Tag Archives: family life

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 and Public Affairs Committee 14th January 2014

Chairman’s Announcements

David O’Mahony, a CU Council Member, was suggested as a prospective member of the Committee.

Synod Questionnaire on Family Life

Elizabeth Davis, Marriage and Family Life Project Officer of the Bishops’ Conference, gave a presentation on the Synod Questionnaire. It was not a survey but a consultation on experience. The online questionnaire was aimed at reaching those who did not go to church on Sundays. Since the responses had not yet been collected it was not possible to say how many there had been. However it had been taken up with enthusiasm. Many respondents stated had struggled to be faithful to the Church’s teaching. The objective was to help with setting the agenda for the next Synod of Bishops in Rome. It should not be seen as a prelude to a change in doctrine and it was hoped from a clear statement confirming this from the Bishops.

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). The Chairman had written again to a named civil servant at the Department of Health about the dangers of this procedure and the lack of an ethical framework.  He would write again to Jeremy Hunt seeking an answer to his questions.

Parliamentary Lobbying Bill

The threshold for registration has been raised from £5,000 to £20,000 in England and from £2,000 to £10,000 in Wales, following a great deal of lobbying against the original proposals. The maximum has been raised to £450,000. Any higher figure will be deemed illegal. The “restricted period” has been reduced to 7.5 months. The courts can deem organisations to be cooperating without evidence. This could be an effect free speech. It is unlikely to affect the CU, given the budgets involved.

Plight of Syrian Refugees

As a result of a papal initiative the Holy See was bringing together the parties involved to discuss humanitarian relief (to both sides), a cease fire and finally a political settlement. The meeting deplored the government’s refusal to receive any refugees. Many Syrian refugees, in particular Christians, were in great danger and some, at least should be welcomed here.

Euthanasia

The CU is on the advisory group of Care not Killing (CNK), an alliance of some 40 organisations opposed to euthanasia. Margo Macdonald MSP, has sufficient signatures to introduce the Assisted Dying Scotland bill, despite the result to the consultation being 65% against. A “trained facilitator” could assist any mentally competent adult with a terminal condition. At Westminster, the Falconer Bill is to be reintroduced with softened wording. The Lords would not normally divide on a second reading but should be encouraged to do so, on this point of principle.

The Follow-on from the Liverpool Care Pathway (LACDP)

This LACDP consultation has no recognition of the need for a research base to underpin their recommendations. There is a suspicion that doctors will resort to familiar methods of treatment. To provide an alternative, the Medical Ethics Alliance has produced a document which the chairman had sent to the minister. The backlash against the LCP came from relatives, and doctors are now more cautious about using it for fear of being sued.

House of Lords Debate on end of life care 12th December 2013

This debate was initiated by Baroness Jolly on behalf of the Department of Health proposing that GPs should nominate the 1% of patients expected to die within the next 12 months in order to enable arrangements for their care to be discussed with them. The Government wishes to save money by keeping old people out of hospital since most people prefer to die at home. There were significant practical problems with this and the existence of a “death list” is extremely unhelpful.

MEA Conference on Mental Health and Abortion 21st November 2013

The topic “Mental health reasons for abortion – are there any?” Speakers were a consultant psychologist, a consultant psychiatrist, a GP and a lawyer. The conclusion was “no, there are not” and further, the Medical Colleges concluded abortion was of no benefit to mental health; stress and anxiety were not per se a threat to mental health. However the purpose of the conference was get the message out that what happens now is a charade. Doctors without mental health training or experience go through the requisite administration without asking any questions.. However there is now disquiet about the working of the Act from the gender imbalance caused by gender based abortion. The Dept of Health said only in 46% of cases, had one or both doctors actually seen the woman. The situation in the remaining 54% was uncertain and the DoH seems to have no interest in ensuring the figures were correct. The BPAS, which performs a majority of abortions, has a policy which states any unwanted pregnancy is grounds for abortion. This explicitly contradicts the official DoH policy.  MPs must ask hard questions to press home this point and so reveal the DoH’s real policy of abortion on demand.

“Rules for Migrants are a scandal” Archbishop Nicholls

The Archbishop h had strongly condemned a Government policy which prevented a UK citizen from bringing in a spouse from outside the EU unless s/he had an after tax income of over £18,500 p.a, well above the minimum wage. This led to families being split up and children being raised without one or other of their parents. The committee was not in agreement over this policy.

Any Other Business

Ministers want to replace anti-social behaviour orders in England and Wales with injunctions to prevent nuisance and annoyance. One man’s annoyance is another’s free speech and it was thrown out by the Lords 346 Votes to178.  The Government’s reaction waits to be seen.

 

 

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.

Summary of the Parliamentary & Public Affairs Committee 19th November 2013

Chairman’s Announcements

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

Correspondence

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.

Importance of Families

Archbishop Vincent Nichols addressed Britain’s faith, education and third sector leaders at a civil society summit hosted by Citizens UK on 19 June2013

The full text of his address follows:
Planning ahead for a generation invites us to hold present before us those who will come after us. At the same time we must also hold dear the good things we receive from those who came before us. It is these good things received, proven by the test of time, that we wish to gift to the next generation, not to restrict but to enrich. If we forget the past we will lose the future. More specifically, I want to emphasise the need to treasure the irreplaceable role of families in handing on the principles, values and ways of life that form and nurture good citizens one generation after another.

In the immediacy of present hardship families are often best placed to respond to those who are bearing the stress of deprivation, as a source of either practical or emotional help. Also families can be channels used to bring extra help to the growing number of children in our society who do not receive proper levels of nourishment or who lack adequate clothing. It is distressing to know that charities now using schools to distribute clothing to families in crisis, as well as providing food first thing in the school day.

