Wednesday, 6 May 2015

Applications now open for SPUC internships 2015

SPUC's interns in 2011
Every year SPUC offers internship places at its headquarters in London to young people seeking work experience in the pro-life movement. This year, SPUC is offering two places to applicants aged 18-25. The internship programme covers all aspects of SPUC’s work, including a substantial amount of research, writing, and campaigning, along with some administrative tasks.

The internship will begin on 20 July and end on 28 August. Interns are paid the minimum wage and will be expected to work from 9am-5.30pm, five days a week. The internship will involve some evening and weekend work and travelling. To apply, please email a covering letter and CV to rhoslynthomas@spuc.org.uk or post them to: Rhoslyn Thomas, SPUC, 3 Whitacre Mews, Stannary Street, London, SE11 4AB. Applications close 20 June.

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Monday, 4 May 2015

Why the upset with Chinese scientists who "genetically modify human embryos"

Recently, concerns were expressed about Chinese scientists who "genetically modify human embryos". Fr Fleming, a leading bioethicist, puts these concerns into ethical context in an article he sent me today.

Fr Fleming writes:
The scientific community is in uproar over the newly reported experimental use of embryonic human beings to produce genetically modified human beings. (David Cyranoski& Sara Reardon, “Chinese scientists genetically modify human embryos: Rumours of germline modification prove true — and look set to reignite an ethical debate”, Nature, 22 April 2015,

It seems to have frightened them. Why?

Well, it seems that Chinese scientists have been trying to produce healthy embryos from embryos which have an identifiable genetic defect. They were trying to end up with an embryo with one altered gene in every cell, but with no unwanted damage to any other DNA.

In these experiments 86 embryonic human beings were injected with the enzyme complex CRISPR/Cas9, a gene-editing technique. These ‘defective’ embryos, labelled ‘non-viable’ because they could not result in a live birth, were obtained from fertility clinics. It is reported:
“In almost every case, either the embryo died or the gene was not altered. Even the four embryos in which the targeted gene was edited had problems. Some of the embryo cells overrode the editing, resulting in embryos that were genetic mosaics. And speckled over their DNA was a sort of collateral damage — DNA mutations caused by the editing attempt.”
At this stage the researchers did not plan to actually produce a baby (that is to bring one of these embryonic human beings to term). So what’s the problem? Why the angst?

After all, scientists in the area of reproductive technology have used all kinds of fanciful reasons to get legal permission to experiment on human embryos, embryos which they, the scientists, say are not really human beings anyway. And they were going to get embryonic stem cells from them and cure everything from Parkinson’s disease to Alzheimer’s. That has turned out to be fanciful, the use of embryonic stem cells for therapy having got precisely nowhere, while the use of adult stem cells has powered ahead.

The thing is that scientists and law makers have broken fundamental ethical boundaries. Western scientists may legally kill embryonic human beings and justify it by the utilitarian calculation that much good will come from it. And they were moved to do so by the legal approval of killing the unborn child in abortion, again on utilitarian grounds. If you can kill a 12 week old foetus, an embryo is a mere bagatelle by comparison.

So Chinese scientists think they can do the same. Why should other scientists be so upset?

The upset is not remorse for the killings of human beings. Their concern is about what might happen if these experiments in the end give rise to the bringing of these “improved” or “edited” human beings to term. What if we then discover it has all gone wrong, that every cell in the body of these human beings is in some way contaminated or distorted with catastrophic implications for the physical and/or psychological health of these persons who are now lifetime experimental subjects, and made so without their knowledge and consent?

Even worse, what if the problems associated with such procedures are not discovered for a couple of generations, and these people have spread their defective genes to others by being involved in the conception of new human life?

Reputations of scientists will be called into question with some even questioning the scientific project as a whole. And stand by for litigation for alleged failures of duty of care and negligence! That mustn’t be allowed to happen, must it! Reputation and money are of far greater importance than the killings of the weak and defenceless.

Critic and research scientist Edward Lanphier says “we need to pause this research”. He doesn’t say ban, he just wants a “pause”.

George Q. Daley, a stem cell researcher at Harvard, referring to in vitro fertilization, said: “Their study should give pause to any practitioner who thinks the technology is ready for testing to eradicate disease genes during I.V.F.”. “This is an unsafe procedure and should not be practiced at this time, and perhaps never.”

Well, that is what Lanphiere and Daley think. But they are not really against it, are they? No, but should just be a “pause”, and it just shouldn’t happen “at this time”. The “perhaps never” Daley adds as an afterthought is hardly reassuring. Others, and especially the Chinese, may well disagree with him. And since the medical and scientific communities have successfully abandoned their previous commitment never to do harm to human beings, how can they now, with straight faces, condemn others who are equally ethically challenged.

