Thursday, 30 September 2010

Austen Ivereigh clarifies his comments on Tony Blair and I respond

I'm glad to publish the following clarification from Dr Austen Ivereigh following my blog-post commenting on his Guardian article "Churches can help Labour's renewal":
"John,

You rightly point out that the SORs came in under Blair, not Brown. But you fail to say that Blair (and Ruth Kelly) sought an exemption for the Catholic adoption agencies but were outvoted by the secularists in the cabinet. This was a key turning-point.

You try to make out that my Guardian article seeks to justify Blair's record in relation to church teaching. But it doesn't. It says (first paragraph) that Blair 'did God' "not in the sense of agreeing with what the churches said, or enacting policy on that basis, but in granting exemptions and opt-outs from equality laws for faith-based organisations in order to preserve their integrity and independence." The first sentence makes your whole list of the Blair Government's offences against Catholic teaching, which you try to claim my article justifies, wholly redundant - in fact, it makes your whole post redundant. I haven't attempted any whitewash.

Best wishes

Austen"
My responses to Dr Ivereigh's clarification:

Dr Ivereigh:
"you fail to say that Blair (and Ruth Kelly) sought an exemption for the Catholic adoption agencies but were outvoted by the secularists in the cabinet."
My response:
  • I am unaware of any actual proof that this is what really happened in the Blair cabinet. Also, there is no evidence (at least that I am aware of) that either Mr Blair or Mrs Kelly were prepared to take any further principled action on the matter. Mr Blair could have removed the regulations from the government's legislative programme, or challenged the cabinet to back him or sack him, or simply resigned. Mrs Kelly could have resigned (I and SPUC have commented on other evasions of moral responsibility by Mrs Kelly as a Catholic politician.) Such principled action is the minimum required of a Christian politician when faced with the evil of homosexual* adoption. In any case, homosexual adoption is evil per se, not just for Catholic adoption agencies. SPUC is fighting for the culture of life and of authentic love on behalf of both Catholics and non-Catholics. What was ethically required of Mr Blair and Mrs Kelly was not so much "exemptions and opt-outs" but moves to stop homosexual adoption altogether.
Dr Ivereigh:
"This was a key turning-point."
My response:
  • I really didn't detect any notable difference between Tony Blair and Gordon Brown regarding the ethics of pro-life/pro-family issues.
  • Dr Ivereigh doesn't actually detail what "exemptions and opt-outs" were in fact granted under Mr Blair, whilst neglecting to detail the numerous examples (see list below) of how Mr Blair and his government violated the integrity, independence, conscience and beliefs of people of faith and their organisations.
Dr Ivereigh:
"[M]y Guardian article...says (first paragraph) that Blair 'did God' "not in the sense of agreeing with what the churches said, or enacting policy on that basis, but in granting exemptions and opt-outs from equality laws for faith-based organisations in order to preserve their integrity and independence."
My response:
  • "Granting exemptions and opt-outs" is hardly evidence that New Labour under Tony Blair did God "a lot".
  • In the second and third sentences of his Guardian article, Dr Ivereigh wrote that under New Labour under Tony Blair: "There was respect for conscience and belief. Blair's ears were tuned to faith." If New Labour under Tony Blair really had done "God a lot" in any sense, really had had "respect for conscience and belief", and Mr Blair's ears really had been "tuned to faith", then Mr Blair and his government would have "agree[d] with what the churches said" and "enact[ed] policy on that basis". Instead, the New Labour government marked itself out as the most anti-life and anti-family government in British history, even before Mr Blair was replaced by Mr Brown.
  • Dr Ivereigh doesn't actually detail what "exemptions and opt-outs" were in fact granted under Mr Blair, whilst neglecting to detail the numerous examples (see list below) of how Mr Blair and his government violated the integrity, independence, conscience and beliefs of people of faith and their organisations.
So I stand by my original post in its entirety. As prime minister Tony Blair
  • did not "d[o] God a lot", in any sense
  • did not manifest "respect for conscience and belief"
  • did not have "ears...tuned to faith"
not least for the reasons I listed in my original post, which I list again below.

It seems to me that Dr Ivereigh has a defective perception of Christian politicians and their moral responsibilities on ethico-legal matters.

Some key facts about Mr Blair's time as prime minister which every British Christian needs to know:
  • the Labour government passed the Sexual Orientation Regulations 2007 through parliament, because of which the Catholic Church was effectively stopped from providing adoption services.
  • Mr Blair personally championed destructive experiments on human embryos (2000, 2004, August and September 2006)
  • Mr Blair personally endorsed his government’s policy of supplying abortion and birth control drugs and devices to schoolgirls as young as 11 without parental knowledge or consent (Foreword, Teenage Pregnancy Report, Social Exclusion Unit, 1999)
  • Mr Blair's government introduced legislation which led to a law which allows, and in certain circumstances requires, doctors to starve and dehydrate to death vulnerable patients (The Mental Capacity Act 2005). There is no conscience clause in the Mental Capacity Act. Mr Blair personally defended the legislation.
  • Mr Blair's government in 2005 endorsed Recommended Standards for Sexual Health Services, drawn up by a coalition of pro-abortion advocates and abortion providers. The policy includes arm-twisting doctors who are reluctant to refer for abortion. Many GPs wish to refuse to refer women for abortions on medical grounds, or for religious or conscientious reasons. The Department of Health brooked none of these objections, but insisted that every woman who enquires about abortion is immediately referred for abortion.
  • Mr Blair's government was committed to the promotion of abortion on demand as a universal fundamental human right (Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights, A position paper, Department for International Development, 2004)
  • Mr Blair's government passed through parliament the Civil Partnerships Act, which contains no conscience clause e.g. for registrars. In his memoirs published earlier this month Mr Blair made repeated references to his support for the homosexual agenda, such as: "Just before Christmas [2005] the Civil Partnership Act came into force ... I was really proud of that."
* 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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Catholic Voices' blog creates smokescreen for bishop-protected dissent

The Catholic Voices Media Monitor (hereafter Monitor) blog yesterday published a post criticising me. Here is my rebuttal of that post.

