Saturday, 19 June 2010

Responsible Catholics cannot turn a blind eye to the rumoured promotion of Archbishop Fisichella

In a small inside story of yesterday's Corriere della Sera, it's mentioned that Archbishop Rino Fisichella (pictured) is shortly to be appointed president of a new pontifical council - a pontifical council for the new evangelization. Last month, when this appointment was being rumoured, I said that Archbishop Fisichella should be sacked, not promoted. The rumour mill is turning strongly again in Rome this weekend and my opinion about the archbishop remains unchanged.

National Catholic Register tells us that John Paul II coined the term “the New Evangelization” to mean a reawakening of the faith in long-established Christian parts of the world, particularly Europe, but which have since fallen away from the faith.

My reasons for continuing to say that Archbishop Fisichella should be sacked not promoted include:
  • 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
  • Frances Kissling, of Catholics for a Free Choice said of the archbishop's article in L'Osservatore Romano that it "has opened a crack, through which women, doctors and political decision-makers can slip in"
  • during the past week, as Pat Buckley, SPUC's lobbyist at the Human Rights Council in Geneva, has reported, that the United Nations Secretary General and the United Nations High Commissioner on Human Rights, have jointly been leading international political manoeuvres to declare a "human right to abortion"; I believe that the United Nations will sense that their moment has come with the Catholic leadership's witness on the inviolability and dignity of every human life appearing to weaken
  • US President Barack Obama and Hilary Clinton, his pro-abortion, secretary of state - who are bankrolling abortion worldwide - will recognize the significance of Archbishop Fisichella's appointment and will step up their efforts accordingly
  • Archbishop Fisichella's appointment will send the wrong signal to the Catholic bishops Conference of England and Wales whose policy, through the Catholic Education Service, is to co-operate with the British government's arrangements which have sought to ensure that schoolchildren, including Catholic schoolchildren, get access to abortion and birth control services
Responsible Catholics and pro-life leaders cannot afford to turn a blind eye to the damage to the common good, which includes the good of Archbishop Fisichella, by his appointment to such a post. If there is something one can do to speak up, to raise the alarm, to communicate our concerns, and to pray, we have a serious responsibility to present and to future generations to do so. As Pope John Paul II said in Evangelium Vitae, number 95:
"We need to begin with the renewal of a culture of life within Christian communities themselves. Too often it happens that believers, even those who take an active part in the life of the Church, end up by separating their Christian faith from its ethical requirements concerning life, and thus fall into moral subjectivism and certain objectionable ways of acting. With great openness and courage, we need to question how widespread is the culture of life today among individual Christians, families, groups and communities in our Dioceses. With equal clarity and determination we must identify the steps we are called to take in order to serve life in all its truth."


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Friday, 18 June 2010

University pro-life group leader calls for Irish resistance to abortion

Maria Mahoney, of the National University of Ireland (NUI) Galway Life Society, in a letter to the Irish Independent today, has said everything that needs to be said about the international anti-life political pressures on Ireland right now and about the case against legalizing abortion. Maria writes:
Poll after poll confirms that women who 'chose' abortion felt that they had no choice.

In reaction to this fear and panic, it is vital to respond with love for the gifts of motherhood and human life. Often, this is even more important than the practical, material help that we provide to women in a crisis pregnancy.

Legalising abortion, on the other hand, is a heartless and morally repugnant response that is essentially an act of aggression against women as well as their unborn children.

The abortion industry is a huge and extremely lucrative business with a grisly product to sell. So far, Ireland has resisted its deceptive and manipulative marketing.

If the European Court of Human Rights (backed by ideological scare-mongering from bureaucratic international NGOs) attempts to impose its pro-abortion agenda on Ireland at the conclusion of the ABC case, I hope the Irish will have the courage to resist this attack on human life.
SPUC joined other pro-life international organizations in filing a joint brief in the ABC case - seeking to defend Ireland's historic protection of the unborn. The case was heard on 8th December last year and judgement is awaited.


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Robert Colquhoun publishes treasure-store of eloquent pro-life witness

Robert Colquhoun has kindly made me aware of a wonderful resource for pro-lifers. The document 'A voice for the Voiceless' is a rich collection of quotes and images defending the life of the unborn child.

