Tag Archives: euthanasia

A North Yorkshire Interlude – the Catholic Union Summer Gathering 2014

The Summer Gathering this year took place at Ampleforth Abbey in Yorkshire.  Here, Robert RIgby, Chairman of the CU and an Old Amplefordian, shares his reflections on the weekend:

This year’s Catholic Union summer gathering took place at Ampleforth from Friday 25 – Sunday 27 July 2014. It was attended by some 25 Catholic Union members with a good mix of members from both the north and south of the country. This was the first time in many years that this hasevent moved beyond the Home Counties and judging by the reaction, it will not be long before it once again is taken into the regions.

Ampleforth provided a perfect backdrop – allowing both the formal side of the occasion to proceed which included discussions on the strategy of the CU and issues of the day, as well as a spiritual element ensuring members could tap into the monastic offices of the day including Matins at 6am….

The main business was carried out on Saturday 26 July with the conference getting off to a spiritual and thought provoking start with Fr Terence Richardson OSB, the Prior, providing a talk , The Prophetic Voice  The Prior highlighted the prophet as one who sees the truth and tells the truth and referred to the criticism of the current church as a sign of health. The presence of the prophetic in the secular world is a sign of a healthy society.

Lord Brennan, attending his final conference as President, (he steps down in November after 12 years at the helm) provided his usual enlightening take on the issues of the day, as well as those affecting the CU. These are momentous times he said, life is changing fast and the challenges we face are complicated but not insurmountable. He talked about three key issues – Parliament & Public Life, Society Today and the Future and offered some wise council on how the CU should position itself going forward as well as ideas on increasing our membership base in an ever secular and demanding world.

In the afternoon members engaged in an open discussion on the role of the CU in today’s society. Robert Rigby, Chairman set the scene by providing members with feedback on a meeting he had held with Cardinal Nichols in April. Dr Tony Cole, Chairman of the Parliamentary Affairs Committee, summarised some of the key issues facing Catholics today and issues either currently debated or about to be on the agenda in Parliament. Both these talks set off a chain of lively discussions which also included Faith Schools and the ever increasing attack being waged against them.

The day ended with a jovial dinner attended by Fr Christopher Gorst, Sub Prior.

On Sunday members attended High Mass, before enjoying a final get together over coffee in the main hall with parishioners and members of the wider local community around Ampleforth.

Robert Rigby

28th July 2014

 

Robert Rigby, Fr Terence (Prior), Lord Brennan, John Barrie

Robert Rigby, Fr Terence (Prior), Lord Brennan, John Barrie

Members of the CU at Ampleforth

Members of the CU at Ampleforth

 

 

 

The Falconer Bill – a Spectator’s View from Parliament Square

On Friday 18th July, CU member Michael Straiton joined the large group massed outside the Houses of Parliament, which was following the progress of the Falconer Bill on Assisted Dying, being debated in the House of Lords that day.  Below he shares some reflections:

Following our debate at the PPAC on Lord Falconer’s Assisted Dying Bill, I decided to join the demonstration of disabled people and others who had assembled across the road opposite the Peers’ Entrance to the House of Lords two days later on 18th July. The police had separated the groups who were lobbying for and against the Bill that would give doctors the legal right to “assist” people to die, waving banners to the peers as they went in, then to traffic and passers-by. .

A record 150 peers attended the House that morning to debate Lord Falconer’s Assisted Dying Bill when each member was allowed four minutes to state their case. Many, like the severely disabled Baroness Jane Campbell and Lord David Alton, spoke eloquently against the Bill. The Strangers’ Gallery in the House was well attended to hear the noble Lords state their case.

The arguments on both sides were poignant. I circulated round both camps outside and those in favour of the measure gave horrifying stories of loved-ones who had died in terrible pain and distress, evidently not having had adequate end-of-life palliative care. There were many brave disabled people who celebrated life and felt that they would be under threat if the Bill ever became law. One demonstrator from Holland told of the mobile “euthanasia vans” that, if a G.P. refused to kill his patient, would oblige with a lethal home visit.