Monitor :
"Smeaton attacks Catholic Voices"
My response:
  • I have never attacked Catholic Voices. I have, rather, criticised its coordinators Dr Austen Ivereigh and Jack Valero, and some of the content of its blog, which one assumes was (at the very least) published with their approval.
Monitor:
"According to John Smeaton (photo) of the hardline lobby SPUC, Catholic Voices seeks 'to redefine the common perception of what constitutes mainstream Catholicism in England'. Behind this conspiracy, he asserts, lies The Tablet. And his reason for believing that CV coordinators Ivereigh and Valero share this aim? Why, 'Dr Ivereigh's loyalty to The Tablet' -- on the basis that he refused to accept a blogger's invitation to describe the weekly as a 'vehicle for dissent'.
My response:
  • I did not say that it is "Catholic Voices", but rather "Catholic Voices' leaders" Dr Ivereigh and Mr Valero who seek to redefine, etc. 
  • Dr Ivereigh, a former Tablet deputy editor, did not merely "refuse to accept a blogger's invitation to describe [The Tablet] as a 'vehicle for dissent' but actually rejected the claim that The Tablet is a vehicle for dissent. On his blog Laurence England asked Dr Ivereigh: "[A]t what point in your career did you decide that The Tablet had lost sight of the Catholic Faith and had become a vehicle for dissent of Catholic Teaching? ... [W]hat you make of it nowadays?" Dr Ivereigh replied: "I've never decided that about the Tablet ... I write for it still. And subscribe. That should answer your question."
  • It is a cheap debating trick to rubbish as conspiracy theories the highlighting of possible threats to Catholic pro-life/pro-family witness. Also, it goes against the teaching of St Francis de Sales, a Doctor of the Church, who wrote: "It is true charity to point out the wolf wheresoever he creeps in among the flock." No truly charitable Catholic familiar with The Tablet can deny that it is a vehicle for dissent, a wolf among the flock.
Monitor:
"Indeed, Smeaton's attempt at an auto-da-fe on this question -- because Ivereigh reads the Tablet (as he does other Catholic papers)..."
My response:
Monitor:
"...is typical of the 'Taliban' mentality of many in the blogosphere who call for the banning, destruction or burning of literature and people they regard as "heretical", even when there has been no such call or declaration by whom the Church's own law entrusts with the authority to do so."
My response:
Monitor:
"Smeaton has long considered himself a guardian of the limits of Catholic orthodoxy, preferring his own Magisterium to that of the bishops and of Rome"
My response:
  • Canon 212 #3 of the Code of Canon Law 1983 which says: "According to the knowledge, competence, and prestige which they possess, [Christ's faithful] have the right and even at times the duty to manifest to the sacred pastors their opinion on matters which pertain to the good of the Church and to make their opinion known to the rest of the Christian faithful, without prejudice to the integrity of faith and morals, with reverence toward their pastors, and attentive to common advantage and the dignity of persons." [my emphases]. I challenge Monitor to find even one single statement or action of mine at variance with the Church's Magisterium. (Hint: you won't find one).
Monitor:
"scouring the statements of bishops in search of 'heterodoxy', frequently misquoting them or distorting their words in a conscious attempt to undermine the authority of the Church's pastors."
My response:
  • Dr Ivereigh made a similar claim on Laurence England's blog, yet provides not one single piece of evidence of how I have misquoted or distorted any bishop's words - because he has no evidence, because there is no evidence.
Monitor:
"He has consistently undermined the Archbishop of Westminster, Vincent Nichols, in ways that in the view of Catholic Voices is quite inconsistent with the Catholic commitment to communion."
My response:
  • St Thomas Aquinas, the common Doctor of the Church, teaches on the matter: "There being an imminent danger for the Faith, prelates must be questioned, even publicly, by their subjects." (Summa Theologiae, IIa IIae, Q. 33, A. 4). Archbishop Nichols' approach to homosexulity and to sex and relationships education are "imminent danger[s] for the Faith".
Monitor:
"And while his organisation, SPUC, does some useful research, its policies of refusing to engage with attempts by Parliament to reduce the numbers of abortions are at odds with the very clear and stated policy of the Catholic bishops of England and Wales 'to work and vote for achievable and incremental improvements to an unjust law'."
My response:
  • SPUC is the world's oldest pro-life lobbying and educational organisation, founded in 1967, and the largest in Europe, comprised of tens of thousands of faithful Catholics and people of other beliefs. SPUC has wons the plaudits of countless Catholic bishops, pro-life leaders, politicians and academics throughout the world for defending human life with love from conception to natural death, not only for our work in the UK but at the UN and within the European institutions. By contrast, Catholic Voices is a brand new, tiny organisation, by its own admission mostly comprised of fairly inexperienced volunteers.
  • SPUC opposed recent so-called "attempts by Parliament to reduce the numbers of abortions" precisely because those attempts not only would have failed to reduce the numbers of abortions, but may even have led to increasing those numbers. Those attempts therefore did not represent "improvements" and were not even "achievable", being defeated by comfortable margins in parliament, as SPUC long predicted.
  • SPUC is not a Catholic organisation and is therefore in no way bound to follow the policies of the Catholic bishops of England and Wales or their national conference. Also, a national bishops' conference is no more the Catholic Church than are Catholic Voices or Catholics in SPUC: "[T]he episcopal conferences have no theological basis, they do not belong to the structure of the Church, as willed by Christ, that cannot be eliminated ... No episcopal conference, as such, has a teaching mission: its documents have no weight of their own save that of the consent given to them by the individual bishops." (Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, "The Ratzinger Report", 1992)
Monitor's post is in reality a smokescreen by Dr Ivereigh and Mr Valero to protect dissent within the Catholic Church and the bishops who also protect that dissent.

