Saturday, 18 December 2010

Exhibition shows us why we can never be complacent about the threat of medicalised killing

The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum has created an exhibition on medicalised killings under the Nazis and the exhibition is currently travelling to different American cities. A report on the exhibition by American Medical News says:
"The misguided scientific ideas of physicians and scientists were integral to Nazis' crimes against humanity and should serve as a reminder to doctors to put patients before political ideology ... As evil as these actions appear in retrospect, they arose out of a highly sophisticated German medical culture, said Matthew K. Wynia, MD, MPH ... More than half of the Nobel Prizes that were awarded in science through the 1930s went to Germans ... 'If we divorce ourselves from them or view them as entirely alien, then our ability to understand these medical crimes is thwarted, as well as is our ability to prevent other medical crimes,' Dr. Wynia said. 'These doctors became killers, not despite their training but in the name of their science and training' ... [I]t is so important for doctors to maintain their professionalism in the face of political and other pressures ... 'This is not just Jewish history,' Dr. Wynia said. 'All doctors and medical professionals need to know and understand this material.'"
I have blogged before on the significance for the pro-life/pro-family of understanding both Nazi medicine and the pro-abortion and pro-contraception culture rampant in Germany leading up to the Third Reich. I therefore heartily recommend all my readers to view the exhibition online.

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Friday, 17 December 2010

Parents' rights as primary educators are the basis of world peace, says Pope Benedict

Pope Benedict XVI's message for the 44th World Day of Peace, which will be observed on New Year's Day, has been published. I reproduce below some extracts of the message relevant to pro-life and pro-family issues. The most important extract, I believe, contains a repeated emphasis on parents as the first and foremost educators of their children, including in moral matters such as sexuality*:
"The family...finds its place here as the first school for the social, cultural, moral and spiritual formation and growth of children ... Parents must be always free to transmit to their children, responsibly and without constraints, their heritage of faith, values and culture. The family, the first cell of human society, remains the primary training ground for harmonious relations at every level of coexistence, human, national and international ..."
The right of parents to be primary educators of their children is enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (and Pope Benedict refers to that declaration in his message). This is a point I fully explored in my concluding address to the Fourth International Pro-Life Congress, in Saragossa, Spain.

What a scandal it is that the Catholic Education Service (CES), an agency of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of England and Wales, pays lip-service to Catholic pro-life/pro-family teaching and parents' rights while facilitating anti-life/anti-family teaching and so-called services in Catholic schools!

Very timely is Pope Benedict's comments today in a message to the archbishop of Naples:
"Of course, today's social and cultural context is very different from the past and, although we may joy in the Lord for the genuine and persisting faith of so many Christians, it is painful to note the spread of a secularised view of life and the emergence of evils afflicting the body public, which is threatened by individualism. In this atmosphere, negative and deviant models also exercise their influence, having a strong impact on family and social life, especially on the new generations. Thus I wish to reiterate the urgent need for the human and Christian formation of children and young people, because they are seriously exposed to the risks of deviancy".
The risks of such deviancy would have been the inevitable effect of the previous government's legislative proposals for sex and relationships education, which were based on prevailing ideas which Vincent Nichols, archbishop of Westminster, publicly went along with. Ed Balls, the then education secretary, made clear - and was supported by both David Cameron, the current prime minister and Nick Clegg, the current deputy prime minister - that faith schools should be forced to teach that homosexuality is normal and harmless.

SPUC is already responding to "the urgent need for the human and Christian formation of children and young people" by helping parents keep their children Safe at School.

Extracts from Pope Benedict's message for the 44th World Day of Peace, 1 January 2011:
"Respect for essential elements of human dignity, such as the right to life and the right to religious freedom, is a condition for the moral legitimacy of every social and legal norm."

"The family founded on marriage, as the expression of the close union and complementarity between a man and a woman, finds its place here as the first school for the social, cultural, moral and spiritual formation and growth of children, who should always be able to see in their father and mother the first witnesses of a life directed to the pursuit of truth and the love of God. Parents must be always free to transmit to their children, responsibly and without constraints, their heritage of faith, values and culture. The family, the first cell of human society, remains the primary training ground for harmonious relations at every level of coexistence, human, national and international. Wisdom suggests that this is the road to building a strong and fraternal social fabric, in which young people can be prepared to assume their proper responsibilities in life, in a free society, and in a spirit of understanding and peace."

"Numerous charitable and cultural institutions testify to the constructive role played by believers in the life of society. More important still is religion’s ethical contribution in the political sphere."