We must clearly keep up the pressure against this Bill that the weak, elderly and disabled fear so much.

Dr Michael Straiton KSG

Assisted Dying Bill – Faith Leaders’ statement

We append below, a statement from the various faith leaders in this country, written in response to the forthcoming Bill on Assisted Dying, to be debated in the House of Lords on Friday 18th July:

The Archbishop of Canterbury, the Cardinal Archbishop of Westminster, the Chief Rabbi of the United Hebrew Congregations of the Commonwealth and the Secretary General of the Muslim Council of Britain are amongst the 24 faith leaders who have today voiced their shared concerns about Lord Falconer’s Assisted Dying Bill. In a joint statement to Members of the House of Lords they say: “While we may have come to the position of opposing this bill from different religious perspectives, we are agreed that the Assisted Dying Bill invites the prospect of an erosion of carefully tuned values and practices that are essential for the future development of a society that respects and cares for all.”

The leaders and senior representatives are drawn from a broad coalition of Christian churches and denominations, and from the Jewish, Muslim, Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist, Jain and Zoroastrian faiths. Lord Falconer’s Bill will be debated in the House of Lords on 18th July 2014. The statement in full, with signatories, is below.

To Members of the House of Lords:

As leaders of faith communities, we wish to state our joint response to Lord Falconer’s Assisted Dying Bill. We do so out of deep human concern that if enacted, this bill would have a serious detrimental effect on the wellbeing of individuals and on the nature and shape of our society.

Every human life is of intrinsic value and ought to be affirmed and cherished. This is central to our laws and our social relationships; to undermine this in any way would be a grave error. The Assisted Dying Bill would allow individuals to participate actively in ending others’ lives, in effect colluding in the judgment that they are of no further value. This is not the way forward for a compassionate and caring society.

 

‪Vulnerable individuals must be cared for and protected even if this calls for sacrifice on the part of others. Each year many thousands of elderly and vulnerable people suffer abuse; sadly, often at the hands of their families or carers. Being perceived as a burden or as a financial drain is a terrible affliction to bear, leading in many cases to passivity, depression and self-loathing. The desire to end one’s life may, at any stage of life, be prompted by depression or external pressure; any suggestion of a presumption that such a decision is ‘rational’ does not do justice to the facts. The Assisted Dying Bill can only add to the pressures that many vulnerable, terminally ill people will feel – placing them at increased risk of distress and coercion at a time when they most require love and support.

‪A key consideration is whether the Assisted Dying Bill will place more vulnerable people at risk than it seeks to help. We have seen, in recent years that even rigorous regulation and careful monitoring have not prevented the most serious lapses of trust and care in some parts of the NHS and within a number of Care Homes. It is naïve to believe that, if assisted suicide were to be legalised, proposed safeguards would not similarly be breached with the most disastrous of consequences, by their nature irrevocable.

The bill raises the issue of what sort of society we wish to become: one in which life is to be understood primarily in terms of its usefulness and individuals evaluated in terms of their utility, or one in which every person is supported, protected and cherished even if, at times, they fail to cherish themselves. While we may have come to the position of opposing this bill from different religious perspectives, we are agreed that the Assisted Dying Bill invites the prospect of an erosion of carefully tuned values and practices that are essential for the future development of a society that respects and cares for all. Better access to high-quality palliative care, greater support for carers and enhanced end of life services will be among the hallmarks of a truly compassionate society and it is to those ends that our energies ought to be harnessed.