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Wednesday, 29 September 2010

Labour leader Ed Miliband continues Tony Blair's homosexual agenda

Ed Miliband, the newly-elected leader of the British Labour party, has confirmed in his first speech as leader that he will continue the homosexual* rights agenda of Tony Blair and Gordon Brown. Mr Miliband said:
"The old way of thinking [before Blair-Brown's New Labour] said that you couldn't change attitudes towards gay men and lesbians. Let me tell you that last month I was privileged to be in this great city [Manchester], at [the homosexual] Pride [march], to see not just thousands of people marching but thousands of people lining the street in support. We should be proud that our commitment to equality means we have couples forming civil partnerships across the country and celebrating with their family and friends."
Mr Miliband's comments mirror very closely the repeated references made by Tony Blair, in his recently-published memoirs and elsewhere, to his own "pride" in promoting the homosexual rights agenda as prime minister.

Also, the Christian Institute reports that Mr Miliband told homosexual news website PinkNews:
“I want to see heterosexual and same-sex partnerships put on an equal basis and a Labour Party that I lead will campaign to make gay marriage happen.”
Mr Miliband's voting record also shows that he supports Mr Blair's legacy of destructive and abusive research on embryonic children. As far as SPUC is aware, Mr Miliband has never once voted pro-life or pro-family. (It should be noted that both the other two main party leaders, prime minister David Cameron and deputy prime minister Nick Clegg, also support abortion, destructive embryo research and the homosexual rights agenda.)

Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act 2008
  • voted for the Second and Third Readings of the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill
  • voted against an unsuccessful amendment to create a ban on creating, keeping or using the new types of animal-human embryos permitted by the Bill (‘human admixed embryos’)
  • voted against an (unsuccessful) amendment to create a ban on licensing the creation of full hybrid embryos which are 50% human and 50% animal, but allows all other ‘human admixed embryos’
  • voted against an (unsuccessful) amendment to prevented human embryos with added animal DNA from being classified as ‘human admixed embryos’
  • voted against an amendment to remove the ability to licence the creation of ‘saviour siblings’ to provide cells or tissue for a sick brother or sister
  • voted against an (unsuccessful) amendment to narrow the term "other tissue" to other ‘regenerative’ tissue, in the context of saviour siblings
  • voted against an (unsuccessful) amendment to reinstate the requirement for doctors to consider the child’s need for a father before a woman is given fertility treatment. The amendment also added the requirement to consider the need of a child for a mother
  • voted against an (unsuccessful) amendment to require doctors to consider the need of a child for ‘supportive parenting and a father or male role model’ before a woman is given fertility treatment
  • voted against several (unsuccessful) amendments to lower the 24-week upper time-limit on abortions done for social reasons
  • voted against an (unsuccessful) amendment which sought to improve support and informed consent for mothers who may be pregnant a disabled child
  • voted against (unsuccessful) amendments which sought to address a loopholes which could potentially allow so-called reproductive cloning
  • voted against an (unsuccessful) amendment to close an animal-human hybrids loophole
Sexual ethics (information courtesy of The Christian Institute)
  • voted for the Sexual Orientation Regulations, which (among other things) effectively stopped the Catholic Church from providing adoption services.
  • voted against a free speech amendment to a proposed offence of 'homophobic hatred'
* 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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Tuesday, 28 September 2010

Austen Ivereigh of Catholic Voices tries to whitewash Tony Blair's anti-life/anti-family record

Dr Austen Ivereigh, co-ordinator of Catholic Voices, former director of public affairs to Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor and former deputy editor of The Tablet, has tried to whitewash Tony Blair's anti-life/anti-family record in an article for The Guardian entitled "Churches can help Labour renewal". He writes:
"Although Alastair Campbell famously said otherwise, New Labour under Tony Blair did God a lot: not agreeing with what the churches said, or enacting policy on that basis, but in granting exemptions and opt-outs from equality laws for faith-based organisations in order to preserve their integrity and independence. There was respect for conscience and belief. Blair's ears were tuned to faith.

Then came Gordon Brown, and Labour tuned out. No more opt-outs from anti-discrimination laws, which under Blair had allowed religious organisations to retain their distinctive ethos; 13 Catholic adoption agencies were forced to close because they refused to allow same-sex couples to adopt (even though there were 400 others the couples could go to)."
Here are some key facts about Mr Blair's time as prime minister which every British Catholic needs to know:
  • Contrary to Dr Ivereigh's claim above, it was under Tony Blair, not Gordon Brown, that the Labour government passed the Sexual Orientation Regulations 2007 through parliament, because of which the Catholic Church was effectively stopped from providing adoption services.
  • Mr Blair personally championed destructive experiments on human embryos (2000, 2004, August and September 2006)
  • Mr Blair personally endorsed his government’s policy of supplying abortion and birth control drugs and devices to schoolgirls as young as 11 without parental knowledge or consent (Foreword, Teenage Pregnancy Report, Social Exclusion Unit, 1999)
  • Mr Blair's government introduced legislation which led to a law which allows, and in certain circumstances requires, doctors to starve and dehydrate to death vulnerable patients (The Mental Capacity Act 2005). There is no conscience clause in the Mental Capacity Act. Mr Blair personally defended the legislation.
  • Mr Blair's government in 2005 endorsed Recommended Standards for Sexual Health Services, drawn up by a coalition of pro-abortion advocates and abortion providers. The policy includes arm-twisting doctors who are reluctant to refer for abortion. Many GPs wish to refuse to refer women for abortions on medical grounds, or for religious or conscientious reasons. The Department of Health brooked none of these objections, but insisted that every woman who enquires about abortion is immediately referred for abortion.
  • Mr Blair's government was committed to the promotion of abortion on demand as a universal fundamental human right (Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights, A position paper, Department for International Development, 2004)
  • Mr Blair's government passed through parliament the Civil Partnerships Act, which contains no conscience clause e.g. for registrars. In his memoirs published earlier this month Mr Blair made repeated references to his support for the homosexual* agenda, such as: "Just before Christmas [2005] the Civil Partnership Act came into force ... I was really proud of that.
Were Tony "Blair's ears" really "tuned to faith" when he personally endorsed introducing the culture of death into schools, the killing of embryonic children and starvation of helpless patients? Is forcing professionals to cooperate formally in abortion, euthanasia and homosexual lifestyles, or keeping parents in the dark about their daughters' sexual health, "respect for conscience and belief"?

