Saturday, 10 July 2010

The Tablet should not be sold in Catholic churches

Last month I wrote about how The Tablet, which presents itself as a Catholic weekly, works to undermine Catholic teaching on the sanctity of human life.

Stuart McCullough who, with his wife Clare, heads one of the world's most effective pro-life groups, has explained briefly and, in my view, unanswerably, why The Tablet should not be sold in Catholic churches.

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Celebrate World Population Day by proclaiming the truth about condoms

The National Catholic Register reported this week on "finding a delightful and life-giving use for post-colonial Euro attempts at culling the non-white numbers so despised by white population planners whose motto is 'Just Enough of Me. Way Too Much of You!'"

Prince Charles, if he sees the above video, may echo his great-great-great grandmother's, Queen Victoria's, alleged remark: "We are not amused".  It's reported today that the Prince may be conspicuous by his absence during Pope Benedict's forthcoming visit to Britain because of differences with the Catholic Church on population control; and last month I reported that the Prince of Wales delivered a poorly-informed address at Oxford University on the consequences of population growth.

The National Catholic Register posting on condoms should not be disregarded as frivolous.  It's making a very serious point on the eve of World Population Day:  Let's not forget that another of Pope Benedict's opponents is International Planned Parenthood Federation for which so-called "family planning" is big business - and whose own press statement acknowledged the health risks to women even in the case of consistent condom use, a point made in an excellent letter in The Times from Liz Todd:
"Sir, Amid the criticism of the Pope’s stance on condoms (report, Mar 18) by Aids activists, NGOs and others claiming to promote, inter alia, sexual health, freedom and compassion for Aids/HIV sufferers, the clinical issue has been missed. If one’s partner has Aids or is HIV-positive, abstinence will eliminate the risk of contagion or death completely; condom use, however, will mitigate these risks by 90 per cent at best. Even the WHO report and statistics on condom use in Aids and HIV cases acknowledge this fact. Abstinence is a 2,000-year-old doctrine and virtue of the Catholic Church. The Aids and HIV epidemic is a 20th and 21st-century epidemic, and, from the Catholic Church’s perspective, having observed the human condition over centuries, yet another social and anthropological context in which it will continue to expound the virtue of sexual abstinence."
 And as Cardinal Murphy O'Connor pointed out on the same day in The Times:
"It is certainly true that the widespread distribution of condoms can run the risk of greater promiscuity and that the best way to combat the Aids epidemic is by healthcare, education and fidelity in married life."

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Friday, 9 July 2010

Couple giving life saving hope at suicide spot are named Citizens of the Year

I was recently made aware of a wonderful, heart-warming story from Australia.

Don Ritchie, a man who lives opposite Autralia's most notorious suicide spot, a rocky cliff at the entrance of Sydney Harbour called 'The Gap' (pictured), has for years been quietly encouraging potential jumpers not to take their own lives.

Ritchie's philosophy could easily serve as an explanation for the work of SPUC and the pro-life movement:
You can't just sit there and watch them. You gotta try and save them. It's pretty simple.
Official tallies estimate that Don has saved 160 people in total, but he does not personally keep count. His local council, Woolahra, recently named Ritchie and his wife Moya Citizens of the Year.

I found this passage from the article particularly poignant:
"I'm offering them an alternative, really," Don says. "I always act in a friendly manner. I smile."

A smile cannot, of course, save everyone; the motivations behind suicide are too varied. But simple kindness can be surprisingly effective. Mental health professionals tell the story of a note left behind by a man who jumped off San Francisco's Golden Gate Bridge. If one person smiles at me on the way to the bridge, the man wrote, I will not jump.
People like Don are a wake-up call to a world where we witness the promotion of euthanasia for people who are 'tired of life', and to the UK where assisted suicide is now effectively accepted by the legal system.

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Parental pride is pro-life!

On the grounds that parental pride is pro-life, I take the liberty of sharing with visitors to my blog our family joy on a special occasion yesterday!

My wife, Josephine, and I were in Manchester for our daughter Teresa's graduation ceremony.  She was awarded a joint honours degree in French and English.  We are pictured outside the Whitworth Hall at the university of Manchester where the conferment of degrees took place.

