES: "Parents continue to have the right to withdraw their children from SRE classes up until the age of 15, thus protecting the important parental rights and duties enshrined in the Pontifical Council for the Family’s teaching document. You will have seen the two statements issued by CESEW (http://www.cesew.org.uk/standardnews.asp?id=8844 and http://www.cesew.org.uk/standardnews.asp?id=8845 and these represent our final position on the above."
JS comment:
  • Why should parents be forced to withdraw their children from school classes? It is Catholic schools who should conform themselves to Catholic teaching instead. The CES is effectively telling Catholic parents to like it or lump it.
  • Neither of the statements cited by the CES explain how the government's plans are compatible with "The truth and meaning of human sexuality", the Magisterium's key document on sex education.
  • The first statement says: "[L]egal encumbrances mean that a blanket right of withdrawal can no longer apply". What this means is that the CES has accepted the government's interpretation of the Gillick judgment. Yet the Gillick judgment doesn't apply to education, only to consent to medical treatment. Isn't it encumbent upon the CES to challenge that interpretation? I suspect that the CES doesn't really mind.
  • The first statement also says: "[W]e are comforted in the knowledge that our schools and colleges will do an exceptional job in providing Sex and Relationships Education, set within the teachings of the Catholic Church." As I've pointed out before, many Catholic schools are doing a bad job, by promoting and facilitating practices contrary to Catholic teaching, teaching which the CES never defines.
  • The second statement says: "We welcome the government’s reiteration of its support for the important principles underlining SRE, which emphasise that schools continue to have the legal right to determine the content of what is taught in PSHE within their schools and that governing bodies retain the right to determine what is taught, and must determine this in line with the ethos of the school." Yet the government has never said that "schools continue to have the legal right to determine the content of what is taught". The bill is clear, and the government has been clear, that schools must teach SRE according to certain principles (which will be interpreted in an anti-life/anti-family sense, see above) and are forbidden from teaching according to other certain principles. The DCSF has made clear that schools will be forbidden to teach (what it regards as) "discrimination" or "suggest that their views are the only valid ones" (DCSF reply, 18 March).
Enquirer: "Will the CES support Catholic schools if they choose to maintain the right of sex-education opt-out from 15? If it will do, how will it be supporting them? What form will the support take?"
CES:  "Such a move would be unlawful and as such we would not be able to support a school that took this approach."
JS comment: The CES is quite content for Catholic schools and Catholic parents to suffer, as long as the law upholds the government's sex education agenda. A truly Catholic education service would instead pursue and be pursuing every legal and other avenue to stop the government's agenda.

In conclusion, the CES has condemned itself out of its own mouth. An education service which prefers to listens to, follow and collude with the most anti-life/anti-family government in British history is not fit for purpose.

*(The reason why the Catholic Church's teaching on homosexuality is so important for the pro-life cause can be found in Pope John Paul II's Evangelium Vitae. In paragraph 97, Pope John Paul teaches 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.)