Saturday 23 January 2010

Our families risk being thrown to the wolves

During recent weeks there have been a number of reports of Catholic bishops standing up for life and family in different countries:
  • Archbishop Michael Miller of Vancouver, Canada, has told his flock that abortion is a "slaughter of the innocents", and said that pro-lifers“have an irreplaceable role to play: we need – the Church needs, society needs – evangelists, heralds, of life, people willing to confront the weakness of a culture which has trivialized the gift of life.”
  • The US Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) has written all 19,000 parishes in America, urging the faithful to take immediate action to stop Congress voting to include abortion in health care reform. The US bishops have also praised the courage of those politicians who defended the traditional definition of marriage in the New Jersey Senate in a recent vote. On behalf of the US bishops, Archbishop Joseph Kurtz said: “Preserving marriage between one man and one woman of the premier social justice issues of our time."
  • Cardinal Norberto Rivera Carrera of Mexico City has responded to critics of the Church's opposition to same-sex unions saying: "[W]e cannot be silent ... Mexico is a country that loves the family, which is its basic cell and the center of social cohesion. For this reason we are very concerned about the attacks on marriage". 
  • The Mexican bishops' conference has pledged its support for Cardinal Rivera's stand, saying about adoption of children by same-sex couples: “The family institution is responsible for procreation and for ensuring children have the guidance of a father and a mother for their education and development as persons". 
  • Last month Pope Benedict XVI sent a message of support to pro-life/pro-family groups in Spain battling their government’s attempts to usher in abortion on demand. He made his address on the same day as a host of Church leaders joined a massive rally in Madrid which I blogged about. Pope Benedict said: "[O]ne of the greatest services which we as Christians can offer our fellow men and women is to show them the serene and solid witness of a family founded upon marriage between a man and a woman, defending it and protecting it, because it is of supreme importance for the present and future of humankind." He reiterated that the family unit, and therefore parents, should be a child’s primary educators: "In truth, the family is the best school in which to learn to live the values that dignify individuals and make peoples great."
This respect for the role of parents as the first and foremost educators of their children will be trampled on by the government’s Children, Schools and Families bill, currently being considered by committee in the House of Commons.

Last November the government told parliament that it had accepted all the major recommendations of the fifth annual report by the Teenage Pregnancy Independent Advisory Group (TPIAG). Among the TPIAG's major recommendations are that the Government's current review of SRE should:

· [s]tate clearly that all schools including faith schools must teach all aspects of SRE within the context of relationships in an anti-discriminatory way; contraception, abortion and homosexuality* are all legal in this country and therefore all children and young people should be able to learn the correct facts
· [m]ake explicit links to young people's advisory services and provision of contraception and sexual health services and demonstrate this by teaching young people how to access services"

In the light of the bold statements on the part of so many church leaders in other parts of the world, including the Pope, it is all the more disappointing that both the Catholic and Anglican authorities in England and Wales are in general supporting the government's proposals to force all state schools to teach sex education throughout the school years (from ages five to 18).

In addition, the Catholic Education Service of England and Wales (CESEW) continues to welcome into Catholic schools Connexions, a British government agency. Connexions’ staff are trained to tell children that they have a right of access to abortion and contraception without parental knowledge or consent, a training manual which I am happy to send to anyone who requests it.

Christian families and non-Christian families, in England and Wales have the right and the duty to demand better protection from their pastors for their families and their unborn children and grandchildren. Christian leaders need to take a leaf out of overseas' prelates books. Currently, our families risk being being thrown to the wolves.
*In Evangelium Vitae paragraph 97, Pope John Paul II taught 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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