The Catholic Union has called on the Government to waste no time in implementing the recommendations of a report into Christian persecution. For more details please click the link below:
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.
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.
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.
Mrs Josephine Robinson, a former Chairman (sic) of the Association of Catholic Women was elected to the Committee.
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.
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.
Tony Cole, Chairman of the PPAC gives a report of a recent visit to the Middle East and the situation facing Christians there. A trip to Jordan 2013
The Committee for 2013-2014 was announced. The Officers of the Committee remain as before, although Angela Gracey has retired and Rosalind Bearcroft, together with Stuart Sexton, is vice chair. There are presently three vacancies and names were sought to fill these.
Lord Falconer is now in the Shadow Cabinet so will not be advancing an assisted dying bill for now, although something akin to it might be put forward in Scotland.
Same Sex Marriage
C4M intend to keep the fight alive on this issue and not let politicians off the hook. The Committee’s view was that this issue is now behind us.
End of Life Care
The Catholic Medical Association has put out a statement on end of life care and Dr Tony Cole was congratulated by the Committee for all his hard work in helping to bring about the demise of the Liverpool Care Pathway. NHS Trusts are looking at end of life procedures. An end of life care Bill of Rights is now under considerations by such groups as Living & Dying Well. There was a discussion on gender-based abortion – in the majority of cases these are undertaken given the supposed unstable mental state of the mother. Failure to prosecute for such abortions was felt to be an ethical, rather than a judicial matter.
All Party Group on international freedom of religion or belief
This group has written a letter signed by a number of MPs, asking the Government to appoint an ambassador for international freedom of religion or belief.
Proposed anti-slavery Bill
This welcome proposal seeks to disrupt gang trafficking amongst men and women and also to offer some form of help to the victims. The Bishops would be meeting with Frank Field MP to discuss this further.
Parliamentary Lobbying Bill
“Transparency of Lobbying, Non-party Campaigning and Trade Union Administration Bill 2013-14”. It was intended to limit the ability influence elections. It would limit spend and increase the scope of activities covered.
- introduces a statutory register of consultant lobbyists and establishes a Registrar to enforce the registration requirements;
- regulates more closely election campaign spending by those not standing for election or registered as political parties ;
- Strengthens the legal requirements placed on trade unions in relation to their obligation to keep their list of members up to date. It could have a chilling effect on some charities.
“One of Us” Campaign
This campaign aims to acquire a million signatures with a view to opening a debate in the European Parliament on ending funding from research using embryonic stem cells (we can’t destroy embryos because they are “one of us”).
The following is the text of the Holy Father’s Homily, delivered in St Peter’s Square at the Vigil for Peace in Syria, on Saturday 7th September 2013.
An outline report was given of a meeting held in late June between the Catholic Union, represented by Robert Rigby and John Barrie and the Bishops’ Conference, represented by Mgr Marcus Stock and Charles Wookey. During the course of the meeting, it was suggested that the Catholic Union should consult other Catholic bodies to ascertain possible areas of alignment and synergy. Introductions to a number of prominent Catholics in public life were offered, as the Catholic Union could play a role in bringing Catholics together. Subsequent to the meeting a memorandum was received suggesting that the Catholic Union is out of step in today’s world. A measured response has been sent to the Bishops’ Conference.
The Chairman considered that the PPAC membership is a good example of linking with other organisations, given the scope of memberships and affiliations currently enjoyed by the PPAC members.
The Married Couples’ Tax Allowance has been accepted by the Government and will appear in the Chancellor’s Autumn Statement
Same Sex Marriage
A letter had been received from Oliver Letwin MP regarding same sex marriage and safeguards for teachers who teach traditional marriage. The letter made clear that Mr Letwin regards same sex marriage as nothing more than a ceremony and so has no idea of the wider ramifications and time-honoured role of true marriage in society. The Prime Minister is understood to regard same sex marriage as merely a “relabeling” of the wedding ceremony. With regard to the safeguards for teachers, this appeared to be seen as straightforward and of little issue.
The House Lords did not feel that they should frustrate the will of the elected chamber (from where many of their number have come). 10 Amendments were moved – these were moderate and well-phrased – all were defeated. The legislation has been rushed through and is badly drafted. The law will be tested in the Courts. There were a total of 55 Lords Amendments. The campaign against same sex marriage will have to be carried on from a Catholic perspective. The position for teachers and others will be extremely difficult, since they will be tied by both SSM legislation and the Equality Act. It was pointed out that although the Bill has been passed, pressure against the law should be maintained by members of the Union and by the public, so that David Cameron is not allowed to forget the opposition this measure has generated. This pressure should be maintained until the 2015 General Election at least.
Neuberger Review – The Liverpool Care Pathway
The final report is extremely welcome. The Liverpool Care Pathway is to be terminated with immediate effect and replaced with individual care plans in consultation with patients and relatives. The CMA has put together a list of 6 key questions that families and patients can ask, which include, how near to death is the patient, what is the effect of the drugs likely to be and will they suffer thirst. The Falconer Bill on Assisted Dying is due in the autumn. There has been a softening of language and a gradual change in attitude.
Embryology – Question by Lord Alton in the Lords
The Government is set to introduce regulation by 2014 so that Medical Research Council guidelines become standard practice. It was noted that germ line medical procedure is extremely risky. The Committee was advised that Josephine Quintavalle is taking the lead on countering this with a meeting in October to gather one million signatures in order to procure a debate on the matter in the European Parliament.
School Governors and Local Councillors
The position of local councillors and school governors as Catholics working at a local level “on the front line”, trying to ensure compatibility between their beliefs and what is asked of them. The case of the Plymouth Brethren, a narrow, yet extremely law abiding Protestant sect, who do not wish to engage with the secular agenda and thereby risk losing their charitable status, was given as a case in point. The secular agenda is increasingly incompatible with Christian belief and mores
The general feeling is that this is a very low priority for the FCO. President Assad protects the Christians as part of the pluralist society in Syria. Arming the rebels would be unhelpful in this regard. The exemplary work of Baroness Cox in working against Christian persecution globally was cited.