Saturday, 2 October 2010

See the UK release of the pro-life film "Bella"

This weekend sees the UK release of the award-winning pro-life film "Bella". This is a powerful and deeply moving story which affirms the intrinsic value and beauty of human life, born and unborn. Book your ticket, take your friends and family, and spread the word!

The film will open in the UK on 1st October 2010 in the following cities:
  • London - Apollo Cinema [Piccadilly Circus] daily 9.35pm [except Thursday 8.50pm]
  • Manchester - AMC: 1:10pm, 6.55pm
  • Birmingham - AMC : 11:40am 6:35pm
  • Bristol - Showcase : 12:00pm, 2:30pm, 5:00pm, 7:40pm, 10:10pm, 12:20am
  • Hull - Reel: 6:40pm , 8:50pm
  • Reading - Showcase: 12:00pm, 2:30pm, 5:00pm, 7:40pm, 10:10pm, 12:20am.
In due course the film will play in many other cities throughout the UK and Ireland.

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Thursday, 30 September 2010

Austen Ivereigh clarifies his comments on Tony Blair and I respond

I'm glad to publish the following clarification from Dr Austen Ivereigh following my blog-post commenting on his Guardian article "Churches can help Labour's renewal":
"John,

You rightly point out that the SORs came in under Blair, not Brown. But you fail to say that Blair (and Ruth Kelly) sought an exemption for the Catholic adoption agencies but were outvoted by the secularists in the cabinet. This was a key turning-point.

You try to make out that my Guardian article seeks to justify Blair's record in relation to church teaching. But it doesn't. It says (first paragraph) that Blair 'did God' "not in the sense of agreeing with what the churches said, or enacting policy on that basis, but in granting exemptions and opt-outs from equality laws for faith-based organisations in order to preserve their integrity and independence." The first sentence makes your whole list of the Blair Government's offences against Catholic teaching, which you try to claim my article justifies, wholly redundant - in fact, it makes your whole post redundant. I haven't attempted any whitewash.

Best wishes

Austen"
My responses to Dr Ivereigh's clarification:

Dr Ivereigh:
"you fail to say that Blair (and Ruth Kelly) sought an exemption for the Catholic adoption agencies but were outvoted by the secularists in the cabinet."
My response:
  • I am unaware of any actual proof that this is what really happened in the Blair cabinet. Also, there is no evidence (at least that I am aware of) that either Mr Blair or Mrs Kelly were prepared to take any further principled action on the matter. Mr Blair could have removed the regulations from the government's legislative programme, or challenged the cabinet to back him or sack him, or simply resigned. Mrs Kelly could have resigned (I and SPUC have commented on other evasions of moral responsibility by Mrs Kelly as a Catholic politician.) Such principled action is the minimum required of a Christian politician when faced with the evil of homosexual* adoption. In any case, homosexual adoption is evil per se, not just for Catholic adoption agencies. SPUC is fighting for the culture of life and of authentic love on behalf of both Catholics and non-Catholics. What was ethically required of Mr Blair and Mrs Kelly was not so much "exemptions and opt-outs" but moves to stop homosexual adoption altogether.
Dr Ivereigh:
"This was a key turning-point."
My response:
  • I really didn't detect any notable difference between Tony Blair and Gordon Brown regarding the ethics of pro-life/pro-family issues.
  • Dr Ivereigh doesn't actually detail what "exemptions and opt-outs" were in fact granted under Mr Blair, whilst neglecting to detail the numerous examples (see list below) of how Mr Blair and his government violated the integrity, independence, conscience and beliefs of people of faith and their organisations.
Dr Ivereigh:
"[M]y Guardian article...says (first paragraph) that Blair 'did God' "not in the sense of agreeing with what the churches said, or enacting policy on that basis, but in granting exemptions and opt-outs from equality laws for faith-based organisations in order to preserve their integrity and independence."
My response:
  • "Granting exemptions and opt-outs" is hardly evidence that New Labour under Tony Blair did God "a lot".
  • In the second and third sentences of his Guardian article, Dr Ivereigh wrote that under New Labour under Tony Blair: "There was respect for conscience and belief. Blair's ears were tuned to faith." If New Labour under Tony Blair really had done "God a lot" in any sense, really had had "respect for conscience and belief", and Mr Blair's ears really had been "tuned to faith", then Mr Blair and his government would have "agree[d] with what the churches said" and "enact[ed] policy on that basis". Instead, the New Labour government marked itself out as the most anti-life and anti-family government in British history, even before Mr Blair was replaced by Mr Brown.
  • Dr Ivereigh doesn't actually detail what "exemptions and opt-outs" were in fact granted under Mr Blair, whilst neglecting to detail the numerous examples (see list below) of how Mr Blair and his government violated the integrity, independence, conscience and beliefs of people of faith and their organisations.
So I stand by my original post in its entirety. As prime minister Tony Blair
  • did not "d[o] God a lot", in any sense
  • did not manifest "respect for conscience and belief"
  • did not have "ears...tuned to faith"
not least for the reasons I listed in my original post, which I list again below.