"Today too, in an increasingly globalized society, Christians are called, not only through their responsible involvement in civic, economic and political life but also through the witness of their charity and faith, to offer a valuable contribution to the laborious and stimulating pursuit of justice, integral human development and the right ordering of human affairs. The exclusion of religion from public life deprives the latter of a dimension open to transcendence. Without this fundamental experience it becomes difficult to guide societies towards universal ethical principles and to establish at the national and international level a legal order which fully recognizes and respects fundamental rights and freedoms as these are set forth in the goals – sadly still disregarded or contradicted – of the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights."

"The patrimony of principles and values expressed by an authentic religiosity is a source of enrichment for peoples and their ethos. It speaks directly to the conscience and mind of men and women, it recalls the need for moral conversion, and it encourages the practice of the virtues and a loving approach to others as brothers and sisters, as members of the larger human family."

"Politics and diplomacy should look to the moral and spiritual patrimony offered by the great religions of the world in order to acknowledge and affirm universal truths, principles and values which cannot be denied without denying the dignity of the human person. But what does it mean, in practical terms, to promote moral truth in the world of politics and diplomacy? It means acting in a responsible way on the basis of an objective and integral knowledge of the facts; it means deconstructing political ideologies which end up supplanting truth and human dignity in order to promote pseudo-values under the pretext of peace, development and human rights; it means fostering an unswerving commitment to base positive law on the principles of the natural law. All this is necessary and consistent with the respect for the dignity and worth of the human person enshrined by the world’s peoples in the 1945 Charter of the United Nations, which presents universal values and moral principles as a point of reference for the norms, institutions and systems governing coexistence on the national and international levels."
* Why is the Catholic Church's teaching on sexuality (and dissent from that teaching) important for the pro-life movement? 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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Thursday, 16 December 2010

Ireland must reject European court’s abortion judgment, says intervener SPUC

SPUC has responded to this morning’s judgment (full text, press release)  by the European Court of Human Rights in the "A, B, & C" case of three Irish residents who challenged Ireland’s constitutional ban on abortion. SPUC was an intervening party in the case (read SPUC’s joint submission with other pro-life groups).

The court rejected the legal arguments of the first two women, but said that the third woman's right to a private life under article 8 of the European Convention had been violated by a failure of the Irish state to make her rights regarding abortion accessible to her. The court claimed that the Irish Constitution gives women a right to abortion under the Constitution's protection of the equal right to life of the mother of an unborn child. The third woman was in remission from cancer at the time of the pregnancy and feared that the pregnancy would cause a relapse of her cancer.

As I told them media this morning, the court has misinterpreted the Irish Constitution and confused abortion with healthcare. The Irish Constitution does not confer any right to abortion, nor can the right to life of unborn children in any way be held to be in competition with the right to life of their mothers. Abortion is not healthcare, and Ireland, where abortion is banned, has the world's best record for maternal health. If implemented in law, this judgement would legalise abortion in a wide range of circumstances.

This case was never about helping women faced with a crisis pregnancy. It was instigated by the international abortion lobby, which has with the ultimate aim of forcing governments across the globe to recognise access to abortion as a legal right.

This warped decision lacks all legitimacy. It is vitally important that the people of Ireland continue to stand-up for the rights of unborn children who are the youngest and most vulnerable members of society. Abortion not only kills children: it is deeply damaging to women.

Patrick Buckley, of European Life Network Ireland and of SPUC, also told the media this morning:
“The court has failed to respect Ireland’s national sovereignty by unilaterally misinterpreting the Irish Constitution's protection of the right to life. Ireland must dismiss out of hand this interference in a very sensitive national and constitutional issue. Europe is again deciding over the heads of the Irish people. We wonder what will be next tomorrow?

“In protecting the unborn from abortion Ireland is fulfilling its duty under international human rights law to protect the lives of its innocent citizens. In any case, the Irish Supreme Court has already ruled* that the Irish Constitution trumps the European Convention on Human Rights, because the Convention is not part of Irish law and therefore not directly applicable in Irish cases”, concluded Mr Buckley. * McD. -v- L. & anor, 10 Dec 2009 http://bit.ly/g5k35B
The right to life is the fundamental human right on which all other rights depend. Article 2 of the European Convention recognises the right to life of everyone, regardless of race, nationality, sex, age, birth or any other status. This is also recognised by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. No legally-binding international agreement has ever recognised access to abortion as a human right.