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Thursday, 8 July 2010

Defeat of sex ed amendment welcome but further threats loom large

Last night the House of Lords rejected an amendment to the government's Academies bill by Baroness Massey (pictured), a leading pro-abortion figure. The amendment sought to make sex education compulsory in academies. The amendment was defeated by 245 votes to 156.

Paul Tully, SPUC's general secretary, told the media today:
"Baroness Massey's amendment represented the incessant demand by the pro-abortion lobby to force schools to provide anti-life messages about sex and relations to vulnerable children. We agree with Lord Waddington, who said that 'academies should be free to choose not to provide sex education for children of primary school age when the school and parents think that it would not be appropriate.'

"We are relieved by the amendment's defeat but warn that similar amendments will be tabled to another bill, the forthcoming Children and Schools bill. We urge all those concerned about protecting our children to warn their MPs about the immoral agenda behind the push for compulsory sex education."
During the debate, Baroness Massey and her supporters promoted access for schoolchildren to "sexual health" services, which is a euphemism for abortion centres.

They also claimed that compulsory lessons would mean "less unsafe sex" and that "Sex education has been shown to delay early sexual activity".

Baroness Gould, another leading pro-abortion figure, claimed:
"As I and others have said, teaching good SRE is a means of discouraging early sex."
In fact they failed to cite evidence other than anecdotal instances to support this, whereas recent UK-based peer-reviewed randomised trials of carefully designed SRE lessons (conducted by supporters of SRE) have shown as many, or more, unplanned pregnancies and abortions among youngsters targetted with SRE.

Baroness Gould promoted the role in schools of "nurses, youth workers and Connexions personal advisers." This was another euphemistic reference to abortion promotion. Nurses, youth workers and Connexions personal advisers are increasingly being used to promote and/or facilitate secret abortions in schools to children as young as 11.

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Holy See shows determination in resisting UN pro-abortion plans

Last month I wrote about how UN officials are trying to promote a universal right to abortion. They are doing so while purporting to utilize a human rights approach to Millenium Development Goal 5 - improving maternal health. The Millenium Development Goals are eight international development goals that all 192 United Nations member states and at least 23 international organizations have agreed to achieve by the year 2015.

The pro-abortion lobby claims that legal abortions are needed to reduce the maternal mortality rate. Last month the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva debated a report produced by Navanethem Pillay, the High Commissioner on Human Rights. The report cites so called “unsafe abortion” as one of the major causes of maternal mortality. It was based on the World Health Organisation statistics, which have been shown to be wildly inaccurate.

SPUC's planned intervention shows that the report's claim that "65,000 to 70,000" maternal deaths were due to unsafe abortions is inaccurate because:
  • it is based on World Health Organisation statistics, which claim that over half a million maternal deaths occur worldwide each year when more reliable statistics indicate a fall in maternal deaths worldwide from 526,300 in 1980 to 342,900 in 2008.
  • The World Health Organisation concedes that “[w]here induced abortion is restricted and largely inaccessible, or legal but difficult to obtain, little information is available…[w]hat information is available is inevitably not completely reliable” and that “…incidence of unsafe abortion and the resulting mortality necessarily have some degree of uncertainty.
Legalised abortion leads to more abortions. In developing countries, where the maternal mortality rate is highest, abortions are even more dangerous because of poor general health care of women - particularly lack of antibiotics, drugs to prevent hemorrhage and lack of clean facilities.

Unfortunately, the UN is being dominated by groups and individuals ideologically promoting abortion, rather than focusing on genuine ways to save women's lives. The debate in Geneva last month was carefully stage-managed with both the Holy See and the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children (SPUC), the only pro-life NGO present at the Session, excluded from making an intervention.

Provision was made for the Holy See, and other delegations who did not get an opportunity to intervene, to publish their interventions on the UN website.

Patrick Buckley, SPUC's lobbyist at the UN, has said:
There is no doubt about it, a statement made in the plenary with everyone present is much more effective particularly when it is challenging some of the basic precepts that are being pushed by the other side. If there is no voice speaking out against it then the impression is that everyone agrees.

There is also less likelihood of people accessing the website afterwards although some do.  The best way for the Holy See to get their views out there is to do what they are doing, having submitted the text then publishing it as far and wide as possible.

