Thursday, 29 July 2010

Vatican leader and pro-life politicians send out a shining light in a dark world

Monsignor Ignacio Carrasco (pictured), the new president of the Pontifical Academy for Life, has hit the nail on the head again on abortion.  Two weeks ago I reported on his significant interview with Zenit in which he said there was no scientific case for abortion.

Monsignor Carrasco says today that the new Spanish law on abortion is "an expression of the incapacity to understand what a right is. The problem is serious, not only in Spain".

In the minimum number of words, he sums up the challenge we face in Britain where David Cameron and Andrew Lansley, the new health secretary, have made clear their support for wider access to abortion, under their guise of support for reducing the upper time-limit for social abortions; and where just two days ago, the Coalition government announced plans to step up abortions on the poor in the developing world.

Monsignor Carrasco sums up the problem at the Human Rights Council in Geneva where the Holy See and SPUC have been challenging an extreme, "ideologically driven" pro-abortion report promoting a so-called "right to abortion".

And he sums up the problem in the US where the Obama administration are demonstrating their determination to promote the legalization of abortion worldwide.

Thank God, I say, for churchmen like Monsignor Carrasco who are standing up for unborn babies and their mothers.  And thank God for the politicians of all faiths in Northern Ireland and elsewhere in the world who are signing up to an Amnesty for Babies petition which calls on the international community to recognize its responsibilities under international agreements to:
"ensure to the maximum extent possible the survival and development of the child before as well as after birth"
and to
"adopt all measures necessary to protect adequately human life and dignity in the application of life sciences".
Such churchmen and such politicians send out a shining light in a dark world.

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Wednesday, 28 July 2010

"Locked-in" patients may be able to drive wheelchairs by breathing

Yesterday the Telegraph carried the remarkable story that people with so-called "locked-in syndrome" may be able to drive wheelchairs and surf the internet by breathing.

The Telegraph reports:
"Scientists at the Weizmann Institute of Science in Rehovot, Israel, have created a 'sniff detector' that is able to pick up pressure changes in the wearer's nasal cavity and convert it into electrical signals.

"The device can then be hooked up to special software and used to move a cursor on a computer screen or control a wheelchair.
"One patient, a 51-year-old woman who was left unable to move, speak or blink after a stroke, was able to communicate for the first time using the new technology.

"After 19 days learning to produce a sniff on demand with 20 minutes of practice a day, she was able to write her family a message for the first time. To this day, the 'sniff detector' remains her only means of expressing herself.

"Another man, who had been 'locked in' for 18 years following a car accident, wrote his own name within 20 minutes of using the device."
I wrote last November about how the case of Rom Houben (pictured), who was misdiagnosed for 23 years as being in a coma-like state, challenges the pro-euthanasia mentality which exists regarding severely incapacitated patients.  Rom also had 'locked-in syndrome' and was always consciously aware.

What Janet Thomas, of No Less Human, said about the case of Rom Houben, is entirely applicable to yesterday's story in the Telegraph:
"This case highlights the huge dangers in assessing profoundly disabled people as having lives not worth living. Surely, with all the medical resources at our disposal, a truly civilised society would be concentrating on saving and improving life, not terminating it ... Following the 1992 Bland judgment, and under the Mental Capacity Act and related professional guidance, such patients are in danger of being dehydrated to death."
Indeed so. Parliamentarians need urgently to turn their attention to the tragic consequences of the Mental Capacity Act.

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Hilary White, Catholic pro-life journalist, reflects on significance of Catholic Church in pro-life battle

When I was in Rome, earlier this month, I met Hilary White, the well-known writer for

Hilary describes herself on her blog as "an Anglo-Canadian writer, researcher and art student recently re-assigned by God to Rome and desperately sand-bagging in sight of the coming flood".

The pro-life movement is, thankfully, made up of people of all faiths and none. Hilary, on the other hand, who's a prominent person in the pro-life movement, is unreservedly and forthrightly Catholic. Her answer to my first question reflects her distinctive position.