It seems to me that Dr Ivereigh has a defective perception of Christian politicians and their moral responsibilities on ethico-legal matters.

Some key facts about Mr Blair's time as prime minister which every British Christian needs to know:
  • the Labour government passed the Sexual Orientation Regulations 2007 through parliament, because of which the Catholic Church was effectively stopped from providing adoption services.
  • Mr Blair personally championed destructive experiments on human embryos (2000, 2004, August and September 2006)
  • Mr Blair personally endorsed his government’s policy of supplying abortion and birth control drugs and devices to schoolgirls as young as 11 without parental knowledge or consent (Foreword, Teenage Pregnancy Report, Social Exclusion Unit, 1999)
  • Mr Blair's government introduced legislation which led to a law which allows, and in certain circumstances requires, doctors to starve and dehydrate to death vulnerable patients (The Mental Capacity Act 2005). There is no conscience clause in the Mental Capacity Act. Mr Blair personally defended the legislation.
  • Mr Blair's government in 2005 endorsed Recommended Standards for Sexual Health Services, drawn up by a coalition of pro-abortion advocates and abortion providers. The policy includes arm-twisting doctors who are reluctant to refer for abortion. Many GPs wish to refuse to refer women for abortions on medical grounds, or for religious or conscientious reasons. The Department of Health brooked none of these objections, but insisted that every woman who enquires about abortion is immediately referred for abortion.
  • Mr Blair's government was committed to the promotion of abortion on demand as a universal fundamental human right (Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights, A position paper, Department for International Development, 2004)
  • Mr Blair's government passed through parliament the Civil Partnerships Act, which contains no conscience clause e.g. for registrars. In his memoirs published earlier this month Mr Blair made repeated references to his support for the homosexual agenda, such as: "Just before Christmas [2005] the Civil Partnership Act came into force ... I was really proud of that."
* 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.

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Catholic Voices' blog creates smokescreen for bishop-protected dissent

The Catholic Voices Media Monitor (hereafter Monitor) blog yesterday published a post criticising me. Here is my rebuttal of that post.