And law makers in the UK and elsewhere were only too willing to be seduced both by the use of spurious and emotionally charged non-scientific arguments and by the promise of spectacularly successful new treatments for all kinds of serious conditions.

But, unless there is a willingness for world communities to retrace their steps, to again be committed to the idea that science and medicine are there not to harm human beings but to benefit them, then we can expect more of what our mass media so uncritically applauds as “world first”, “the latest breakthrough”, the “last taboo overcome”, and the promise of utopia at the hands of our Dr Strangeloves.

While it is time (past time) for us to wake up from our ethical somnolence, there is no evidence yet that we have the political leaders in the UK who are prepared to face up to the mess they themselves have created. Instead we continue to be governed by those who are deaf, dumb and blind where the great challenges to human life are concerned, challenges to human life that they themselves have allowed, funded, and promoted.

Scientific researchers may not, at this stage, be prepared to go where the Chinese have gone, although I seriously doubt that. Nothing much seems to hold them back. And their own ethical logic suggests that they have no sensible ethical boundaries left to prevent developments in this kind of research.

Their hubris seems unlimited. And as research scientist Edward Lanphier concedes: “The ubiquitous access to and simplicity of creating CRISPRs creates opportunities for scientists in any part of the world to do any kind of experiments they want.”

If you are allowed to experiment on human embryos there will be many groups of researchers (four already in China) that will not be able to resist the megalomaniacal desire to recreate human beings in what they imagine is in humanity’s best interests and according to their own utopian prejudices.

Got that?

Lanphier is really conceding that once scientists are allowed to experiment on human embryos there is no way that you can stop the very experiments which they now say alarm them.

When that argument was used by those who objected to legalising experiments on embryonic human beings, it was laughed out of court as “scare mongering”. Well, some scientists are scared now, but not enough to make them rethink the very basis of their own moral position.

The great Renaissance thinker and writer, Michel de Montaigne (1553-92), in his famous classic Raymond Sebond, made this perceptive observation about hubris:
“Can anything be imagined so ridiculous, that this miserable and wretched creature [man], who is not so much as master of himself, but subject to the injuries of all things, should call himself master and emperor of the world, of which he has not power to know the least part, much less to command the whole?”
Dr John I Fleming
4 May 2015
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Cardinal Nichols will celebrate “Soho Mass” on 10th May

Cardinal Nichols meets homosexual group QUEST, March 2015

The Archbishop of Westminster, Vincent Cardinal Nichols, is scheduled to celebrate Mass for “LGBT Catholics Westminster” at the Church of the Immaculate Conception, Farm Street on the evening of Sunday 10th May.

The twice-monthly “LGBT Mass” at Farm Street is the continuation of the notorious “Soho Mass” that took place for many years at Our Lady of the Assumption and St Gregory, Warwick Street.

Many Catholics, including myself, were hopeful that the move of the Mass to Farm Street indicated that the Archdiocese of Westminster might be prepared to take action against the open dissent that they have tolerated, indeed facilitated, for so many years.

It is now clear that the dissent continues.

I received an email last week from a tourist who, while visiting London, attended a Saturday evening vigil Mass at Farm Street. She was extremely distressed by what she experienced. I have her permission to share the email, with some personal details removed.

Dear Sir,

As a regular reader of your website, I would appreciate some guidance regarding my recent experience in a London church... As before when travelling in UK or abroad, I had previously googled the nearest RC church and mass times and I attended the Saturday evening vigil...

The gospel was about Doubting Thomas and in the homily afterwards the priest highlighted the message of mercy and forgiveness, and then talked about the forthcoming synod where there would be discussion of communion for the divorced and marriage in general, and referred to those of the ‘traditionalist view’ who would also be taking part in the discussion.  He went on to link the story of the day’s gospel to being not just about having faith but about having patience too, asking us to pray for the synod with patience so I began to wonder if this meant a prayer in favor of changes to marriage, which I felt uncomfortable with.

...

By the end of the mass I didn’t feel spiritually uplifted as I usually do and on leaving the church I introduced myself to the priest as a visitor from...  He warmly shook my hand to chat about where I was from and I then went on to ask him about the meaning of some of the things he referred to in the homily, asking him if he could please explain why John the Baptist and St Thomas More were killed. He replied they were martyred for defending the faith.  I asked him was it not really for defending marriage and he replied ‘that was only a part of it, not all of it’.  I responded that my understanding was defending marriage as laid down by our faith was the main reason they were martyred and he replied “you may well think that” and moved on ...