Liam Gibson of SPUC is outside the court today. He and other SPUC spokesmen are available to the media for comment. For more information contact Anthony Ozimic, SPUC's communications manager, on landline (020) 7820 3129, mobile (0)7939 177683 or by email anthonyozimic@spuc.org.uk

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Wednesday, 15 December 2010

Spokesmen available for interview re tomorrow’s major European court abortion judgment

Tomorrow (at 11:00 French time, 10:00 UK time) the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg, France, will deliver its judgment in the "A, B & C" case of three Irish residents who have challenged Ireland’s constitutional ban on abortion. SPUC is an intervening party in the case (read SPUC’s joint submission with other pro-life groups).

Patrick Buckley, of European Life Network Ireland and of SPUC, told the media earlier today:
“We hope that the court will respect Ireland’s national sovereignty by leaving the Irish Constitution’s ban on abortion alone. The Irish Supreme Court last year ruled* that the Irish Constitution trumps the European Convention on Human Rights, because the Convention is not part of Irish law and therefore not directly applicable in Irish cases.” * McD. -v- L. & anor, 10 Dec 2009 http://bit.ly/g5k35B

“Thus far the European Court of Human Rights has never interfered in the constitutions of European nation-states. Ireland must dismiss out of hand any such interference if the court attempts it in its judgment tomorrow. In protecting the unborn from abortion Ireland is fulfilling its duty under international human rights law to protect the lives of its innocent citizens”.
Liam Gibson of SPUC will be outside the court tomorrow both before and after the judgment. He and other SPUC spokesmen will be available to the media for comment. For more information contact Anthony Ozimic, SPUC's communications manager, on landline (020) 7820 3129, mobile (0)7939 177683 or by email anthonyozimic@spuc.org.uk

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Tuesday, 14 December 2010

Final report from axed teen pregnancy quango is disgraceful

SPUC has responded to comments by Gill Frances, chairman of the Teenage Pregnancy Independent Advisory Group (TPIAG), announcing a disgraceful final report from the axed quango.

Paul Tully, SPUC’s general secretary, told the media today:
“The previous government spent £300 million on promoting contraception and school-based sex ed under the teenage pregnancy strategy. It is now widely accepted that that strategy was a massive failure. Yet the group claims absurdly that the rise in teenage abortions is a proof that such a strategy has worked.

“The group should be bowing out with an apology for accelerating teenage abortions and rising sexually transmitted infections, with all the associated misery. Instead the group has issued a final hurrah designed to dress up its failure with statistical tricks and distortions. To cap the failure, the group calls for more of the same after they have gone.

“Teenage pregnancy may actually be more frequent now than twenty years ago. The statistics are obscured by the techniques used. The group’s claim that teenage conceptions are the lowest for 20 years excludes an unknown number of babies aborted early in pregnancy by hormonal birth control like the morning after pill, which, according to its makers, may fail to prevent conception and cause an early abortion instead. The promotion of the morning after pill may have masked many conceptions in recent years.

“Gill Frances’ claim that public funding for contraceptives saves the NHS money is based on a false assumption: that giving teenagers easy access to contraception without parents knowing cuts conception and abortion rates. It doesn't.

“The Coalition government needs to review the whole approach. It should insist on an independent review of evidence for preventing teenage pregnancy and abortion."
In addition, SPUC also believes that the government needs to take the following action:

1) Take a hard look at the evidence for the current strategy of promoting contraception and abortion for adolescents.
Campaigns promoting contraception are counter-productive. Contraception has a very high failure among teenagers. To give them condoms or other forms of contraception is simply to play Russian roulette with pregnancy and infection. Most of the young woman who have an unintended pregnancy and then consider abortion had actually been using contraception at or around the time they became pregnant.

2) Re-engage with parents in teaching children about responsible sexual behaviour.
The most effective approach to improving the prospects for teenagers is to support them via their parents. International human rights law says that parents are the first and foremost educators of their children, so it is the parents of teenagers, not schools or the government, who have the right and responsibility to educate their children on sexual matters. Schools, government and charities often pay lip-service to supporting the parents. This needs to be made real. Engaging with parents does not mean replacing them with sex ed teachers or peer educators or school nurses.

3) Ban obscene classroom sex-education.
The current trend to ever more lurid sex education programmes - dubbed "kiddie-porn" by concerned parents - must be stopped. Sex and relationships education (SRE) in schools has become an avenue for sexualising the culture in which children have to live. SRE is now a main vehicle for teaching teenagers how to access abortion and contraception without their parents’ knowing. The medical, social and psychological after effects are suffered by young people, women especially. The wider burdens (such as single parents, treating STIs, subsequent infertility, etc) fall on the taxpayer too. The forthcoming curriculum review will be an opportunity for the government to reassess the damage that current classroom-SRE is doing, and consider alternative approaches.