I asked Hilary: “What is the significance of the Catholic Church to the pro-life movement?” She replied:
"It is difficult to think how to answer that question. Not because it is hard to think of ways in which the Catholic Church has an impact on the movement, but in the way that it is difficult to, say, quantify the significance of water for the existence of life on planet earth.

"I’m being glib, but not inaccurate. While we like to say that the pro-life position can be apprehended and held by anyone with any religious affiliation or none, the reality is that in practice, there are certain factors that, shall we say, mitigate strongly against atheism or even simple modern secular irreligion allowing the pro-life position, at least in its fullness.

"There are things about being a Catholic that make it possible (though never easy) to stand against the whole tide of the world and refuse to sway. It is this absolutist stand that so infuriates the world. Why are the world’s media so doggedly pursuing the Catholic Church on the sex abuse scandals? Why only the Church when there are assuredly whole oceans of fish to fry in the Anglican, Lutheran and Baptist communities? Or for that matter, among teachers, scout leaders and librarians?

"It is because the Catholic religion proposes absolute and unchangeable teachings on life, the universe and everything, and claims for them the infallible authority of God. Catholics grasp the concept that truth is simply what it is, and no amount of 'consensus', 'social progress', or committee-think will change it. It is why Catholics laugh (though somewhat darkly) when media experts demand that the pope change the teachings on homosexuality or abortion or contraception to become accepted by the modern world. The World cannot grasp, no longer has the intellectual capability to grasp, that the Catholic Church presents the truths of religion in the same way as a mathematician presents a mathematical axiom.

"This is the secret of the martyrs. It is not, I guess, that martyrs have some great personal well of strength to endure torture. It is simply that the truth of the Faith is unalterable. It cannot be denied any more than gravity can be denied. We merely shrug in the face of these demands. The axioms of the mathematicians are less certain. It is not within our power to deny. Easier to ask us to fly.

"I have known for some time that there is a deficiency of education within the pro-life movement. There are a lot of sincere and often hard-working people who are, or believe themselves to be, pro-life but who hold the position without a concrete understanding of why. With feeling and sincerity, but with little knowledge.

"I hope your readers will forgive me for the criticism, but there is a strong streak of sentimentality in the movement that is little use in answering in a sensible way the questions and demands of the abortionist world. We cannot expect to win this war on feelings, on a vaguely held notion that babies are cute and that the world will automatically default back to sanity if we can only overturn Roe v. Wade.

"Feelings are easily swayed, as we have seen with the push for legalised euthanasia and assisted suicide in Britain. The media are the master manipulators and can have us cheering for a woman who kills her daughter out of “compassion”. Or at least weeping in sympathy and begging the courts for leniency. Feelings are swayed when they are not under the control and supervision of an informed intellect and will (a Catholic concept, BTW).

"What is missing in the pro-life world is solid education, intellectual training in logic and critical thinking skills as well as the facts. Many are hampered by their ignorance of the dots and lack of training in drawing lines between them. I have met too many nice pro-life people who cannot defend their position in the face of emotive arguments or slogans. 'But what about rape?' demands the abortionist world, and many nice friendly pro-lifers are stymied.

"Liking cute babies is not enough.

"Where the Catholic Church comes in for educational purposes is to provide these robust, intellectually rigorous answers to the abortion movement’s political slogans and their (occasionally) honest questions. Catholicism is not a religion of sentimentality.

"Why is IVF a bad thing? What is the pro-life position on embryonic genetic research? ... Why isn’t there such a thing as a right to commit suicide? Why is it wrong to use donor sperm? Why can we not 'adopt' frozen embryos? Why is rape not a legitimate 'exception' for abortion? What is the moral difference between removal or withholding of 'extreme' medical interventions and dehydrating a comatose patient to death?

