Saturday, 6 February 2010

Catholic episcopal policy in England and Wales harms the common good

The British Government, it seems, is backing down on its discrimination legislation in the light of stiff opposition to its equality bill from Anglican bishops and others in the House of Lords, from the Catholic bishops, and, last but by no means least, as a result of Pope Benedict's stirring address to the English and Welsh bishops this week in Rome.

However, a much more important development has not yet occurred.

The British Government may have heeded church leaders' warning (including Catholic leaders) in relation equality legislation currently before Parliament, but will Pope Benedict's words be heeded by the Catholic bishops when he told them earlier this week:
" ... I urge you as Pastors to ensure that the Church’s moral teaching be always presented in its entirety and convincingly defended. Fidelity to the Gospel in no way restricts the freedom of others – on the contrary, it serves their freedom by offering them the truth ... " ?
I explained earlier this week the terrible harm done by the Diversity and Equality guidelines published in 2005 by the Catholic bishops of England and Wales (which continue to appear on the Catholic Education Service website) and I concluded:
"With the bishops welcoming and guaranteeing the presence of homosexual, bisexual and transsexual teachers in Catholic schools, is it not completely unrealistic to expect that Catholic sexual morality, including the sacredness of human life before birth, will be taught in these schools?"
The reason why the Catholic Church's teaching on homosexuality is so important for the pro-life cause can be found in Pope John Paul II's Evangelium Vitae. In paragraph 97, Pope John Paul teaches 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.

And shamefully, as I have said before, the Catholic Education Service in England and Wales (CESEW), an agency of the Catholic bishops, is betraying Catholics and non-Catholics alike by its giving general support to the British government’s legislative proposals to require all state schools to teach sex and relationships education throughout the school years (from ages five to 16). (N.B. The state schooling system in England and Wales includes the majority of Catholic schools.) The British government has stated clearly that its proposals have been drafted to entrench a form of sex education which promotes access to abortion and contraception in all state schools, including in Catholic schools.

What a strange world we live in. On the one hand the British Government is seen to bow to church leaders' pressure (including the Catholic bishops of England and Wales) whilst, on the other, the same Catholic bishops are happily complying with the government's bidding! Let's remember, it's our children and grandchildren whose welfare is being put at risk - as well as the culture of life itself - by Catholic episcopal policy in England and Wales. Catholics have a right and a duty to tell the bishops that their policy is not in keeping with Catholic teaching and is doing harm to the common good.

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Friday, 5 February 2010

Pope stresses no compromise on life issues in address to Scottish bishops

The text of Pope Benedict's address to the Scottish bishops on their ad limina visit has just been released. Most notably, he said:
"A renewed focus on lay apostolate will help to clarify the roles of clergy and laity and so give strong impetus to the task of evangelizing society. That task requires a readiness to grapple firmly with the challenges presented by the increasing tide of secularism in your country. Support for euthanasia strikes at the very heart of the Christian understanding of the dignity of human life. Recent developments in medical ethics and some of the practices advocated in the field of embryology give cause for great concern. If the Church’s teaching is compromised, even slightly, in one such area, then it becomes hard to defend the fullness of Catholic doctrine in an integral manner. Pastors of the Church, therefore, must continually call the faithful to complete fidelity to the Church’s Magisterium, while at the same time upholding and defending the Church’s right to live freely in society according to her beliefs." [my emphasis]
Pope Benedict's strong words are similar to those he used when addressing the English and Welsh bishops, which I referred to on Tuesday. The Pope's warnings and directions about dissent from Church teaching on life and family issues will be greatly appreciated by countless ordinary Catholic and non-Catholic citizens in Britain. They are distressed by the undermining of Catholic pro-life and pro-family witness by influential clergy, laity, bodies and publications at home and abroad:
Instead of such co-operation with the culture of death, " ... what is urgently called for is a general mobilization of consciences and a united ethical effort to activate a great campaign in support of life ... ", as Pope John Paul II put it in Evangelium Vitae (95).

*In this connection, we must never forget the teaching of Pope John Paul II in Evangelium Vitae, paragraph 97. He said that it is an illusion to think that we can build a true culture of human life if we do not offer adolescents and young adults an authentic education in sexuality, and in love, and the whole of life according to their true meaning and in their close interconnection.

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Thursday, 4 February 2010

Daily Telegraph gives good news on PVS patients a sinister twist

The headline of the top story on the front-page of today's Telegraph reads: "Patients in 'vegetative' state can think and communicate".  It's exciting stuff and well worth reading.

Readers of the Telegraph who remember the 1992 House of Lords judgment in the case of Tony Bland (pictured right with his mother) could be forgiven for thinking that the story would suggest that, perhaps, the judges got it wrong in the Bland judgement. No such luck I'm afraid. Indeed, in my view, the Telegraph gives this thoroughly "good news" story a sinister twist.