Dr Ivereigh clearly has a strange (to say the least) idea about what constitutes "doing God a lot". As well as seeking to whitewash Tony Blair, Dr Ivereigh and/or his Catholic Voices project has also sought to whitewash (among other things):
Dr Ivereigh's latest comments simply reinforce my opinion that he is seeking to redefine the common perception of what constitutes mainstream Catholicism in England, and that he should not be appointed to any representative position in any official or unofficial Catholic or pro-life/pro-family organisation.

* 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, 27 September 2010

Catholic Voices' leaders seek to redefine Catholicism on life and family issues

Dr Austen Ivereigh, co-ordinator of Catholic Voices, former director of public affairs to Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor and former deputy editor of The Tablet, refers to me and to others as Taliban Catholics. Here is an extract from an interview with John Allen of the National Catholic Reporter:

Mr Allen: You put this in the plural, “Catholic Voices.” How do you define a Catholic voice?

Dr Ivereigh answered:
"... [One] criterion was Catholicity, which is where the controversy arises ... [One] thing was that they have to be comfortable with all aspects of church teaching, comfortable enough to put the church’s view across in a way that doesn’t make them squirm. Interestingly, that did automatically exclude people who are critical of the bishops from either side ... We did get a few [applications] from what you would call the “Taliban Catholics,” who of course have become very vociferous on the blogosphere in the last few years. They’re very critical of the bishops for compromising too much with modernity and not promoting Catholic truth as they see it."
This is interesting language from someone who recently took it upon himself to teach the pro-life movement (including me) "lessons in civility"! (These lessons include "civil" descriptions and comparisons of other Catholics and their work, such as "mob", "puritans", "loopiness", "craziness" and "the tactics of Soviet Communism".)

Dr Ivereigh's position on "Taliban Catholics" would be more impressive if he could explain how Archbishop Nichols's notorious comments on gay "unions"* promote Catholic truth, or how the Catholic Education Service (CES), an agency of the Catholic bishops' conference of England and Wales, promotes Catholic truth by appointing an anti-life, anti-family former MP as its deputy director.

Elsewhere, in the comments-box of Laurence England's blog, Mr England put the following question to Dr Ivereigh:
"[A]t what point in your career did you decide that The Tablet had lost sight of the Catholic Faith and had become a vehicle for dissent of Catholic Teaching? ... [W]hat you make of it nowadays?"
Dr Ivereigh replied:
"I've never decided that about the Tablet ... I write for it still. And subscribe. That should answer your question."
But as Fr Timothy Finigan has rightly put it in another context:
"This paper [The Tablet] has no place in any Catholic home, parish Church, or Cathedral. Tabula delenda est."
Dr Ivereigh's loyalty to The Tablet should be sufficient evidence for any faithful pro-life/pro-family Catholic to conclude that he should not be appointed to any representative position in any official or unofficial Catholic or pro-life/pro-family organisation.

Dr Ivereigh appears to be using the profile and position afforded him by the Catholic Voices project to redefine the common perception of what constitutes mainstream Catholicism in England, an agenda pursued by The Tablet for decades.

Sadly, not only is Dr Ivereigh apparently indifferent to the errors of The Tablet on pro-life/pro-family issues, he and his fellow Catholic Voices leader, Jack Valero, defend and promote at least some of those errors.

* 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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Saturday, 25 September 2010

Great news from Western Australia on euthanasia

The Christian Institute reports:
"A euthanasia bill in Western Australia which would have 'turned doctors from being healers and carers into killers' has been defeated.

The private members bill would have allowed Western Australians over the age of 21, with a terminal illness and who were deemed to have a sound mind, to ask a doctor to end their life.

But after MPs in the state parliament debated the bill, brought forward by Greens MP Robin Chapple, it was defeated by 24 votes to eleven."
The Christian Institute's report also contains more good news:
"Last week it emerged that a television and billboard advertising campaign for the pro-euthanasia group Exit International, which is headed by Dr Philip Nitschke, had been banned in Australia."
So congratulations are in order to Australian pro-lifers, for reminding us that we can win battles defending life even in the era of the culture of death. This grea news encourages us to hope that we in Britain can defeat legislative proposals for assisted suicide and euthanasia should they be moved in the current Westminster parliament or elsewhere.

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Friday, 24 September 2010

A reflection on Archbishop Nichols' earlier comments on gay unions

The reflection below refers to Archbishop Nichols' comments on gay partnerships made on 2 July and 11 September. The reflection was written before the archbishop's further comments on gay partnerships in an interview shown on BBC Two on Monday (20 September) which I blogged about yesterday.

It has been suggested to me that I have been too hard on Vincent Nichols, the Catholic archbishop of Westminster, in my criticism of him; and that in fact the Archbishop is rather conservative and orthodox in his views on homosexuality, but at the same time he seems to be one of those who - using the words of Pope Benedict - have an "inclination towards more permissive religious convictions" in the area of moral conduct.

In my opinion it is not possible to separate the roles of teacher and pastor so completely. It is true that Archbishop Nichols stated his opposition to homosexual acts because they cannot be fecund, but he balked at the use of the word “unnatural” which, used of such acts, is both biblical and Magisterial. The objection to homosexual acts is not limited to the physicalist observation of their non-fecundity, but takes in as well the fact that such acts contravene the natural law and are therefore unnatural in the moral sense.

Archbishop Nichols said that he would be worried if the Catholic Church were “to try and refashion a message simply to suit a time”. So far so good. But all of this is undermined by his further statement that he did not know if the Catholic Church would "accept the reality of gay partnerships" (11 September) or "sanction gay unions" (2 July).

It is not just the case that there is something “missing” in what Archbishop Nichols says. In the context of that interview, and in common parlance, to “accept the reality” of something is to accept it as a fact and then move on. That that is what he meant can be found in his statement of 2 July, some two months earlier, that he did not know if the Catholic Church would “sanction gay unions”. That is to say that the Catholic Church’s moral teaching in this matter is in fact open to change, is fallible, and may ultimately be set aside.