"The Church derives its teachings (and yes, I can provide links to the documents answering all these questions) logically from basic principles. We start with an axiom: 'You can’t kill people to solve your problems …or theirs.' (Or as it is put more elegantly, 'thou shalt not kill'.) From this principle it is possible to find one’s logical way, step by step into the things the Church teaches about the sacredness of human life. Sometimes this process has been laborious and on some topics it has taken a long time. Centuries. But there is not one thing the Catholic Church teaches that is not intimately and inextricably connected to everything else she teaches.

"When I was younger, I was convinced, by my Catholic parochial school, that the Catholic religion was nonsense. All merely a set of contrived and arbitrary rules designed to oppress and restrict human freedom. An evil creed by (evil old white) men. Then one day, the thought popped into my mind, 'I might be wrong'. Although I considered the possibility to be very slim, I thought it only fair to investigate this enormous and immensely old and important institution on its own merits. What did the Catholic Church have to say for itself? After eleven years of reading, I was ready to concede that the one thing that could not be denied about Catholicism was that its teachings were not arbitrary. If you accepted their basic premises, the dogmas, doctrines and even disciplines of the Catholic religion where coherent, sane and in keeping with reason. There are no internal contradictions in Catholic teaching.

"After a few more years of reading, I concluded that no other religious or political system proposing answers to the big questions could say the same.

"This is why the Catholic Church must and does necessarily lead the pro-life movement. And it is why when John asked me the question, 'What is the significance of the Catholic Church to the pro-life movement?' I laughed. It was like being asked 'What is the significance of physics to quantum theory?' or 'What does gravity have to do with things falling down?' ...."
I then asked Hilary whether the pro-life movement was winning any of its battles around the world - referring, when I did so, to our recent successes in the UK (in Northern Ireland, on the last British government's failed legislative plans on sex and relationships education, and on the failed attempt to make huge extensions of the British abortion law).  Hilary replied:
"Yes, in fact, we are [winning battles], though it may not look like it. The war is pretty hot, and on the one hand, this means that the bad guys are fighting hard, but on the other, it means that they know they have something big to fight, namely us. If we weren't making life difficult for them, they wouldn't be working so furiously.

"What does not often get reported is that, although the news is nearly all bad at the legislative and judicial levels, on the ground, where it actually counts, the philosophy of abortionism (if I may coin a term) is beginning to burn out. It is not widely known that in Italy, for example, 70 per cent of doctors will refuse to commit an abortion, and the public opposition to euthanasia was enormous during the Eluana Englaro fight, though she died.

"The reason the EU and other places are putting in legislation attacking the consicence rights of health care workers, is that more and more health care workers are exercising them by refusing to have anything to do with abortion. Abortion in the US is getting harder to obtain at the state level, which is why, I imagine, the Obama administration is so keen to put abortion into a national system. In the UK, more doctors are refusing to do them, which is prompting the abortionists in the House of Commons and the medical regulatory agencies to push for more abortion training in medical schools, to weed out early those who might obstruct abortion as doctors.

"Another indication is the explosion of young people at the March(es) for Life. In the last ten years, since I started in this field, the overall numbers of people attending these annual events in Washington and Ottawa has grown enormously. In 1999 when I first attended in Ottawa, I think the number was about 2000 and about 175,000 in Washington. Last year in Ottawa we had around 12,000 (don’t knock it! Canada’s a small country with a government-controlled press) and in Washington it was well over 300,000. At the same time the numbers have gone up, the percentage of young people attending has grown even more. Long gone are the days when the pro-life movement could be characterised as little old ladies with rosaries, and angry old white guys. Feminism, which is the foundation of abortionism, is very widely discredited among young women, a large percentage of whom were raised by single mothers and who have been able to see first hand what it has wrought.

"What is really going to help us is demography. The 1960s 'Me generation', the ones who have created this moral free-for-all have failed to capture a following in the next generations. Young people know they have been lied to and betrayed.

"Most of the best pro-life work around the world is being organised and led by people in their 20s and 30s. People who have survived abortion themselves, who have seen the damage being done not just by abortion, but by divorce, contraception, and the hyper-sexualised culture, are using the activist skills their parents used to tear down the culture, in order to build it back up.