I have never felt such emptiness and sadness on leaving a church... The church I attended is The Immaculate Conception, Farm Street Mayfair, and on further checking online I now realise there is an LGBT group very much involved with this parish, with a letter on their website (LGBT Catholics Westminster) from Cardinal Nichols wishing their group a very successful Lent pilgrimage to Rome in the hope of meeting key Vatican officials to discuss the synod agenda.  I was very disappointed to read the newsletter on their website promoting LGBT issues while being linked to the parish in religious matters, and even highlighting several Soho ‘iconic’ LGBT clubs under threat of closure advising how to appeal to the town planning committee. 

I have always thought that everyone in church is already equal as in the hymn One Bread, One Body, without needing to know the individual views and sexual preferences of fellow worshippers. I am now left wondering that in future when travelling, in addition to checking the whereabouts of the local RC church and mass times, perhaps I should also be checking which sexual orientation the mass may be aimed at.  Having seen our government redefine marriage I am now very concerned that the church may follow suit and would appreciate some reassurance in this respect.  I would be very grateful for your advice...

In further correspondence she noted:

I am in no position to judge or criticise anyone and certainly have no objection to any LGBT person attending church and being involved in duties as any other individual parishioner, but I fail to see why special services need to be advertised for a specific group, especially one that contradicts church teaching if still practising.   I was very concerned to read the prayer on their website and also a transcript of a homily (entitled Integration of Sexuality and Spirituality dated 21.12.13) in which I found references to Our Lord and Our Lady quite disturbing.  I don't understand how a cardinal can support and encourage this.

Their April newsletter gives a good sense of what kind of an organisation "LGBT Catholics Westminster" is. For example, they are advertising a "Natural Law and Conscience Symposium" at which the notorious pro-abortion dissenter Tina Beattie will be speaking. They also advertise a meeting of "Soho & Westminster LGBT Community Forum", drawing attention to the fact that the meeting will be dealing with plans for the 2015 Pride march in London which includes a veritable cornucopia of events which flaunt images and thinking which are the enemy of Catholic teaching on human sexuality.

The newsletter is also used to promote other dissenting groups, such as ACTA and Fortunate Families, a group for "Catholic Parents of LGBT Children". Neither group makes any secret of its repudiation of Catholic doctrine. Fortunate Families, for example suggests a reading list full of heretical, harmful and blasphemous works, including a book which "presents seven models of the Queer Christ."

Like many good and faithful Catholics my correspondent is shocked that Cardinal Nichols’ would support a group that openly works against the teaching of the Church.

Unfortunately, having documented Cardinal Nichols’ words and actions relating to the teaching of the Church on homosexuality and homosexual unions over many years, I am not at all surprised to see him supporting "LGBT Catholics Westminster" in such a public way. He has already gone on record as being open to the radical agenda pursued at the Extraordinary Synod.

Troubling statements made by Cardinal Nichols on homosexuality and homosexual unions

On 2nd July 2010 Archbishop Nichols was interviewed by Stephen Sackur on BBC TV programme Hardtalk.

Stephen Sackur: The Church of England for example in this country is taking a rather different view. They believe there has to be some flexibility. The church has to be a reflection of society's values to a certain extent and therefore we see women priests, women vicars, and there's obviously in some parts of the Anglican Communion, women bishops.

Archbishop Nichols: Certainly.

Stephen Sackur: Some of their vicars are also prepared to sanction gay unions. That church is showing flexibility. Is the Catholic church not going to have to do the same eventually?

Archbishop Nichols: I don't know. Who knows what's down the road?

On 11th September 2010 Archbishop Nichols was interviewed by Neil Tweedie of The Telegraph and asked if the Church would “one day accept the reality of gay partnerships”. He replied:

“I don’t know. There is in the Book of Nature an inherent connection between human sexuality and procreation; and those two things cannot ultimately be totally separate. People who are of a homosexual orientation say: 'Well, hang on a minute. How is the Book of Nature written in me?' The most important thing the Christian tradition says is, don't see yourself simply as an isolated individual but as part of a wider family. The moral demands on all of us made by that tradition are difficult. That tradition says human sexuality is for an expression of total self-giving in fidelity in a way that is open to the creation of new life. 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 July 2011 the dissenting “Catholic” homosexual lobby group QUEST held its annual conference at the Archdiocese of Westminster pastoral centre of All Saint’s at London Colney.

At the time the conference took place their website contained the following statements:

"homosexual sex is not an incomplete or less perfect expression of human sexuality..."

