Please click here to read Sir Edward Leigh’s letter to PM on the subject of the admissions cap on faith schools.
The Chairman had prepared a short summary of points from the last meeting for Archbishop Peter Smith, copied to his own Archbishop Bernard Longley, and also to the Cardinal via his sectary. There had been no acknowledgement, but he hoped to meet with Archbishop Longley and with the Cardinal’s secretary and find out if this was of any interest.
Catholic Medical Alliance Submission on Mitochondrial Donation
Both the PPAC and the CMA had made a submission to the consultation. This was basically about how it should be done, not whether it should be done. There were two possible methods of ‘mitochondrial engineering’:
- Pronuclear transfer: a fertilised embryo is taken from an egg with faulty mitochondria and inserted into an egg with healthy mitochondria from which the fertilised embryo has been removed and discarded.
- Maternal spindle transfer: The nucleus is removed from an egg with faulty mitochondria and inserted into an egg with healthy mitochondria from which the nucleus has been removed. This egg is then fertilised.
- The first method kills an embryo while the second does not. However both involve alteration of the germ line and we did not know if it was safe. The Government’s committee said there was no evidence it was unsafe. The principal non-ethical objection was safety. The legislation is likely to be whipped and will open a Pandora’s Box on the subject.
There had been a much recent debate on this and a number of Catholic MPs had spoken. There was a drive for legal action against 67 doctors using pre-signed forms. The DPP had pushed this across to the GMC which had told them it was illegal and they must not do it again. The GMC thought the practice was so common they couldn’t do anything except in the case of gendercide. This was in hand with the all-party life group led by Jim Dobbin MP, which is working with the Metropolitan Police and the DPP. Fiona Bruce MP was asking the attorney general what action he had taken. The Chairman had received letters from Baroness Knight who wishes to call a meeting in the Lords about the false nature of the form all pre-signed for category “C”, risk to themental health of the mother. There is probably no risk, but it is unclear whether this has been looked into.
The document “Living and Dying Well” said the law deters but is flexible. Prosecutions are almost nil. Concern is not just for the terminally ill but for the suffering. The Nicklinson case would not be covered by the bill which is therefore not honest. The Court of Appeal has passed it to the Supreme Court but it won’t change the law; that is for Parliament to do. The DPP’s guidance falls into two classes. Class 1: where the assistor is a family member and the deceased is mentally capable. Class 2: Doctors and ‘strangers’, where the guidance is not sufficiently clear. This is now in the Supreme Court. The Royal Society of GPs stated this bill would spoil the relationship with patients and palliative care would lose funding; a neutral stance would be seen as acceptance. Sir Edward Leigh MP said that altough he always voted against, pressure was relentlessly growing and the state was increasingly concerned with the cost of rising numbers of elderly dementia patients.
The Catholic Bishops’ Conference’s brief document “Sense and nonsense on assisted dying” (circulated) was a valuable contribution and would be distributed to the entire CU membership.
Same sex marriage Northern Ireland
This was defeated again 53 to 48. The subject of the consultation draft on “Applying Equality Law in practice for Catholics” was raised. Reactions and comments were to be submitted by the end of May.
“Safe at School” campaign
The latest bulletin for (not just Catholic) parents describes what is being taught in schools. The materials used in Catholic schools are usually less damaging than those in state schools,
but can still cause problems. Sex education must remain non-compulsory. There is a move to update the 2000 Guidelines; the consultation was for teachers and students but parents had been omitted and there was nothing about love and marriage. The Government is resisting this move. A good Catholic resource, “This is my Body” is available.
A Christian Country?
The prime minister claimed over the Easter that this country remains essentially Christian, but the Cardinal had countered by saying that with SSM, the country had lost the last vestige of the Judeo-Christian ethos. The chief Rabbi however had said “of course we are a Christian country”. The prevailing ethos seemed to be “I have the right to have what I want and to ignore your opinion”. Most people now think religion is not in the public interest.
Any Other Business
There was a debate on Catholic “Free” schools: would the Government give way on capping Catholic admissions at 50% as demanded by the Liberal Democrats? There were a large number of Catholic Academies – now more in thrall than ever to the DofE. Parents, school and parish working together gives stability.
The Education Parliamentary Select Committee has launched an inquiry into personal, social and health education (PSHE) in schools. PSHE covers a number of topics such as drug education, healthy eating and so on. Sex and relationship education (SRE) is also covered in this topic.
We are very concerned that this inquiry will be used to make sex education a compulsory schools subject. This would mean that children as young as five years old would have to learn about sexual matters.
Parents would be unable to protect their children from inappropriate teaching.
It is absolutely vital that there is an overwhelming response from parents, grandparents, teachers, clergy and all concerned citizens saying “no” to compulsory sex education. Compulsory sex education will sever parents from the moral upbringing of their children. And the innocence of children will be wiped out by ever more sexual content in the classroom.
