Saturday, 6 November 2010

Society must listen to bishops speaking up for disability rights

This week Catholic bishops in Spain and Australia have spoken up strongly against the elimination of disabled from society through eugenic practices. In Spain, the bishops noted that under Spanish law, health was defined as:
"'physical, mental and social well-being'. If such well-being is considered to be threatened by he who is going to be born, he can be treated like an obstacle to quality of life, whose elimination therefore is taken to be lawful"
In Australia, Bishop Peter Elliott, head of the John Paul II Institute for Marriage and Family, said that the warped practise of eugenics is rising from its Nazi tomb in Australia. He said that unborn children are being sought and destroyed in the womb because they have Down's Syndrome, dwarfism or other conditions. The bishop said that he was bound as a pastor to help people form their consciences and not to be silent.

And in Poland, as I blogged on Thursday, the bishops last month issued a strong statement against IVF, which among thing said that:
"IVF is a younger sister to eugenics - an allegedly medical procedure - recalling the worst connotations of a not-so-distant history. The IVF procedure presupposes 'selection' of embryos, which means killing them. It's about eliminating the weaker human embryos, diagnosed as defective, which is the 'selective eugenics' often condemned by Pope John Paul II and other authorities."
Our society is thirsty - without even knowing it - for the consistency, clarity and guidance of these bishops' words. Recent decades have seen a society develop which is both less and more cruel than in previous generations. France has even awarded its highest honour to a disabled woman who opposes euthanasia. Maryannick Pavageau, (pictured, above) who recovered from locked-in syndrome after a stroke, was awarded the Legion of Honour for her many years of campaigning for the rights of the disabled. Some improved rights for disabled adults have been developed at the same time as ever more precise techniques for detecting disabled unborn children with the sole purpose of killing them. More and more bishops and priests must use their unique position as moral spokesman to correct this contradictory, lethal mindset, and to do so in words which confront the reality of the evil of which they are speaking.

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Friday, 5 November 2010

Durham debate exposes stale pro-abortion lobby

Last month Anthony Ozimic (pictured second from right) SPUC's communications manager, debated at the Durham Union Society against the motion "This House believes abortion is a fundamental human right". Joining him was Jamie Bogle (pictured far right), chairman of the Catholic Union of Great Britain and a long-standing collaborator with SPUC. On SPUC's website you can read the speeches from Anthony and Jamie. You can also watch a video of a six-minute extract from Anthony's speech below.

Speaking in favour of the motion were Dr Jane Mann (pictured far left), the founder of the UK's first dedicated medical "service" concentrating on abortion, and Alison Peters (second from left), the head of Marie Stopes's Bristol centre. The result was very close. The first voice vote taken at the end of the debate was too close for the chairman to call, so she had to call for another one, which was also very close but which she judged to be in favour of the motion.

Anthony tells me that the pro-abortion speakers had nothing new to say. Dr Mann wheeled out the old pro-abortion chestnuts:
  • unborn children are merely "potential human beings" - when in fact unborn children are full human beings with potential. Jamie Bogle easily disposed of her argument and cogently laid out the evidence for the humanity of unborn children. Dr Mann later contradicted herself by admitting that unborn children were human lives.
  • legal abortion is necessary to save women from illegal abortion - when in fact legal abortion is not safe, and the pro-abortion lobby has a track-record of massively exaggerating statistics related to illegal abortion
  • equal rights for women - when in fact the pioneers of equal rights for women were opposed to abortion because they believed abortion was contrary to women's dignity.
Mrs Peters had very little to say, basing her argument on her own experience (which included an abortion) and on abortion as a necessary back-up for a free sex life and in case of contraceptive failure.

The narrowness of the vote and the staleness of the pro-abortion speakers' arguments is a sign that the pro-life case has real power to make inroads into the culture of death.

