Tag Archives: Westminster

Chairman’s New Year Message 2015

2014 has been another year of significant note for Catholics. In March the legislation Marriage – Same Sex Couples – Act which was passed by Parliament in July 2013 came into force allowing anyone who is registered in a civil partnership to have the ability to convert this partnership into a marriage. As of December same-sex couples already in a civil partnership can decide to remain in the legal status or convert to a marriage. Much has been written and continues to be written about this divisive legislation which to Catholics seems to water down the great sacrament of Marriage.

In February there was much joy as Archbishop Vincent Nichols became a Cardinal.  The new Cardinal as is traditional was also appointed titular bishop to a church in Rome with Cardinal Nichols being assigned to the church of The Most Holy Redeemer and St Alphonsus. Following his appointment I had a meeting with him in April and he reaffirmed his support and encouragement to the Catholic Union and the work we do to promote catholic values in public life.

In November at our AGM we  said goodbye to Lord Brennan who stepped down as our President. Lord Brennan has been a beacon of support to us all in the CU and has been a voice of common sense when speaking in the House of Lords. He has provided much needed guidance and support throughout his 12 years as President and will be sorely missed. We were able to formally thank him on 10 November when a farewell dinner was held in his honour at the RAF Club attended by many friends and members of the Union. As we all know when one door closes another opens and we are fortunate to have Sir Edward Leigh MP who agreed and was formally elected as our new President at the AGM. Sir Edward brings a wealth of experience and is a strong advocate of Catholic values and will be a real asset as we move the Union forward widening its appeal and membership base.

While talking of new appointments Bishop John Arnold was appointed the new Bishop of Salford in the autumn which was welcomed far and wide but it did mean we lost our Ecclesiastical Advisor. I have written to the Cardinal and we are awaiting news on who will be appointed as his replacement and once known we will inform our members accordingly.

And it was with great sadness we learnt of the death of Jim Dobbin MP in September one of our Vice Presidents and a great supporter, he will be missed. However at the AGM we re-elected and elected a number of new Vice Presidents and we hope they will provide the support and voice we need both in Parliament and the wider community.

In 2014 we formally had news from the Charitable Commission of our Charitable status for the Catholic Union Charitable Trust (CUCT). This will now enable us to utilise Gift Aid and all our activity except lobbying will come under the CUCT.

These activities approved for the CUCT will include Education ,Training and Religious activities including the holding of seminars, lectures, discussion groups and the implementation of a social media campaign as well as working closely with other Catholic organisations. The CUCT will formally be launched on 10 February at a reception to be held at Southwark Cathedral courtesy of Archbishop Peter Smith when it is hoped we will attract some 100 prominent Catholics.

The pursuit of the Common Good in Public Life remains the core focus of the Catholic Union and our various committees as we work towards that end. Our Committees remain at the heart of our work and I would again like to record my thanks to all those who serve on a Committee, those members who take an active interest in the Union and Noelle and Gaye in the office for their commitment and support.

The Catholic Union continues to work with members in both Houses to raise issues of the day which affect our Catholic way of life via the Parliamentary & Public Affairs Committee under the excellent Chairmanship of Dr Tony Cole. The past year they discussed and submitted papers on a wide range of issues including Assisted Suicide, Abortion by Midwives, Same Sex Marriage, Modern Slavery to name a few.

Mike Henderson has completed a full year as Chair of the CUCT Executive Committee which takes in membership, fund-raising and communications. Our website has been further updated and refined so please do visit the site http://catholicunion.org.uk

The Craigmyle lecture which is our showcase event of the year saw Ann Widdecombe speak on ‘Faith & Public Life’ to over 100 CU members and guests where she took a closer look at the interaction between faith and politics and the role of faith in modern public life. And thanks are due to John Barrie our Vice Chairman for securing Sir Rocco Forte who has agreed to deliver the 2015 Craigmyle lecture on 13th October 2015 around ‘Faith in Business’ so please make a note of this date in your diary.

Work continues apace on gaining new members with a new strategy of outreach to initially a select number of Dioceses, making contact with the relevant Bishop and then filtering down to the parish network within that Diocese. Also there are plans to update the leaflet entitled ‘Restoring Faith in Public Life’ with the aim to distribute this across the parishes in the UK as well as sending it to all prospective members of Parliament who are standing in the May General Election.

In November  Priscilla Sharp became Chairman of the newly reformed CUCT Education Committee in succession to Stuart Sexton and oversee the first of what is hoped will be a series of lectures around educational issues with Fr Michael Holman delivering a speech on 4 December entitled ‘How Can We Help Young People Grow in Their Faith in Jesus and in Their Commitment to the Church?’.

The Catholic Union has a great track record and we owe it our forebears who had the foresight to establish the Union back in 1870 to expand our reach and to remain a strong voice for Catholics in Public Life providing support and encouragement to Catholics aiming to keep the flame of common good alive in today’s ever secular world. As usual, I appeal to all members to help us in enhancing the influence of the Catholic Union by recommending potential new members.

Finally, may I take this opportunity to wish you and your families a peaceful and prosperous New Year.

Robert Rigby

29th  December 2014

 

 

 

Jim Dobbin MP RIP

Jim Dobbin, Labour MP for Heywood and Middleton in Greater Manchester since 1997, and a Vice-President of the Catholic Union, died on Sunday 7th September during a visit to Poland. As a member of the Council of Europe. he had travelled there on Friday, together with former Deputy Prime Minister Lord Prescott and fellow Labour MP Alan Meale MP. He is is survived by his wife Pat, two daughters and two sons.

A coalminer’s son, born on 26 May 1941 in Kincardine, in Fife, he went to St. Columba’s High School, Cowdenbeath and then to Napier College, Edinburgh, where he studied bacteriology and virology, before working as a microbiologist for 33 years, 22 of which were for the Royal Oldham Hospital. He was a Fellow of the Institute of Medical Laboratory Science

He was a Coucillor for Rochdale 1983-92, 1994-96, and Coucil leader 1996-97. In Parliament, he chaired the Pro Life Committee and was a member of the Involuntary Tranquillizer Addiction Group as well as the Transport Scrutiny Select Committee. He co-chaired the All Party Parliamentary Group for Child Health and Vaccine Preventable Diseases, and recently called for integrated healthcare for the developing world to help prevent diseases spreading and to improve sanitation. He voted against the same-sex marriage bill last year and spoke out against the plans in Parliament, saying: “I think MPs who voted for this change will rue the day they did so.”

Labour Party leader Ed Miliband said: “Jim’s death is a sad day for Parliament. He was a dedicated public servant, representing the people of Rochdale on the council and at Westminster for three decades. Working in the NHS for more than 30 years, Jim had a deep passion for helping others. A lifelong committed Catholic, Jim always took a lead in fostering links between the church and the Labour party, and his strong faith informed every aspect of his political and public life. This was recognised by Pope Benedict XVI when he appointed Jim a Knight of the Pontifical Order of St Gregory the Great.

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 notes of the meeting of the Parliamentary & Public Affairs Committee 13th May 2014

Correspondence

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.

Abortion

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.

Assisted Suicide

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

PHSE Sex Education Inquiry and Assisted Dying

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

Catholic Schools Admissions Policy Debate in the House of Commons April 2014

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.

Catholic Schools admission debate 30 Apr 2014

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.