Saturday, 29 December 2012

Archbishop Nichols urges Catholics to contact MPs to defend marriage

I am delighted to draw visitors' attention to the pastoral letter for the Feast of the Holy Family this weekend from Archbishop Vincent Nichols, the archbishop of Westminster.

The Westminster diocese website announces: "Catholics are urged to speak up for marriage as the heart of the family in a Pastoral Letter from the Most Rev Vincent Nichols, Archbishop of Westminster to his diocese ... The Pastoral Letter will be read out during Masses at the 214 Catholic churches in the Diocese of Westminster over 29/30 December 2012, the Feast of the Holy Family."

The archbishop says:
My brothers and sisters in Jesus Christ

Today's Feast is a moment in which to rejoice again in the vitality and importance of the family. Indeed this is a time in which to speak up for marriage, between a husband and wife, as the heart of the family.

Of course there are many different circumstances to family life. Events reshape the family lives of many people. We are right to express our admiration for those who work so hard to maintain family stability in difficulty and isolation. Support and loving care for them can make all the difference.

But none of this takes away the importance of having a clear vision of marriage and family, based on human nature itself. This vision of the family is rooted in the faithful love of a man and a woman, publicly expressed and accepted in marriage, responsible for the birth of the next generation and out of love working for the care and upbringing of their children. This is the vocation of marriage and parenthood, rooted in a natural bond, blessed by God and a sure sacrament in the life of the Church.

The first reading of our Mass today, from the Book of Ecclesiasticus, bears witness to the ancient roots of this vision. Written in the second century before Christ, it emphasises the sense of right and wrong that lies at the heart of marriage and family life. It speaks of the honour that is to exist between all the members of a family and across the generations. Along with honour, the author speaks of rights, respect, obedience, support and kindness which are needed if family life is to be stable and fruitful. It values the wisdom of the elderly and recognises the sacrifices necessary to love and care for them as they become frail and live with suffering. Its references to ‘The Lord’ who seeks our obedience shows that these values are not of our choosing. Rather they have an objective character, coming to us from God, or, in other words, written into our very nature and there for us to heed.

The Gospel we have heard recognises that family life will be full of testing times. Indeed for the Holy Family these three days were full of awful anxiety. Only through her thoughtful pondering did Mary come to understand God's purposes which were not at all the same as her initial expectations. Just as the Holy Spirit had brought about the conception of Jesus within her, so too that same Holy Spirit had to lead Mary to understand and follow God's ways. The journey by which we come to understand the purpose of God in our human nature and in our lives is also frequently difficult. There is often a journey to make from what I might think is God’s plan for me, to what God really wants. And on this journey the Church and her teaching is a sure guide, not least in the patterns of our relationships.

As we turn to the lovely reading from the First Letter of St John, we learn again that the love at the heart of family life has its origins in God. As we strive to live a life of love we are indeed ‘already children of God’. And what is more, a great promise is given to us too. As this God-given love comes to its fulfilment, ‘we shall become like him because we shall see him as he really is’. This is the promise of heaven that steadies us on our journey on earth. Of course we have to ‘fear the Lord and walk in his ways’, as the Psalmist said. But when we try to do so as best we can, then ‘we need not be afraid in God's presence’. Rather we can look forward, with a blessed hope, to the coming of our Saviour, both at the hour of our death and at the moment of final judgement.

Today I ask for every family the blessing of God that you may be steadfast in your love and loyalty for each other, overcoming life's difficulties with a firm and trusting faith and great perseverance. I pray too for our country that we will maintain the importance of marriage between a man and a woman as the heart of family life and, while always retaining proper and due respect for all, resist the proposed redefining of marriage with all its likely consequences particularly in schools and in how children are taught about the true nature of marriage.

At this time, we look to our Members of Parliament to defend, not change, the bond of man and woman in marriage as the essential element of the vision of the family. I urge everyone who cares about upholding the meaning of marriage in civil law to make their views known to their Members of Parliament, clearly, calmly and forcefully. Please do so as soon as possible. [My emphasis]

I ask you to keep me in your prayers on this day, that as a diocese we may be a family that is loving and supportive of one another in our life in the Lord. Amen

Yours devotedly

+ Vincent Nichols
Archbishop of Westminster
Thank you, Archbishop. Your leadership in defending marriage and our families at this time is critical and invaluable.