Putting it all together, it seems obvious to me that Archbishop Nichols gives lip-service to the Catholic Church’s teaching, while fatally undermining (as distinct from denying) the security and even the legitimacy of that teaching.

It is pointed out, correctly, that Archbishop Nichols has also said this about the Catholic Church’s moral teaching:
“The moral demands on all of us made by that tradition are difficult.(...) Now, that's tough, that's a high ideal. I'm not sure many people have ever observed it in its totality, but it doesn't mean to say it has no sense".
In this statement the archbishop states the obvious, all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. The same is true of lying and stealing. What point is he making?

Well, he says that from the fact that we fail it doesn’t follow that the moral teaching “has no sense”. But this is a very equivocal statement. He is not saying the teaching makes complete sense, he simply observes that, as a matter of logic (as compared to truth) that it does not follow there is no sense in the teaching. Well, as a matter of logic, neither does it follow from the fact that people fail that there is any sense in the teaching.

What Archbishop Nichols should have said, quite unambiguously, is that the Catholic Church’s moral teaching on this matter is true and for a whole raft of good reasons. The way the archbishop has presented in a popular public forum is more than suggestive that:
a) he doesn’t really believe that the Church’s teaching on homosexuality is true for all time
b) that homosexuality is not such a big deal, and
c) we should really just accept the fact that people are sexually active in all sorts of ways.

Archbishop Nichols says that there is:
“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.”
Two comments here. The Catholic Church is not “struggling to understand a revealed truth” here. The objection to homosexuality is that it is contrary to the natural law, a law which is accessible to non-believers as well as believers. It may suit secularists to think that objection to homosexual acts is just something for believers to worry about. But the Catholic Church clearly teaches that homosexual acts are contrary to the natural moral law. Second, what on earth does such a sentence really mean?

I expect from my archbishop clear, unequivocal, and pastorally sensitive teaching which is completely faithful to the teaching of the Magisterium. Moreover, being “pastorally sensitive” applies not just to those struggling with homosexual temptations, but to parents who have the primary responsibility in passing on the moral teaching of the Catholic Church to their children. This pastoral sensitivity also applies to parents who are non-Catholics, and who recognise that homosexual acts are, in fact, unnatural in the moral sense.

* 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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Thursday, 23 September 2010

Archbishop Nichols undermines Pope Benedict on gay unions the day after his return to Rome

Vincent Nichols, archbishop of Westminster, was interviewed on BBC Two on Monday evening for a programme reflecting on Pope Benedict's visit to Britain. The archbishop was interviewed by Huw Edwards, along with Diarmaid MacCulloch, a homosexual Anglican and Oxford professor of church history, Tina Beattie, a Catholic academic and notorious dissenter from Catholic pro-life/pro-family teaching, and Lord (Chris) Patten, a Catholic diplomat who helped organise the papal visit.

At 21 minutes 30 seconds into the programme, Huw Edwards to put it to Professor MacCulloch that Pope Benedict:
“clearly sees Britain...as a country where there is a lot of growing hostility to faith communities. Is that the right reading?"
Professor MacCulloch replied:
“That is a code, and it’s a code for something quite specific. The code is: now Britain treats gay people as equal with heterosexual people, and gay partnerships are on the statute book, and the Catholic hierarchy hates that fact. You seem them across the world as gay marriages are introduced in country after country...”
Archbishop Nichols intervened in a firm manner to tell Professor MacCulloch:
“That’s not true, in this country. In this country, we [JS: the Catholic hierarchy, i.e. the Catholic bishops' conference of England and Wales] were very nuanced. We did NOT oppose gay civil partnerships, we recognised that in English law there might be a case for those. We persistently said that these are not the same as marriage.”
Later (at 24mins50secs into the programme) Archbishop Nichols said:
“The times we [the Catholic bishops' conference of England and Wales] interfere most in British politics is on poverty and education. Of course the media are obsessed with certain issues [JS: referring to a previous reference by Dr Beattie to homosexuality] but if you want to know what it is we’re really passionate about, it’s about the fight against poverty and [about] the education of young people.”
Later (at 27mins30secs into the programme), Professor MacCulloch said:
“I’m pleased to hear what the archbishop has to say about sexual questions, and it has to be said that the English Catholic Church has rather taken its own line on this, not the Vatican’s line, there is always a certain independence in the English Catholic Church. It’s is good that that should be so.”
No response to Dr MacCulloch’s claim appeared from Archbishop Nichols (though I cannot say whether the filming was edited prior to broadcast and Archbishop Nichols’ response was edited out).

Archbishop Nichols' comments constitute the third set of comments he has made undermining Pope Benedict's teaching on the issue of gay* unions (see my blog-posts of 4 July and  11 September for the first two sets. His comments on the Soho Masses for dissenting homosexuals complement these other comments). Here is what Pope Benedict taught on 13 September:
"The Church looks with concern at the growing attempts to eliminate the Christian concept of marriage and the family from the conscience of society. Marriage is the lasting union of love between a man and a woman, which is always open to the transmission of human life ... the success of marriages depends upon us all and on the personal culture of each individual citizen. In this sense, the Church cannot approve legislative initiatives that involve a re-evaluation of alternative models of marriage and family life. They contribute to a weakening of the principles of natural law, and thus to the relativisation of all legislation and confusion about values in society". [my emphasis]
Archbishop Nichols has clearly failed, not only to listen to Pope Benedict, but also to listen to some of his own brother-bishops in Britain. In July Philip Tartaglia, bishop of Paisley, said that the Catholic Church will never celebrate same-sex unions:
"not now, not in the future, not ever".
And even Archbishop Peter Smith said at the time of the Civil Partnerships Bill:
"The government has effectively established same-sex marriage in all but name."
In his regular Wednesday address yesterday, Pope Benedict said:
"Dear brothers and sisters, in this visit of mine to the United Kingdom, as always I wanted in the first place to support the Catholic community, encouraging it to work tirelessly to defend the immutable moral truths that, taken up again, illumined and confirmed by the Gospel, are at the base of a truly human, just and free society." [my emphasis]
Yet within 24 hours of the Holy Father's return to Rome Vincent Nichols, as the head of the Catholic community in England and Wales, was publicly undermining that work.

