Saturday, 11 September 2010

Archbishop Nichols's comments on gay unions endanger the souls of my children

These are dangerous times for families in Britain - and they are dangerous times too for Catholic families in Britain.

In today's Telegraph, Archbishop Nichols, the archbishop of Westminster, described as the "leader of Roman Catholics in England and Wales" is interviewed by Neil Tweedie. He asks the archbishop whether the Catholic church should one day accept the reality of gay partnerships, who replies:
"I don't know ... "
Now this is not an off-the-cuff, careless, remark by His Grace. He means what he says. Only two months ago I watched him in an exchange on Catholic teaching and gay unions during an interview on BBC's Hardtalk (Friday, 2nd July). Stephen Sackur, the Hardtalk interviewer, asked the archbishop:
"Some of their vicars are also prepared to sanction gay unions. That church is showing flexibility. Is the Catholic church not going to have to do the same eventually?"
To which the archbishop replied:
"I don't know. Who knows what's down the road?"
The Catechism of the Catholic Church states
"Homosexuality refers to relations between men or between women who experience an exclusive or predominant sexual attraction toward persons of the same sex. It has taken a great variety of forms through the centuries and in different cultures. Its psychological genesis remains largely unexplained. Basing itself on Sacred Scripture, which presents homosexual acts as acts of grave depravity, tradition has always declared that "homosexual acts are intrinsically disordered." They are contrary to the natural law. They close the sexual act to the gift of life. They do not proceed from a genuine affective and sexual complementarity. Under no circumstances can they be approved." (Part Three, Section Two, The Ten Commandments, Article 6)
I am in no position to judge where Archbishop Nichols stands in the sight of God when he makes statements so clearly at odds with Catholic teaching. However, as a Catholic parent, I am in a position to say, and on behalf of Catholic parents I meet up and down the country, that Archbishop Nichols's, my archbishop's, comments are dangerous to the souls of my children. And as a pro-life campaigner, I once again recall the late Pope John Paul II, the great pro-life champion, who taught in paragraph 97 of his 1995 encyclical 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.

Elsewhere in the Telegraph interview, in the context of the sexual abuse of children, Archbishop Nichols says:
"I can assure people that children in the care of the Catholic Church, in schools and parishes, will be safeguarded. They can be confident of that."
Yet children returning this autumn term to Catholic schools up and down the country will be subjected, courtesy of Archbishop Nichols and the Catholic bishops of England and Wales, through the agency the Catholic Education Service, to the government policy of giving schoolgirls, under the age of consent, access to secret abortions without parental knowledge or consent. They are delivering Catholic and non-Catholic children to the abortionists - and I can think of no greater abuse of children and parental rights and responsibilities than that.


Comments on this blog? Email them to johnsmeaton@spuc.org.uk
Sign up for alerts to new blog-posts and/or for SPUC's other email services
Follow SPUC on Twitter
Join SPUC's Facebook group
Please support SPUC. Please donate, join, and/or leave a legacy

Friday, 10 September 2010

Innocent Fr Fenlon has been sentenced to five years' exile from the Birmingham Oratory