Despite the fact that they did not get to make the statement on the day they are doing their utmost, not just to put their views on the record, but to make them known as widely as possible.
With the same interest in mind I encourage you to read the Holy See's planned intervention. It was prepared by Archbishop Silvano Tomasi (pictured top right), the Papal Nuncio to the UN in Geneva. The intervention points out various measures to improve global maternal health:
  • giving HIV positive mothers access to antiretroviral medications 
  • increasing the availability of emergency obstetric care, including the provision of universal pre and post-natal care 
  • adequate transport to medical facilities
  • skilled birth attendants
  • a clean blood supply and a clean water supply
  • appropriate antibiotics
  • the introduction of a minimum age of 18 years for marriage
The Holy See is proposing real measures to reduce maternal mortality rates. At present this voice of reason is being sidelined in the UN in favour of a radically pro-abortion ideology with the aim of creating a universal right to abortion in the name of improving maternal health.

The reality is that abortion does nothing to improve maternal health.

It is important to spread the message that the Holy See attempted to make so forcefully.

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Wednesday, 7 July 2010

Couple angered by MP’s vulgar joke email gaffe

A Liverpool couple have been ridiculed by their MP’s staff for trying to protect their ten-year-old son from a pornographic sex education programme widely used in UK primary schools, reports Liverpool media. The couple, Christopher and Pauline Power, have been supported in their efforts by SPUC's Safe at School campaign

Mr Power wrote to Alison McGovern (pictured), his member of parliament, about "Living and Growing", the Channel 4 DVD series for primary schools. One of the DVDs shows a naked cartoon couple having a pillow-fight and chasing each other before having sex in different positions. Mr Power heard nothing for four weeks and then received an accidental email from Mrs McGovern’s assistant which read:
“Alison, think we need to get a response out to this gentleman. Know it’s an awfully uncomfortable discussion to have, but think we need to get a position (stop giggling at the back) sooner than later. Jay”
Antonia Tully of Safe at School told the media this evening:
“Mr and Mrs Power are deeply distressed that a message to their MP has been turned into a vulgar joke. Safe at School has repeatedly highlighted the contempt for parents shown by those who advocate sexually explicit classroom sex education.

"Safe at School is writing to Michael Gove, the Secretary of State for Education, asking him to meet Mr and Mrs Power and to see at first hand this programme which is widely used throughout the UK."

“This Channel 4 programme is priming children for teenage sex. If Mr Gove is concerned about the damaging impact of the teenage sexual culture in Britain, it is important that he is aware of how explicit, crude and suggestive many sex lessons aimed at pre-teens are. 'Living and Growing' is a prime example.

“The programme not only teaches children how to have sex, it also promotes contraception. In the final lesson children are given an activity sheet entitled ‘Contraceptive Crisis’. This asks children of 10 and 11 years old to describe the way in which five different types of contraceptive work, and then asks them which one a confused couple should use.”
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Telegraph seems comfortable with targeting of disabled babies for destruction

Yesterday a German high court ruled that embryos which have been frozen for future in vitro fertilisation (IVF) can be screened to see if they are likely to be born with disabilities. The Federal Supreme Court in Leipzig ruled in support of a Berlin gynaecologist who had carried out screening on embryos for three different couples and implanted only those without disabilities. The embryos with disabilities were left to die.

This follows the news last week of the development of a cheap blood test that could allow doctors to check unborn children for Down's syndrome.

Both of these developments, in my view, represent advancements in the genocide of unborn disabled human beings.

Like the article in The Telegraph that reported on the new blood test, the report on yesterday's development in Germany contains an offensive inaccuracy. The article describes human embryos without disabilities as healthy thereby implicitly suggesting that human embryos with disabilities are unhealthy.

Our society should not be applauding legal and scientific advancements in the targeting and killing of disabled human beings.

It is interesting to read today, again in The Telegraph, Edward Lyons, the former Labour MP, being praised (in his obituary) for his contribution to the advancement of the 1967 Abortion Act, specifically through advocating the abortion of unborn disabled children. The article reads:
Lyons made his greatest impact on the House of Commons in a deeply personal way, in his maiden speech. Breaking with convention by choosing a controversial topic, he intervened in the debate on David Steel's ultimately successful 1966 Bill to legalise abortion to disclose that his wife Barbara had herself had a termination early in their marriage.