As a sample, here is one that caught my eye:
we will stand up every time that human life is threatened. When the sacredness of life before birth is attacked, we will stand up and proclaim that no one ever has the authority to destroy unborn life. When a child is described as a burden or is looked upon only as a means to satisfy an emotional need, we will stand up and insist that every child is a unique and unrepeatable gift of God, with the right to a loving and united family
Pope John Paul II's homily at Mass on the Washington Mall, October 7, 1979

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Thursday, 17 June 2010

It's not possible to practise IVF and respect human life

The mainstream media has noted a recent large scale study that suggests that babies born through IVF are more likely to have congenital disabilities. In particular the study suggests that children conceived thanks to IVF are more likely to experience heart problems and malformations of the uro-genital system.

This is the latest in a stream of negative reports about IVF. Earlier in the year the Telegraph reported on a study that suggested IVF may lead to infertility problems.

On Monday, Bhateri Devi (pictured above), a 66 year old woman, become the oldest woman in the world to give birth to triplets. On the same day a 72 year old woman, who gave birth thanks to IVF treatment at 70, revealed she is dying and criticised her IVF centre for not explaining the risks to women about having babies later in life.

In the UK this week Amanda Ross, a TV producer, said that she would not recommend IVF to anyone after numerous failed procedures left her stomach purple from injections.
 
This all comes after last week the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority statistics showed that many women choose to have abortions after having conceived through IVF.

In response to this Wesley Smith has suggested that IVF has led to the objectification of unborn human life.

Amidst all the challenges faced by the pro-life movement, we must continue to work openly and courageously for a ban on all IVF procedures. Opposing in-vitro fertilisation (IVF) does not imply denying babies, conceived by IVF, their humanity. However, it's vital to oppose IVF as a way of conceiving children since it turns human beings into commodities to be brought to birth or discarded at will.

IVF amounts to the manufacture of human beings. The practice of IVF assumes that our offspring may be produced in the laboratory, and that the role of the natural mother, in safeguarding with her own body the welfare of the embryo from conception, may legitimately be transferred to other people. IVF thus makes embryos vulnerable, exposing them to the risks of being discarded, frozen or experimented upon. Countless human embryos have perished in the development and practice of IVF. Since the birth to the first IVF child over thirty years ago – well over two million embryos have been discarded, or frozen, or selectively aborted, or miscarried or used in destructive experiments. (2,137,924 human embryos were created by specialists while assisting couples in the UK to have babies between 1991 and 2005, according to BioNews. During this period, the HFEA informs us that the total of live babies born through IVF procedures was 109,469.)

As Dr John Fleming, SPUC's consultant on bioethics, puts it:
"There is no such thing as a form of IVF which respects life. Human life is disrespected in the embryos and in their parents by virtue of the process itself, namely the gestation of a human being outside of his natural environment."
In this connection, the Southern Cross Bioethics Institute has prepared a paper for SPUC regarding the “Creation and Transfer of Single Embryo in Reproductive Technology” which can be found here.

Catholic teaching on the matter, of course, is crystal clear: that it's not possible to practise IVF and to protect human life. The instruction Dignitas Personae, from the Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (SCDF) at number 14, explains:
"The fact that the process of in vitro fertilization very frequently involves the deliberate destruction of embryos was already noted in the Instruction Donum vitae.[26] There were some who maintained that this was due to techniques which were still somewhat imperfect. Subsequent experience has shown, however, that all techniques of in vitro fertilization proceed as if the human embryo were simply a mass of cells to be used, selected and discarded.

