Friday, 22 February 2008

Euthanasia, the white rose and students

One of SPUC's most important campaigns involves campaigning against euthanasia, and another involves university students, including Christians. Today marks the 65th anniversary of the trial and execution of the leaders of the White Rose Society, a group of Christian students at Munich University which resisted Nazism. These students read the famous 1941 sermon by Clemens August von Galen, Catholic bishop of Munster, against the Nazi euthanasia programme. One of the group, Hans Scholl, stated in the spring of 1942: “Finally someone has the courage to speak”. Bishop Galen's protest prompted and encouraged Hans Scholl and fellow student Alexander Schmorell to write their own anti-Nazi leaflets in June-July 1942. In his sermon Bishop (later Cardinal, and more recently declared 'Blessed') von Galen said:
"Once admit the right to kill unproductive persons . . . then none of us can be sure of his life. We shall be at the mercy of any committee that can put a man on the list of unproductives. There will be no police protection, no court to avenge the murder and inflict punishment upon the murderer. Who can have confidence in any doctor? He has but to certify his patients as unproductive and he receives the command to kill. If this dreadful doctrine is permitted and practised it is impossible to conjure up the degradation to which it will lead. Suspicion and distrust will be sown within the family itself."
The students took a white rose as their symbol, to represent purity and innocence in the face of evil. Pictured here is Hans Scholl (left), Sophie Scholl (centre), and Christoph Probst (right) with a white flower between them. (The 2005 film 'Sophie Scholl - The Last Days' has won many awards.) SPUC adopted the same symbol and SPUC's White Flower appeal is held every year.

Human and civil rights was the White Rose Society's main theme and the human and civil rights is also the main theme of the international student pro-life conference SPUC is organising in Scotland, March 28-30 (visit for more information)

Tuesday, 19 February 2008

Fr John Fleming on the Mental Capacity Act

I am in Nottingham today with Fr Fleming, the bioethicist, member of the Pontifical Academy for Life, and adviser to the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children (SPUC). He is speaking to Catholic clergy in England this week on behalf of the Society. His talk includes an unflinching analysis of the Mental Capacity Act.

The Act provides for euthanasia by omission of reasonable care, Fr Fleming says. It does this by a faulty understandings of ordinary care, autonomy and “best interests”.

Ordinary care

Fr Fleming explains Pope John Paul's teaching that the administration of water and food, even when provided by artificial means, always represents a natural means of preserving life, not a medical act. However, under the Mental Capacity Act, artificially-delivered food and fluids is seen as medical treatment.


Autonomy is the right to self-determination, the right to free choice. However, free choice is linked to fundamental human values and inalienable human rights such as the right to life. A person cannot exercise his autonomy by giving away his right to freedom, for example, by selling himself into slavery. Neither can he use his autonomy by denying his right to life as the Mental Capacity Act permits.

Neither can my autonomy be exercised by another person. The Mental Capacity Act falls prey to a false understanding of autonomy in this respect too. “Autonomy” cannot be handed on like a baton in a relay race, Fr Fleming says. You can make decisions on my behalf when I am not able to do that for myself but that is not an exercise in autonomy. It might be you acting autonomously on my behalf.

This leads to another danger: Relatives can be overcome with identifying with the patient's suffering and the problem of transference arises: "Please put grandma out of my misery".

“Best interests”

Hurt a child and the law intervenes, Fr Fleming says. The law ensures that parents' choices on behalf of their children are constrained by the child's objective “best interests”. However, the Mental Capacity Act 2005 imposes no such constraint on those with power of attorney for, and doctors caring for, mentally incapacitated patients.. The patient's “best interests” in the new law are not objective but are subjectively defined.

The Mental Capacity Act by enshrining in law euthanasia by neglect is the first legislative step to active euthanasia, and those behind it know that's the case, Fr Fleming says.

Remembering but not mourning Deng Xiaoping

Today is the 11th anniversary of the death of Deng Xiaoping, the de facto leader of Communist China between 1978 and 1992. Deng is well-known for having ordered the Tiananmen Square massacre in 1989. Deng is less well-known as the founder of China's one-child policy, which is implemented by forced abortions and many other coercive means. The one-child policy only started in 1979 once Deng, one of the founders of Communist China, had taken control of the regime. Deng - who himself had six children! - said in 1987: "In order to reduce the population, use whatever means you must, but do it!” Deng is pictured here with Henry Kissinger, former US Secretary of State and author of the infamous NSSM 200 (National Security Study Memorandum 200), which recommended that the United States should promote population control in the developing world in order to secure American interests. The West should reject the amoral Realpolitik of NSSM 200 and instead ensure that the Chinese Communist regime cannot use this year's Olympics to divert attention from its crimes against unborn children and their mothers.

Monday, 18 February 2008

Saving the children?

Save the Children, the international humanitarian charity, has again undermined its cause by promoting an anti-life approach. In a report issued today entitled "Saving children's lives: why equity matters" (PDF 428KB) Save the Children states that in Sierra Leone "understanding of sexual and reproductive health is low" and so "[i]n 2005 [Save the Children] provided basic reproductive health equipment" to clinics in a particular district. The staff in the Save the Children-supported clinics are now enabled "to discuss a range of health and family planning issues" with pregnant women. The report goes on to claim that "[a] huge reduction in neonatal deaths is also possible if pregnant mothers can access appropriate support, including help to control the timing and frequency of pregnancies....The effective use of contraception can help mothers to control their fertility and space their pregnancies in a way that enhances their health and that of their babies." We can say a number of things in relation to this report:
  • Save the Children is not pro-life - indeed, as detailed in SPUC's charity bulletin (PDF 123KB), it supports the ideology of abortion;
  • 'Reproductive health', 'family planning' and 'contraception' are terms which often entail abortion operations and/or abortion-inducing birth control drugs and devices;
  • Even where the particular methods of artificial birth control used are not themselves abortifacient, the mass provision of artificial birth control is accompanied by a rise in abortion - the killing of children - as leaders of the pro-abortion lobby acknowledge;
  • Population control endangers a country's prosperity by depleting its best natural resource - people - and money that could otherwise be spent on primary health care.