Lyons told a hushed House of Commons that she took the step after contracting German measles, with doctors in Yorkshire telling her she must have the baby despite the risk of its being born deformed. "Our quest brought us to London," he said. "We were finally successful and we have no regrets."
I do not judge Mr Lyons or his wife for their decision. It is, however, worrying that The Telegraph, and other media outlets appear entirely comfortable with the promotion of the deliberate targeting and elimination of disabled individuals from our society.

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Tuesday, 6 July 2010

Obama's nomination to Supreme Court spells danger for the rule of law

The nomination of Elena Kagan by President Barack Obama to the Supreme Court is another example of the naked promotion of pro-abortion activists to influential positions. This nomination spells danger for the rule of law.

The radically pro-abortion credentials of Elena Kagan were exposed in reports last week, which revealed that she rewrote the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) position on partial birth abortion. She did so to the effect that the ACOG's language changed from saying that it could never foresee a circumstance when partial birth abortion would be the only option to save the life or preserve the health of a mother, to language which says that in some circumstances partial birth abortion is the best option. As Yuval Levin reports:
Kagan saw ACOG’s original paper, which did not include the claim that partial-birth abortion “may be the best or most appropriate procedure in a particular circumstance to save the life or preserve the health of a woman,” but, on the contrary, said that ACOG “could identify no circumstances under which this procedure . . . would be the only option to save the life or preserve the health of the woman.” She wrote a memo to two White House colleagues noting that this language would be “a disaster” for the cause of partial-birth abortion, and she then set out to do something about it. In notes released by the White House it now looks as though Kagan herself—a senior Clinton White House staffer with no medical background—proposed the “may be the best or most appropriate procedure in a particular circumstance to save the life or preserve the health of a woman” language, and sent it to ACOG, which then included that language in its final statement.
By promoting Elena Kagan, President Obama is promoting a radically pro-abortion activist with a history of advancing the anti-life agenda. The danger is that Kagan may soon be granted the capacity to interpret law in accordance with her anti-life bias.

US citizens have every reason to fear that Kagan will attempt to use her position as Supreme Court justice to interpret the law in a way which will advance anti-life ends. Kagan has been reported as having described the constitutional interpretation of Thurgood Marshall, the former Associate Justice of the United States Supreme Court as "a thing of glory".

Justice Marshall:
  •  interpreted the 14th Amendment of the US Constitution (“No State shall make or enforce any law which shall ... deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws”) to mean that states were mandated to pay for abortions.
  • In 1981 opposed a Supreme Court case that said a physician should “[n]otify, if possible, the parents or guardian of the woman upon whom the abortion is performed, if she is a minor.”
  • In 1990 opposed another bill upholding parental notification of abortion of minors. He also opposed the bill because it asked for a 48 hour waiting period before an abortion took place.
The values that Elena Kagan described as a "thing of glory" are the values that mark out Thurgood Marshall as radically pro-abortion.

US citizens need no reminding of the inherent dangers in anti-life judicial interpretations. It is, after all, thanks to the judical interpretation of Justice Harry Blackmun in Roe vs Wade that abortion is so widespread across the United States. Blackmun interpreted that the "right of personal liberty" in the US Constitution also included a "right of privacy" that was "broad enough to encompass a woman's decision whether or not to terminate her pregnancy". The fact that a "right to privacy" is not explicitly found in the U.S. Constitution and that, even if a right to privacy did exist, there is nothing to suggest that such a right should include the right to abortion, did not stop Justice Blackmun from interpreting that it did.

The danger of an anti-life bias in judicial interpretations has been made all too clear to UK citizens by the recent blunting of the laws against assisted suicide by the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP). This was acheived by a shift in focus in the new judicial guidelines on assisted-suicide from intention (the suspect's deliberate will to assist the suicide) to motivation (why the suspect assisted a suicide). This undermining of the law makes assisted suicide very different from other serious crimes against the person, where consent to becoming a victim is not accepted either as a defence in court or as a factor against prosecution. Thanks to the DPP's new guidelines on assisted suicide this radical departure from the rule of law will now become the norm in the UK.

The following conclusion by Pietro De Marco perfectly expresses the dangers when individual judges dictate the moral compass of society :
Carl Schmitt saw it well when he wrote that jurists, instead of theologians, legitimize the institutions of modernity, and have the power of the sovereign, that of execution. In global configurations as in social institutions, in anthropology and in bioethics as in the decision over those who govern, a new wave of jurists are acting today who are "revolutionaries," some consciously and some not, and one does not know which is worse. It escapes many analysts that among the perverse effects of late modernity, this is one of the most pernicious.
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Monday, 5 July 2010

Honest pro-abortion article prompts honest questions

The Times have published a surprisingly honest article by Antonia Senior (pictured), in which she describes her views on abortion.