 

Signatories:

Bhai Sahib Mohinder Singh Ahluwalia, Chairman, Guru Nanak

Nishkam Sewak Jatha

Mr Yousif Al-Khoei, Director Al-Khoei Foundation

‪Rev Dr Martyn Atkins, General Secretary of the Methodist Church and Secretary of the Conference

‪Bishop Eric Brown, Administrative Bishop, New Testament Church of God

Mr Malcolm M Deboo, President, Zoroastrian Trust Funds of Europe

‪Rev Jonathan Edwards, Deputy Moderator Free Churches Group

Pastor John Glass, General Superintendent, Elim Pentecostal Churches

Revd David Grosch-Miller and Mr John Ellis, Moderators of the United Reformed Church General Assembly

‪Colonel David Hinton, Chief Secretary, The Salvation Army United Kingdom

Rev Stephen Keyworth, Faith and Society Team Leader, Baptist Union of

Great Britain

Ayatollah Fazel Milani, Dean of the International Colleges of Islamic Studies

Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis, Chief Rabbi of the United Hebrew

Congregations of the Commonwealth

Most Rev Dr Barry Morgan, Archbishop of Wales

‪His Eminence Cardinal Vincent Nichols, Archbishop of Westminster

Rev John Partington, National Leader, Assemblies of God

Mr Ramesh Pattni, Secretary General, Hindu Forum of Britain

Bishop Wilton Powell, National Overseer, Church of God of Prophecy

Maulana Shahid Raza OBE, Leicester Central Mosque, Leicester

Venerable Bogoda Seelawimala, Chief Sangha Nayake of Great Britain, London Buddhist Vihara

Dr Shuja Shafi, Secretary General of the Muslim Council of Britain

Dr Natubhai Shah, Chairman/CEO Jain Network

‪Lord Indarjit Singh, Director Network of Sikh Organisations (UK)

Most Rev and Rt Hon Justin Welby, Archbishop of Canterbury

Bishop Mark Davies on the false mercy of Assisted Suicide

The Bishop of Shrewsbury, the Rt Rev’d Mark Davies, has issued a Pastoral Letter, in which he warns against the far reaching implications for the elderly and most vulnerable in our society if the revised bill on Assisted Suicide, due to come before the House of Lords on 18th July, goes through.  The full text of the Pastoral Letter can be found below:

The False Mercy of Assisted Suicide

Summary of the Parliamentary & Public Affairs Committe Meeting March 2014

Chairman’s Announcements

The Chairman proposed Patricia Stoad as a member of the Committee which was unanimously accepted.

Correspondence

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.

Summary of the Parliamentary & Public Affairs Committee Meeting – 11th February 2014

Chairman’s Announcements

David O’Mahony, a CU Council Member, was elected a member of the Committee.

Correspondence

The chairman had written to Jane Spencer at the Department of Health about the dangers of mitochondrial donations and the lack of an ethical framework. He asked for details of the advice received by the government. He received a reply from a senior official, saying there was an expert committee that had met three times and which advised that was no great danger in mitochondrial donation. There was no reply on the ethical basis. There was however a reference to a web site Catherine Sampson (sic). This is in fact a high powered scientific committee which has met twice and is due to meet again. Parliament in 2008 effectively cleared the way for mitochondrial donation. It was concluded it was safe for [laboratory animals] and should be tested on primates.  If used on humans it should be followed up for a long time; this is not in fact a green light. There has been a public consultation, now finished. It looks as if the government are determined to introduce mitochondrial donation. In 2008 the government had removed the right for those born via IVF et al to know the identity of their biological parents. This would mean the subjects of mitochondrial donation could not be informed of this. There had been no answer on the subject of ethics.  Britain has no medical ethics committee. “Consequential ethics” now seems popular, that is, the end justifies the means.  Any action on this taken by the Bishops’ Conference is to be advised to the Committee in due course.