According to a report in this weekend's Catholic Herald, Fr Dermot Fenlon, one of the Birmingham Three, has been sentenced to five years' exile from the Birmingham Oratory. Here are some key quotes from the report:
  • "[Fr Fenlon] has been effectively expelled from his community."
  • "Sources close to the Oratory have told The Catholic Herald that Fr Fenlon, 68, is now in the process of being "forcibly exclaustrated" for at least five years, when he will be 74, because he is objecting to the way he is being treated."
  • "Yet no figure has publicly given any reason why Fr Fenlon has been subject to such severe canonical penalties in the first place."
  • "[A]uthorities then offered to treat the [Birmingham T]hree leniently as long as they accept a period of exile, agree to statements distancing themselves from criticism of the way they have been treated and drop any appeals they had lodged against [Fr Felix Selden's] visitation [of the Birmingham Oratory]."
  • "The move to censure him may shock worshippers in Birmingham who know Fr Fenlon for his piety and his loyalty to the teachings of the Church."
In the light of this report, I therefore have a number of questions to put to Jack Valero, spokesman for the Birmingham Oratory, who has also been appointed by the Catholic bishops' conference of England and Wales as spokesman for the beatification of the Venerable John Henry Cardinal Newman:
  • Why has Fr Fenlon been exclaustrated if, as you wrote in The Catholic Herald of 27 August, he is a "priest in good standing"?
  • Why did you say, first that Fr Fenlon and the other Two were "entirely guiltless of any wrongdoing whatsoever", and then later declare them guilty of "pride, anger, disobedience, disunity, nastiness, dissension, the breakdown of charity"?
  • Why did you say in June that the Three "can come back soon and continue as normal" when the Three have now been sent away from the Oratory for periods ranging from at least one to up to five years?
  • Were the sending of Br Lewis Berry to the South African Oratory and of Fr Philip Cleevely to doctoral studies abroad concessions offered by the "authorities ... as long as they accept a period of exile, agree to statements distancing themselves from criticism of the way they have been treated and drop any appeals they had lodged against [Fr Felix Selden's] visitation [of the Birmingham Oratory]"?
  • Why did you claim in The Catholic Herald of 27 August that "the disagreements which concerned the Visitor were not about Church teaching", whereas you are quoted in this weekend's Catholic Herald as saying that the removal of the Three from the Oratory was partly as a result of "doctrinal tensions"?
  • Do you accept the Three's stance on government-led sex and relationships education was different from your employer's, the Catholic bishops' conference of England and Wales?
Comments on this blog? Email them to johnsmeaton@spuc.org.uk
Sign up for alerts to new blog-posts and/or for SPUC's other email services
Follow SPUC on Twitter
Join SPUC's Facebook group
Please support SPUC. Please donate, join, and/or leave a legacy

Thursday, 9 September 2010

Families will not "hold their tongue" about bishop-protected dissent on pro-life/pro-family issues

Mark Dowd this morning presented a programme on BBC Radio Four entitled "The Pope's British Divisions". Among many other people, he interviewed two schoolchildren and a priest from Nottingham diocese. The two schoolchildren, from St Benedict's school, Derby, will meet Pope Benedict next week as part of a special delegation of Catholic youth.

The first schoolchild confirmed she was “a practising Catholic” and was asked what she would like to say if she meets the Pope. She replied:
"I don’t think [the Pope] quite understands that we’re in the 21st century yet, and I think that some of his views are still quite outdated, things that he’s said about abortion and same-sex marriages."
Mr Dowd asked the girl:
“Do you think it’s possible to be a Catholic and to be pro-abortion and in favour of same-sex marriage?”
The schoolgirl replied:
"Yeah, I think it is. I know I certainly am, and I don’t have a problem admitting that and being a Catholic.”
The second schoolchild referred in a negative tone to:
“[s]ome of the stuff [in Catholic teaching] that’s a bit restricting [such as] chastity”
and added that
“the best thing about being a Catholic is the fact that you can pick and choose which bits you’d like to believe in, as long as you worship God.”
The priest interviewed was Fr Joe Wheat, director of youth services in the Nottingham diocese, who said:
“You talk to 50 young people who would refer to themselves as Catholic and you’ll get 50 different versions of Catholicism, which is brilliant. It’s fantastic actually."
Mr Dowd put it to Fr Wheat that:
"A lot of the students we spoke to [at St Benedict's school, Derby] mentioned contraception, abortion, homosexuality. Can they, in your view, maintain views which are contrary to Church teaching but still call themselves a good Catholic?"
Fr Wheat replied:
"Depends what your measure of ‘good’ is when you say ‘good Catholic’."
Mr Dowd then asked:
"What’s your measure?"
Fr Wheat replied:
“I don’t have one. I try not to make value judgments about people’s Catholicism, because I don’t want them to make value judgments about mine.”
Fr Wheat certainly has, let us say, strange ideas. On the Nottingam Diocesan Catholic Youth Service website, he numbers Tony Benn, the anti-life/anti-family retired politician, among the "living person[s] he most admires"; and says he would invite K.D. Lang, the entertainer and homosexualist activist, to his "dream dinner party."

I therefore dread to discover what on earth is being taught to Catholic young people in Nottingham diocese about the sanctity of human life and the meaning of human sexuality - but I will be writing immediately to Malcolm McMahon, the bishop of Nottingham, to find out. I have blogged before about Bishop McMahon's openness to headteachers being in same-sex unions.* He is the current chairman of the Catholic Education Service (CES) which welcomed and helped draft anti-life and anti-family sex and relationships education under the previous Labour government. Under his chairmanship, the CES appointed as its deputy director Greg Pope, a former Labour MP with a lengthy anti-life and anti-family parliamentary record.