(Marriage as an institution protects children, both born and unborn. Statistics show that unborn children are much safer within marriage than outside marriage. For more information on the full grounds of SPUC's opposition to same-sex marriage, see SPUC's position paper and background paper.  Please do everything you can to support SPUC's Britain-wide lobby of Members of Parliament on marriage.)
 
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Friday, 28 December 2012

One of the most moving blogposts you will ever visit, the story of baby John Paul

I want to draw my visitors' attention to four important blogposts recently published by my pro-life colleague, Pat Buckley, of European Life Network.

In a blogpost today, Pat cites a formidable editorial from the January edition of The Alive newspaper, a free monthly Catholic newspaper distributed throughout Ireland. The editorial warns Enda Kenny, the Irish Taoiseach (Prime Minister):
There is a higher law ... and he is bound by that law. According to that law to deliberately kill an unborn child is evil. And for any government to legally permit such killing is profoundly evil ... reference (by Mr Kenny) to "abortion on demand" looks like an attempt by Mr Kenny to soften up people to accept "limited" abortion, that is, that the law would allow the killing of a limited number of unborn children. Whether or not such a law would lead to "abortion on demand" is not the point.If it permitted the intentional killing of just one unborn child it would not be a law but the utter corruption of law ...
Likening Mr Kenny's situation to one of the accused Nazi judges being tried for war crimes in Nuremberg, the editorial concludes:
... Mr Kenny now stands at perhaps the most momentous crisis point not only in his political career but in his personal integrity ...
Pat's second post, published yesterday, draws attention, in full, to an opinion piece in the Irish Independent by Patricia Casey, Professor of Psychiatry at University College Dublin. Her opinion piece is written in the context of Ireland's health minister's statement that
"The legislation will be drafted in accordance with the 20-year-old Supreme Court ruling on the X case, which allows for abortion when a woman's life is in danger - including the threat of suicide."
Professor Casey writes:
" ... I have examined the major textbooks of psychiatry and of perinatal psychiatry and nowhere can I find a list of any psychiatric grounds for abortion. Furthermore, the medical royal colleges, headed by the Royal College of Psychiatrists, carried out a review of the impact of abortion on mental health in 2011 and found that women with a prior psychiatric history were at an increased risk of mental health problems if they did have an abortion ... "
The third blogpost from Pat Buckley to which I draw your attention features "a beautiful yet simple message for Christmas" which speaks for itself:



And the fourth blogpost, in my view one of the most moving you will ever visit, features Cliona Johnson and her family (Cliona is Pat's daughter) and her baby John Paul who suffered from the congenital condition known as anencephaly.

You can watch their incredible story on this short youtube video.



Pat says:
" ... Cliona Johnson describes the devastation she felt in getting the diagnosis and her determination to let her baby, whom she and her husband JP (John Paul) decided to name John Paul, develop and live every minute of the short life he was capable of living ... "
Baby John Paul's story is particularly poignant since, earlier this year, the Irish Times published an article which clearly sought to use the short lives of anecephalic babies and babies with other conditions to justify introducing an abortion law designed to kill them.

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On Holy Innocents Day, remember the work of Good Counsel Network

It's Holy Innocents Day in the Catholic calendar - a day when Catholics and others turn their minds to the deaths recorded by St. Matthew (2:16 - 18) in the following Gospel passage:
Herod perceiving that he was deluded by the wise men, was exceeding angry; and sending killed all the men children that were in Bethlehem, and in all the borders thereof, from two years old and under, according to the time which he had diligently inquired of the wise men. Then was fulfilled that which was spoken by Jeremias the prophet, saying: A voice in Rama was heard, lamentation and great mourning; Rachel bewailing her children, and would not be comforted, because they are not.
It's a day when our minds naturally turn to the countless millions of unborn children, more children than have ever been killed in the whole of human history, as a result of the policies of our modern King Herods - President Obama, the US president, Tony Blair, the former UK prime minister, David Cameron, the UK's current prime minister, and so many others.

It's also a day when my mind turns to the countless courageous mothers - and fathers - who, sometimes enduring great hardship, withstand social and "moral" pressures to abort their children and, in spite of difficulties and sacrifices, look after them after they are born. I think especially of single parents who might be on their own this Christmas season. I also think of mothers and fathers who have been hurt by an abortion for which they may, or may not, have been partly responsible. I believe that their sufferings, both those who keep their babies and those who don't, can be a kind of bloodless martyrdom - a martyrdom which is providing the foundation of a new culture of life.