(For those who don't know about Tony Bland, he was seriously injured in the Hillsborough Stadium tragedy of 1989, leaving him in a persistent non-responsive state – often called a “persistent vegetative state” [PVS]. He could breathe by himself and assimilate foods and fluids administered by tube, yet following a High Court application by the Airedale Hospital trust, a decision was made to remove his feeding tube. That decision was upheld on appeal and by the House of Lords. Tony died nine days after the tube was removed. You can read more about him in a post of mine last September.)

Alison Davis of No Less Human has given me the following thoughts on today's story:
"It seems that the main preoccupation of the authors of this story on direct communication with supposed 'Persistent Vegetative State' (PVS) patients is that they may 'choose to die'.

"When one thinks about the many thoughts and ideas that people may want to express who have been silenced by their physical condition for five years or more, one would guess that the so-called 'right to die' would be low on their list of priorities. Nevertheless, Jacob Appel, an American 'medical ethics expert' appears to assume not only that they will have these thoughts, but that if they do, doctors will have an 'ethical obligation' to kill them.

"However, the greatest arrogance and presumption is reserved for the final sentence of the article, where it is claimed that it is 'doubtful' that the 'mercy killing' of Tony Bland in 1993 would be affected by the new technique since 'he was thought to be in an extreme form of PVS.'

"This assumes that the state of medical knowledge 17 years ago is unchanged today. It also makes the reader wonder whether the writers of this sentence had actually read their own story. The people with whom doctors communicated successfully using the new technique were equally sure that their patients were in 'PVS' - until they communicated with them. Who is to say that Tony Bland could not have had the same ability?

"However, that is not the most important point. Whether or not a person said to be in 'PVS' is rightly or wrongly diagnosed makes not a jot of difference to their right to life, however restricted, attended by the best care and technology available, until they die naturally."
Alison Davis, in a recently published paper, shows how euthanasia has spread, starting with the 1992 Bland judgment, and has expanded as a result of the 2005 Mental Capacity Act and is now implemented through the Liverpool Care Pathway.


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Wednesday, 3 February 2010

The celebrity-driven campaign for assisted suicide has revealing historical links

Dr John Sentamu, the Anglican archbishop of York, has spoken out about the celebrity-driven campaign for legalised assisted suicide.

His Grace certainly has a point: The Voluntary Euthanasia Society's campaign is backed by, among others, Sir Terry Pratchett and Martin Amis, the best-selling authors, Nick Ross, the former BBC Crimewatch presenter, and Zoe Wanamaker, the actress. And Debbie Purdy, whose court victory successfully undermined legal protection for the disabled, was effectively turned into a celebrity via media circuses. This was witnessed first-hand by Anthony Ozimic, SPUC's communications manager.

The manipulation of television and film by campaigners, celebrities and arts/media fellow-travellers to promote assisted suicide and euthanasia has a long-track record. Perhaps the first-ever such manipulation dates back to 1941, with Ich Klage An ("I accuse") (pictured), a propaganda film created designed to reduce resistance to the Nazi adult euthanasia programme. The film centres around a woman with multiple sclerosis (just like Debbie Purdy) who asks to be killed. Simon Konrad, the then-bishop of Passau, issued a pastoral letter against the film, warning:
"[D]o not let yourself be confused by the fascinating representation of cases, which are invented on purpose to make a specific point, namely in order to beguile both natural and Christian common sense by evoking human compassion in an especially clever way!"
Some euthanasia campaigners object to the assertion of any analogy between Nazism and their own campaign. They even try to invoke Godwin's law, a proposed rule for debate that attempts to bar any such analogy. However, Godwin's law doesn't apply here, because we are not talking about analogies but historical facts. Many of the aspects of the Nazi euthanasia campaign are the same ones proposed by the Voluntary Euthanasia Society and its high-profile supporters:
  • Hitler's 1939 order empowered physicians to grant a "mercy death" to "patients considered incurable according to the best available human judgment of their state of health." Doctor-assisted killing of the terminally-ill is the VES's stated basic aim.
  • The Nazi adult euthanasia programme was operated by a review commissions, in which a tribunal of medical experts decided who qualified for death. Sir Terry Pratchett has this week proposed similar tribunals.
  • When opposition by the Catholic Church put a halt to the adult euthanasia programme within Germany, the technology was sent to Eastern Europe for use in the Jewish extermination programme. This included mobile gas vans and then the infamous gas chambers. Last week, Martin Amis proposed the establishment of booths where people deemed to qualify would be killed.
Sir Terry Pratchett questions why people would be frightened of doctors following the legalisation of doctor-assisted suicide. He is probably unaware that when assisted suicide was legalised briefly in the Northern Territory, Australia, aborginals feared going to doctors or hospitals for fear of being killed. And perhaps Sir Terry has not yet read the words of Dr Christopher Hufeland, Goethe's doctor:
"The physician should and may do nothing else but preserve life. Whether it is valuable or not, that is none of his business. If he once permits such considerations to influence his actions, the doctor will become the most dangerous man in the state."
The campaign for assisted suicide is indeed truly frightening. The only security against the mass killing of the sick, disabled and elderly are laws which are based, not on eugenic ideas of which lives are worthy of continuance, but on the inestimable value of human life. And the sick, disabled and elderly depend for such laws on the pro-life movement, church leaders, and responsible politicians working closely together to maintain a solid wall of pro-life resistance to any weakening of laws which uphold the sanctity and inviolability of every human life.

