Friday, 20 August 2010

It's so refreshing when bishops speak out in defence of life

In the last few days, bishops around the world have been speaking out and acting in the defence of life and family:
If only the bishops of England and Wales would do the same.

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Controversy continues on the Birmingham Three, champions of the family and the unborn

Stuart Reid, a respected veteran Catholic journalist, has written the most unfortunate piece for this weekend's Charterhouse column in The Catholic Herald. In brief, he labels Catholic bloggers, families and Birmingham Oratory parishioners standing up for the Birmingham Three (see my blog last Sunday) as over-excited, self-righteous, judgmental conspiracy theorists. Mr Reid has done a grave disservice to faithful pro-life/pro-family Catholics by his patronising comments. Mr Reid is also wide of the mark on at least two key points.

Mr Reid asserts that:
"the bishops of England and Wales are by no means above reproach, but their occasional equivocations and their reluctance to silence dissidents does not mean that they have embraced a Cherie Blair view of the Church."
"Occasional equivocations" is a wholly inadequate description of the bishops' frequent and determined support for anti-life and anti-family legislation, policies and practices, such as:
"[R]eluctance to silence dissidents" is a wholly inadequate description of the bishops' refusal to:
So, I think the evidence speaks for itself that "a Cherie Blair view of the Church" is precisely the vision that the bishops of England and Wales have. They are themselves "dissidents" within the Catholic Church.

Mr Reid is also wrong when he claims:
"Mr Valero has been consistent in this matter."
Readers of my blog will recall that Jack Valero of Opus Dei is spokesman for the Newman canonisation cause and the Birmingham Oratory, and that he has confirmed unequivocally that the Three are entirely guiltless of any wrong-doing whatsoever. Mr Valero told BBC West Midlands that, after
"a time away to cool down and pray and to reflect on how disagreements arose and difficulties living together arose"
the Birmingham Three
"can come back soon and continue as normal."
Yet Br Lewis Berry has not been returned to the Birmingham Oratory but sent thousands of miles away to South Africa for at least a year.

I will be listening to Sunday Sequence at 8.30 a.m. on BBC Radio Ulster this Sunday to hear "William Crawley and his guests debate the week's religious and ethical news" (according to the programme notes).

Mr Crawley, a BBC broadcaster and blogger, writes:
"On Sunday, we will try to make some sense of what is going on at the Birmingham Oratory and why three Oratorians who are "innocent of any wrong doing" have been "silenced and exiled" in what their supporters are describing as the ecclesiastical equivalent of "extraordinary rendition". Ruth Dudley Edwards and Jack Valero will be my guests on Sunday morning."
Mr Crawley continues:
"The campaign to 'free' the Birmingham Three is gathering pace. Supporters of Fr Dermot Fenlon, Fr Philip Cleevely and Brother Lewis Berry have now launched their own website, " 
Regular readers will also know that Ruth Dudley Edwards, the author, is an historian, biographer and journalist with a burning sense of injustice about the treatment of the three Oratorians and that she has been writing about the situation in various journals.  Last weekend, in The Irish Independent, she wrote:
"... I haven't had that much I could agree on with Dermot Fenlon, a close friend at UCD and Cambridge University, a distinguished academic who became a priest of impeccable orthodoxy.

"But I hate injustice, and Dermot has become a victim of a faction within his church which favours the old weapons of authoritarianism and concealment. When I read in late May that he had been ordered to a Trappist monastery, I was horrified.

For the last 20 years, Dermot has lived in the Birmingham Oratory founded by Cardinal Newman, nurturing his parishioners, continuing his Newman studies and praying so much he was known for his shiny trouser-knees ... "
I am a layman and pro-life family man who is aware of the unequivocal stand taken by these three good men against the anti-life, anti-family sex and relationships education policies of the last Government and of the Catholic bishops' conference of England and Wales.They need people to defend them. I intend to keep on doing so.

*Pope John Paul II, the great pro-life champion, teaches in paragraph 97 of 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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Wednesday, 18 August 2010

We all have a moral obligation to oppose micro-abortions

There have been a number of stories recently about the use of birth control drugs and devices as so-called emergency contraception e.g. Mail on Sunday, Reuters.  I have of course written many times before about the wider implications for the culture of life of contraception, that is, the intentional separation of the unitive and procreative meanings of conjugal relations. Without revisiting that here, I wish to highlight the abortifacient nature of most birth control drugs and devices.

According to the manufacturers of these drugs and devices, one of their modes of action is to prevent the implantation in the womb of newly-conceived human embryos; in other words, to kill unborn children through micro-abortion. It is a simple fact that the killing of unborn children by morning-after pills is just as wrong as, say, killing unborn children through partial-birth abortion. An abortion is an abortion is an abortion. The specific aspects of micro-abortion and of partial-birth abortion may differ. For example, a micro-abortion involves killing:
  • the most vulnerable and dismissed human beings
  • usually by people who deny or are unware of the humanity of human embryos and the abortifacient mode of most birth control
  • in an uneventful, unseen way (at least superficially).
A partial-birth abortion involves killing:
  • babies who are clearly identifiable to the naked eye as babies
  • often by people who know and accept the humanity of late-term unborn children and the homicidal nature of late-term abortion
  • through the most horrific dismemberment.
These things are different aspects of the respective abortion techniques, but not differences in the fundamental nature and objective wrongness of those techniques, which are equal.