Monitor :
"Smeaton attacks Catholic Voices"
My response:
  • I have never attacked Catholic Voices. I have, rather, criticised its coordinators Dr Austen Ivereigh and Jack Valero, and some of the content of its blog, which one assumes was (at the very least) published with their approval.
Monitor:
"According to John Smeaton (photo) of the hardline lobby SPUC, Catholic Voices seeks 'to redefine the common perception of what constitutes mainstream Catholicism in England'. Behind this conspiracy, he asserts, lies The Tablet. And his reason for believing that CV coordinators Ivereigh and Valero share this aim? Why, 'Dr Ivereigh's loyalty to The Tablet' -- on the basis that he refused to accept a blogger's invitation to describe the weekly as a 'vehicle for dissent'.
My response:
  • I did not say that it is "Catholic Voices", but rather "Catholic Voices' leaders" Dr Ivereigh and Mr Valero who seek to redefine, etc. 
  • Dr Ivereigh, a former Tablet deputy editor, did not merely "refuse to accept a blogger's invitation to describe [The Tablet] as a 'vehicle for dissent' but actually rejected the claim that The Tablet is a vehicle for dissent. On his blog Laurence England asked Dr Ivereigh: "[A]t what point in your career did you decide that The Tablet had lost sight of the Catholic Faith and had become a vehicle for dissent of Catholic Teaching? ... [W]hat you make of it nowadays?" Dr Ivereigh replied: "I've never decided that about the Tablet ... I write for it still. And subscribe. That should answer your question."
  • It is a cheap debating trick to rubbish as conspiracy theories the highlighting of possible threats to Catholic pro-life/pro-family witness. Also, it goes against the teaching of St Francis de Sales, a Doctor of the Church, who wrote: "It is true charity to point out the wolf wheresoever he creeps in among the flock." No truly charitable Catholic familiar with The Tablet can deny that it is a vehicle for dissent, a wolf among the flock.
Monitor:
"Indeed, Smeaton's attempt at an auto-da-fe on this question -- because Ivereigh reads the Tablet (as he does other Catholic papers)..."
My response:
Monitor:
"...is typical of the 'Taliban' mentality of many in the blogosphere who call for the banning, destruction or burning of literature and people they regard as "heretical", even when there has been no such call or declaration by whom the Church's own law entrusts with the authority to do so."
My response:
Monitor:
"Smeaton has long considered himself a guardian of the limits of Catholic orthodoxy, preferring his own Magisterium to that of the bishops and of Rome"
My response:
  • Canon 212 #3 of the Code of Canon Law 1983 which says: "According to the knowledge, competence, and prestige which they possess, [Christ's faithful] have the right and even at times the duty to manifest to the sacred pastors their opinion on matters which pertain to the good of the Church and to make their opinion known to the rest of the Christian faithful, without prejudice to the integrity of faith and morals, with reverence toward their pastors, and attentive to common advantage and the dignity of persons." [my emphases]. I challenge Monitor to find even one single statement or action of mine at variance with the Church's Magisterium. (Hint: you won't find one).
Monitor:
"scouring the statements of bishops in search of 'heterodoxy', frequently misquoting them or distorting their words in a conscious attempt to undermine the authority of the Church's pastors."
My response:
  • Dr Ivereigh made a similar claim on Laurence England's blog, yet provides not one single piece of evidence of how I have misquoted or distorted any bishop's words - because he has no evidence, because there is no evidence.
Monitor:
"He has consistently undermined the Archbishop of Westminster, Vincent Nichols, in ways that in the view of Catholic Voices is quite inconsistent with the Catholic commitment to communion."
My response:
  • St Thomas Aquinas, the common Doctor of the Church, teaches on the matter: "There being an imminent danger for the Faith, prelates must be questioned, even publicly, by their subjects." (Summa Theologiae, IIa IIae, Q. 33, A. 4). Archbishop Nichols' approach to homosexulity and to sex and relationships education are "imminent danger[s] for the Faith".
Monitor:
"And while his organisation, SPUC, does some useful research, its policies of refusing to engage with attempts by Parliament to reduce the numbers of abortions are at odds with the very clear and stated policy of the Catholic bishops of England and Wales 'to work and vote for achievable and incremental improvements to an unjust law'."
My response:
  • SPUC is the world's oldest pro-life lobbying and educational organisation, founded in 1967, and the largest in Europe, comprised of tens of thousands of faithful Catholics and people of other beliefs. SPUC has wons the plaudits of countless Catholic bishops, pro-life leaders, politicians and academics throughout the world for defending human life with love from conception to natural death, not only for our work in the UK but at the UN and within the European institutions. By contrast, Catholic Voices is a brand new, tiny organisation, by its own admission mostly comprised of fairly inexperienced volunteers.
  • SPUC opposed recent so-called "attempts by Parliament to reduce the numbers of abortions" precisely because those attempts not only would have failed to reduce the numbers of abortions, but may even have led to increasing those numbers. Those attempts therefore did not represent "improvements" and were not even "achievable", being defeated by comfortable margins in parliament, as SPUC long predicted.
  • SPUC is not a Catholic organisation and is therefore in no way bound to follow the policies of the Catholic bishops of England and Wales or their national conference. Also, a national bishops' conference is no more the Catholic Church than are Catholic Voices or Catholics in SPUC: "[T]he episcopal conferences have no theological basis, they do not belong to the structure of the Church, as willed by Christ, that cannot be eliminated ... No episcopal conference, as such, has a teaching mission: its documents have no weight of their own save that of the consent given to them by the individual bishops." (Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, "The Ratzinger Report", 1992)
Monitor's post is in reality a smokescreen by Dr Ivereigh and Mr Valero to protect dissent within the Catholic Church and the bishops who also protect that dissent.

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Wednesday, 29 September 2010

Labour leader Ed Miliband continues Tony Blair's homosexual agenda

Ed Miliband, the newly-elected leader of the British Labour party, has confirmed in his first speech as leader that he will continue the homosexual* rights agenda of Tony Blair and Gordon Brown. Mr Miliband said:
"The old way of thinking [before Blair-Brown's New Labour] said that you couldn't change attitudes towards gay men and lesbians. Let me tell you that last month I was privileged to be in this great city [Manchester], at [the homosexual] Pride [march], to see not just thousands of people marching but thousands of people lining the street in support. We should be proud that our commitment to equality means we have couples forming civil partnerships across the country and celebrating with their family and friends."
Mr Miliband's comments mirror very closely the repeated references made by Tony Blair, in his recently-published memoirs and elsewhere, to his own "pride" in promoting the homosexual rights agenda as prime minister.