Every school will be affected by this. Every child deserves to be protected.
Please read the briefing on the SPUC website to help you respond to this inquiry. Please circulate the briefing as widely as possible asking others to respond to the inquiry. The deadline for this inquiry is 6 June 2014.
In addition, the Parliamentary & Public Affairs committee wishes the Assisted Dying document prepared by the Bishops’ Conference to be circulated to members.
Antonia Tully/John Barrie
Members of the Parliamentary & Public Affairs Committee of the Catholic Union
Members and others may be interested in the following extract from Hansard, which covers a recent debate in the House of Commons on the admissions policy for Catholic (and other faith) Schools.
The information and exchanges within the debate will provide useful material for anyone involved or interested in the provision of Catholic education in this country. School Governors in particular are being asked to take on an increasingly visible role within the admissions and administrative processes of schools which they govern and will find the debate useful as additional source material.
The Chairman proposed Patricia Stoad as a member of the Committee which was unanimously accepted.
The chairman had received a letter from his MP about a possible replacement for the LCP. The Government will reconvene the Neuberger review to report next year. There should be international research into end of life issues, not just cancer. Dr Massimo Constantini, Regional Palliative Care Network, Azienda Ospedaliera Universitara Genoa and colleagues are willing to enter into partnership to undertake this research.
Catholic Education Service – Presentation to the Committee, Paul Barber Director
The CES is the education agency of the Catholic Bishops of England and Wales. It has two functions. The first is to be an agent of the bishops collectively and to speak on their behalf to government and to assist and advise the bishops on education policy. The second is to be a service to the dioceses giving specialist advice and support for schools. The CES doesn’t run schools and can’t tell schools or dioceses what to do. The CES will have an officer in Cardiff.
Having given an historical overview, Mr Barber went on to say that the Church is now the biggest provider of secondary education (RC 10%, C of E 7%) ,but for primary the C of E provides 20% and the RC 10%. The CES is different from the other agencies in that it does no campaigning but supports an enormous infrastructure and workforce. It works quietly at maintaining relationships with the Government in a complex educational landscape now with academies involving contract and company law. This is a sensitive political area; some would like to abolish RC schools and yet they always outperform normal state schools, whatever the measure. A requirement to teach community cohesion was introduced thinking this would target faith schools – RC schools turned out to be twice as good as average on community cohesion.
Free Schools: These are legally just academies with a particular route to establishment. There are now 250 RC secondary academies. The Government has a policy of imposing a cap of 50% on religious admissions, if oversubscribed, on all new free schools. This policy reneges on the policies established in 1944 and earlier. The Bishops will not accept this and are trying to persuade the government to drop the requirement. This policy is part of the coalition agreement aimed by the Liberal Democrats at Muslim schools. In theory one can start a new voluntary-aided school – in practice there is no grant funding available.
The bishops are responsible for faith teaching in school. Catechesis is between two people who share the faith. Up to the ‘80s, a certain amount of this was done in schools. The bishops now want this to take place in the parish. RE is a rigorous academic subject; it needs to be an exam subject to be taken seriously. There used to be RC papers and we are now seeking a Catholic option in the subject at GCSE and A level. Sex education is compulsory at secondary level but not at primary – yet. Parents may withdraw their children.
Replies to Further Questions on Abortion
The sexual health team at the Department of Health want to relax the licencing requirements for abortion clinics so that abortions can be performed by nurses only. A ComRes poll had found that 92% of the public felt it was wrong for a woman to have an abortion without seeing doctor.
Euthanasia of children in Belgium and Holland
There had been a debate on assisted dying in the House of Lords on 5th March. Baroness Jay wanted Kier Starmer’s guidelines to be made into statute law. The motive for assisting in suicide must be compassion, not gain. 98 cases had been reported to the DPP; half were dropped straight away. Baroness Jay had said that we have amateur assisted dying, when we should have professional assisted dying. In the Netherlands the Groningen protocol was accepted for child euthanasia. However 40 Belgian paediatricians had written that in their experience no child had ever requested death.
The following is a text of a lecture given by the Bishop of Portsmouth, the Rt Rev’d Philip Egan, at KIng’s College London. It is pithy and to the point.
As announced elsewhere on the site, the Summer Gathering in July 2014 will be held over a weekend at Ampleforth Abbey in North Yorkshire. As a prelude to this, the most recent edition of the Ampleforth Diary, published earlier this month, carries a profile of both the Union and current Chairman, Robert Rigby.
Further details about the Summer Gathering will be circulated in the New Year.
Mrs Josephine Robinson, a former Chairman (sic) of the Association of Catholic Women was elected to the Committee.