But in the long term there are crucial values that families, with the right support, can help to establish and nurture. For example, the family is rooted in, and fosters, that faithfulness and commitment upon which our civil society depends. Within families there exists and is passed on a culture of relating well one to another. This does not mean relating easily. It means working hard at sustaining relationships in good times and bad. It means giving time to relationships for their own sake. It means learning and practicing love.

This love, which often alone holds a family together, is strong and expansive enough to embrace uniqueness, individuality. Such love fully respects each member, letting flourish his or her dignity as a person: a person whose value is not reduced to spending power; a person who is not reduced to an anonymous digit by an overly bureaucratic state; a person who is not reduced to a unit of economic production or a potential vote on a ballot paper. Love recognises and cherishes the inner life of each person, their capacity for fun and laughter, their tears when distressed and in pain, their joy in beauty and, most of all, their loveliness and generosity in giving and receiving love itself. In this way the family teaches that we are spiritual beings, and that we instinctively reach out for the spiritual, for the face of God, and for fulfilment in relationship with the living and true God. When this spiritual depth of every person is forgotten then we have indeed lost our future.

Families at their best are not sealed units, only looking inwards; rather the love and values they hold are open to others. Families are crucial building blocks of a stable society, tutoring young people in commitment to wider projects. This tutoring is so essential for all ‘covenantal’ enterprises in our society, to use a phrase of Lord Sachs, the outgoing Chief Rabbi. As you will know he distinguishes society’s activities into the political, the economic and the covenantal. And it is last of these, the enterprises we take on for shared common purpose, that most enrich our lives. I can certainly testify to the rich contribution families make to the life and living mission of the Church. Families give credible witness to the Church’s proclamation of the need for faithfulness and of virtues that endure from one generation to the next, in contrast to the short-term self- gratification and other values of today’s fashion which threaten the well-being of our single, human family, both now and in future generations.

Our society, and the Church, will continue to thrive just so long as we continue to offer that support to families which enables them to fulfil this tremendous potential for good. Perhaps at this Summit we might identify more precisely the nature of the support families need.

For instance, support in the form of better and more affordable housing to alleviate the pressure on family relationships that overcrowding and high rents cause. Would Community Land Trusts offer a most effective way to tackle these problems by allowing people to purchase homes at affordable rates based on local incomes, in places to which they would have a long-term commitment and where there is space for families to thrive? Only 200 yards from here is the East London Community Land trust, the first in the UK and the result of long effort by Citizens UK.

Within this vision of the family, a special word must be said about the role of fathers.

You know, one of the most satisfying titles for any priest is ‘Father’, because our role is to help raise the next generation, to nurture within youngsters a deep sense of vocation, of commitment and faithful service to others, rooted in a growing relationship with God. I like to think whatever fatherly qualities my ministry possess are qualities inherited from my own father. He was a principled man, yet combined high expectations with a wonderful depth of compassion. He was a teacher and a perfectionist, in everything he wanted to achieve, whether it was making a book-case or helping me with my homework. He used to drive me crazy because I wanted to get it finished quickly and out to play. I wanted to make do and move on. He wanted it done properly, from first principles. I am sure that those two incentives are still at work in me today!

Now in wishing to emphasise the importance of fathers, I acknowledge immediately that just as all families do not actually fit the description of family life I have given, so neither are all fathers – or priests – exactly brilliant. But this raises the question: why not? Just as we need to examine what support families need in order to be all they have the power to be, so we must ask: what support do those who have fathered children require so that they can truly be fathers?

Please do not misunderstand me. I also want to make it absolutely clear that I have no desire whatsoever to belittle mothers bringing up children on their own, nor the children themselves. We all know fantastic mothers who, without the presence of the father, are bringing up their children to be great citizens of the future. And in some cases we may have to admit this wouldn’t be the case were the father still on the scene!

Yet this should not stop us celebrating fatherhood and highlighting the positive contribution fathers make to families and to society. Committed, faithful fathers are good for their children – for their educational achievement, psychological well-being and their social behaviour.

To a significant degree, a father influences his children through the quality of his relationship with the mother of his children. When he enjoys a healthy relationship with her, he’s probably going to spend greater time with his children. A mother who is genuinely loved and valued by her children’s father shares this affirmation with her children. Evidence indicates that fathers who treat the mother of their children with respect, and deal with conflict in an adult and appropriate manner, are more likely to have sons who understand how they are to treat women and who are less likely to act in an aggressive fashion towards them. Girls with respectful fathers involved in their upbringing learn how they should expect men to treat them. They are less likely to become ensnared in violent or unhealthy relationships. Whilst, of course, many generous and committed fathers are found outside of marriage, it seems that they are more likely to be found within the bond of marriage itself.

The powerful and positive influence fathers can have on the formation of tomorrow’s good citizens, is a precious gift which we must take every opportunity to support.

Promoting the Living Wage, for example, already provides such support by enabling fathers to meet their families’ needs with pride and dignity. For over one hundred years, Catholic Social Teaching has proposed that fair pay is one that enables the employees to meet the needs of their families. This underpins the Living Wage now endorsed by politicians of all sides and accepted by hundreds of businesses. And yet more than five million workers bring home an income insufficient to cover basic outgoings, the significant majority of child poverty exists in working households, and low paid workers now make up the largest group relying on food banks for their meals.

So there is much to be done. We cannot remain satisfied with simply discussing ways in which family, marriage, fatherhood can be better supported when planning ahead for a generation. Rather, together let’s seek the means to make sure this planning becomes reality.