As I blogged on Monday, faithful pro-life/pro-family Catholics must not get carried away by the papal visit and close their eyes to the tragic fact that their official leader is, to say the least, not on their side.

* 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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Wednesday, 22 September 2010

The Catholic Church is the most dangerous heretic in the world's new order

I am grateful to Dan Blackman, an SPUC researcher, for studying Archbishop Chaput's address to the Canon Law Society in Slovakia last month. Archbishop Chaput's words should also be studied by everyone concerned about, or struggling under, the appalling policies of the Catholic Bishops' conference of England and Wales - co-operating with the British government in providing our children, in Catholic schools, with access to abortion; and everyone concerned by Archbishop Vincent Nichols's support for the last government's anti-life, anti-family sex and relationship legislation, fortunately defeated by the pro-life lobby, and by his recent statements on gay unions.
The ideologies that produced the dehumanising regimes of Nazism and Communism are still with us today, only this time they are more subtle, kinder, media friendly, and operate under the guise of tolerance. We know that Nazism sought credibility in a warped and manipulated Christianity, which was a stepping stone towards the real goal of Nazism: the destruction of Christianity and the establishment of neo-paganism. Communism was explicitly atheistic. What unites Nazism, Communism and modern day atheistic secularism, is the desire to live automomously from God i.e. man is his own master. This was the point Pope Benedict XVI made in his opening address on his recent papal visit to the United Kingdom.

In trying to construct a society autonomous from God and His truth, we find ourselves in a situation in which the systematic killing of unborn children is the "foundational injustice" upon which this secular atheistic society is being built.

This was the message of Archbishop Charles Chaput in his address to the 15th symposium of the Canon Law Society meeting last month in Slovakia, a country that has known the meaning of suppression under totalitarian regimes that rejected God. Catholicism in Europe has lived under wars, revolutions and totalitarianism.

The first lie

In speaking of Christians under totalitarian regimes, Chaput said:
“They know the real cost of Christian witness from bitter experience—and also, unfortunately, the cost of cowardice, collaboration and self-delusion in the face of evil. Many Catholics in Western Europe today simply don’t understand those costs. Nor do they seem to care. As a result, many are indifferent to the process in our countries that social scientists like to call 'secularization' but which, in practice, involves repudiating the Christian roots and soul of our civilization.’
Chaput calls this the first big lie: that Europe can be understood without Christianity:
"The unique genius and meaning of Western civilization cannot be understood without the 20 centuries of Christian context in which they developed. A people who do not know their history, do not know themselves. They are a people doomed to repeat the mistakes of their past because they cannot see what the present, which always flowers out of the past, requires of them."
Religion is being systematically reduced to a private lifestyle choice that does not have the right to a voice in the public square. Why? Because Christianity, specifically Catholicism, has a voice that speaks of God, of truth, of the sanctity of human life from conception:
"Efforts have been made to discourage or criminalize the expression of certain Catholic beliefs as 'hate speech'. Our courts and legislatures now routinely take actions that undermine marriage and family life, and seek to scrub our public life of Christian symbolism and signs of influence."
In Europe, such hostility is marked by its open contempt for Christianity. Ths state has become an absolute, an idol. Freedom of worship is very important, but still leaves Christianity to be marginalised and privatised. What Chaput is calling for is both freedom to worship and for religious freedom, which ensures Christianity has a voice in public debate.

Chaput notes that this secularism can sometimes be promoted with good intentions. After all, some would say we live in a pluralistic multi-faith, multi-ethnic and culturally diverse continent. English Dominican theologian Aidan Nichols OP has labelled this pluralism “communitarianism by non-religious elites.” This seems to imply a deliberate attempt at social engineering rather than the results of history and circumstance.

However, it is also being promoted to marginalise and to neutralise the voice of Christians in society. The daily lived experience of Christians testifies to this injustice.
“To be European is to be the heir of a profound Christian synthesis of Greek philosophy and art, Roman Law and biblical truth”
Chaput says, echoing Pope Benedict’s own thought. Chaput  goes on to quote Dietrich Bonhoeffer:
“The unity of the West is not an idea but a historical reality, of which the sole foundation is Christ.”
Chaput tells us that we, as Europeans, cannot dispense with our history. Superficial concern about not offending our fellow non-Christians does not justify the silencing of Europe’s Chrisitan heritage. Despite what the "new atheists" claim, Christianity is not imposed upon anyone. The only confessional states in the world today are those ruled by Islamist or atheistic dictatorships:
“regimes that have rejected the Christian West’s belief in individual rights and the balance of powers.”
The second lie

Chaput tells that there is a second big lie at the heart of this autonomous society:
"the lie that there is no unchanging truth".
This is particularly pertinent in the moral discourse of today. Relativism has now become the civil religion and public religion in modern society. Objective truth is rejected as a dangerous idea. Relativism is proposed as a means of keeping peace, eqaulity and tolerance.

In practice, however, we see that without a belief in fixed moral principles and transcendent truths, our political institutions and language become instruments in the service of a new barbarism. In the name of tolerance we come to tolerate the cruellest intolerance; respect for other cultures comes to dictate disparagement of our own; the teaching of “live and let live” justifies the strong living at the expense of the weak.

To summarise so far: Chaput has traced out the historical epochs of Europe, particularly the totalitarianism of the last 50 years, and the ideologies that fuelled them. Chaput then suggests two lies that society is being constructed on: Europe without its Christian context and content, and relativism. With this analysis Chaput writes:
“This diagnosis helps us understand one of the foundational injustice in the West today—the crime of abortion.”
Chaput calls this the "the crucial issue of our age".