Vincent Nichols, archbishop of Westminster - and Bishops McMahon's predecessor as CES chairman - was also interviewed by Mr Dowd. Archbishop Nichols was asked about the regular provision of Masses for a homosexual group in a central London parish, and the equally regular protests by faithful pro-life/pro-family Catholics against that provision. Archbishop Nichols said:
"anybody from the outside who is trying to cast a judgement on the people who come forward for Communion [there], really ought to learn to hold their tongue."
Yet this totally ignores the evidence that the Soho Masses are organised by and for Catholics who dissent from the Church's teaching on homosexuality, as I blogged recently.

As one of the protestors explained:
"According to God's law, sex is to be used within the context of marriage, [but w]e know from speaking to some of [the Soho Mass attendees] in the past that they have a platform whereby they are proposing that there are other areas in which sexuality can be used and that they themselves believe that to be in order."
This testimony was borne out by a lesbian attendee at the Mass, who told Mr Dowd:
"[Here] you don't have to explain yourself, here I just feel a total sense of acceptance about that area of my life."
Mr Dowd asked her:
"Why do you keep church up at all if the Church says that your orientation is a tendency to an intrinsic moral evil?"
She replied:
"A large proportion of the Church don't go along with that .. I feel intrinsically Catholic."
Last Peter Marshall of BBC's Newsnight interviewed some other Soho Mass attendees, in a programme to be broadcast at 10:30 this evening. Here is some of what they told Mr Marshall:
  • "My faith is more important to me than what the Pope might think."
  • "The simple fact is that Catholics across the world do not believe and do not follow Vatican teachings on any number of sexual ethics matters."
  • "[Y]ou don't need too many commandments, really."
  • "We all want to feel affirmed and welcomed with people with the same way, the same nature..."
Was Archbishop Nichols listening when Pope Benedict told the English and Welsh bishops, on their most recent ad limina visit, to:
"recognize dissent for what it is, and not to mistake it for a mature contribution to a balanced and wide-ranging debate. It is the truth revealed through Scripture and Tradition and articulated by the Church’s Magisterium that sets us free."?
Pro-life families must demand that the Catholic bishops of England and Wales stop providing cover for individuals and groups who are actively undermining Catholic Church teaching on abortion, contraception and homosexuality. Families seeking to protect their children from such bishop-protected open dissent must not hold their tongue. For as Pope Benedict said yesterday, Catholic
"principles, faithfully maintained, above all when dealing with human life, from conception to natural death, with marriage - rooted in the exclusive and indissoluble gift of self between one man and one woman ... are necessary conditions if we are to respond adequately to the decisive and urgent challenges that history presents".
* The late Pope John Paul II, the great pro-life champion, taught in paragraph 97 of his 1995 encyclical 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.

Comments on this blog? Email them to johnsmeaton@spuc.org.uk
Sign up for alerts to new blog-posts and/or for SPUC's other email services
Follow SPUC on Twitter
Join SPUC's Facebook group
Please support SPUC. Please donate, join, and/or leave a legacy

Wednesday, 8 September 2010

Beware of the false claims made about sex education in House of Commons today

Chris Bryant, MP for Rhondda, provided much misinformation when he introduced in the House of Commons today his bill to force all schools to provide sex education. His claims about sex education in other European countries were roundly criticised.

Antonia Tully of SPUC’s Safe at School campaign told the media after the debate:
“The way forward for the new Coalition government is to champion parents’ rights to control their children’s education in human sexuality. The government needs to trust parents. Sex education was one of the main planks of Labour’s 10 year Teenage Pregnancy Strategy, which failed to deliver, and saw record levels of teenage abortions.”
Opponents of the bill did not divide the house. Although the bill has little chance of becoming law for procedural reasons, MPs are expected to try to promote compulsory sex education in the Government’s review of the curriculum later in the year.

Mrs Tully also said:
“Mr Bryant claimed that the countries with the lowest teenage pregnancy rates provided comprehensive sex education. Last year a survey of sex and relationships education in eighteen countries around the world found that the five with the lowest teenage birth rates had no law forcing schools to provide comprehensive sex education. The study was conducted by the National Foundation for Educational Research, and published by the QCDA.