In her article 'Yes abortion is killing, but it's the lesser evil' Antonia Senior says that the birth of her child has brought what she describes as her "absolutist position" in favour of abortion "under siege". She beautifully describes how the birth of her daughter has helped her to realise that human life truly begins at conception:
[m]y daughter was formed at conception, and all the barely understood alchemy that turned the happy accident of that particular sperm meeting that particular egg into my darling, personality-packed toddler took place at that moment. She is so unmistakably herself, her own person — forged in my womb, not by my mothering.
Despite this, Antonia Senior remains pro-abortion. She concludes that although abortion means killing an individual human life, exercising control over women's 'fertility' (by this Senior means actually giving birth, rather than exercising control of conception) is more important.

Senior says:
The nearly 200,000 aborted babies in the UK each year are the lesser evil, [JS: as opposed to the loss of women's control over what Senior calls their 'fertility'] no matter how you define life, or death, for that matter. If you are willing to die for a cause, you must be prepared to kill for it, too.
Senior admits to being prepared to kill so that, in her words, she and other women possess
[the] ability to impose our will on our biology.
Although Antonia Senior admits that abortion involves one person's deciding to kill another person, she also describes abortion just in terms of women's bodies (omitting mention of the unborn). She also claims that abortion is a lesser evil than the loss of women's control of their fertility, and she even says that women should be prepared to kill for such control. Although she concedes that unborn babies are human, she considers their lives disposable.

I very much suspect that Antonia Senior will be inundated with responses to this article. Some of the questions I would like to ask her are:
  • are you prepared to kill humans outside the womb, as well as inside the womb in order to maintain your control?
  • Do you believe that all the abortions that take place in the UK are undertaken by women with the same readiness to kill as yourself? 
  • What about women who may not understand the reality of abortion or share your resolve to kill and who are pressured by society and by others into having an abortion that they may later regret?
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Sunday, 4 July 2010

Pope Benedict is being shepherded into a politically correct broad church in England

As a Catholic parent, living in the archdiocese of Westminster, I am troubled by the BBC's Hardtalk interview with Vincent Nichols (pictured), the archbishop of Westminster, broadcast last Friday. I am troubled for my family. Not for the first time, we've been abandoned by our pastor. Equally, I'm troubled for Pope Benedict who, in his forthcoming trip to Britain, is being shepherded into a politically correct "broad church".

I pray that the state of episcopal leadership in England and Wales is brought to the attention of the Pope and that the Holy Father determines to speak out boldly and unambiguously about abortion, contraception and on the authentic truth of human sexuality, just as he does elsewhere in the world.

In BBC News Channel HardTalk last Friday night, Stephen Sackur questioned the archbishop on papal teaching on condoms and homosexual acts[*].

Archbishop Nichols showed his mastery of the political art of evading direct questions - until it came to exchanges on whether, in the future, the Catholic Church might accept "flexibility" on matters like gay unions. At the same time he speaks about "fidelity to Christ" and "faithfulness". I publish below a verbatim transcript of one section of the interview with the archbishop.

It reminds me of the Catholic bishops' position on abortion. On the one hand they explain the Catholic church's opposition to abortion. On the other hand, Archbishop Nichols and the Catholic bishops of England and Wales go along with the previous government's ideas and legislative plans on sex and relationships education - which involve giving access to schoolchildren under the age of consent to abortions, without their parents' knowledge or consent. The previous government's plans and ideas also included teaching that homosexuality is normal and harmless.

As a consequence of this dichotomy the Catholic Church in England and Wales, in particular its teachings relating to the culture of life, is wounded and divided. I pray that Pope Benedict will heal these wounds and division with love and forthright teaching.