Also, the Christian Institute reports that Mr Miliband told homosexual news website PinkNews:
“I want to see heterosexual and same-sex partnerships put on an equal basis and a Labour Party that I lead will campaign to make gay marriage happen.”
Mr Miliband's voting record also shows that he supports Mr Blair's legacy of destructive and abusive research on embryonic children. As far as SPUC is aware, Mr Miliband has never once voted pro-life or pro-family. (It should be noted that both the other two main party leaders, prime minister David Cameron and deputy prime minister Nick Clegg, also support abortion, destructive embryo research and the homosexual rights agenda.)

Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act 2008
  • voted for the Second and Third Readings of the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill
  • voted against an unsuccessful amendment to create a ban on creating, keeping or using the new types of animal-human embryos permitted by the Bill (‘human admixed embryos’)
  • voted against an (unsuccessful) amendment to create a ban on licensing the creation of full hybrid embryos which are 50% human and 50% animal, but allows all other ‘human admixed embryos’
  • voted against an (unsuccessful) amendment to prevented human embryos with added animal DNA from being classified as ‘human admixed embryos’
  • voted against an amendment to remove the ability to licence the creation of ‘saviour siblings’ to provide cells or tissue for a sick brother or sister
  • voted against an (unsuccessful) amendment to narrow the term "other tissue" to other ‘regenerative’ tissue, in the context of saviour siblings
  • voted against an (unsuccessful) amendment to reinstate the requirement for doctors to consider the child’s need for a father before a woman is given fertility treatment. The amendment also added the requirement to consider the need of a child for a mother
  • voted against an (unsuccessful) amendment to require doctors to consider the need of a child for ‘supportive parenting and a father or male role model’ before a woman is given fertility treatment
  • voted against several (unsuccessful) amendments to lower the 24-week upper time-limit on abortions done for social reasons
  • voted against an (unsuccessful) amendment which sought to improve support and informed consent for mothers who may be pregnant a disabled child
  • voted against (unsuccessful) amendments which sought to address a loopholes which could potentially allow so-called reproductive cloning
  • voted against an (unsuccessful) amendment to close an animal-human hybrids loophole
Sexual ethics (information courtesy of The Christian Institute)
  • voted for the Sexual Orientation Regulations, which (among other things) effectively stopped the Catholic Church from providing adoption services.
  • voted against a free speech amendment to a proposed offence of 'homophobic hatred'
* 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.

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Tuesday, 28 September 2010

Austen Ivereigh of Catholic Voices tries to whitewash Tony Blair's anti-life/anti-family record

Dr Austen Ivereigh, co-ordinator of Catholic Voices, former director of public affairs to Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor and former deputy editor of The Tablet, has tried to whitewash Tony Blair's anti-life/anti-family record in an article for The Guardian entitled "Churches can help Labour renewal". He writes:
"Although Alastair Campbell famously said otherwise, New Labour under Tony Blair did God a lot: not agreeing with what the churches said, or enacting policy on that basis, but in granting exemptions and opt-outs from equality laws for faith-based organisations in order to preserve their integrity and independence. There was respect for conscience and belief. Blair's ears were tuned to faith.

Then came Gordon Brown, and Labour tuned out. No more opt-outs from anti-discrimination laws, which under Blair had allowed religious organisations to retain their distinctive ethos; 13 Catholic adoption agencies were forced to close because they refused to allow same-sex couples to adopt (even though there were 400 others the couples could go to)."
Here are some key facts about Mr Blair's time as prime minister which every British Catholic needs to know:
  • Contrary to Dr Ivereigh's claim above, it was under Tony Blair, not Gordon Brown, that the Labour government passed the Sexual Orientation Regulations 2007 through parliament, because of which the Catholic Church was effectively stopped from providing adoption services.
  • Mr Blair personally championed destructive experiments on human embryos (2000, 2004, August and September 2006)
  • Mr Blair personally endorsed his government’s policy of supplying abortion and birth control drugs and devices to schoolgirls as young as 11 without parental knowledge or consent (Foreword, Teenage Pregnancy Report, Social Exclusion Unit, 1999)
  • Mr Blair's government introduced legislation which led to a law which allows, and in certain circumstances requires, doctors to starve and dehydrate to death vulnerable patients (The Mental Capacity Act 2005). There is no conscience clause in the Mental Capacity Act. Mr Blair personally defended the legislation.
  • Mr Blair's government in 2005 endorsed Recommended Standards for Sexual Health Services, drawn up by a coalition of pro-abortion advocates and abortion providers. The policy includes arm-twisting doctors who are reluctant to refer for abortion. Many GPs wish to refuse to refer women for abortions on medical grounds, or for religious or conscientious reasons. The Department of Health brooked none of these objections, but insisted that every woman who enquires about abortion is immediately referred for abortion.
  • Mr Blair's government was committed to the promotion of abortion on demand as a universal fundamental human right (Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights, A position paper, Department for International Development, 2004)
  • Mr Blair's government passed through parliament the Civil Partnerships Act, which contains no conscience clause e.g. for registrars. In his memoirs published earlier this month Mr Blair made repeated references to his support for the homosexual* agenda, such as: "Just before Christmas [2005] the Civil Partnership Act came into force ... I was really proud of that.
Were Tony "Blair's ears" really "tuned to faith" when he personally endorsed introducing the culture of death into schools, the killing of embryonic children and starvation of helpless patients? Is forcing professionals to cooperate formally in abortion, euthanasia and homosexual lifestyles, or keeping parents in the dark about their daughters' sexual health, "respect for conscience and belief"?