“Mr Bryant’s proposals are based on misleading and false claims about the evidence of the impact of sex education. We need to make our MPs fully aware of the research into classroom sex education, and the need to respect the domain of parents and families.”
During the debate, Mr Bryant's claims were countered by Thérèse Coffey, MP for Suffolk Coastal, who pointed to the low teenage pregnancy rate in countries such as Italy which do not have compulsory sex education. She also cited the work of sex education researchers in Scotland, where a large scale study found that teenage pregnancy and abortion rates could not be reduced by enhancing classroom sex and relationships education.

SPUC has produced a briefing responded to other false claims about sex and relationships education made by the Terrence Higgins Trust.

Comments on this blog? Email them to johnsmeaton@spuc.org.uk
Sign up for alerts to new blog-posts and/or for SPUC's other email services
Follow SPUC on Twitter
Join SPUC's Facebook group
Please support SPUC. Please donate, join, and/or leave a legacy

Tuesday, 7 September 2010

Congratulations to James Sherley for helping stall funding for embryonic stem cell research

Last week a US court granted a temporary injunction which halts US federal funding for embryonic stem cell research. The team which obtained the injunction was led by Dr James Sherley, a stem cell expert and a colleague of SPUC. Most interestingly in the ruling was the judge's statement that
"It is not certain whether ESC research will result in new and successful treatments for diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease."
This statement, and the ruling itself, is a refreshing victory for innocent human life and true ethical science.

Daniel Blackman, who researches international affairs for SPUC, has written the following summary of the case:
"Dr. James L. Sherley is a biological engineer at Boston Biomedical Research Institute. In October 2009 Dr Sherley and Dr Theresa Deisher, together with a legal team consisting of: Advocates International , Alliance Defense Fund, Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher, Nightlight Christian Adoptions, and the Christian Medical Association, brought a case against, the US Department of Health and Human Services and the National Insititutes of Health ‘Guidelines for Human Stem Cell Research’ (July 2009). The National Institutes of Health (NIH), is a part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, and is the primary federal agency for conducting and supporting medical research. The head of the Department of Health is Kathleen Sebelius.

"The Guidelines came about because on March 9, 2009, President Barack Obama issued Executive Order 13505, overturning the virtual ban on embryonic stem cell research put in place by the Balanced Budget Downpayment Act (Dickey-Wicker Amendment 1994), which stated no federal funds would be used for creation, experimentation, and destruction of human embryos. In 2001, former president George W. Bush allowed federal funds to be used to fund research on human embryonic stem cells that was deemed to be non-destructive. With President Obama’s executive order, president Bush’s exception for destructive embryonic research was overruled.

"However, the case failed in 2009 on its first attempt. Dr. Sherley and team then successfully appealed. Dr. Sherley’s case argued that the Guidelines were unconstitutional. They contravended the Dickey-Wicker amendment and the exemption put in place by president Bush. The key argument put forward by Dr. Sherley and the legal team is this: extracting and experimenting on embryonic stem cells cannot be separated from the destruction of embryonic stem cells. As such, all embryonic stem cell research is destructive. This would mean that no federal funds should be used for any embryonic stem cell research.

"On August 23rd 2010, Royce C. Lamberth, Chief Judge of the District of Columbia Court of Appeals, approved the case against the guidelines. This means that all funding of embryonic stem cell research has for the time being been stopped. The injunction has forced the National Institutes of Health to freeze funding for about 50 embryonic stem cell research proposals. Also included are 22 proposals in line for a total of $54 million in funding.

"On 27th August 2010, Sebelius and her legal team submitted a plea to appeal. They have also submitted an emergency plea to stay (hold-off) the ban on funding. They argue that the Dickey-Wicker amendment can be interpreted in other ways, that embryonic stem cell research will result in cures for all sorts of diseases, that the work of many researchers has been disrupted, that public interest is not being served by banning funding for this research and the list goes on.

"This case is very important. A legal team of experts are taking the Department of Health to court. If Sebelius is successful, government funding for embryonic stem cell research will continue and increase, as seen from the numbers above.

"However, if Dr. Sherley and team are successful, the executive order of Obama, and the guidelines, will be defunct. However, Dr. Sherley will be doing even more. If successful, the federal funding on embryonic stem cell research permitted by George W. Bush in 2001 will also be stopped. This is due to the key argument that you cannot separate the extraction and research on embryonic stem cells from the destruction of the embryo."

