Saturday, 20 November 2010

People in Scotland should urge MSPs to follow committee's rejection of assisted suicide bill

Last week a committee of the Scottish Parliament recommended that the parliament reject Margo Macdonald's bill to allow assisted suicide. The Scottish Catholic Media Office (SCMO) says that the committee's report
"comes down firmly on the side of protecting the interests of society rather than allowing the notion of personal autonomy to be stretched to permit assisted suicide and euthanasia."
The bill will now be debated by the whole parliament next Thursday 25 November. It is vital that people in Scotlant contact their Members of the Scottish Parliament (MSPs) to urge them to read the committee's report and accept the committee's recommendation to reject the bill.

The Southern Cross Bioethics Institute (SCBI) has produced a briefing on behalf of SPUC which explains why the bill and assisted suicide/euthanasia are wrong. People in Scotland may wish to use the briefing when writing to their MSPs.

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Friday, 19 November 2010

My appearance on Channel Four last night

Yesterday evening I appeared on Channel Four as part of a series of monologues entitled "Is abortion ever justified?" If you would like to see the interview, click here on the Channel Four website.

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Thursday, 18 November 2010

Healthcare justice means going against the anti-life tide, teaches Pope Benedict today

In the latest of a series of strong and significant recent statement on pro-life issues, Pope Benedict has today, in a message to the Pontifical Council for Health Pastoral Care, said:
"[T]he world of healthcare cannot divorce itself from moral rules, which must govern it in order to ensure it does not become inhuman ... [H]ealthcare justice must be one of the priorities on the agendas of governments and international institutions. Unfortunately, along with positive and encouraging results, opinions and schools of thought exist which harm this justice. I am thinking of questions such as those associated with so-called 'reproductive health', the use of artificial procreation techniques that involve the destruction of embryos, and legalised euthanasia. Love for justice, the defence of life from conception until natural end, must be supported and proclaimed, even if this means going against the tide. Fundamental ethical values are the shared heritage of universal morality and the basis for democratic coexistence"
Today's statement is a stinging rebuke to those Catholics who:
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The pro-abortion lobby is working to undermine the international human rights order

Dr Leslie Cannold (pictured), one of Australia's leading pro-abortion campaigners, wrote for The Guardian last week an article entitled "Abortion is about balancing rights - religious medics don't get the final say". Speaking about the right of medics to conscientious objection to abortion, she claimed that:
"no right, whether legal or moral, is absolute."
Really? How about the right of innocent human beings not to be intentionally:
  • killed?
  • dismembered?
  • poisoned?
  • neglected to death?
And what about the right of women:
  • not to be sexually assaulted?
  • not to be forced to have an abortion?
  • to refuse sterilisation?
  • to refuse contraceptive implants?
  • to have more than one or two children?
Dr Cannold's denial of absolute legal and moral rights reveals the contempt in which the pro-abortion lobby holds even the most revered of principles if those principles even seem to get in the way of their ideological committment to the killing of unborn children. Dr Cannold should re-read the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which among other things declares that:
  • "recognition of the inherent dignity and of the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family is the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world"
  • "disregard and contempt for human rights have resulted in barbarous acts which have outraged the conscience of mankind"
  • "human rights should be protected by the rule of law"
  • "the peoples of the United Nations have in the Charter reaffirmed their faith in fundamental human rights"
  • "Member States have pledged themselves to achieve, in co-operation with the United Nations, the promotion of universal respect for and observance of human rights"
  • "every individual and every organ of society, keeping this Declaration constantly in mind, shall strive by teaching and education to promote respect for these rights"
  • "Everyone is entitled to all the rights and freedoms set forth in this Declaration, without distinction of any kind"
  • "Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of person"
Properly understood, the right to life and other rights (such as personal autonomy) do not come into conflict and do not require balancing or compromising. There is an order and a hierarchy of rights: the right to life is first and foremost, and the other rights both flow from the right to life and serve the right to life. Although human goods other than life may be more precious, the possession of life is fundamental. Unless the right to life is guaranteed, all other rights are in danger of being violated and may become purely theoretical.

Conscientious objection, which is a fundamental human right recognised in international law, trumps any supposed right to abortion. Not only has a right to abortion never been recognised in international human rights law, the unborn child is in fact protected against abortion in international human rights law (in principle, though rarely in practice). 

Dr Cannold's article is painfully out-of-date: last month the parliamentary assembly of Europe's premier human rights organisation, the Council of Europe, rejected her claims and passed a resolution saying:
"No person, hospital or institution shall be coerced, held liable or discriminated against in any manner because of a refusal to perform, accommodate, assist or submit to an abortion, the performance of a human miscarriage, or euthanasia or any act which could cause the death of a human foetus or embryo, for any reason."
Clearly we must keep up the battle as our opponents re-group after their Council of Europe drubbing. The pro-life movement, aided by church leaders throughout the world, need to run great campaigns in support of conscientious objection - by nurses, doctors, pharmacists, educationalists and any professional person or other person who may be under to pressure to participate in anti-life practices.

