Wednesday 12 March 2008

pray for bishop's witness to life

Spare a thought this morning for Bishop Patrick O’Donoghue, the bishop of Lancaster. At 10.45 a.m. he will be giving evidence in Parliament during a formal oral evidence session of the Children, Schools and Families Select Committee.

Remember some of the things Bishop O’Donoghue has been teaching in his diocese in his document “Fit for Mission? Schools”:

“…Schools and colleges have to cope with increasing government ‘social engineering’ legislation, seeking to impose secular values on our curriculum and ethos…

“…Parents, schools and collegesmust reject secularized and anti-life sex education, which puts God at the margin of life and regards the birth of a child as a threat (The Truth and Meaning of Human Sexuality, 137)

“Sterilization, contraception, abortion, and IVF should only be discussed during adolescence and only in conformity with the teaching of the Catholic Church. Therefore, the moral, spiritual, and health values of methods for the natural regulation of fertility, such as Natural Family Planning, must be emphasized (The Truth and Meaning of Human Sexuality, 137).

“Parents must insist on continence outside marriage and fidelity in marriage as the only true and secure education for the prevention of AIDS. Parents, schools, and colleges must also reject the promotion of so-called “safe sex” or “safer sex”, a dangerous and immoral policy based on the deluded theory that the condom can provide adequate protection against AIDS. (The Truth and Meaning of Human Sexuality, 139)…”

Of course, this is exactly what very many citizens, Catholic or not, are crying out to hear from their religious leaders – and thank God Bishop Patrick O’Donoghue has been saying it. We live in a country in which the Government’s policy, enacted in schools, including Catholic schools, is to provide abortion and abortifacient birth control to children without the knowledge or consent of their parents.

Bishop O’Donoghue is calling for resistance to this policy in accordance with the teaching of Pope John Paul II who wrote: “Abortion and euthanasia are thus crimes which no human law can claim to legitimize. There is no obligation in conscience to obey such laws; instead there is a grave and clear obligation to oppose them by conscientious objection”. (Emphasis as in “Evangelium Vitae”, 73)

However, Barry Sheerman, MP for Huddersfield and chairman of the Children, Schools and Families Select Committee, dismisses citizens’ rights to oppose anti-life sex education as fundamentalism.

Simon Caldwell writes in today’s Daily Mail:

“The bishop has been criticised by Barry Sheerman, the chairman of the schools select committee. ‘A lot of taxpayers' money is going into church schools and I think we should tease out what is happening here," said Mr Sheerman, the Labour MP for Huddersfield. A group of bishops appear to be taking a much firmer line and I think it would be to call representatives in front of the committee to find out what is going on. It seems to me that faith education works all right as long as people are not that serious about their faith. But as soon as there is a more doctrinaire attitude questions have to be asked. It does become worrying when you get a new push from more fundamentalist bishops. This is taxpayers' money after all.’”

As I make this post, all we can do is pray for the bishop. Pray that Barry Sheerman and his committee fail to convict him in the court of public opinion for standing up for the natural, inalienable, rights of citizens to defend the sanctity of life and the right to protect and promote the dignity of married love.