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Teaching Sexuality Following the Mind of the Church – A Lecture by Louise Kirk

On 8th June, 2015, Louise Kirk gave a talk at Notre Dame University, London SW1, on how the Catholic Church could take the lead in sex education away from an existing establishment whose evident failures make it vulnerable to attack. Her talk was followed by a lively discussion over a glass of wine. Read her address here.

Louise Kirk is UK Co-ordinator for the international PSHE programme Alive to the World and author of Sexuality Explained: a Guide for Parents and Children. She serves on Shrewsbury Diocese’s Commission for Marriage and Family Life. To read more about her work, see:

Pope’s Encyclical published ‘Care for our Common Home’

Pope Francis’s encyclical is focused on the idea of connecting care of the natural world with justice for the poorest and most vulnerable people. Only by radically reshaping our relationships with God, with our neighbours and with the natural world, he says, can we hope to tackle the threats facing our planet today. Click to view this encyclical which forms part of the Church’s social teaching.

Summary of the Parliamentary & Public Affairs Committee, 14th May 2013

Chairman’s Announcements

The 3rd Reading of the Same Sex Marriage is taking place on 20th May with an accompanying prayer vigil outside.

Reference was made to Fiona Bruce’s Private Member’s Bill concerning mental capacity – topical in light of the Liverpool Care Pathway and related issues.

Presentation on the Catholic Legislators’ Network

Robert Flellow MP gave a short presentation on the Catholic Legislators’ Network, of which he is the convenor.  It is presently an informal gathering of MPs, which has had talks on, amongst other things, Catholic Social Teaching and a speaker from the Universe newspaper.  It is a mechanism to bring parliamentarians together – a recent focus has been same sex marriage.  Two co-convenors have recently been appointed, Sarah Teather MP and Paul Maynard MP.  It is hoped that the Network will not only be source of information gathering but also be of help to the Bishops’ Conference.

Third Reading of the marriage (same sex couples) Bill 20th May 2013

It was reported that there had been a meeting of MPs to decide who should move amendments as well as how to operate in an ordered manner on the day of the debate.

Summary of the Parliamentary & Public Affairs Committee, 12th February 2013

General point

The Chairman drew the Committee’s attention to a book recently published by Edward Leigh MP “Monastery of the Mind”, in which he describes a summer-long journey around sites connected with the life of St Ignatius Loyola, and his own later experience of undertaking the Ignatian Spiritual Exercises.


The Chairman had received a letter from his local MP, Harriet Baldwin outlining her reasons for voting against the same sex marriage Bill, both at 2nd Reading and Committee stage. A large number of Catholic MPs voted for the same sex marriage bill but this number may well reduce during the later stages of the Bill’s progress. Some Labour and Liberal Democrat MPS who voted against the Bill are facing enormous pressure and challenges as a result.

Baroness Knight and the LCP – 23rd January

There were four speakers at this meeting, including the PPAC Chairman and Philip Howard, another member of that Committee. The other two speakers were Professors Glazer and Pullicino. A key observation is that it is scientifically impossible to predict accurately when a patient will die. Examples were given – one of a patient who went 18 days without fluids. A member of the audience, Lord Carlile, wrote an article in the following day’s Daily Telegraph. The LCP (soon to be renamed) is predicated on a prognosis of death. Part of its protocol is to stop observations, interventions or investigations. It was suggested that the Neuberger Review should be held under the terms of the Inquiries Act 2005, with the requisite medical expertise, proper funding and proper transparency.

Amendment to the Succession to the Crown Bill

Jacob Rees-Mogg MP had brought this amendment to remove religious belief as a bar to becoming monarch. The amendment was defeated, but the Committee applauded the effort.

Ethics in the City

This initiative by the Archbishop of Westminster was discussed, following a recent article in the Catholic Herald. It was noted that profit in the right context can be a force for good.

Presumed Consent – Welsh Assembly

Organs could be taken automatically from cadavers unless families specifically withhold consent. Westminster on the other hand had previously stated “presumed consent is no consent.” The Welsh Bishops have taken up the issue and SPUC are running a lively campaign in conjunction with the Moslem community.

ECHR on Christian freedom of religion and conscience

The Committee was informed about recent decisions. They are interesting because the legal position for religious rights is slightly better that it was previously. In particular the ECHR has changed its view and no longer considers that an employee, whose religious rights were infringed, should resign and get another job. Eweida and Chaplin involved the right to wear a Christian Cross at work and Ladele and McFarlane involved objection to the endorsement of same sex relationships. Eweida won her case; the others lost theirs. The claims alleged breaches of Articles 9 (Freedom of Religion) and Article 14 (Freedom from Discrimination) of the Convention. In the Eweida and Chaplin cases the ECHR rejected the idea that because the wearing of a Cross was not compulsory in Christianity its wearing was not a “manifestation” of religion for the purposes of Article 9.1. In the case of Eweida the ECHR held the ban on her wearing a cross was not justified in a democratic society (per Art 9.2). In the case of Chaplin, a nurse, the court decided that, because she wore the cross on a chain, a ban could be justified on health and safety grounds. Thus restriction of religious freedom was not, in principle, the issue in Chaplin. With Ladele and McFarlane there was a conflict between rights (religion versus discrimination) and the court held the balance was a matter for member states to decide. Thus any member state could lawfully provide for a conscientious objection on the issue, if it so wished. However, the dissenting opinions of Judges Vucinic and de Gaetano may provide ground for further appeals. They held that Lilian Ladele’s case is “not so much one of freedom of religious belief as one of freedom of conscience – that is, that no one should be forced to act against one’s conscience or be penalised for refusing to act against one’s conscience”. They added: “although freedom of religion and freedom of conscience are dealt with under the same Article of the Convention, there is a fundamental difference between the two which, in our view, has not been adequately made out in paras 79 to 88 of the judgement”. They concluded: “we are of the view that once a genuine and serious case of conscientious objection is established, the State is obliged to respect the individual’s freedom of conscience both positively (by taking reasonable and appropriate measures to protect the rights of the conscientious objector) and negatively (by refraining from actions which punish the objector or discriminate against him or her)…instead of practising the tolerance and the ‘dignity for all’  it preached, the Borough of Islington pursued the doctrinaire line, the road of obsessive political correctness. It effectively sought to force the applicant to act against her conscience or face the extreme penalty of dismissal”.

