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.