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Thursday, 4 November 2010

Polish bishops defend embryonic children by opposing IVF

The legalisation of IVF is one of, if not the, most important political issue in Poland right now. The Sejm, the lower house of the Polish parliament, is currently debating several bills with different proposals simultaneously. According to the Warsaw Voice newspaper, last week five of the six original bills passed at first reading and have been sent to parliamentary committees. The bill that was rejected was authored by Teresa Wargocka of the conservative Law and Justice (PiS) party. However, one of the bills which has survived, authored by Boleslaw Piecha, also of PiS, proposes a wide (but not complete) prohibition of IVF. Of the other bills, a more permissive one authored by Jaroslaw Gowin of the liberal Civic Platform (PO) party would allow IVF whilst aiming to ban the freezing of embryos and to limit state-funded IVF to married couples only. Another bill, authored by Malgorzata Kidawa-Błonska (PO) and favoured by prime minister Donald Tusk (PO), would see IVF funded by the state. A bill favoured by the left-wing SLD party would allow IVF for homosexual couples.

Back in December 2008, some of our pro-life colleagues in Poland had expressed concern that the Polish Catholic bishops' conference were reported as supporting the compromise proposals of Mr Gowin, rather than a complete ban on IVF. However, last month the bishops' conference issued a strong statement against IVF, and we therefore hope that the bishops will support a complete ban on IVF and stand firm in their opposition to compromise legislation. The bishop's statement is below in full (translated by Magdalena Ozimic, wife of Anthony, SPUC's communications manager):

To Mr Bronislaw Komorowski, President of the Republic of Poland, Warsaw, 18 October 2010

Dear Mr President,

Since Parliament is again deliberating matters of the legal regulation of IVF, we raise our voice to ensure that the serious moral arguments and respect for the position of people who regard the defence of the right to life of every human as the primary moral principle, are not overlooked. We would like to warn against adopting laws allowing legal arrangements which are irreconcilable both with objective scientific ideas about the beginning of human biological life, as well as with unequivocal moral indications, coming from the Decalogue and the Gospel, and which the Church reminds us about.

1. The in-vitro method incurs huge human costs, which are related to it. For one child to be born, death occurs in every case, at various stages of the medical procedure, of many human beings. Even more embryos are subjected to freezing. Science and faith underline, that from the moment of conception, we are dealing with a human being, a human person in the embryonic phase.

2. The effects of the procedure of IVF on children conceived in this way are still not fully examined. More and more studies are showing that the effect of this procedure is lower immunity, prematurity, low birth weight, complications, and more frequent incidence of various genetic diseases. Therefore this method is simply dangerous for children conceived with its aid.

3. IVF is a younger sister to eugenics - an allegedly medical procedure - recalling the worst connotations of a not-so-distant history. The IVF procedure presupposes 'selection' of embryos, which means killing them. It's about eliminating the weaker human embryos, diagnosed as defective, which is the 'selective eugenics' often condemned by Pope John Paul II and other authorities.

4. Incalculable are also the social consequences that can result from the spread of the IVF method. A child conceived that way may have three mothers: genetic (donor of the genetic material), biological (the one who gave birth), and social (the one who will bring up the child). Fatherhood in case of IVF is even more difficult to determine. So-called "donors of genetic material" are sometimes anonymous, but known are also cases where they are made responsible for paying maintenance for the child conceived with their genetic material. The separation of procreation from the marital act always brings harmful social consequences, and is especially detrimental to children coming into the world as a result of actions by third parties. Legal legitimacy of the IVF procedure results in an inevitable redefinition of fatherhood, motherhood and marital fidelity. It also introduces confusion in family relationships and contributes to undermining the foundations of social life.

5. At the same time, there is an urgent need for programmes aimed at preventing infertility, whose causes are known and determined by conscious human activity, and for the treatment of infertility, which the IVF technology is not. People using it remain infertile and ill.

6. Sympathising with families' suffering because of lack of offspring, we praise all those who, despite personal drama, keep faith with the rules of Christian ethics and who are open to welcoming children through adoption.