"In Europe the trend has caught on, and pro-life activities have stepped up. In the last two years, I believe we’ve had our first, and well attended Marches and demonstrations for life and family in places you’d never expect to see them. Places like Copenhagen and Brussels.

"Again, as with the Church, the tide is turning against the post-hippie dinosaurs, although, secure in their corner offices in Westminster and Brussels, they may not know it yet. When these young people are taking over those corner offices in Westminster and Brussels, I think we will see quite a different set of trends.

"What the end result will be remains to be seen. It’s why I’m glad I’m here doing this work. I get to watch it all from a front row seat."

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Tuesday, 27 July 2010

Telegraph's Damian Thompson questions "savage punishment" of Birmingham Oratorians

The Telegraph's Damian Thompson (pictured) has reproduced an open letter to Father Felix Selden, the Vatican's apostolic visitor to the Oratory, written by parishioners of the Birmingham Oratory, England. This letter is a response to the unexplained removal of Fr Dermot Fenlon, Fr Philip Cleevely and Brother Lewis Berry from the Birmingham Oratory. They have been sent to separate monasteries for an undisclosed amount of time. Mr Thompson notes a real need for transparency since this matter has continued for several months now.

The letter is an impassioned plea, requesting to know when the two priests and religious brother will return, if at all. The important role these Oratorians have as shepherds is clearly perceived throughout, and is now accentuated by their sudden and unexplained removal. Mr Thompson poses the question:
"But why were these three Oratorians given this savage punishment? Their supporters have been trying to find out, to no avail: all we have to go on are rumours about “disputes over the beatification of Newman”, which could mean anything. If these Birmingham Oratorians are innocent of wrongdoing, should they really be excluded from the greatest moment in the history of their Congregation?"

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Beware new abortion guidance in Northern Ireland, warns SPUC

Earlier this month Northern Ireland's health department withdrew its interim guidance on abortion, following SPUC's two successful court challenges last May and last December/November.

Today the department has launched a fresh public consultation to draft new abortion guidance. SPUC, therefore, has immediately issued the following warning!
"New guidance must not seek to undermine Northern Ireland’s abortion laws as previous guidelines threatened to do."
Liam Gibson, SPUC's development officer in Northern Ireland, pictured* to the left above, goes on to say:
"We welcome the consultation process to draw up new guidance. That consultation is necessary because the High Court found the original guidelines to be misleading on the issues of the counselling women should receive and the rights of medical personnel to avoid participation in abortion. 

“In light of the health department’s record on this matter, however, we will be looking at its proposals very closely. In the past health officials have largely ignored the submissions from the pro-life doctors and lawyers and the pro-life movement in general.  They appeared to be more interested in widening the scope for abortion in Northern Ireland. As a result they produced guidance which was fatally flawed. If we hadn’t have taken the department to court, it would have seriously undermined Northern Ireland’s legal protection for children before birth and compelled doctors and medical staff to perform or facilitate abortions. If new guidance fails to uphold Northern Ireland’s legal restrictions on abortion then there will be no choice but to go back to the courts.”
*Pictured with Liam Gibson is Pat Buckley of European Life Network, Ireland.

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Monday, 26 July 2010

The Catholic bishops of England and Wales are acting the part of King Herod

Zenit reported earlier this month that Pope Benedict Benedict XVI is likely to bring up some important concerns that tend to be sidelined in British public life such as protection of the unborn, the family and other life issues.

“He will speak about these in a delicate way,” said one official, “and he will probably also do the same with the bishops.”

Let me be blunt. This is no time for delicacy. The Catholic bishops' conference of England and Wales through Archbishop Vincent Nichols and the Catholic Education Service (CES) is assiduously defending their appointment of Greg Pope as deputy director of the CES - who until this year's general election was the Labour Member of Parliament for Hyndburn. Greg Pope's anti-life, anti-family parliamentary voting record possibly makes him an appropriate candidate to be deputy director of International Planned Parenthood Federation. Instead, courtesy of the Catholic bishops of England and Wales, he has responsibility for schools which my children so recently attended and which my Catholic friends' children currently attend.