Also providing the foundation of a new culture of life are pro-life groups like Good Counsel Network "a life-affirming women’s organisation which offers a free pregnancy test, free advice, medical information, practical help and moral support to women seeking abortion". Good Counsel Network in London often provides help and support to mothers who get in touch with us at SPUC and we know we can always turn to them.

Here's what Stuart McCullough of the Good Counsel Network told me last week:
2012 has been an extremely busy year for the Good Counsel Network.
  • We are running a new Intern Programme,
  • We ran a “40 Days for Life” 24 hour a day prayer vigil outside one of the London abortuaries (see picture above)
  • We continue to have a vigil 5 days a week at that abortuary.
  • We’ve seen hundreds of abortion bound-women and many of them have changed their minds and continued their pregnancies, resulting in 95 babies born already this year and more due.
We have not however been able to raise sufficient funds to cover our current outgoings. At the moment we have outstanding bills of approximately £10,000. It can be difficult at times to estimate our costs as the support offered to some mothers will be very small, while others will need a lot of help. Earlier this year we met a young woman who was going into an abortion clinic to abort her twins. After a number of long counselling sessions with us it was clear that the reason for the abortion was her family’s reaction to her unmarried situation. As the girl herself said, “If I could actually marry my boyfriend in the next couple of months, I could keep the baby”. At this point we offered to help with some of the finance for her wedding. We kept everything as cheap as we could, her cake was ready-made and purchased at a local supermarket, but all in all we spent in the region of £1,000. This was not an expense that we could easily budget for as until we spoke to her we had no idea what help she would need.

Other problems we assist with include helping with rent for a short time, hiding women who are at risk from families and boyfriends, feeding and housing those without benefits, getting medical advice and care to those who cannot access it, ongoing counselling for those in distress, and for those suffering after abortion – just to name a few things. I would ask you to consider making a regular monthly donation via a standing order if you do not have one already. Be it for £5, £10, 50, or £100 per month it really does make a huge difference to our Life-Saving work. Or you can of course send us a donation however large or small. If someone were to donate £1000 at this time it would be fair to say that the twins mentioned above and other babies like them will live through God’s Grace and their generous donation. I would like to thank you for your continued support of The Good Counsel Network over the last 16 years.
God Bless,
Stuart McCullough
I warmly commend the work of Stuart and Clare McCullough and their team to the visitors to my blog. Write to them at  The Good Counsel Network, PO BOX 46679 LONDON NW9 8ZT or email: info@goodcounselnetwork.freeserve.co.uk

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Thursday, 27 December 2012

Obama's hypocrisy on caring for children defies belief

I am most grateful to the wonderful blogger known to many of his readers as "Bones" for drawing my attention to LifeSite's video: Imagine if Obama were pro-life.

Barack Obama, the most pro-abortion president in US history,  made a speech which moved people throughout the world following the shocking massacre of twenty little schoolchildren and six staff members in Newtown, Connecticut. That incomprehensible tragedy was rightly marked by powerful presidential oratory and expressions of a political determination to stop such tragedies from recurring.
In his speech, Obama says: 
"This is our first task ... caring for our children ... If we don't get that right, we don't get anything right ... "
At this point it really must be said - in view of the countless children being killed right now by Obama's policies, his hypocrisy defies belief.

Few politicians anywhere espouse policies as extreme as Mr Obama’s (although Tony Blair, former UK prime minister, provides tough competition in this respect). In 2001, when as a member of the Illinois State senate, he repeatedly voted against a law requiring medical personnel to give treatment to babies who survived abortion.

In no sense could the survival of a child after an abortion be considered a threat to his or her mother yet Mr Obama believed helping such a baby to live would undermine the legal right to abortion. Explaining his opposition to the Illinois Born Alive Infant Protection Act he said:

"...whenever we define a pre-viable fetus as a person that is protected by the equal protection clause or the other elements in the Constitution, what we're really saying is, in fact, that they are persons that are entitled to the kinds of protections that would be provided to a – child, a 9-month-old – child that was delivered to term. …

"I mean, it – it would essentially bar abortions, because the equal protection clause does not allow somebody to kill a child, and if this is a child, then this would be an anti-abortion statute...".



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Papal teaching on artificial birth control is infallible: Fr Thomas Crean O.P.

Dr Pravin Thavasathan has written a fascinating editorial on artificial birth control in the most recent edition of Catholic Medical Quarterly, the journal of the Catholic Medical Association.