We hope that the arguments presented here will become a subject for reflection and will encourage towards objectivity those to whom the nation has given respect and trust at this present stage in Polish history.

+ Jozef Michalik, President of the Polish Episcopal Conference
Kazimierz Gorny, President of the Council for the Family of the Polish Episcopal Conference
+ Henryk Hoser, President of the Expert Group for Bioethical Matters of the Polish Episcopal Conference

Marshal of the Sejm
Marshal of the Senate
Prime Minister
President of the Parliamentary Clubs
President of the Parliamentary Health Commission
President of the Parliamentary Commission on Social Policy and Family

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Wednesday, 3 November 2010

SPUC Northern Ireland defends the unborn against flawed abortion guidance

SPUC Northern Ireland has published its submission on the abortion guidance issued by the department of health in Northern Ireland. You can read the submission in full on the SPUC website. Liam Gibson, SPUC NI's development officer, has sent me the following resumé of the current situation and SPUC NI's submission:

"The consultation on the latest proposed guidance on abortion law and clinical practice in Northern Ireland finished on Friday 22 October. This consultation was a result of SPUC’s legal victory last year when the High Court ordered the withdrawal of the health department’s original guidance. SPUC’s success was a serious setback for both the department of health and the abortion advocates who had hoped to use guidelines to undermine Northern Ireland’s abortion law in the same way the euthanasia lobby undermined the law on assisted suicide. The original guidance had the potential to make abortion more readily available in the province and would have forced pro-life doctors to facilitate abortion by referral. SPUC therefore had no choice but to seek a judicial review.

The High Court singled out flaws in two crucial areas, counselling and conscientious objection. The importance of these issues is underlined by the fact that the problems in these sections meant the entire guidance had to be withdrawn. Despite this, however, the health officials were so determined to press ahead with the guidance that it was quickly reissued without the sections on counselling and conscientious objection. It was only after SPUC was granted permission to begin a second court action, that the health department finally withdrew the entire document and called the consultation process which has just ended.

The new proposals contain many of the problems of the original guidance. For example:
  • the need for specialised counselling for women traumatised byabortion is ignored
  • there are no proposals for comprehensive monitoring procedures to ensure doctors comply with the law
  • it lacks a forthright rejection of eugenic abortion
  • it misinterprets statements on conscientious objection from the General Medical Council and the Nursing and Midwifery Council.
But the most serious difficulty with the new version of the guidance is that it has failed to take on board the criticisms of the High Court regarding conscientious objection. Section 4.2 describes the circumstances where “a practitioner or other healthcare professional may not refuse to participate in a termination procedure”. It describes these circumstances as including “where the life of the woman is in danger”. The High Court ruled that the same statement in the original guidance failed to make sufficiently clear whether such circumstances would include a threat to life on mental health grounds. Remarkably this passage still appears in the reissued guidance.

Pro-life efforts to date have resulted in gradual improvements but the overall tone of the guidance still reflects a broadly permissive interpretation of abortion law in Northern Ireland. Ultimately, the ministers in the Executive will have to give their approval to the guidance before it can be published. Until then the pro-life movement must continue to call on politicians to ensure the final version of the guidance establishes highest possible levels of protection for children, their mothers and members of the medical profession."

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Tuesday, 2 November 2010

It's right to be scandalised by bishops' disobedience to the Magisterium, says Archbishop Burke

My address to Campaign Life Coalition's international pro-life conference, last week, drew much inspiration from Archbishop Raymond Burke's speech in Rome last month to the World Prayer Congress for Life. You can read what I said in full on the SPUC website. (I am pictured with fellow speakers, right, at the Ottawa conference.)