The Chairman had written to Princess Frankopan, a onetime Vatican adviser following the demise of the Liverpool Care Pathway (LCP), as a result of the the Neuberger Report. He suggested that the group of doctors charged with looking into alternatives were keen supporters of the LCP, so there is a danger that it could be brought back and rebranded. His reason for writing was to remind Princess Frankopan that the LCP was taken up by 21 other countries including Malta, with practically no research undertaken. The Anscombe Centre has signed up to the findings of the Neuberger Report.
LCP Follow Up ad End of Life Care Bill of Rights
The Government has set up a working party (most of the members contained therein were enthusiastic supporters of the LCP) too look into end of life care. There is a real risk that the outcome could see a rebranding of the LCP. Baroness Neuberger is aware of this development and is understood to be concerned. Any end of life plan needs to be research based which the LCP was not and it is vital to ensure that any future plan has its base in solid research. Lord Falconer’s Assisted Dying Bill would now be followed up by someone else.
Three Parent Children
A letter had been had written to the Prime Minister protesting about the government’s manifest intention to introduce the production of children with the genetic material from two mothers and one father. This was contrary to human dignity and international law. (see www.care.org.uk/threeparentchildren) but would need to be approved by parliament.
Parliamentary Lobbying Bill
The Bill is intended to limit the ability to influence elections for one year before the election. Organisations must register (£5,000 in England, £2,000 in Wales, Scotland or NI) and must present accounts three-monthly or weekly before elections with a cap on total spending. This would have a chilling effect on local charities including bishops but is not expected to affect the CU. The Electoral Commission was not consulted on this.
Syrian Refugee Crisis
A Paper on Tony Cole’s recent visit to Syria was presented. It can be found on the News section of the CU website.
Sex education and the National Curriculum
Labour amendments proposed to the children and families bill would make personal, social, health education (PSHE) compulsory. Withdrawal from such lessons would no longer be at the discretion of parents but of the child. A working group to review SRE guidance was proposed which excluded parents. The Government would not accept these amendments and will not make sex education compulsory. However if Labour win the next Election, sex education would become compulsory. Parents would have no say on this. OFSTED now wants to know if primary schools are teaching about same-sex families. The concern for secondary schools seemed to be homophobic bullying. The syllabus should promote marriage, including SSM but teachers can disagree with SSM provided they adopt a reasonable and professional tone. Abortion is currently treated in this way. Guidance is needed by Catholic teachers on these subjects and the CES is working on this.
C4M and the Big Promise
The Big Promise was in fact separate from C4M. It was planning that on 8th Feb 2014, every couple in the UK will have the opportunity to re-affirm their marriage promises to each other. It plans to draw attention to the BIG Promise by coordinating those venues that wish to, in setting a new Guinness World Record for couples reaffirming their vows.
Any Other Business
The Committee heard that Kier Starmer has said that abortions based on gender are not being prosecuted due to defective legislation. 56 charities were due to meet with various MPs, Ministers and members of the House of Lords to discuss the unforeseen consequences of Government cut backs.
For a number of years, the Catholic Union, in association with the The Keys, the London branch of the Catholic Writers’ Guild, has sponsored this award which is open to all Catholic Secondary Schools across the country. Participants are invited to submit pieces of work each spring, and the pieces are judged by a panel over the summer.
This year’s first prize has been awarded to Cecile Janssen, of St Mary’s School Ascot. She received her prize, a shield to be kept for one year as well as a cash prize (£50), and books donated by the Catholic Writers’ Guild. These were presented at a meeting of the Guild at St Mary Moorfields, the only Catholic Church within the precincts of the City of London, whose Parish Priest, Canon Peter Newby is Chaplain to the Guild. The presentation included dinner and a talk by Catholic Journalist and writer Christopher Howse, a columnist on the Daily Telegraph.
The theme of this year’s Award was God’s mercy and forgiveness, and students had to discuss the importance of the Sacrament of Reconciliation, writing a letter to an imaginary friend who had challenged them on the subject.,
Pupils at a number of other schools gained runner-up prizes, including copies of YOUCAT, the new Youth Catechism, donated by the international charity AID TO THE Church in Need.
Commenting on the award, Catholic Union Chairman Robert Rigby said “I am very pleased by our continuing association with the Catholic Writers’ Guild, which does important work in allowing Catholic writers in this country a forum for the exchange of ideas and mutual support. Joanna Bogle, who is our main link with The Keys, has, as always, done sterling work in promoting this Award, which is a great way to develop budding young Catholic writers. It is an important part of our outreach and educational work in promoting the Common Good amongst a younger generation. All the prize winners deserve hearty congratulation and we especially congratulate Cecile on her excellent performance”.
The Catholic Young Writers’ Award falls under the remit of the Catholic Union Education Committee, whose recently appointed Chairman Stuart Sexton, was a one-time special adviser to Sir Keith Joseph, and brings to the role his long experience in education, both at local and national level.
Pictures from the event will be posted shortly.