Comments on this blog? Email them to johnsmeaton@spuc.org.uk
Sign up for alerts to new blog-posts and/or for SPUC's other email services
Follow SPUC on Twitter
Join SPUC's Facebook group
Please support SPUC. Please donate, join, and/or leave a legacy

Monday, 6 September 2010

Catholic officials' heads are kept, deliberately, buried in the sand

On Sunday, Vincent Nichols, the archbishop of Westminster, was asked by Andrew Marr of the BBC:
"Do you share that sort of vision that Britain is a particularly Godless and indeed sort of death culture society, extremely secular by modern standards?"
Archbishop Nichols replied:
"Well it's not how I would describe our society at all actually. I think our society is characterised as much by generosity and by genuine concern one for another, and I think religious faith is taken quite seriously by probably a majority of people in this country."
I can't think of anyone, Catholic or non-Catholic, religious or non-believer, who believes that
"religious faith is taken quite seriously by probably a majority of people in this country".
And with 570 babies killed daily in Britain and with well over two million embryos discarded, or frozen, or selectively aborted, or miscarried or used in destructive experiments since the birth of the first IVF child was born over thirty years ago, how can the archbishop blithely dismiss the culture of death without having his head kept, deliberately, buried in the sand?
 
The archbishop's view was mirrored perfectly by Dr Austen Ivereigh on the BBC's Today programme on Saturday morning. Dr Ivereigh is a former deputy editor of The Tablet, the anti-life/anti-family house journal of British liberal Catholic dissent, and former public affairs director to Cormac Cardinal Murphy O'Connor, archbishop emeritus of Westminster. Dr Ivereigh is currently the co-founder, with Jack Valero, of Catholic Voices. Dr Ivereigh told Today that:
  • Britain is not "a very, very secular society"
  • "we can find the balance" between gay people's right in law to adopt children and "freedom of religion"
This is the same Dr Ivereigh who in 2005 wrote to The Catholic Herald claiming that:
"[T]here is no Catholic school in Britain, joint or otherwise, in which Catholic children are being taught less than the Catholic faith in its integrity."
How can this possibly be the case with so many Catholic schools, at the behest of the Catholic bishops' conference of England and Wales, welcoming Connexions, a government agency which is committed to giving schoolchildren, under the age of 16, access to abortion and abortifacients without parental knowledge or permission?

Move over to The Guardian, the house journal of Britain's pro-abortion movement, and one finds Kieran Conry, bishop of Arundel and Brighton, saying:
"I think [Pope Benedict] may well be relieved to be coming to a place where, unlike some of his other recent trips, there are no big problems for him to sort out."
Even the interviewer, Peter Stanford, another Tablet stalwart, balked at that, writing:
"Well, that might be going a bit far."
All this bears out the truth of recent The Catholic Herald report that Catholic officials
"are hoping that the Pope will not further inflame anti-Catholic sentiment by speaking out against gay marriage or adoption, or abortion and divorce."
And all this makes it all the more important that the Holy Father ignores these head-in-the-sand Catholic officials and reminds the people of Britain that this country is
"the geopolitical epicentre of the culture of death".
The UK, not the US, China, North Korea or any other country you care to mention, has always been the main operating base and favourite milieu of the movement for abortion, contraception and eugenics – “the culture of death” identified by John Paul II. That movement is more dangerous, and is responsible for deaths of more people, than any government in history. That movement dates back far beyond the 1967 Abortion Act and part of its origins can be found with Malthus and Galton in the 19th century. IPPF’s central office has always been London, as has Marie Stopes International's. There are many other good reasons why Britain is indeed “the geopolitical epicentre of the culture of death” - and the tragic fact is that the Catholic bishops' conference of England and Wales, led by Archbishop Nichols, is co-operating with that culture rather than confronting it with the truth about the sanctity of human life. Is that why the archbishop is in denial about the death culture in Britain?

As Fr Tim Finigan aptly puts it:
“[T]he London-centred secularist elite in Britain ... relentlessly work to draw us into collaboration and compromise until we are unable any longer to speak out for the truth - or more pertinently, for the sanctity of the life of those who are the smallest and weakest of all.”
Let's pray that Pope Benedict, when he comes to Britain later this month, dares to speak out for the truth ... for the sanctity of the life of those who are smallest and weakest of all.

Comments on this blog? Email them to johnsmeaton@spuc.org.uk
Sign up for alerts to new blog-posts and/or for SPUC's other email services
Follow SPUC on Twitter
Join SPUC's Facebook group
Please support SPUC. Please donate, join, and/or leave a legacy