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Wednesday, 17 November 2010

Pope's latest words on episcopal conferences means individual bishops must reject the Catholic Education Service (CES)

Pope Benedict has given an address to a group of Brazilian bishops, in which he focused upon the role of episcopal conferences, speaking of individual bishops'
"primary responsibility to feed ... the flock of their particular Church" (N.b. In canon law 'particular Church' means 'diocese')
The Pope went on to tell the Brazilian bishops that an episcopal conference:
"must avoid becoming a parallel reality or substituting the ministry of each individual bishop; in other words, it must not change his relationship with his particular Church and with the college of bishops, nor become the intermediary between the bishop and the See of Peter.

When you come together in your meetings, in the faithful exercise of your doctrinal function, you must study above all the most effective and appropriate means to present the universal Magisterium to the people entrusted to your care. ... You must also consider emerging questions, in order then to guide people's consciences to find adequate solutions to the new problems posed by social and cultural transformations".

"[Some of today's problems] require the joint action of bishops: the promotion and protection of faith and morals ... relations with civil authorities, the defence of human life from conception to natural end, the sanctity of the family and of marriage between a man and a woman, the right of parents to educate their children [...]

"[T]he counsellors and structures of the episcopal conference exist to serve the bishops, not to replace them."
These latest words by Pope Benedict on episcopal conferences reflect his teaching as cardinal:
"[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)
It is therefore clear that individual bishops in England and Wales are in no way bound to agree with, let alone follow, the policies and actions of the Catholic Education Service (CES), an organ of the Catholic bishops' conference of England and Wales. Indeed, apart from their prerogatives as individual bishops, they are already duty-bound to reject the policies and actions of the CES, because those policies and actions are squarely contrary to Catholic teaching and papally-approved practice on the very points Pope Benedict listed:
  • "the most effective and appropriate means to present the universal Magisterium"
  • "guid[ing] people's consciences to find adequate solutions to the new problems posed by social and cultural transformations"
  • "the promotion and protection of faith and morals"
  • "relations with civil authorities"
  • "the defence of human life from conception to natural end"
  • "the sanctity of the family and of marriage between a man and a woman"
  • "the right of parents to educate their children"
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Tuesday, 16 November 2010

SPUC's UN lobbyists are defending the unborn against anti-life bias

Today at the Human Rights Council in Geneva, Pat Buckley, lobbying on behalf of SPUC, was once again in the forefront of the struggle against abortion and in leading efforts to uphold solemn international human rights agreements which defend the right to life from conception until natural death.

The Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural  Rights (CESCR) during its 45th session (1 – 19 November 2010), held a Day of General Discussion (DGD) on the right to sexual and reproductive health in accordance with articles 12 and 10 (2) of the Covenant. The day was to provide an opportunity to exchange views and to garner insights from practitioners and academic experts. The day consisted of four panels on the following themes:
  1. Definitions and elements of the right to sexual and reproductive health;
  2. Cross-cutting issues and groups in focus;
  3. Legal aspects and State obligations; and
  4. Conclusions.
Pat Buckley was present at this meeting, having travelled from New York where he has been working flat out on behalf of the unborn for three weeks. Several weeks earlier Pat had submitted a paper to the CESCR outlining SPUC’s position:
“The Society for the Protection of Unborn Children (SPUC) asserts that the Committee on Economic Social and Cultural Rights (CESCR) has no authority under the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR) to issue a general comment on the right to sexual and reproductive health. Furthermore, even if the CESCR did possess such authority pursuant to the ICESCR, a right to sexual and reproductive health does not encompass a right to abortion.”
Pat gave a telephone interview to SPUC headquarters in London about the proceedings of this meeting. Far from being a balanced and fair exchange of views, Pat told us that:
“4 panels spoke during the meeting. Three panels had 3 speakers, and one panel had 2 speakers. They were all pro-abortion. The panels were completely unbalanced. This is the sort of thing that brings the UN into disrepute. The vast majority of the NGOs who spoke were pro-life.”
Pat told us that, due to time constraints;
“I didn’t have time to present the whole statement. I wanted to underline the right to life of the unborn, so I presented these sections (emboldened below) as the most important.”
At the time of writing this post, the day of comment is still underway. Pat will be reporting further on this meeting and the final outcomes. We are very grateful to Pat and fellow pro-life NGOs who are speaking up boldly and unequivocally in defence of the unborn and their fundamental and inherent right to life. Below is Pat's statement in full:
Mr. Chairman, my name is Patrick Buckley, I represent the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children. I have already submitted a paper on behalf of my organisation challenging the right of this committee to draw up a general comment on a term not used in the carefully crafted wording of the Convention.

We say in addition that the right to life of all human beings from the moment of conception to natural death, is protected in the bill of rights consisting of the UN Charter, the Universal declaration of Human Rights and the subsequently enacted Covenants and other legally binding Conventions.

We also say that the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) recognizes human rights during the entire pre-natal period of life.