I will return to this dichotomy between faithfulness/fidelity to Christ, the bishops of England and Wales, and abortion etc for schoolchildren later this week and its implications for non-Catholics and the Catholic faithful later this week. Here is a verbatim transcript of one section of Archbishop Nichols's interview on Hardtalk below.
Hardtalk, , BBC News Channel, 11.30, Friday, 2nd July Stephen Sackur interviews Reverend Vincent Nichols, archbishop of Westminster

"Stephen Sackur (S): Let's look at some specific issues then... Not so long ago on a visit to Africa, Pope Benedict said that in his view the distribution of condoms can aggravate and does aggravate the problem of HIV Aids. Now there are no scientific polls on this but I would suggest to you that most people in a country like the United Kingdom would fundamentally disagree with that position.

Archbishop Vincent Nichols (N): Yes I would agree with you and I think that most people in this country would disagree with it.

S. Do you disagree with it?

N. No. I don't actually. I wouldn't express it like that.

S. You think that condoms aggravate the problem of the spread of HIV Aids?

N. No, I wouldn't express it quite like that. What I would say is that the spread and the use of condoms in Africa have plenty of champions and still Aids spreads. So I think there are deeper questions that we should be asking and when you ask those questions, for example from the perspective of women in Africa, then you've got to say "Actually we should be looking for an understanding of sexuality that is something that isn't just contained within a technical response. I think the distribution of condoms is a technical response from a western technological cuture being imposed on a society which doesn't work like that.

S. But when you tell me that I cannot help thinking back to the interview I recorded for this programme not so very long ago with the Catholic bishop of Rustenburg, Kevin Dowling, and for him condoms was anything but a technological debate. He says that in his particular diocese he has decided that condoms are a crucial part of the healthcare alternative offered to women because he says they save lives and more than anything else he is pro-life and being pro-life has led him to believe that he has to challenge his own Pope on this fundamental issue.

N. Well I respect his views. He's been there. I've never been to Africa. That's why I would be cautious in expressing the view precisely on this point in practical terms. The point I was trying to make was the point that we can engage in a debate about in this country which is what is the meaning of human sexuality. What actually is it about? Is it a recreational activity? Is it a casual relationship activity? It is something intrinsically involving procreation? How exactly do understand human sexuality? And these are the underlying questions which I think the Pope provokes which many people find uncomfortable but nevertheless are very valid.

S. But I just wonder whether you sometimes feel uncomfortable because on the one hand your Catholic faith and your belief in the Pope and this Pope in particular leads you to a position where you want to be loyal. Loyalty is a fundamentally important part of the Roman Catholic tradition. On the other hand maybe from time to time like Bishop Dowling you believe that this Pope or any particular Pope takes a stand that you can't share. How do you wrestle with that personally?

N. Well I think we start off here by wanting say, and this would be my most fundamental commitment, would be a search for truth, a search for what actually helps me to know who I am, what my destiny is, what my deeper origins are, what is going to make sense of this myriad of experiences that make up a daily life. And I think the church is misunderstood when the Church is represented as saying we possess the truth and from here on we'll give it to you. And Pope Benedict would never say that. He would say and I would try and echo that we are searchers for the truth. We want to be possessed by the truth - not possessive.

S. But your perception of the truth may be different from his. For example in 1986 the famous letter he wrote on homosexuality in which he described homosexual acts as intrinsically and objectively disordered. Do you in your view of truth and searching for truth disagree with that?

N. Well again you have to understand the language. That's a technical language that draws on scholastic philosophy for over a thousand years and what it ...

S. (interrupting) But Archbishop When you say that you're probably losing a large part of the audience. People want to know from a senior churchman like yourself.

N. Well let me tell you what it means. It means there here is an understanding that human sexuality is to do with procreation and sex between two people of the same sex will never produce a child.

S. And is therefore unnatural.

N. ... Therefore it is not along the line of the order, the pathway, of sexuality as understood in this tradition.

S. You see you will know as well as I do there are social trend surveys in the United Kingdom and many other western developed nations which suggest that on issues like the view of homosexuality the general population is getting more and more "liberal"

N. Certainly.

S. And yet you and the Pope are sticking to a deeply traditional, small "conservative" line. Therefore the disconnect between the general population and the Roman Catholic church appears to be getting wider. Does that not worry you?

N. Well no, what would worry me more frankly is to try and refashion a message simply to suit a time. I think there is if you like a critical distance to be held between how the church struggles to understand a revealed truth and how a society is moving. If they're too close there's no light. If they're too far apart there's no light.