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Tuesday, 2 February 2010

The bishops should repudiate their Diversity and Equality guidelines

Pope Benedict's address to the English and Welsh bishops has made headlines in the mainstream media, and sparked much comment and debate.

What I have yet to see is a reference to the bishops' 2005 Diversity and Equality guidelines. These guidelines no longer appear on the bishops' conference website, but are listed and replaced with a holding page informing visitors that new guidelines are being drafted to take account of recent legislative changes. The guidelines are a policy statement on British government and EU law on the equal employment rights of male and female homosexuals, and bisexuals and transsexuals.

The guidelines, whilst they contain elements of Catholic doctrine, welcome, seek to implement and state that the bishops' conference will monitor government policy within the Church, including in Catholic schools. Interestingly, the guidelines still appear on the website of the Catholic Education Service for England and Wales, which is giving general support to the government's proposals for sex education to be taught compulsorily in all state schools.

The bishops’ guidelines speaks about welcoming “the social and cultural changes which are required of us…”. It says “…it would be wrong to give some forms [of the six forms of discrimination listed by the Government] greater or lesser importance than others.” The guidelines say that Catholics “must understand and comply with discrimination legislation”.

The bishops’ guidelines calls on “those with authority at all levels of the church to be more aware of whether different groups are represented in the many facets of life of the Church e.g. schools…” and the bishops say: “…Organisations, institutions and diocese should consider appointing or entrusting someone with responsibility for diversity and equality”. Finally, the bishops warn: “We … intend to review progress … in two years”.

A pro-abortion document, prepared at the request of the EU Commission on the right to conscientious objection, links rights relating to sexual orientation to other supposed rights, including the “right” to abortion and the “right” to euthanasia and assisted suicide. The document quotes, in part, the bishops' Diversity and Equality Guidelines in a generally approving way. The bishops’ guidelines and the EU experts’ document clearly agree that, subject to limited and narrow exceptions, Catholic organisations must ensure that no job applicant or employee receives less favourable treatment than another on the grounds of sexual orientation.

With the bishops welcoming and guaranteeing the presence of homosexual, bisexual and transsexual teachers in Catholic schools, is it not completely unrealistic to expect that Catholic sexual morality, including the sacredness of human life before birth, will be taught in these schools?

The reason why the Catholic Church's teaching on homosexuality is so important for the pro-life cause can be found in Pope John Paul II's Evangelium Vitae. In paragraph 97, Pope John Paul teaches 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.

Particularly in the light of Pope Benedict's address to them so widely reported today, the bishops must repudiate their 2005 Diversity and Equality guidelines.

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Monday, 1 February 2010

Former abortion facility director exposes abortionist's trade

Brad Mattes of Life Issues Institute in America has conducted an amazingly revealing interview with Abby Johnson, the former director of a Texas Planned Parenthood (PP) abortion facility. Here's some of the things Abby told Brad:
  • Some of Abby's co-workers were angry when women decided not to go ahead with an abortion. This has led her to conclude that many people who call themselves pro-choice are in fact pro-abortion.
  • There are not many people who work in abortion facilities who are in fact for choice. The people who work there have a sense of shame.
  • Abby's boss started really hounding her about increasing abortion numbers at her facility. Her boss told her: "We've just got to get more women in here for abortions ... Abortion's got to be your priority, because that's where our money is." Abby described this as "sick", and PP's stated aim of helping women as "a farce". Abby said this conversation was the beginning of the end of her commitment to PP.
  • PP don't really give women informed consent, and PP staff have no idea of when a baby has a heartbeat.
  • Abby took the decision to leave PP after assisting in an ultrasound-guided surgical abortion. She was horrified by the reality of abortion, and eventually join pro-lifers who held vigils outside the abortion facility.
Anthony Ozimic, SPUC's communications manager, wrote in 2005 a dissertation on the subject of abortion facility staff. Anthony sent me his reaction to the interview:
"This extremely professional interview is a seminal moment in the campaign to dismantle the abortion industry. Abby's revelations relate to two of my own speculations about abortionists: 
  • abortion inevitably results in what moral philosophers call instrumentalisation. People become instrumentalised when they are used for a lower, ignoble end. Abortion facility staff are being instrumentalised by Planned Parenthood, which is using their skills, not to serve the higher, noble end of medicine, but to serve the lower, ignoble end of easy profit-making. Planned Parenthood is also instrumentalising patients (both women and unborn children) by treating them, not as ends in themselves, but as cash-cows. 
  • complicity even in such a horrific vice as serial killing of the innocent doesn't result in absolute and irrevocable corruption of an individual’s human nature. When Abby discovered the reality of abortion and the abortion industry, she rejected it swiftly and entirely."
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