"It is true that approximately a third of women who have recourse to artificial procreation succeed in having a baby. It should be recognized, however, that given the proportion between the total number of embryos produced and those eventually born, the number of embryos sacrificed is extremely high.[27] These losses are accepted by the practitioners of in vitro fertilization as the price to be paid for positive results. In reality, it is deeply disturbing that research in this area aims principally at obtaining better results in terms of the percentage of babies born to women who begin the process, but does not manifest a concrete interest in the right to life of each individual embryo."
And the SCDF instruction Donum Vitae, on respect for human life in its origin and on the dignity of procreation says:
"The one conceived must be the fruit of his parents' love. He cannot be desired or conceived as the product of an intervention of medical or biological techniques; that would be equivalent to reducing him to an object of scientific technology. No one may subject the coming of a child into the world to conditions of technical efficiency which are to be evaluated according to standards of control and dominion. The moral relevance of the link between the meanings of the conjugal act and between the goods of marriage, as well as the unity of the human being and the dignity of his origin, demand that the procreation of a human person be brought about as the fruit of the conjugal act specific to the love between spouses. The link between procreation and the conjugal act is thus shown to be of great importance on the anthropological and moral planes, and it throws light on the positions of the Magisterium with regard to homologous artificial fertilization." (DV, II, B, 4c)
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Wednesday, 16 June 2010

UN officials promote "right to abortion" this week at Human Rights Council

Pat Buckley, SPUC's chief lobbyist at the UN Human Rights Council (HRC) in Geneva, is appealing to church leaders and pro-life groups worldwide to oppose an extreme, "ideologically driven" pro-abortion report produced by Navanethem Pillay (pictured), the High Commissioner on Human Rights, and "bounced through" the HRC this week. Pat warns:
"This report is being bounced through the United Nations forums, blatantly ignoring any evidence which disputes its conclusions and deliberately avoiding debate. The clear intention of the powers-that be is to use this ideologically-driven report's findings to influence the Millennium Development Goals Review later this year at the UN in New York."
In a carefully stage-managed and one-sided debate in Geneva this week, both the Holy See and the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children (SPUC), the only pro-life NGO present at the Session, were excluded from making an intervention. SPUC's planned intervention can be found here. Pat explains:
"The preparation of the report and the subsequent debate were meticulously stage-managed this week in Geneva, to the exclusion of myself, on behalf of SPUC, and, more significantly, to the exclusion of the Holy See.

"The debate was carefully handled by limiting the time available for it. This resulted in the Holy See being excluded from making an intervention and it eliminated the only pro-life NGO voice present at the session, the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children. Nevertheless two pro-abortion NGO’s, Amnesty International and the Centre for Reproductive Rights, representing a large group of pro abortion organizations such as International Planned Parenthood (IPPF) and IPAS, were given space to be heard.

"In the end, the lone opposition to the anti-life agenda, the Egyptian delegate, was very criticical of the inaccurate statistics and the push for the creation of a 'right' to abortion.

"Events in Geneva this week are the latest in international political manoeuvres to declare a human right to abortion, something which has eluded the pro-abortion lobby since their defeat at the 1994 UN conference on population and development, in Cairo.

"This week's pro-abortion report arose from a resolution approved in 2009, which called for the High Commissioner for Human Rights to prepare 'a thematic study on preventable maternal mortality and morbidity and human rights'. Following approval of the resolution the thematic study was then elevated to be a joint report of both the High Commissioner and the UN Secretary General. The subsequent report and Monday’s one-sided debate are a prelude to the review of the Millennium Development Goals due to take place in September in New York - when, I've no doubt, this report will be back on the agenda."
Prior to preparation of her report the High Commissioner invited submissions from interested parties. However, despite the fact that a number of pro-life organizations made detailed submissions setting out the real causes of maternal death (and how high levels of maternal mortality in developing countries can be reduced without recourse to abortion) the High Commissioner's 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; and, once prepared, the report was carefully handled to sidestep any possibility of the flawed statistics being exposed or criticized in a resolution, thus undermining the report's credibility.  See the link above to Pat Buckley's planned intervention which exposes the evidential flaws in Navanethem Pillay's report.

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Tuesday, 15 June 2010

National Secular Society finds ultrasound image of unborn child "horrifying"

Last week I blogged on the new advertising campaign being launched this year by a coalition of Protestant Churches. The adverts will show an ultrasound image of an unborn baby with a halo around his head, with the accompanying words: “He’s on His way. Christmas starts with Christ.”

I was asked by Ruth Gledhill, religious correspondent for The Times, to provide a comment. I said: “This advertisement sends a powerful message to everyone in Britain where 570 babies are killed every day in the womb, 365 days a year, under the Abortion Act. Whenever we kill an unborn child in an abortion, we are killing Jesus."