MSP Vote on SSM 4th February 2014

This vote in the Scottish parliament to redefine marriage was carried by 105 votes to 18 with supporters of traditional marriage subject to verbal abuse. Amendments to protect teachers, adopters, fosterers etc. were all defeated. Scotland is becoming very nearly a totalitarian society. Anyone who disagrees with same sex marriage will be called intolerant, discriminatory and hateful and may lose their position in public bodies. Further, the Children and Young Person’s bill introduces a “Named Person” imposed by the state on every child without consent and without opt-out whose function, according to the Bill “cannot be carried out by a parent of the child or young person”. People are regarding developments in Scotland as a social revolution. People now live in fear of being overheard in a public place, being reported to the police and arrested, in some cases held overnight. It was agreed the CU should revive an active committee to support John Deighan in presenting parliamentary developments to the Catholic public. The guidelines for sex education were being revised; this should be resisted because current guidelines give parents a very strong position to demand to know what was being taught. The Labour party had tried to introduce sex education into the primary curriculum but had been defeated.

The Lunacek road map for LBGT rights has been overwhelmnigly accepted by the European Parliament.  It calls for the criminalisation of homophobia throughout Europe, for same sex marriage in every country, for teaching of homosexual practice to all children from which parents may not dissent and people who speak out against are to be silenced.

 

Plight of Syrian Refugees

The government has now agreed to take in a limited number of Syrian refugees.  A Syrian Catholic Bishop warned against the possibility of a mass exodus of educated Syrians, who would be needed during the process of reconstruction and development in the hopefully near future.

Assisted Dying

The Falconer Bill is not being put before the House of Lords, although Lord Falconer denied claims in a Times article (20th January) that his Bill was about euthanasia, rather it was about allowing those terminally ill patients wishing to die access to drugs to enable them to do so.  Belgium and Dutch law covers the non-terminally ill.   A Bill on Assisted Dying is likely to be presented in the next session of Parliament, with input from Living and Dying Well, which will hopefully be better drafted than the Belgian and Dutch versions.

Sir Edward Leigh MP – Further Questions on Abortion

The government reported there had been an error in their previous reply. Sir Edward therefore asked the following questions:

i.      When the problem on the extraction of data had first started and what the government intended to do about it.

ii.     Is there any data on how many women seeking abortion had actually met the authorising medical practitioner;

iii.   How many of these practitioners have training in mental health issues.

A ComRes poll had found that 95% of the public felt it was wrong for a woman to have an abortion without seeing doctor.

Westminster Hall Speech on Marriage – Sir Edward Leigh MP

This speech was well received by the press.  The speech was part of a Westminster Hall debate about strengthening relationships among couples.

Any Other Business

Injunctions to prevent Nuisance and Annoyance replacing ASBOs had been defeated by the Lords and replaced by Injunctions against causing Harassment, Alarm or Distress.

A UN committee on the Rights of the Child severely criticised the Holy See for concealing child abuse by priests. In fact responsibility here lies with diocesan bishops, not the Holy See, who must act in accordance with the civil law of the local jurisdiction which subsists to Canon Law.

Summary of the Parliamentary & Public Affairs Committee 17th December 2013

Chairman’s Announcements

Mrs Josephine Robinson, a former Chairman (sic) of the Association of Catholic Women was elected to the Committee.

Correspondence

A letter had been written to the Prime Minister and the Dept. of Health regarding the proposal to allow the production of embryos with two mothers and one father (hoping to prevent mitochondrial disease in the child). Two near identical replies had been received, referring to an imminent consultation and to a commission of “international experts” who said there was no concern for safety. However, IVF is known to increase the risk of birth defects, cancer and mental retardation. It is irresponsible to predict no risk with this even more radical procedure. The Chairman would write to Jeremy Hunt and to his own MP, questioning the safety of this procedure and seeking the identity of the “international experts”.

Same sex marriage in Scotland and Northern Ireland

The debate in the Scottish Parliament on this issue has been astonishingly abusive. It is expected that the SSM Bill will be approved by early March 2014. The Chairman is due to talk to the Political Officer of the Scottish Bishops conference. The Northern Ireland Assembly will not entertain SSM, but will accept as civil partners, those same sex couples married elsewhere in the UK.

Gender-based abortion

The Government stated that the law would be enforced, but has also said there are many grounds for seeking an abortion. It is unlikely that the Government will do anything in this regard.