"the teaching of the Vatican Congregations....is incompatible with the Gospel"

"Quest, an association for lesbian and gay Catholics, welcomes in general the government's proposals to provide for legal recognition of same-sex partnerships."

On 20th September 2010 Archbishop Nichols was interviewed on the BBC by Huw Edwards for a programme reflecting on Pope Benedict's visit to Britain.

Other interviewees included Diarmaid MacCulloch, a homosexual Anglican and Oxford professor of church history, Tina Beattie, a “Catholic” academic and notorious dissenter and Lord Patten, who helped to 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 see 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 [the 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.”

The interview did not contain any contradiction by Archbishop Nichols of Professor MacCulloch’s statement that the “English Catholic Church” took a different line to “the Vatican”.

On 26th November 2011 The Tablet attributed the following words to Archbishop Nichols in an article entitled Archbishop Praises Civil Partnerships:

“We would want to emphasize that civil partnerships actually provide a structure in which people of the same sex who want a lifelong relationship [and] a lifelong partnership can find their place and protection and legal provision,” the archbishop said. “As a Church we are very committed to the notion of equality so that people are treated the same across all the activities of life.”

On 2nd December 2011 the Catholic News Agency published the following:

When Archbishop Nichols was asked by CNA if the bishops of England were contradicting the Vatican’s guidelines, he said that the bishops have tried “to recognize the reality of the legal provision in our country of an agreement, a partnership, with many of the same legal safeguards as in marriage.” He further explained that while the bishops recognize the existence of civil partnerships, they also “believe that that is sufficient,” and that they should not be placed on par with marriage.

...

“Clearly, respect must be shown to those who in the situation in England use a civil partnership to bring stability to a relationship,” the archbishop said, qualifying that while “equality is very important and there should be no unjust discrimination,” that “commitment plus equality do not equal marriage.”

Also December 2011, in an interview given to the BBC Today programme, Archbishop Nichols said:

“When it comes to understanding what human sexuality is for, there is a lot that we have to explore. Because I think what is at one level in the broad perspective clear, is that there is an intrinsic link between procreation and human sexuality. Now how do we start from that principle, not lose it, and have an open, ongoing conversation with those who say, well, that’s not my experience?
...
“How do we bring together some principles that if you like are written into the broad book of nature, and individual experiences? That’s the area that we have to be sensitive and open to, and genuinely wanting to explore."

23rd March 2015 - Archbishop Nichols met with leadership of dissenting lobby group QUEST, who then issued the following statement:

Quest Chair Ruby Almeida and Deputy Chair Nick Burchnall met with Cardinal Vincent Nichols at Archbishop’s House on Friday 20th March 2015. This was a planned return visit with His Eminence to discuss, amongst other things, the Icon Of Emmaus which was presented at the Quest Conference in Scarborough in July 2014. The meeting was very cordial and filled with much that was positive and constructive. This we hope, paves the way for Quest to have closer ties with the hierarchy of the Catholic Church of England and Wales, and something that our membership has been wanting for some time now.

"Marriage Care"

Cardinal Nichols is President of Marriage Care, an organisation which provides counselling services to same-sex couples. The Tablet reported, on 15th September 2011, that the Chief Executive of Marriage Care, Terry Prendergast, had said of same-sex couples; "We have offered them focused marriage preparation - private, and not in a group. This is about two people in love and one of our main aims is to support loving partnerships."

In a document on their website Marriage Care explain:

"Today, Marriage Care sees itself as a service provider of relationship education and support to all sections of the community, delivered from within a Christian ethos, developed from the organisation’s Catholic roots. We understand this Christian ethos to mean in practice that we are open to all, acknowledging the value and uniqueness of every human being regardless of gender, age, race, creed or sexual orientation.

...

"So, for Marriage Care, the Christian ethos is not made up of a set of doctrines but rather is an exhortation to the members of the charity to be visible by their inclusive and loving behaviour of the other by providing a rich variety of services across the whole community." 

The document continues:

"Does the Church community understand the real tension for Marriage Care arising from the necessary divergence of message in the delivery of marriage preparation and counselling (arising, as noted above, from different service user identities and priorities)? 

"How does Marriage Care remain in a dialogue with the hierarchy so that our specialist and particular insight and expertise might contribute to our joint learning? 

"In particular, there is a need to explore further:

- What we all think we are trying to achieve through our marriage preparation programmes.

- How we develop a language for our service provision which is understandable for our different service users.

- How we clarify what the “teaching of the church” means in the context of our messy lives." 

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