OSCR Decision

OSCR, the Scottish charity regulator, has ruled that an adoption agency, St Margaret’s Children and Family Care Society, based in Glasgow, is in breach of the Equality Act 2010 because it expects those applying to be assessed as adoptive parents to have been married for at least two years. Even though the Act allows the charity so to act, nevertheless OSCR is claiming the right to re-interpret the Act, rather than letting a court decide, knowing that the charity cannot afford to go to law. This is of concern.

Same Sex Marriage Bill General Discussion 2nd Reading

135 Tories voted against the Bill or abstained. Messrs Leigh, Dobbin and Howarth MMPs spoke well. The composition of the Committee dealing with the Bill is weighted 14 to 4 in favour of the Bill’s supporters. The optimum time to make changes will be at the Report stage of the Bill. A Submission to the Commons will be crafted by the Vice Chairman of the Catholic Union. The President will craft a submission for the House of Lords. Unintended consequences of the legislation – eg unequal treatment of adultery (present in heterosexual but not homosexual marriages) being one such instance. An update will be given at the next meeting.

Summary of the Parliamentary & Public Affairs Committee, 15th January 2013

The Chairman reported on correspondence received between Edward Leigh MP and the Health Minister, Norman Lamb MP regarding the Liverpool Care Pathway in particular raising concerns about its application and practice. It is understood that a number of charities and supposedly the majority of medical professionals think that the Pathway is good and that such problems that there are arise from poor communications and insufficient training. Patients’ “best interests” are to be decided by the medical team. Patients and relatives can obtain a second opinion and in 2010, the GMC suggested an “independent medical opinion” in relation to the Liverpool Care Pathway. CF Scotland where there is a central list of Second Opinion Doctors. No such list exists south of the border and there is no system of substitute consent in this country which could assist in keeping people off the Pathway. NB 45% of patients put on the LCP are already unconscious.

There are presently three Inquiries running into the Liverpool Care Pathway. It had been hoped that a judge would be appointed who would seek to be impartial and objective. In fact Baroness Rabbi Julia Neuberger, who supports voluntary euthanasia, has been appointed. It seems that those in favour of the LCP operate within a “closed belief system”, where supposed “good medicine” is routinely practiced.

Letter to Bishop Malcolm McMahon

The Committee reviewed a slightly revised an expanded letter to Bishop McMahon on sex education and same sex marriage. The overriding concern remains what children will be taught in schools concerning sexual mores, especially where these necessarily deviate from Natural Law and common sense.

Westminster Hall Debate on the LCP

A report was given on this event which took place on 8th January. Several members of the PPAC were present and took an active part in the discussion. Fiona Bruce MP, vice Chairman of the All Party Pro Life Group gave an emotive description of watching her mother on the LCP who took quite some time to die. She also recounted the fact that her father too was put on the LCP but her family managed to persuade the hospital to take him off it and he lived for several more months. Nevertheless Ms Bruce thinks that the Pathway can work if administered properly. Norman Lamb MP again called for better training and communication to make it work, even though it is clear that the LCP is a system which shortens life.

Matters arising

An amendment to Section 5 of the Public Order Act has been passed by a majority of 100 in the House of Lords which would remove the word “insulting” from its contents. The Home Secretary has indicated that the Government will accept the amendment.

Briefings to Catholic MPs were discussed. Presently Catholic MPs ask the CU for briefings. The Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales intends sharing its briefings with Catholic Parliamentarians whilst the CU would provide assistance in specialist areas using its wide range of member expertise. Informal soundings of individual MPs asking for views and feedback has also begun.

Items for General Discussion

The recent Pastoral Letter from Archbishop Nichols read out on the feast of the Epiphany was discussed and its content and style welcomed by members of the Committee. CU Members and others are urged to write to their MP outlining their grave and real concerns regarding the forthcoming legislation on SSM.

The statement by Maria Miller MP, Equalities Minister, was discussed. The Government is seeking to promote “equality in marriage” which it regards as being a loving, lifelong commitment between two people, not necessarily between a man and a woman. This is obviously not a true definition of marriage. Opponents are seen to be those from religious groups – eg C4M. It was noted by the Committee that little or no consideration is being given to children as a result of this legislation. It is understood that Church schools can continue to teach about traditional marriage and family values but will have to do so in a balanced way. Furthermore once the legislation is passed it will be difficult to campaign to have it repealed. The 2nd Reading date has been set as 5th February 2013.

Baroness Knight is holding an information meeting on 23rd January, which will call for a fair and open Inquiry. A report will be given at the February PPAC.