Dr Thavasathan provides a brief and helpful historical account of the false teaching and of the plain bad teaching which followed the publication of Pope Paul VI's encylical Humanae Vitae on the regulation of birth which, Dr Thavasathan says ...
" ... ought to be seen as prophetic bcause the Holy Father warned that the widespread use of artificial birth control would lead to a breakdwon in the moral order, the exploitation of women and state mandated population control. All these things have happened. And soon, logically enough, there will be same sex marriage."
Dr Thavasathan also convincingly disposes of the argument that the teaching of Humanae Vitae grew out of the undue influence of an over-emphasis on the procreative good of the marriage act above other goods.

The current issue of the Catholic Medical Quarterly is also graced by an invaluable article by Fr Thomas Crean O.P. entitled "The infallible teaching of Humanae Vitae". In this article he expands on the four conditions that Vatican I laid down for a papal teaching to be infallible:
  • The Pope must be exercising his office of ‘shepherd and teacher of all Christians’
  • He must be ‘defining a doctrine with his supreme apostolic authority’
  • The Pope must be speaking about a matter of faith or morals, and not, for example, giving his opinion about literature or secular history
  • He must intend that his teaching be accepted as true by the whole Church
Fr Crean's thesis is credible because, in clear language which can be understood by ordinary lay men and women, he sets out the facts and he provides credible, authoritative sources for those facts.

Finally, on the matter of Humanae Vitae's specific teaching on artificial birth control, the current edition of the Catholic Medical Quarterly publishes a letter from St Padre Pio to Pope Paul VI. The edition also has articles on natural family planning by Dr Adrian Treloar, Dr Helen Davies and, on NaProTechnology, by Dr Anne Carus.

For reasons I have frequently presented on this blog, to my own mind it’s quite clear that countless human lives have been destroyed as a result of the rejection of Humanae vitae and its teaching on the wrongfulness of the separation of the unitive significance and procreative significance of the conjugal act, not least through birth control and IVF practices, including amongst Catholics.

According to Archbishop Raymond Burke, the prefect of the Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura (the "supreme court" of the Catholic Church), Pope Benedict has emphasised in his encyclical Caritas in Veritate that the message of Humanae vitae is fundamental to achieving authentic human development:
"It is instructive to note that Pope Benedict XVI, in his most recent encyclical letter on the Church's social doctrine, makes special reference to Pope Paul VI's Encyclical Letter Humanae vitae, underscoring its importance "for delineating the fully human meaning of the development that the Church proposes" (Caritas in veritate, no. 15). Pope Benedict XVI makes clear that the teaching in Humanae vitae was not simply a matter of "individual morality," declaring: 'Humanae vitae indicates the strong links between life ethics and social ethics, ushering in a new area of magisterial teaching that has gradually been articulated in a series of documents, most recently John Paul II's Encyclical Evangelium vitae' (Caritas in veritate, no. 15).
" ... The respect for the integrity of the conjugal act is essential to the context for the advancement of the culture of life", said Archbishop Burke.

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Monday, 24 December 2012

My abortion plea to Mary Kenny, outgoing Master of the Catholic Writers' Guild

How very disappointing to read Mary Kenny (right), outgoing Master of the Catholic Writers' Guild, commenting on the Irish government's decision to legalize abortion earlier this week as follows:
"In truth, we do not know whether a termination of her pregnancy would have saved Mrs Halappanavar’s life, but there certainly has been pressure – rightly – to clarify the situation legally so that should it arise again, doctors may perform an abortion. And the national conversation about introducing an abortion law in Ireland has been, in my view, thoughtful, compassionate, serious and knowledgeable."
Mary ... especially when I recall past occasions when you've given such good support to the pro-life struggle ... you shock me.

Won't you re-consider your position in the light of the following?
  • Pope John Paul II said in Evangelium Vitae(57):
" ... by the authority which Christ conferred upon Peter and his Successors, and in communion with the Bishops of the Catholic Church, I confirm that the direct and voluntary killing of an innocent human being is always gravely immoral. This doctrine, based upon that unwritten law which man, in the light of reason, finds in his own heart (cf. Rom 2:14-15), is reaffirmed by Sacred Scripture, transmitted by the Tradition of the Church and taught by the ordinary and universal Magisterium.