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Archbishop Fisichella's prominence risks creating moral confusion

My picture shows Archbishop Fisichella (right), president of the Pontifical Council for the Promotion of the New Evangelization, with the co-authors of "Light of the World", a book-length discussion between Pope Benedict XVI and Peter Seewald, a German journalist.

How very unfortunate and inappropriate it is that Archbishop Fisichella should have been seen playing such a prominent role at the launch of "Light of the World".

Pope Benedict's comments about the use of condoms in that book have led to maelstrom of carefully created confusion in the mass media about Catholic teaching on condoms. Last month I warned that leading public figures in the name of the Catholic Church, in Britain and elsewhere, are misrepresenting the church's unchanging and unchangeable magisterial teaching on the use of condoms.

The picture above reminds me of the terrible damage Archbishop Fisichella has done to the Catholic Church's witness on abortion. He stands by the original wording of his article in L'Osservatore Romano, last year, which implied that there are difficult situations in which doctors enjoy scope for the autonomous exercise of conscience in deciding whether to carry out a direct abortion. Frances Kissling, of Catholics for a Free Choice, has said of the archbishop's position it "has opened a crack, through which women, doctors and political decision-makers can slip in".

Archbishop Fisichella's position on abortion gave comfort to Frances Kissling and, no doubt, to other opponents of Catholic teaching on abortion, such as Obama and Hilary Clinton, who are bankrolling abortion worldwide.

And those misrepresenting Catholic teaching on condoms worldwide, following Pope Benedict's interview, are now giving comfort to anti-life, anti-family legislators in the Philippines.

Thank God that the Kenyan bishops recently reiterated and reaffirmed "that the position of the Catholic Church as regards the use of condoms, both as a means of contraception and as a means of addressing the grave issue of HIV/AIDS infection has not changed and remains as always unacceptable".

I have frequently called for Archbishop Fisichella to be sacked. The price of not doing so is moral confusion in the church.

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Monday, 13 December 2010

Archbishop Longley owes faithful pro-life/pro-family Catholics an apology

Bernard Longley (pictured), archbishop of Birmingham, has given an interview to The Tablet, in which he criticises (in similar terms to Vincent Nichols, archbishop of Westminster) those Catholics who oppose the Soho Masses for homosexuals*. He goes on to contradict himself somewhat by disagreeing - rather weakly - with Archbishop Nichols and Bishop Malcolm McMahon on civil partnerships. (Readers will recall that Archbishop Nichols said that the Catholic bishops' conference of England and Wales was not opposed to gay civil partnerships; and Bishop McMahon said that he had no problem with headteachers of Catholic schools being in civil partnerships). You can read the relevant part of the interview at the end of this blog-post.

Daphne McLeod, chairman of Pro Ecclesia et Pontifice, which organises a regular prayer vigil outside the Soho Masses, has written a letter (see below) to The Tablet in response to Archbishop Longley's interview comments. Daphne has kindly given permission for her letter to be blogged.

To Daphne's excellent letter, I would add: what on earth is an archbishop doing giving an interview to The Tablet, the de facto house journal of British liberal Catholic dissent, including on pro-life/pro-family issues? Archbishop Longley owes faithful pro-life/pro-family Catholics an unreserved apology.

* 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.

Letter from Daphne McLeod, chairman, Pro Ecclesia et Pontifice
The Editor, “The Tablet”
1, King Street Cloisters,
London. W6 OGY

11th December 2010

Dear Editor,

I am surprised to read Archbishop Longley’s attack on those of us who pray outside the Church of Our Lady and St Gregory during the five o’clock Masses for ‘lesbian and gay Catholics’ every first and third Sunday. His remarks include some inaccuracies which need correcting.

First, this is not a protest though that may be the way the homosexuals who organise these Masses describe it to the Archbishop. If he had spoken to any of us we would have explained that we are not protesting but praying in reparation for any sacrileges that might be taking place.

As it is we pray the fifteen mysteries of the Holy Rosary, and the Divine Praises in reparation, the Divine Mercy Chaplet for all sinners and, at six o’clock, before we end, the Angelus. Although small in number we know we are joined by many who cannot reach London but who pray with us in churches, in homes and in convents.

Second, the Archbishop says he doesn’t know whether any of us “have made attempts to meet the people who are going to these Masses”. If he had asked us we would have assured him that we have met many of them and I would like to put it on record here that most of them are very friendly and perfectly honest about their homosexual lifestyles, introducing us to their partners and emphasising that they are in sexual relationships. So we are not ‘making any assumptions’ about them.