Survey on Family Life

There had been 12,000 responses nationally to this Vatican survey. There was uncertainty about what the survey was intended to accomplish or what it was capable of accomplishing. It was thought it might be about how care is provided to people in family life, in particular, sacramental care from the Church.

Parliamentary Lobbying Bill

This Bill could obstruct free speech prior to General Elections. CAFOD is making a list of Part One Catholic lobbyists; Caritas Social Care of Part Two lobbyists with a view to joint approaches to the Government.

Extension of euthanasia in Belgium

The Belgian Parliament has passed legislation whereby children of 12 and below with terminal illness and unbearable pain could choose to die, or their parents and next of kin, where such consent is unavailable, could do so in their place When they are near to death, these children are claimed to increase in maturity. There were 1,132 cases of euthanasia in 2012; 25% up on 2011.We should note this lest attempts are made to introduce it in England. Other approaches to child euthanasia were the LCP and the Groningen protocol in the Netherlands.

Abortion on mental health grounds

The chairman had given a Parliamentary Question to Sir Edward Leigh. It said abortions were being carried out on Ground C (risk to the mother’s mental health) without mental health being assessed and by doctors not trained to assess mental health. There is a statement by the Academy of Royal Colleges that there is no difference to the mother’s mental health whether she has an abortion or gives birth What is currently going on is fraudulent.  It was suggested that the thrust of the argument should move away from time limits, to pointing out the number of fraudulent abortions being carried out in a local area, to make it real to people.  The late Phyllis Bowman (LIFE) used to say she would be perfectly content if the Abortion law were honoured. However, it would be necessary to convince juries that there is no risk to mental health. The CU and others should continue to raise awareness and press that Ground C be removed or at least observed.

Anti-Social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Bill

This Bill provides that if a nuisance or annoyance is caused to any person, they can apply for an Injunction to Prevent Nuisance and Annoyance (or IPNAS). The Christian Institute has pointed out this could conceivably cover carol singing, street preaching, children playing football in the street. Local Authorities, police and private security firms can also hand out Public Spaces Protection Orders (PSPOs) in order to restrict any activity deemed to have a “detrimental effect on the quality of life of those in the locality”.  It was hoped that common sense would prevail in such cases.

Persecution of Christians – Westminster Hall Debate 3rd December

This debate was initiated by Jim Shannon MP (DUP). He said Christianity is the most persecuted religion at the present time. One Christian dies for their faith every eleven minutes. Persecution starts with discrimination in business, in civic life, education and politics. In some countries it was illegal to possess a Bible and there was forcible conversion to Islam. Sir Edward Leigh MP said that the worst crisis no one had ever heard of is in Pakistan. Western intervention could make things worse (lecturing by former colonial masters). However many countries persecuting Christians receive money from the UK Government.

Any other Business

Assisted Dying Bill – This had been shelved for now, but a more comprehensive version will be introduced in the next session of Parliament.  The Supreme Court is considering Article 8 rights to respect for private life for Nicklinson/Lamb.

Protection of the Vulnerable – NHS England had set up the LACDP (Leadership Alliance for the Care of Dying People) to advise the Secretary of State for Health by 6th January 2014, on what should replace the LCP. Dr Cole had met its chair, Dr Bee Wee, and had agreed that anyone entering hospital should have confidence that they would receive evidence-based treatment compassionately and ethically applied. “More Care Less Pathway” had been set up to counter it and seek a meeting with Norman Lamb MP, minister for health, to slow the process and give time for the counter views (now accepted by the BCEW) to be considered.

Lord Brennan – Living and Dying Well Report

Lord Brennan

Lord Brennan

In his speech at the Catholic Union AGM in November, CU President Lord Brennan (pictured above), drew attention to a report he co-authored, on end of life care, which can be read here: LDW – REPORT – ‘ASSISTED DYING’ AND THE LAW

This is an extremely pertinent topic at the present time, drawing as it does upon issues of human dignity, the right to life and end-of-life care.