Archbishop Burke explained that a fundamental supposition of his presentation was "the essential relationship of the respect for the integrity of marriage and the family". He said:
“The attack on the innocent and defenceless life of the unborn has its origin in an erroneous view of human sexuality, which attempts to eliminate, by mechanical or chemical means, the essentially procreative nature of the conjugal act ... The so-called ‘contraceptive mentality’ is essentially anti-life. Many forms of so-called contraception are, in fact, abortifacient, that is, they destroy, at its beginning, a life which has already been conceived.”
In my Ottawa address, I echoed the archbishop's view on contraception and also his observation that the pro-life struggle is "full of hope". However, I made the point that we are full of hope in a world dominated, or even persecuted by the culture of death - and that the situation was made even worse by church leaders who appear to have imbibed the spirit of the age. I said:
"Tragically, in Britain, induced abortion and birth control drugs and devices are provided to children at school, including Catholic schools, under the age of 16 without parental knowledge or consent. This is happening with the co-operation of the Catholic authorities.
"Britain is witnessing the fulfilment of the prophetic message of Humanae Vitae, Pope Paul VI's historic encyclical which celebrated its 40th anniversary two years ago. Speaking about the inseparable connection between the unitive and procreative aspects of sexual intercourse he wrote: 'Finally, careful consideration should be given to the danger of this power passing into the hands of those public authorities who care little for the precepts of the moral law. Who will blame a government which in its attempt to resolve the problems affecting an entire country resorts to the same measures as are regarded as lawful by married people in the solution of a particular family difficulty? Who will prevent public authorities from favoring those contraceptive methods which they consider more effective? Should they regard this as necessary, they may even impose their use on everyone.' When Pope Paul VI wrote these words, he was referring to governments imposing birth control practices on whole societies. His words apply, tragically, with terrifying consequences for our families, to Catholic bishops in England and Wales, who co-operate with the British government policy of imposing birth control practices on families like mine."
I went on to cite Archbishop Burke's speech in Rome again, especially his reflections on lack of episcopal obedience to the magisterium of the Catholic church, particularly on morals relating to the sanctity of human life. The archbishop said:
“A most tragic example of the lack of obedience of faith, also on the part of certain Bishops, was the response of many to the Encyclical Letter Humanae Vitae of Pope Paul VI, published on July 25, 1968. The confusion which resulted has led many Catholics into habits of sin in what pertains to the procreation and education of human life.”
I quoted the good Archbishop because, I observed, the pro-life movement in Canada and around the world receives much of its support from Catholics. I said that the failure of Catholic bishops to teach their flocks on matters relating to the fundamental right to life was directly responsible for great confusion and, consequently, for the failure of the overwhelming majority of Catholics, both clerical and lay, to provide truly effective resistance to the greatest legalized slaughter of human beings in the history of the world. Countless millions of unborn children were being killed each year and the policy of very many Catholic bishops was contributing hugely to this deplorable situation.