Some of us have been down to the Social Hour which follows every Mass where we have received kind hospitality enabling us to spend some time eating and drinking and talking to them and examining the books they have on sale. No-one, apart from the Archbishop, tries to pretend they are living or striving to live chaste lives.

Of course there are chaste homosexuals in the Church who do live chaste lives and they demand our real respect, but they would never ask for or attend any Mass arranged especially for homosexuals. They go to Mass in their own parish and only receive Holy Communion if they are in a state of Grace, like the rest of us. I know from phone calls I have received that many of them are very concerned about the Soho Masses where everyone receives Holy Communion in spite of openly admitting they are and intend to stay in homosexual relationships.

If Archbishop Longley really thinks we are so misguided, why didn’t he approach us and put us right when he was an Auxiliary in Westminster? He had plenty of opportunity. Indeed, once when we had both attended a talk in Westminster Hall I started to approach him to discuss this problem only to see him turn and run out of the hall and disappear. I pursued him but, as I can’t run as fast as I used to now I am 82, I lost him.

We know he has spent a lot of time with ex-Carmelite priest Martin Pendergast, his long term partner Julian Filochowski and the other organisers. At the first Mass they thanked him publicly from the altar for not insisting they make any changes to their homosexual lifestyles. This was repeated later on their web-site and in the Pink Paper, the paper for practising homosexuals in London. This paper also celebrated Archbishop Longley’s elevation to Birmingham as ‘their’ bishop getting promotion.

I do feel this pretence and condoning is not in any sense compassionate or pastoral. These Catholics need and deserve proper guidance, especially the young ones who have not received good religious instruction. I cannot forget the poor young man who said to me, “There is no need to worry about us Daphne, if it were still wrong these Masses would not have been especially arranged for us.”

Of course it is still wrong. St Paul among others makes that very clear and so does the 1994 Catechism of the Catholic Church and they both also stress that anyone practising this life style must not receive Holy Communion without repentance, Confession and a desire to amend their lives. Who is Archbishop Longley to change this age-old universal teaching?

Perhaps after reading this, the Archbishop might like to revise his own judgemental stance about us.

Daphne McLeod
Chairman
Pro Ecclesia et Pontifice
From the interview with Bernard Longley, archbishop of Birmingham, The Tablet, 11 December 2010:
"...Cardinal Murphy-O’Connor selected him to negotiate with a group of lesbian and gay Catholics who wanted a regular Mass celebrated for them, their families and friends. For some years the Mass had been celebrated in an Anglican church in London’s Soho and the cardinal felt it should be in a Catholic church instead. It was settled in 2007 that the Soho Masses Pastoral Council should be formed and would be responsible for organising a monthly Mass at the Church of the Assumption in Warwick Street. Conservative Catholics opposed to the Mass regularly gather outside to protest but Archbishop Longley has stern words for them. 'The Church does not, as it were, have a moral means-testing of people before they come to receive the sacraments and it is very easy to jump to and come to the wrong conclusions about people when you don’t know them. I don’t know whether the people outside have made attempts to meet the people who are going to the Masses in Soho,' he says. I question whether those protesting are making assumptions about those people’s lifestyles, to which the archbishop replies: 'I would assume that is the case, and so it isn’t for any of us to make those judgements which, in conscience, people make before God and also within the sacraments, particularly the Sacrament of Reconciliation assisted by priests and other pastors within the Church. I think, at the end of the day, those sorts of protests are counterproductive and usually have the effect of hardening attitudes and polarising rather than fundamentally changing people’s minds.'

"Given his reluctance to make assumptions about the lifestyles of gay Catholics, it might be reasonable to assume that he would have no objection to civil partnerships. After all, the Archbishop of Westminster and president of the bishops’ conference, Vincent Nichols, does not oppose them. But Archbishop Longley thinks differently. 'I am not in favour of it because it establishes a legally and publicly recognised relationship which is too easily confused with the sacrament of marriage. Obviously it’s not marriage, because a marriage is between a man and a woman, but I do think it is very easy for people to be confused about civil partnerships and marriage as if they were the same thing.'

"Another of his fellow bishops, Malcolm McMahon, chairman of the Catholic Education Service, has said that a head teacher could be in a civil partnership and still live according to the Church’s teaching. But Archbishop Longley is doubtful about this. 'In those circumstances, a practising Catholic would not enter into a civil partnership in good standing with the Church. It would be a matter of concern, I think, in a school if a teacher were to enter into a civil partnership, but that would be something that would be the concern of the governing body of the school and clearly of the trustees.'"
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