It is therefore clear that:
  • parents
  • teachers
  • medics
  • pharmacists
  • clergy
all have a moral obligation:
  • not to be complicit in any way in the distribution, promotion or use of
  • to exercise conscientious objection to
  • to act and warn against the use of
the morning-after pill and all other birth control drugs and devices which may have an abortifacient mode of action.

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Tuesday, 17 August 2010

Help protect children and the culture of life by protesting against the EU's competence creep

One of SPUC's Irish supporters has sent me the following news:
"The Catholic Voice newspaper (15 August 2010) reports that the European Union is funding a conference in Dublin in September, entitled Voices of Children. Very good and proper, you might say. However, the conference will be hosted by a group called Marriage Equality. This group was set up to promote the Civil Partnership Act, and to fight for the status of marriage to be granted to homosexuals and lesbians. The Civil Partnership Act, the group says, doesn’t go far enough for them as it doesn’t yet recognise homosexual marriage, nor does it allow for the adoption of children on the part of homosexuals and lesbians. The October conference is being held to promote the legalisation of adoption of children by [homosexuals]. Rónán Mullen, the Independent senator, who was one of only the four senators who spoke against the enactment of the Civil Partnership Act last month, points out that European Union and Irish government officials have repeatedly claimed that social and ethical issues, including laws on marriage and the family, are matters for member-states and are outside the competence of the EU. So much for Government promises!

"Senator Mullen continues:
‘The funding of this conference highlights an issue that caused many Irish voters to reject the Lisbon Treaty – the problem of “competence creep” in the European Union. This happens when European institutions such as the European Commission and the European Court of Justice (ECJ) extend their policy and decision-making into areas that are supposed to be matters for individual member states.’
"It is indeed a very sad, and serious, state of affairs when a government such as the Irish Government overrides the stated wishes of the people and steamrolls the agenda of a minority but powerful group whose stated aim it is to destroy the family."
Pope John Paul II, a great pro-life champion of the 20th and 21st centuries, pointed out that:
“It is an illusion to think that we can build a true culture of human life if we do not help the young to accept and experience sexuality and love and the whole of life according to their true meaning and in their close interconnection ... There can be no avoiding the duty to offer, especially to adolescents and young adults, an authentic education in sexuality and in love ...” (EV 97)
Readers of this blog may therefore wish to lobby their members of the European parliament (MEPs), urging them to raise the misuse of EU funds in the funding of the Marriage Equality's Voices for Children conference:
Readers may like to remind MEPs that EU funds come from taxpayers in EU member-states, including member-states which uphold pro-life and pro-family principles.

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Monday, 16 August 2010

An unborn child sings about her wish to experience the love of a mother

Some years ago, the Sophia Press (U.S.A.) published a small, illustrated book, entitled Angel in the Waters, by Regina Doman. It is the story of an unborn baby speaking to her mother, and it is described as follows:
In its mother’s womb, a tiny baby grows, explores the waters, and talks with the angel who is there. These gentle illustrations and wise words tell the story of that baby and the angel in the waters… a story that’s sure to delight all young children because the journey from conception to birth is their story, too.
Now, a song, ‘A Seed of Life’, accompanied by the images from the Angel in the Waters book, has been issued on the YouTube video above. It's well worth watching.

Enjoy!

The book itself can be ordered from the Sophia Press at this address: Sophia Institute
Press, Box 5284, Manchester, N.H. 03108, U.S.A.

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Unborn children and their mums benefit from lullabies

Mothers who sing lullabies during pregnancy may benefit themselves as well as their unborn children, according to a story in the Irish Times earlier this month.

A research team at the university of Limerick is studying ways of reducing pregnancy stress and a Lullaby Research team has been established at the univiersity "between the school of nursing and midwifery, the graduate entry medical school, the Irish World Academy of Music and Dance and the Irish Chamber Orchestra".

The Irish Times reports:
"The calming effect of music may be attributable to the normal tempo of music falling somewhere between 60 and 80, when measured on the metronome. The average measure is 72, which corresponds with the average adult heartbeat. There is also considerable evidence to suggest listening to music and singing benefits both mother and infant."
It will be interesting to learn the findings of this study which, the Irish Times tells us, will be ready soon.

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Sunday, 15 August 2010

Birmingham Oratory's Brother Lewis Berry is sent to South Africa

As my regular visitors will know, three Birmingham Oratorians were ordered to spend time in prayer for an indefinite period in three separate monasteries, in Scotland, Leicestershire and France. During the past few days, it's been reported that Brother Lewis has been sent to the Port Elizabeth Oratory in South Africa.

