Monday 15 February 2010

There's light and dark in the English bishops' approach to pro-life issues

In a sermon on marriage and family on Sunday Archbishop Vincent Nichols spoke of:
"the gift that is a child, the treasure of children ... They need our careful guidance and tutoring ... [M]arriage, as the strongest foundation for stable family life and the best environment for the growth of children, is to be supported in our country today if we are really to pursue, both politically and socially, the genuine common good of all."
I applaud the archbishop's words and thank him for them. It is therefore all the more disturbing that the Catholic Education Service (CES), an agency of the Catholic bishops' conference of England and Wales, has both welcomed and helped draft the government's sex education guidance. The draft guidance is a cornucopia of anti-life and anti-family evils. Routes to these evils will be established in both faith and non-faith schools if the Children, Schools and Families bill is passed unamended. (A government amendment related to faith schools will be ineffectual in keeping these evils out of Catholic schools.) The ideology of the guidance is "sexual and reproductive rights", the mantra that everyone, including teenagers, have a right to be provided with abortion and contraception in order to enable consequence-free sex. Yet, as Cardinal Antonelli told the Pontifical Council for the Family last week:
"It's only because of children that sexual relations become important for society"
meaning that sex is naturally ordered towards procreation of children.

Archbishop Nichols was the CES's chairman until becoming archbishop of Westminster. I have spoken before about how:
  • the CES, whilst under Archbishop Nichols' chairmanship, welcomed (and still welcomes) into Catholic schools Connexions, a government agency whose advisors are trained to facilitate secret abortions on schoolgirls without parental notice or consent
  • the openness of Bishop Malcolm McMahon, the current CES chairman, to headteachers being in same-sex unions*
  • the "Diversity and Equality guidelines", a publication of the bishops' conference. This policy document welcomes, seeks to implement, and says that it will monitor the implementation (in the Catholic Church, including in Catholic schools) of British government and EU law on the equal employment rights of male and female homosexuals, and bisexuals and transsexuals.
Also this past weekend Archbishop Nichols spoke of:
"[the] fear of undertreatment or neglect – sometimes, for instance, food and water may be simply put in front of patients unable to feed themselves who are then noted as having refused their food."
Again, I applaud and thank Archbishop Nichols, in this instance for his opposition to euthanasia by neglect (and, elsewhere in the same sermon, to assisted suicide). Yet Archbishop Peter Smith, on behalf of the bishops' conference, publicly opposed SPUC's campaign on the pro-euthanasia Mental Capacity bill (now Act), welcomed the bill, accepted the government's assurances on the bill, and co-operated with the government in ensuring its passage through parliament. The Act enshrines in statute law euthanasia by neglect.

Is it not time that the English and Welsh bishops cease their collaboration on pro-life/pro-family issues with the government? Pope Benedict told the Pontifical Academy for Life last week that:
"History has shown us how dangerous and deleterious a state can be that proceeds to legislate on questions that touch the person and society while pretending itself to be the source and principle of ethics."
Indeed, the lesson from history was learnt by the Papacy last century. The Nazi regime began to violate the terms of the concordat between Germany and the Holy See as soon as it had been signed. This moved Pope Pius XI to write:
"[I]it will be every one's duty to sever his responsibility from the opposite camp, and free his conscience from guilty cooperation with such corruption. The more the enemies attempt to disguise their designs, the more a distrustful vigilance will be needed, in the light of bitter experience."
*(The reason why the Catholic Church's teaching on homosexuality is so important for the pro-life cause can be found in Pope John Paul II's Evangelium Vitae. In paragraph 97, Pope John Paul teaches 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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