The foundational injustice: abortion

The right to life is the foundation of every other human right. If that right is not inviolate, then no right can be guaranteed. Indeed, the defence of life from conception is an intergral and central part of Catholic indentity since apostolic times. Sacred Scripture testifies to the sanctity of human life. The first century Didache clearly speaks of the sanctity of life and the evil of abortion,
"Homicide is homicide, no matter how small the victim."
In the face of abortion, euthanasia, embryonic research and eugenics in our own day, this aspect of discipleship becomes even more important.

Chaput says:
 "My point in mentioning abortion is this: Its widespread acceptance in the West shows us that without a grounding in God or a higher truth, our democratic institutions can very easily become weapons against our own human dignity.
"If human rights are separated from objective truth and their relationship to God, they devolve to the arbitrary conventions of men and women. The state is there to recognise and protect these fundemental rights, not arbitarily bestow them or take them away. In doing this, the state becomes totalitarian."
This explains the paradox of how Western societies can preach tolerance and diversity while aggressively undermining and penalizing the Catholic voice in public discourse:
"The dogma of tolerance cannot tolerate the Church’s belief that some ideas and behaviors should not be tolerated because they dehumanize us. The dogma that all truths are relative cannot allow the thought that some truths might not be."
The rejection of objective truth in favour of relativism also explains the paradox of tolerance and equality, at the same time resulting in the systematic kiling of unborn children. Abortion is the example of intolerance, inequality and disregard for human rights. It is an act of atrocious violence, not a path to peace.
"The Catholic beliefs that most deeply irritate the orthodoxies of the West are those concerning abortion, sexuality and the marriage of man and woman. These truths are subversive in a world that would have us believe that God is not necessary and that human life has no inherent nature or purpose. Thus the Church must be punished because, despite all the sins and weaknesses of her people, she is still the bride of Jesus Christ; still a source of beauty, meaning and hope that refuses to die -- and still the most compelling and dangerous heretic of the world’s new order."

A temptation for the Church

We must put God first, and the obligations of political authroity second. An excellent example of this is seen in the life of St. Thomas More, who was tried and condemned to death in Westminster Hall, where Pope Benedict XVI recently gave his address to civil society on the right relationship between religion and the state. According to Chaput, throughout the ages, it has been a temptation for the Church in its relationship to the civil powers and the state to try and get along with Ceasar, to the point that the Church accommodates ideas and practices that are inimiciable to the Christian faith. The Scriptures remind us that we should pray for our civil leaders, and love our country (1 Timonthy 2:1-7). However,
"We cannot collaborate with evil without gradually becoming evil ourselves. It’s foolish to expect gratitude or even respect from our governing and cultural leadership classes today. Na├»ve imprudence is not an evangelical virtue."

A Catholicism of resistance

Chaput calls for a "Catholicism of resistance" based on trust in Christ’s words: "The truth will make you free." Chaput called this "believing that the truths of the Creed are worth suffering and dying for".
"We live in a time when the Church is called to be a believing community of resistance. We need to call things by their true names. We need to fight the evils we see. And most importantly, we must not delude ourselves into thinking that by going along with the voices of secularism and de-Christianization we can somehow mitigate or change things. Only the Truth can set men free. We need to be apostles of Jesus Christ and the Truth he incarnates."
Chaput continues:
"Let us preach Jesus Christ with all the energy of our lives. And let us support each other—whatever the cost—so that when we make our accounting to the Lord, we will be numbered among the faithful and courageous, and not the cowardly or the evasive, or those who compromised until there was nothing left of their convictions; or those who were silent when they should have spoken the right word at the right time."
If the Church is the most compelling and dangerous heretic of the world’s new order, the Gospel of Life must be its sacred book, and the dignity of human life one of its key doctrines.