What I believe Pope Benedict needs to address when he visits England is the Catholic bishops' policy of co-operation with the government in helping to ensure that Catholic schoolchildren have access to abortion and contraception without parental knowledge or consent.  This policy is reflected perfectly in Mr Pope's appointment.  In carrying out this policy, the Catholic bishops of England and Wales are acting the part of King Herod who purported to respect the infant Jesus in whose image and likeness unborn children are made: "Go and search diligently for the child; and when you have found him, bring me word so that I may also go and pay him homage" (Matthew, Chapter 2).  History records what then happened.

Archbishop Nichols's recent replies to Catholics protesting about Greg Pope's appointment encloses a statement from the Catholic Education Service which expresses contempt for those raising the matter. The statement says: 
"Mr Pope’s appointment to the Catholic Education Service for England and Wales (CESEW) has occasioned some very misleading and diverting correspondence from a small number of people".  
No, Your Grace.  What is "misleading and diverting" is the following quotation from Greg Pope in the Catholic Education Service statement:
"I am a committed, practising Catholic. I very much share the Church’s opposition to abortion. I was one of only a handful of Labour MPs who defied their own Government to vote against the whole Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill at its Third Reading on the grounds that it was insufficiently pro-life."
It's "misleading and diverting" because it seeks to draw attention away from Mr Pope's fuller voting record on life and family issues part of which I reproduce below. It's also "misleading and diverting" when it suggests that Greg Pope's appointment is somehow OK because "Bishops, members of the CESEW Management Committee, senior diocesan education colleagues and others were represented on the selection panel".  After all this is the same Catholic Education Service which, on behalf of the Catholic bishops of England and Wales,  welcomes into Catholic schools Connexions, whose job it is to make abortion and contraception available to children, without parental knowledge or consent. Connexions is a government agency which is committed to giving schoolchildren, under the age of 16, access to abortion and abortifacients without parental knowledge or permission. Connexions' advisers are trained to tell young people that they can obtain abortion and abortifacients without parental knowledge or consent.

Let's recall that Greg Pope, as a Member of Parliament: voted against a bill which would have required practitioners providing contraception or abortion services to a child under the age of 16 to inform his or her parent or guardian (14 Mar 2007); he signed a parliamentary motion praising a condom manufacturer for helping schools host “National Condom Week” (11 May 2004); and he voted against an amendment which would have required doctors to provide pregnant mothers with certain information and an offer of counselling before any abortion of an unborn child on grounds of disability (20 May 2008);

In addition, Greg Pope signed parliamentary motions praising the leading domestic and international pro-abortion organisations:
He also signed parliamentary motions promoting:
(According to the British government and to the US administration, these terms include a right to abortion on demand.)

Moreover, Greg Pope signed parliamentary motions promoting:
The Mental Capacity Bill (now Act) enshrined euthanasia by neglect into English statute law. Greg Pope:
In addition, Greg Pope:
  • voted against amendments which sought to retain the requirement for doctors to consider the child’s need for a father (20 May 2008) or male role model (20 May 2008) before a woman is given fertility treatment.
  • voted against amendments restricting adoption to heterosexual couples (20 May 2002) and married couples (4 Nov 2002). He also signed a parliamentary motion in the same vein (24 Mar 2004).
  • voted against measures (popularly known as “section 28”) preventing local councils from promoting homosexuality*, including the teaching in schools of “the acceptability of homosexuality as a pretended family relationship” (5 Jul 2000) (10 Mar 2003) (10 Mar 2003). He also signed a parliamentary motion in the same vein (24 Mar 2004).
  • signed parliamentary motions promoting homosexual unions (7 Sep 2004) (13 Oct 2004) (20 Jul 2005).
And Greg Pope signed parliamentary motions promoting population control (16 Dec 2002) (1 Jul 2004).

* Pope John Paul II, the great pro-life champion, teaches in paragraph 97 of Evangelium Vitae 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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