The things which strike me most about this situation are:
  • the powers-that-be say they are entirely guiltless of any wrong-doing whatsoever, including, specifically, sexual misdemeanours or homophobia
  • the confidence and apparent ruthlessness with which manifestly unjust and draconian sentences on them are being enforced

Ruth Dudley Edwards picks up on these themes in an article in today's Irish Independent. It's worth reading. You might also wish to join the Facebook group "Free the Birmingham Three".  You can also keep up with development through the Free the Birmingham Oratory Three blog.

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Ofsted report into sex education is flawed

Dr John Fleming, SPUC's bioethical consultant, has sent me his analysis of a report by Ofsted, the schools inspectorate, into sex and relationships education. I blogged about the Ofsted report last month. I report Fr Fleming's analysis in full below:
The Ofsted report, “Sex and Relationships Education in Schools”, is a very curious document at best and downright subversive at worst. The report is “a response to a recommendation in the Social Exclusion Unit’s 1999 report Teenage pregnancy that the Ofsted that should carry out a survey of sex and relationships education and produce a guide to good practice.”

1. That Ofsted is not well placed to carry out serious research is amply demonstrated by the methodology employed in this report. The methodology used is merely a collection of impressions by a wide range of Ofsted inspectors about what those inspectors considered to be the state of affairs in a school and based on their attendance at one or two lessons. It is quite unclear how these opinions are arrived at. There is no declared standardisation of the “judgements” made, and one is left with the impression that the “judgements” appear to be no more than the subjective assessments of a variety of different judges.

2. The examples used in the report are, from an educational point of view, damning although cited by the report favourably. For example, at page 9, the report speaks approvingly of students’ knowledge and understanding of topics such as contraception at Key Stage 4. The report immediately goes on to provide an example of “how a topic such as contraception can be dealt with in a straightforward manner” (page 10). The example given of a Year 10 lesson at a girls’ grammar school” by “a specialist teacher” (specialist in what we are not told), reduces the topic down to one of knowledge about “effective accounts of the use of each contraceptive”. The girls were said to be able to use the correct terminology and that “pupils’ questions were answered accurately and honestly”. Nowhere in this ‘praiseworthy account’ is there any evidence that the students were given “accurate and honest” access to information about the serious moral questions which have been raised about the use of contraception both inside and outside marriage. That should include “accurate and honest” information about the abortifacient mechanism that might be at work with a particular contraceptive. Ofstednot only approves of contraception but seems incapable of thinking there could be any reason to question contraceptive practices. This is indoctrination, not education!

3. The report often refers to “moral development” so that students will have “a moral framework that will guide their decisions, judgements and behaviour” (page 3). But nowhere in the report is there any suggestion that morality is taken seriously beyond students making sensible personal judgements, whatever the word “sensible” is meant to denote. For students to have a moral framework they need to be introduced to the subject in a proper manner. But this report assumes the confused moral reasoning implicitly and sometimes explicitly embraced by unqualified education elites to be the only correct moral reasoning which a student will uncritically embrace. No evidence is given of alternative views being given a fair hearing. The mere transmission of so-called ‘facts’ outside of any properly constructed moral framework is itself tendentious. On page 9 the report defines the areas of knowledge and understanding that students should have by the end of Key Stage 4 in terms which make no reference at all to the significant moral issues at stake. To be sure the report often talks about “morality”, but its authors show no sign either of understanding the reach and scope of moral teaching or about how it really applies in the area of sex and relationships education.

4. The report has little regard for the proper role of parents in the lives of their children. The report boldly states that “schools have been effective in addressing the concerns of parents” (page 6). The evidence cited for this remarkable claim is that “about 4 in every 10,000 pupils (0.04%) are currently withdrawn from the non-statutory aspects of SRE”, which is no evidence at all. That the report has scant regard for parents is revealed later in the report under the revealing heading “Parents and Other Sources of Information and Advice”. The report states that parents are “less and less” the pupils’ main source of advice on sexual matters’ and seems to accept that melancholy fact as if there is nothing to be done about it. The report notes that, according to its research, about 40-50% of pupils think their parents should be their main source of advice, but is lukewarm at suggestions that schools might better spend their time assisting parents to educate their children rather than engage in state sponsored imposition of ‘group think’ on unwitting students. In any other circumstances we would assist the educators to educate, so why not assist the first educators of children to more effectively carry out their role.

5. Finally, this report makes strong recommendations based upon inadequate research, subjective impressions by school inspectors (whose qualification in this area of sex and relationships education is not revealed), and muddled thinking accompanied by fuzzy language. It is more about the indoctrination of a particular approach than real education. Even worse it does not take into account the undeniable fact that current approaches to sex education are massive failures measured against their own clearly stated objectives to reduce teen pregnancy, reduce the number of teen abortions, reduce the number of unmarried teenage mothers, and to reduce the incidence of STIs. If Ofsted took into account all of the information widely available it should have concluded that the current sex and relationships education course are massive failures and are in serious need of a root and branch rethink.

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