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Tuesday, 21 September 2010

SPUC reports on European Parliament debate on embryo experimentation

Daniel Blackman, who researches international affairs for SPUC, has sent me the following report about the recent debate in the European Parliament on experimentation on animals, a debate which involved the issue of experimentation of human embryos:
On 8 September 2010, the plenary session of the European Parliament met to debate a draft directive. The directive, proposed by Elizabeth Jeggle MEP, sought to give further legal protection to animals used in scientific experimentation. We at SPUC urged our members to act to oppose this directive, and support prolife amendments.  
During the debate, the united Green parties strongly argued for member states to be obliged to use non-animal testing where alternatives exist; for strengthened rules on primate testing; for ensuring that those member states who want to introduce tougher animal welfare standards would be able to do so. The amendments were all defeated, but more legal protection for animals has been put in place. Disappointingly, no prolife amendments were tabled at second reading. Amongst MEPs, Martin Kastler, Miroslav Mikolasik and Anna Zaborska each called for human embryos not to be considered as alternatives. For this, SPUC commends them. Thank you!
The commissioner John Dalli spoke of the consideration given to human embryos. This was a reference to a prolife amendment introduced at first reading. Article 13 of the directive reads:
Without prejudice to national legislation prohibiting certain types of methods, Member States shall ensure that a procedure is not carried out if another method or testing strategy for obtaining the result sought, not entailing the use of a live animal, is recognised under the legislation of the Union
This means that member states are not required to use an alternative if the member state has legislation opposed to certain alternatives. What the alternatives could be is not specified, taking into account the differing legislation of member states. However, this does mean that member states have the right to opt-out of using human embryos as an alternative if they have legislation against it. However, the new directive does not offer any new protection to human embryos or older unborn children.
Member states are encouraged to use alternatives to animals in scientific experimentation. This could mean further calls from politicians and scientists for permission and funding for human embryo research. This research is always destructive as it involves the creation of human embryos, the extraction of their cells, and the destruction of the human embryos. Such flagrant disregard for human life is totally unacceptable.
The new EU directive updates the previous EU directive of 1986. ‘86 seems a particular year when human dignity and protection for animals was particularly confused and inverted.
For example, we have Roger Short, Honorary Professorial Fellow at the University of Melbourne. Prof. Short lists his areas of expertise as human reproduction, contraception, HIV, and AIDS prevention.
On Monday, the 26th of May 1986, Prof. Short was representing the Australian Academy of Science. At that time he was the Chairman of the Working Party on Human Embryo Experimentation, Australian Academy of Science, Canberra, Australian Capital Territory. Prof. Short gave evidence to the Senate Select Committee on the Human Embryo Experimentation Bill (1985). During the debate, Prof. Short makes the inaccurate distinction in calling some embryos “human pre-embryos.” Prof. Short then tells the select committee that it is lawful to use “human pre-embryos” because humans are not endangered, unlike gorillas and chimpanzees. 
In an article for Cosmos Magazine entitled ‘A plague of people’ Prof. Short wrote:
We have already invented a pill that will prevent global warming - the oral contraceptive pill...if women the world over were given easy access to the contraceptive pill, every birth could become a wanted birth, and human population growth would almost come to a halt.
SPUC does not have an official line on animal experimentation. However, many of our members belong to the Christian faith, whether Catholic or Evangelical. SPUC also has many members who belong to the Islamic religion. We are in constant dialogue with people from the worlds of science, medicine, politics, philosophy and fellow prolife groups. As such, we would seek to understand animal experimentation in light of our positions on the dignity of human life and our relationship to the created world. 
As such, the views expressed by Prof. Short, and those like him in the EU who may want to push for the use of human embryos in experimentation, is always unacceptable. The call for human embryos to be used in scientific research because humans are not endangered is flagrant utilitarianism. Human life is reduced to a commodity at its most vulnerable stage.
What we have been witnessing for several decades is the utter obfuscation in the correct relationship between people and the planet we live in, and the animals under our care. People are not the enemy or the problem. To construe people as the problem, and procreation as the enemy, is a failure to think through and provide real creative solutions to the questions we are facing. Technocratic and utilitarian thinking can only lead to the dehumanising of individuals, communities, and creation itself. In doing so, human life becomes a commodity. We should also remember the utter failure of research on embryonic human stem cells, and the relative success rate using adult human stem cells for treating multiple sclerosis, breast reconstruction after a mastectomy, and spinal injury, to name a few.
We urge prolifers in EU member states to work in shaping public opinion about the dignity of the human embryo. We call on legislators, politicians, scientists and religious leaders to ensure that the inherent rights of human life at the embryonic stage are recognised and protected in their country. We would also like those in the animal welfare movement to understand that in their goal of greater protection for animals, human life must not be seem as an alternative in experimentation. Being pro-animal does not have to mean being pro-human embryonic experimentation. Being prolife does not mean we advocate cruelty to animals.
If we fail to try, there will be no success. We may end up asking ourselves what the lay of the land will look like in another 24 years time.
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Monday, 20 September 2010

Pope Benedict's hint to English bishops: stop backsliding on pro-life issues

In yesterday's public address to the English and Welsh bishops, Pope Benedict said:
"As you proclaim the coming of the Kingdom, with its promise of hope for the poor and the needy, the sick and the elderly, the unborn and the neglected, be sure to present in its fullness the life-giving message of the Gospel, including those elements which call into question the widespread assumptions of today’s culture." [my emphasis]
We should be aware that Pope Benedict, in the midst of the frenzy stirred up by a hostile media, crafted much of his words in the language of diplomacy. Observers of the language of diplomacy, however, look out for what may be called the "iron fist in the velvet glove", where a rebuke is veiled in subtle terms. To me it seems clear that Pope Benedict's words are a strong hint to the bishops of England and Wales that he knows that they have failed to preach and teach, fully and unadulterated, the Gospel of Life and the Truth and Meaning of Human Sexuality (by which I mean both those doctrines and the Vatican documents of the same name).

For example, on the very weekend that Pope Benedict arrived in Britain, a headline in The Catholic Herald read:
"Archbishop: teaching on gay relationships may change"
reporting on Archbishop Vincent Nichols' comments (not once, but twice) that the Catholic Church may accept and recognise homosexual unions.

Thankfully, in the same edition The Catholic Herald published a letter by Mrs Dominie Stemp of East Sussex, which read:
"[It is] disturbing [that Archbishop Nichols is] unsure about whether gay marriages will be accepted by the Catholic Church. Our archbishop seems to have been swept up in the culture we live in and his eyes can no longer see the reality of the situation."
Many faithful pro-life/pro-family Catholics are today riding high on the successes of the papal visit: the unexpectedly large crowds, the absence of large protests, the praise for Pope Benedict from the otherwise usually sceptical commentators. The elation, however, must be properly directed, so that people's critical faculties are not suspended and so that they are not thus led into naivety. The energies loosed by the papal visit must be directed towards revitalising pro-life/pro-family activism, for which Pope Benedict explicitly called during his visit to Britain.

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Sunday, 19 September 2010

Pope calls for support for the pro-life movement

Pope Benedict has issued a clarion call for Christians and all people to be pro-life. Speaking at a residence for the elderly yesterday evening, said:
"Life is a unique gift, at every stage from conception until natural death and it is God’s alone to give and take."
Speaking to pilgrims in Hyde Park, the Pope also said:
"No one who looks realistically at our world today could think that Christians can afford to go on with business as usual ... Each of us has a mission, each of us is called to change the world, to work for a culture of life, a culture forged by love and respect for the dignity of each human person."
As I told the media earlier, the underlying text of the Pope addresses recent moves to allow euthanasia and assisted suicide. His words also imply that there is a lack of support for the pro-life cause among Christians. The Catholic bishops of England and Wales must look long and hard at themselves and ask themselves whether they have really opposed the culture of death.

The bishops' conference was complicit in the passage of the Mental Capacity Act by Tony Blair's government, which enshrined euthanasia by neglect into English statute law. More recently, Peter Smith, archbishop of Southwark, whitewashed the director of public prosecutions' policy on assisted suicide, a policy which effectively decriminalises assisted suicide.

I could give many further examples of how the Catholic bishops' conference of England and Wales have let down the pro-life cause. They need to reflect deeply on Pope Benedict's words and realise that they
"can[not] afford to go on with business as usual".
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