S. There's no church. If they're too far apart frankly there's no church

N. There might be no church. That's true.

S. There'll be nobody in the pews.

N. That's true

S. And let me first just quote [to] you, sorry to interupt but it is important, the Pope in his letter to Irish Catholics in which he expressed great remorse for what happened in Ireland going back to the child sex abuse scandals. He said and I'm quoting his words now: "Fast-paced social change has occurred often affecting peoples' traditional adherence to Catholic teaching and values." The Pope himself surely recognises there is a problem here and is the Chruch not going to have to respond to it?

N. Well let me quote the Pope back to you in 1986, I think it was, as a theologian he said he could foresee the day when the church in some parts of the world had shrunk so much that it would become a small flock.

S. He used the word "remnant"

N. Yes he probably did. That's a very biblical expression. So he's not ... afraid of that. He would put fidelity over success so the criteria we're here for is not success.

S. You say he's not afraid of becoming "a remnant" he would put orthodoxy, loyalty, purity

N. No, no a search for truth

S. OK so maybe purity of theology before ...

N. (interrupting) That is the experience of every Christian. That's the experience of everybody who loses their security loses their status in a society loes their life in martyrdom. It's the whole pathway of fidelity to Christ. It's just the way it is.

S. The Church of England for example in this country is taking a rather different view. They believe there has to be some flexibility. The church has to be a reflection of society's values to a certain extent and therefore we see women priests, women vicars, and there's obviously in some parts of the Anglican Communion, women bishops.

N. Certainly.

S. Some of their vicars are also prepared to sanction gay unions. That church is showing flexibility. Is the Catholic church not going to have to do the same eventually?

N. I don't know. Who knows what's down the road?

S. Well I'm just asking you. You're rather an important player in the Catholic church. What do you believe it should be?

N. No no. There's no doubt in my mind that our first call is to faithfulness and not to sucess. And if faithfulness involves that kind of shrinking then so be it. But it's not as if the church has policies and then focus groups then tries to re-shape so that it captures the mood of the day or the wind and therefore gets momentum behind it. That's not simply the way the Catholic Church understands itself.
[*] Pope John Paul II taught that it was an illusion to think that we could build a true culture of human life if we did 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. However, with the bishops of England and Wales lending its support to legislation that obliges Catholic schools to provide information on contraception and abortion, is it not completely unrealistic to expect that Catholic sexual morality will be taught in these schools?

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Carefully targeted killing of Down's syndrome babies is the "holy grail" says RCOG

Alison Davis, of No Less Human, has sent me an unpublished letter she wrote recently to the Daily Telegraph. Alison was commenting on the Telegraph story about a blood test which will allow doctors to check unborn children for Down's syndrome. I wrote about this myself on the day the story appeared, and I referred to it again the following day in connection with Tony Blair's support for killing disabled babies up to birth.

Alison writes:
Dear Sirs,

I read with some dismay your story ("Blood test for Down's syndrome" 30 June 2010) which expressed the "hope" that a new non-invasive pre-natal test for Down's syndrome will soon be widely available. This "hope" seems to be based on the fact that the test may reduce the numbers of miscarriages of so-called "healthy" babies who currently die as a result of invasive tests to detect Down's syndrome." In doing so, it perpetuates the common myth that while killing a "healthy" baby is a tragedy, killing a disabled baby is to be lauded.

A spokesman for the Royal College of Obstetrics and Gynaecology dubs it the "holy grail" of Down's syndrome testing, while the lead researcher "hopes all women in the world will eventually be offered the test." She further claims it is "safe, cheap, fast, reliable and accurate" and that it "will be of immediate benefit to pregnant women ..." She fails to mention two facts: it is no benefit to a pregnant woman to be enabled to abort her disabled baby, however apparently "safe" and "cheap" the detection process may be. Indeed post abortion distress is particularly common among such women; and it most certainly is not a "benefit" to the baby who has Down's syndrome, or any other disability, to be killed by abortion.

I am severely disabled myself, and use a wheelchair full time. I have spina bifida, another disability subject to the popular notion that killing disabled people is more beneficial (to our mothers? or to society?) than letting us live - and that it is, conveniently for a cash-strapped society, also very cheap.

Is any greater offence possible to a human being than to be told that killing her/him is a "holy grail" and to laud the cost benefits of doing so? I seriously doubt it.

Alison Davis

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