First the preamble of the CRC expressly says that children need rights while they are in the pre-natal period of their life-cycle and this follows on from the original 1959 Declaration on the Rights of the Child:

“the child, by reason of his physical and mental immaturity, needs special safeguards and care, including appropriate legal protection, before as well as after birth.”
  • The CRC having used the term child in its preamble in respect of a human life before as well as after birth in Article 1 defines the word child as all “human beings” who are under 18 years of age (unless the State sets a lower age limit).
  • The right to health, in Article 24 is for the benefit of the child who is the rights holder under the convention and expressly gives children rights during the entire pre-natal period.
  • When Article 1 is read in the light of Article 24, “human being” covers children during the entire pre-natal period, that is to say, from conception onwards. Article 24 reads:
1. States Parties recognize the right of the child to the enjoyment of the highest atainable standard of health …

2. States Parties shall pursue full implementation of this right, in particular, shall take appropriate measures: …

(d) To ensure appropriate pre-natal … health care for mothers.” (Article 24; italics and underlining added.)

The child is the right-holder of the right to pre-natal care, not the mother, according to the text of Article 24:  States Parties recognize the right of the child … to pre-natal … care.
  • The fact that the text says “pre-natal …health care for mothers” (emphasis added) does not convert the right into the right of the mother. By definition, pre-natal care is medical care that is delivered to the mother’s body. The care to the child is delivered through actions directed at the mother’s body.

    In other words, the child has the right to have health care given to his or her mother, for the purpose of ensuring the child’s well-being.
We also say that it is the duty of this committee to implement this Convention in accordance with the terms of the Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties, which sets out interpretive norms for all treaties.

Article 31 of the VCLT says:  "A treaty shall be interpreted in good faith in accordance with the ordinary meaning to be given to the terms of the treaty in their context and in light of its object and purpose."
In other words, attention must be paid to the actual text of the treaty and, as an aid to interpretation, to its surrounding context.

We say that there is no such right as a right to abortion, no right to take innocent human life and there never can be such a right. We also call on this Committee to reject pressure from powerful international organizations, which derive huge financial benefit from the taking of human life.

Finally we reiterate that this committee is not empowered to reinterpret the terms of the Convention and we further assert that there is no room for ideological crusades on the part of the Committee in attempting to expand the scope of the convention whilst ignoring the plight of the most vulnerable human beings, babies once conceived and awaiting birth.
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Monday, 15 November 2010

Some events and useful resources for the vigil for all nascent human life, 27 November

This morning Pope Benedict reminded the world that he has called for a worldwide vigil for all nascent human life on 27 November, adding that:
"I have recommended that it also be held in parishes, religious communities, associations and movements. The period in which we prepare for Christmas is an appropriate time to invoke divine protection on every human being called into existence, and to thank God for the gift of life we received from our parents".
I would urge all my visitors to contact their parish priests and their bishops to ask that the Pope's request be publicized and promoted to the greatest possible extent. Here is a list of some related events and useful resources. This list is by no means complete - do email me at johnsmeaton@spuc.org.uk if you have more information about related events and resources.

Catholic archdiocese of Westminster
27 November: Archbishop Nichols will preside at a Vigil at Westminster Cathedral that evening. Texts for the vigil, together with a reflection from the Archbishop.

Catholic diocese of Hexham and Newcastle
27 November, 4-5pm: Vigil of prayer for unborn life before the Blessed Sacrament, St Mary's Cathedral. Scripture Rosary for life and adoration of the Blessed Sacrament.

Catholic diocese of Middlesborough
27 November: At St Mary's cathedral there will be Eucharistic adoration at 3pm, opportunity for the Sacrament of Penance and at 6.30pm vigil Mass for the first Sunday of Advent

Catholic diocese of Salford
27 November: Terence Brain, bishop of Salford, is asking all churches in Salford diocese to a period of exposition of the Blessed Sacrament; and for those churches which have a Sunday vigil Mass to have a special prayer of intercession for all nascent human life.

United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB)
Several packaged options for churches wishing to hold a vigil, in either English or Spanish.

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Sunday, 14 November 2010

Russian pro-life movement is determined to stop abortion

Members of the Orthodox Church in Russia have held pro-life car rallies  in Moscow and in two Russian towns, Orel and Ramenskoye.

The Orthodox Center for Pro-Life Education “Zhizn” (Life) and  Charity Fund for Protection of Family, Motherhood and Childhood organized the events, the second of their kind, which mark a significant moment in the development of pro-life work in Russia. They report (on their blog):

" ... the second car rally was ... an important step in the pursuit of the protection of children’s lives. We have, hopefully, pursuaded our followers to be more proactive in organizing pro-life rallies in all Russian regions ... the Moscow road police tried to stop our “cortege” four times. Without success. Each time we convinced the policemen that our action was perfectly peaceful and absolutely legal.

"In the end, the pro-life motorcade has successfully passed through the city fully in accordance with the route we planned. In the same way we will do our best to make changes in the laws and to stop the infanticide in our dying out country and also in all countries of the world. We would like to thank heartily all participants of our rally. With our joint efforts, once again we have said in a loud voice: STOP to Abortions!"

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