The deliberate decision to deprive an innocent human being of his life is always morally evil and can never be licit either as an end in itself or as a means to a good end. It is in fact a grave act of disobedience to the moral law, and indeed to God himself, the author and guarantor of that law; it contradicts the fundamental virtues of justice and charity."
  • James Reilly, Ireland's health minister, has said:
"The legislation will be drafted in accordance with the 20-year-old Supreme Court ruling on the X case, which allows for abortion when a woman's life is in danger - including the threat of suicide."[My emphasis]
  • However, there is no evidence that abortion can alleviate suicidal tendencies. In fact there is a mountain of research showing the negative effect abortion has on mental health. Women who undergo abortion are far more likely to take their on lives than those who carry their babies to term.
  • Bishop of Kilmore Leo O'Reilly told RTÉ Morning Ireland this week:
"For the very first time in Ireland [the Government's plan] would inevitably lead to the most liberal kind of abortion ... This would be a radical change in the culture of life that we have had here in this country - and let's not make any mistake about it - it would be an irrevocable change, there would not be any going back."
  • Enda Kenny, the Irish prime minister, claims that he must legislate in line with the Irish Supreme Court's X-case abortion judgement, but this claim is false. Contrary to what the expert group appears suggests, the ruling of European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) in A, B & C v Ireland (2010) only requires the Republic to provide legal clarity, not the legalisation of abortion. There is no right to abortion in the European Convention of Human Rights and the ECtHR recognised Ireland sovereignty over its own abortion laws.
  • Enda Kenny, the Irish Prime Minister, has refused Fina Gael TDs a free vote on the government's abortion legislation. 
How, Mary, does the government's position reflect a "national conversation" as you put it which is "thoughtful, compassionate, serious and knowledgeable"? Isn't it rather the case that the Irish government is caving in to the bullying of the international pro-abortion lobby - by, in their turn, bullying Irish parliamentarians into overturning through legislation "the clear pro-life intention of the people of Ireland as expressed in Article 40.3.3 of Ireland's constitution" as Ireland's four archbishops described the outcome of the Irish 1983 abortion referendum?

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Christmas is shadowed by Prime Minister's attack on marriage: Bishop Davies

"This Christmas we are also conscious of new shadows cast by a Government pledged at its election to support the institution of marriage. This vital foundation of society, the 2011 census indicates, now stands at perhaps is lowest ebb. At such a moment the Prime Minister has decided without mandate, without any serious consultation to redefine the identity of marriage itself, the foundation of the family for all generations to come."
This is what Bishop Mark Davies, the bishop of Shrewsbury, will be saying tonight in his Midnight Mass Christmas homily. (See homily in full below.) Recalling past struggles of the British people against "inhuman ideologies", the bishop will say:
"Past generations have gathered in this Cathedral on Christmas night amid many shadows which seemed to obscure the future for them. We think of the ideologies of the past century, Communism and Nazism, which in living memory threatened to shape and distort the whole future of humanity. These inhuman ideologies would each challenge in the name of progress the received Christian understanding of the sanctity of human life and the family. Britain’s war-time Prime Minister, Winston Churchill, a man without clear, religious belief, saw in this deadly struggle nothing less than the defence of Christian civilization. The alternative he vividly described as a dark age made more protracted by the perversion, the misuse of science. Few of our political leaders today appear to glimpse the deeper issues when the sanctity of human life and the very identity of marriage, the foundation of the family, are threatened."
In a prophetic and powerful call for action to defend marriage, Bishop Davies concludes:
"This, we recognise, is our moment, our, unique time to stand up for what is right and true as previous generations have done before us: to give witness to the value and dignity of every human life, to the truth of marriage as the lasting union of man and woman, the foundation of the family. In this we are assured of 'a light which shines in the dark, a light that darkness could not overcome' (John 1:5)."
Let's respond to Bishop Davies's courageous and powerful defence of our families over the Christmas season by following the example of Giles Rowe, one of SPUC's supporters in London, who has asked his parish priest:
"to include a prayer to Save Marriage in the bidding prayers ... [This] would be a good way to focus attention on the Pope's call to defend the family."
(Marriage as an institution protects children, both born and unborn. Statistics show that unborn children are much safer within marriage than outside marriage. For more information on the full grounds of SPUC's opposition to same-sex marriage, see SPUC's position paper and background paper. Please do everything you can to support SPUC's Britain-wide lobby of Members of Parliament on marriage. )

Bishop Davies’s homily in full:

Homily for Midnight Mass at Shrewsbury Cathedral
Christmas 2012

Across the centuries Christians have gathered amid the winter darkness and the shadows of night to welcome a Saviour who has been born for us (Luke 2:11). No matter how profound the darkness, how disturbing the shadows all the faithful have recognised on this night: “a great light has shone” in the words of Isaiah’s prophecy (Isaiah (9:1); that “God’s grace has been revealed,” in St. Paul’s words, “and has made salvation possible for the whole human race”(Titus 2:11); have heard tonight the timeless message of the angels which first echoed amid the hills of Judea: “I bring you news of great joy, a joy to be shared by the whole people” (Luke 2:10).

Past generations have gathered in this Cathedral on Christmas night amid many shadows which seemed to obscure the future for them. We think of the ideologies of the past century, Communism and Nazism, which in living memory threatened to shape and distort the whole future of humanity. These inhuman ideologies would each challenge in the name of progress the received Christian understanding of the sanctity of human life and the family. Britain’s war-time Prime Minister, Winston Churchill, a man without clear, religious belief, saw in this deadly struggle nothing less than the defence of Christian civilization. The alternative he vividly described as a dark age made more protracted by the perversion, the misuse of science. Few of our political leaders today appear to glimpse the deeper issues when the sanctity of human life and the very identity of marriage, the foundation of the family, are threatened.

Tonight we might happily recall Shrewsbury’s Elizabeth Prout who set out from this town to become England’s Mother Teresa: one woman who went out to confront the darkest impact of the industrial revolution armed only with her newly-found faith. The industrial revolution which saw in its darkest slums the undermining of marriage and the family, of religious practice and of human dignity and life itself on a massive scale. Elizabeth’s faith gave her the unflinching conviction in the face of claims that such degradation of human beings was the inevitable cost of progress, to defend human dignity and especially the dignity of women.

We gather on this Christmas night amid the shadows of early 21st Century Britain. As the eyes of the nation turn to this “child born for us” (Is.9:1) tiny and frail, it is this beautiful revelation of the Son of God which casts a searching light on the darkest shadows of our time. The widespread neglect and ill-treatment of the frailest, elderly people in our society: concerns high-lighted in the Care Quality Commission’s recent report. The growing concerns about end of life care and what is happening to the most vulnerable in our hospitals. This dark side to our society is surely connected to the discarding of human life from the beginning in legalised abortion on an industrial scale, in reproductive technologies, in embryo experimentation which our laws have sanctioned. “Today there exists a great multitude of weak and defenceless human beings, unborn children in particular, whose fundamental right to life is being trampled upon” Blessed John Paul II reflected in his 1995 letter The Gospel of Life, “if at the end of the last century, the Church could not be silent about the injustices of those times, still less can she be silent today” (Evangelium Vitae n.5).

This Christmas we are also conscious of new shadows cast by a Government pledged at its election to support the institution of marriage. This vital foundation of society, the 2011 census indicates, now stands at perhaps is lowest ebb. At such a moment the Prime Minister has decided without mandate, without any serious consultation to redefine the identity of marriage itself, the foundation of the family for all generations to come. This is again done in the name of progress. The great English writer, G.K Chesterton, warned: “progress is a useless word; for progress takes for granted an already defined direction; and it is exactly about the direction that we disagree” (American Notes). The British people have reason to ask on this night where is such progress leading?

In the face of what is presented as this inevitable march of human progress we recognise once more the Saviour born for us: Christ the Lord (Luke 2:11) who meets us all along the path of history. The same Lord who promised those who follow Him would be called to give witness amidst the most testing circumstances (Mt. 10:17). This, we recognise, is our moment, our, unique time to stand up for what is right and true as previous generations have done before us: to give witness to the value and dignity of every human life, to the truth of marriage as the lasting union of man and woman, the foundation of the family. In this we are assured of “a light which shines in the dark, a light that darkness could not overcome” (John 1:5). “On Bethlehem night,” Pope Benedict reflected in 2005, “the Redeemer becomes one of us, our companion along the precarious paths of history. Let us take the hand he stretches out to us …” (Urbi et Orbi Message, Christmas 2005). This is the good news once more offered to the whole people (Luke 2:10). The invitation to take the hand of the Redeemer stretched out to us in gentleness, in such humility because He seeks to take nothing from us, Pope Benedict reminds us, but only to give to all the light of life.

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