Archbishop Burke went on to say in his historic Rome speech:
“Catechesis is a most fundamental responsibility which the Bishop exercises on behalf of the good of the faithful entrusted to his care, ultimately, of their eternal salvation ... Pope John Paul II declared ‘It is therefore the duty of every Bishop to give real priority in his particular Church to active and effective catechesis. He must demonstrate his personal concern through direct interventions aimed at promoting and preserving an authentic passion for catechesis’”.
Archbishop Burke continued:
“Obedience to the Magisterium is a virtue and is attained through obedience. When the shepherds of the flock are obedient to the Magisterium, entrusted to their exercise, then the members of the flock grow in obedience and proceed, with Christ, along the way of salvation. If the shepherd is not obedient, the flock easily gives way to confusion and error. The shepherd must be especially attentive to the assaults of Satan who knows that, if he can strike the shepherd, the work of scattering the flock will be made easy. (cf. Zec 13.7)”
Relating Archbishop Burke's observations to the situation in Britain and elsewhere, I said in Ottawa:
"I affirm that my own archbishop, the archbishop of Westminster, Archbishop Vincent Nichols, was not being obedient to the magisterium when he said on BBC television that he did not know if the Catholic Church would eventually sanction gay unions*. I affirm that Archbishop Nichols and the Catholic bishops of England and Wales are not being obedient to the magisterium in their co-operation with the British government policy of providing children at Catholic schools with access to abortion. I affirm that Archbishop Fisichella, president of the Pontifical Council for the Promotion of the New Evangelisation is not being obedient to the magisterium when 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. These are far from isolated examples. I hear in country after country throughout Europe about the disobedience of bishops to the magisterium and everyone knows that the flocks are well and truly scattered, not least on abortion, IVF, human embryo research, euthanasia and issues relating to homosexuality."
I told our Canadian pro-life friends that Archbishop Burke went on to empower Catholics and all people of good will to speak out publicly about the scandal of Catholics “who claim to be practising their faith but who refuse to apply the truth of the faith in the exercise of politics, medicine, business and other human endeavours...” He said:
“One of the ironies of the present situation is that the person who experiences scandal at the gravely sinful public actions of a fellow Catholic is accused of a lack of charity and of causing division within the unity of the Church ... What causes wonderment in such a society is the fact that someone fails to observe political correctness and, thereby, seems to be disruptive of the so-called peace of society.
“Lying or failing to tell the truth, however, is never a sign of charity. A unity which is not founded on the truth of the moral law is not the unity of the Church. The Church’s unity is founded on speaking the truth with love. The person who experiences scandal at public actions of Catholics, which are gravely contrary to the moral law, not only does not destroy unity but invites the Church to repair what is clearly a serious breach in Her life. Were he not to experience scandal at the public support of attacks on human life and the family, his conscience would be uninformed or dulled about the most sacred realities.” 
So, encouraged by Archbishop Burke, I urged the pro-life movement in Canada, as well as pro-lifersthroughout the world, in the words of Archbishop Burke, “to experience scandal at public action of Catholics which are gravely contrary to the moral law” and “speaking the truth with love” to build unity within the church on the moral law.

I commended, in particular the great charity demonstrated by the team which runs and supports, the Canadian pro-life news agency and one of the pro-life movement’s greatest gifts to the modern world - not least in their important exposure of the international development work undertaken by the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops (CCCB) through their Canadian Catholic Organization for Development and Peace (CCODP).'s investigations found CCODP funding nuimerous groups advocating for abortion and contraception throughout Latin America, Asia and Africa, each group receiving tens of thousands of dollars from CCODP.

* The late Pope John Paul II, the great pro-life champion, taught in paragraph 97 of his 1995 encyclical Evangelium Vitae that it is an illusion to think that we can build a true culture of human life if we do not offer adolescents and young adults an authentic education in sexuality, and in love, and the whole of life according to their true meaning and in their close interconnection. 

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Monday, 1 November 2010

Safe at School challenges pill-for-13-year-olds pilot scheme

Safe at School has challenged a pilot scheme launched on the Isle of Wight through which pharmacies will supply hormonal birth control pills to teenagers without prescription.

Antonia Tully of Safe at School and a mother of four teenage children, told the media this morning:
"This is a sad and misguided move. It's sad because it is sexualising young teenagers and priming them for premature sex. It's misguided because over the last 10 years more than £200 million of taxpayers' money been spent on initiatives like this in England and Wales and have failed to have any benefit. Many more teenagers now have sexually-transmitted diseases, and registered abortions have continued at the same high level. The number of teenage births have declined slightly, but nowhere near the 50% target. This result suggests that schemes like this encourage illegal under-age sex, and expose more young people to risk."

"Schemes like this make all teenagers vulnerable to unintended pregnancies and sexually transmitte diseases. Teenagers need parenting, not pills. We need a new approach to the problem of teenage pregnancies, an approach that gets parents involved in this area of their children's lives. This means scrapping schemes which give under-age children contraceptives without their parents knowing anything about it and encourage abuse. I'd like to see programmes which promote self-esteem for teenagers - they deserve better than free contraceptives."
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