Ruth Gledhill's article also included a comment from Terry Sanderson, of the National Secular Society, who criticised the image. Mr Sanderson said: "At first glance it looks like a poster for a horror film — perhaps The Omen VI: He’s Coming to Get You."

Mr Sanderson's comments are particularly puzzling because this is an ultrasound image, much like those shown to the majority of expectant parents. These images are now an ordinary part of our lives and I am reliably informed that they are even sometimes posted on social networking sites such as 'facebook'.

I am inclined to ask Mr Sanderson: what is it about the image of an unborn child that you find so horrifying?

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Monday, 14 June 2010

Michael Gove scales back initiatives on personal social, health and economic education

In a little-reported letter, Michael Gove, the Secretary of State for Education, has written to Ed Balls, his predecessor in this role under the previous government, to say he is "scaling back initiatives" on personal social, health and economic (PSHE) education.

I do hope that this sounds the death knell of the legislative attempts made by Ed Balls a few months ago to include sex and relationships education, as part of PSHE education, within the national curriculum.

The previous government's legislation included: sex and relationships education for all state schoolchildren between the ages of 5 and 16; early explicit lessons at primary school; schools being told they must "signpost" or provide access to abortion and other sexual health services as part of sex education; access to abortion - for example through school nurses - must be on a confidential basis with parents having no right to be informed of their young teenage children receiving sexual health procedures such as abortion, long-term birth control implants, STD/HIV tests and treatment; parents being able to withdraw their children from SRE lessons up to the age of 15, after which all pupils would have had to attend all SRE lessons (as a parent I know that withdrawal of children from SRE lessons is supremely difficult to carry through).

Michael Gove says in his letter to Ed Balls: " ... the Department will make savings of £359 million from efficiencies, cutting waste, and stopping or scaling back lower priority spending ... " and he attaches "a full list of how the £359 million savings will be made" in an Annex to his letter.

The £359 million list of savings is entitled "Making efficiencies, reducing waste and making savings to lower priority programmes" and I am encouraged to see that Michael Gove's list includes, under Curriculum, "scaling back initiatives on PSHE".

It's certainly encouraging, as I say, if the previous government's legislative proposals are now dead in the water as a result of Michael Gove's spending decisions.

However, my very experienced colleague of the past 30 years, Paul Tully, SPUC's general secretary urges caution. He wants to remind us that sex and relationships education (SRE) is a hydra with many heads:
"Previous governments have been advancing their sex and relationships agenda in State schools, including Catholic schools, for many years through numerous interventions - and there is no guarantee that such interventions will not continue apace under the present government. These interventions are being used to promote links between sex and relationships education and sexual health services, including abortion: So we have:
  • the healthy schools initiative
  • Ofsted inspections
  • school-based drop-in clinics
  • Local teenage pregnancy co-ordinators in each education authority
  • school nurses
  • leaflets posters websites advertising sexual health services
  • Connexions personal advisers offering to discuss relationships, sexuality etc with teenagers"
I share Paul's caution entirely. Nevertheless, the legislative machinery to be established by the previous Government's bill, would have greatly increased the pressures on headteachers, including Catholic headteachers. Its effective defeat prior to the general election was a huge victory for the pro-life movement. If Michael Gove's letter to Ed Balls signifies the demise of this legislation that's very good news. We must maintain the pressure.

And whilst I think of it the Catholic Bishops Conference of England and Wales could save the Catholic faithful a lot of money by folding up the Catholic Education Service (CES), an agency of the bishops' conference.  We should recall that when the British government announced its intention to make sex and relationships education compulsory throughout both primary and secondary schools, in a simultaneous announcement, the Catholic Education Service shamefully made it clear, that not only would it collaborate with the government’s plans, but that it hoped parents would not choose to opt out by withdrawing their children from sex education.  In addition, the CES helped in the drafting of the previous government's draft guidance on sex and relationships education - guidance which is an anti-life/anti-family corncupia, including the promotion and facilitation of abortion, contraception, homosexuality and a "wide range of [sexual] practices".


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