Dr Ivereigh clearly has a strange (to say the least) idea about what constitutes "doing God a lot". As well as seeking to whitewash Tony Blair, Dr Ivereigh and/or his Catholic Voices project has also sought to whitewash (among other things):
Dr Ivereigh's latest comments simply reinforce my opinion that he is seeking to redefine the common perception of what constitutes mainstream Catholicism in England, and that he should not be appointed to any representative position in any official or unofficial Catholic or pro-life/pro-family organisation.

* 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.

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Monday, 27 September 2010

Catholic Voices' leaders seek to redefine Catholicism on life and family issues

Dr Austen Ivereigh, co-ordinator of Catholic Voices, former director of public affairs to Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor and former deputy editor of The Tablet, refers to me and to others as Taliban Catholics. Here is an extract from an interview with John Allen of the National Catholic Reporter:

Mr Allen: You put this in the plural, “Catholic Voices.” How do you define a Catholic voice?

Dr Ivereigh answered:
"... [One] criterion was Catholicity, which is where the controversy arises ... [One] thing was that they have to be comfortable with all aspects of church teaching, comfortable enough to put the church’s view across in a way that doesn’t make them squirm. Interestingly, that did automatically exclude people who are critical of the bishops from either side ... We did get a few [applications] from what you would call the “Taliban Catholics,” who of course have become very vociferous on the blogosphere in the last few years. They’re very critical of the bishops for compromising too much with modernity and not promoting Catholic truth as they see it."
This is interesting language from someone who recently took it upon himself to teach the pro-life movement (including me) "lessons in civility"! (These lessons include "civil" descriptions and comparisons of other Catholics and their work, such as "mob", "puritans", "loopiness", "craziness" and "the tactics of Soviet Communism".)

Dr Ivereigh's position on "Taliban Catholics" would be more impressive if he could explain how Archbishop Nichols's notorious comments on gay "unions"* promote Catholic truth, or how the Catholic Education Service (CES), an agency of the Catholic bishops' conference of England and Wales, promotes Catholic truth by appointing an anti-life, anti-family former MP as its deputy director.

Elsewhere, in the comments-box of Laurence England's blog, Mr England put the following question to Dr Ivereigh:
"[A]t what point in your career did you decide that The Tablet had lost sight of the Catholic Faith and had become a vehicle for dissent of Catholic Teaching? ... [W]hat you make of it nowadays?"
Dr Ivereigh replied:
"I've never decided that about the Tablet ... I write for it still. And subscribe. That should answer your question."
But as Fr Timothy Finigan has rightly put it in another context:
"This paper [The Tablet] has no place in any Catholic home, parish Church, or Cathedral. Tabula delenda est."
Dr Ivereigh's loyalty to The Tablet should be sufficient evidence for any faithful pro-life/pro-family Catholic to conclude that he should not be appointed to any representative position in any official or unofficial Catholic or pro-life/pro-family organisation.

Dr Ivereigh appears to be using the profile and position afforded him by the Catholic Voices project to redefine the common perception of what constitutes mainstream Catholicism in England, an agenda pursued by The Tablet for decades.

Sadly, not only is Dr Ivereigh apparently indifferent to the errors of The Tablet on pro-life/pro-family issues, he and his fellow Catholic Voices leader, Jack Valero, defend and promote at least some of those errors.

* 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.

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