The Catholic Union has responded to Ealing Council’s Consultation opposing its proposed Public Spaces Protection Order as unnecessary and unlawful.
The Catholic Union has responded to Ealing Council’s Consultation opposing its proposed Public Spaces Protection Order as unnecessary and unlawful.
The Catholic Union, in conjunction with the Catholic Medical Association, has responded to the Department of Health’s consultation on introducing “opt-out” consent for organ and tissue donation in England. To read the response please click on the link below.
The Catholic Union has responded to the Call for Evidence from the Department of Education on Relationships and Sex Education. To read the response please click on the link below.
The Catholic Union has responded to the Home Office Abortion Clinics Protest Review and to Lambeth Council’s consultation on the making of a Public Spaces Protection Order. You can read the submissions, by clicking on the document titles below.
The Catholic Union has made a submission to the United Nations Human Rights Committee opposing the inclusion of a right to abortion in the Committee’s draft General Comment on the right to life (Article 6 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights).
The Catholic Union submitted evidence to the new House of Lords Select Committee on Citizenship and Civic Engagement focusing on freedom of religion as a fundamental British value.
The comfort, security and progress which we in the rich world enjoy have been underpinned for years by the ready availability of cheap energy. It is only in recent years that we have started to try and react to the negative externalities which are an inherent feature of many forms of energy provision. To read more please click here
The referendum on 23rd June is important. In former times, the issue would have been decided by great statesmen persuading Parliament by reasoned arguments in thorough debates. All those who would have to decide would be there to listen, to speak and to have their views tested in rigorous argument. A true statesman would look dispassionately at the world as it actually was and decide, having heard the debate and applied his experience to it, what, on balance, was in the best long term interests of the country and the stability of the world.
The way this issue is being decided is different. However, the criteria for making the decision and the responsibility of each person contributing to the decision has not. We are all being asked to be statesmen now. As Christians that should engage our consciences profoundly.
The purpose of this document is not to argue for ‘in’ or ‘out’ but to suggest a way that a Christian, conscious of his or her Christian civic responsibility might approach the referendum.
The simple question when one is in the voting booth seems to me to be: which option can I say with a clear conscience before God is, in my honest and properly informed opinion, in the long term best interests of the country and the peaceful stability of the world.
That question seems to me to engage at least the Christian virtues of humility and generosity of spirit. It requires reflection on at least the following things:
(a) Am I satisfied that I have properly informed myself of the facts? That is to say, can I honestly say that I know what I am talking about? The referendum involves taking into account considerations that even the most clever and successful of us may not, if we are being honest, have really thought about in any depth before. This requires humility and there are places to go to obtain independent information. The Chatham House (the Royal Institute of International Affairs) website is just one example;
(b) When I am hearing or reading the opinions of a public figure or a piece of journalism, have I really examined whether the views expressed should be taken into account (or discarded) by me. Does that person have the real experience to make his or her views reliable? If I think that the person may be motivated by personal, political or commercial interests, do I have a basis for such an accusation? If I do, does that undermine the credibility of what they say ? Am I influenced by whether I like (or dislike) them or by whether they are from my political party or in the newspaper I usually read rather than by whether they might be right?
(c) When I am looking at a campaign, how is it being conducted ? Is the campaign genuinely attempting to grapple with the facts and inform the public or is it simply labelling and name calling. As the Archbishop of Canterbury (and the MATT cartoonist) has pointed out ‘fear’ of something detrimental is a reasonable reaction and accusing someone of promoting ‘fear’ without saying why the person is wrong does nothing to debate the issue. Allegations of ‘ambition’ or ‘bias’ are similarly unhelpful in the absence of any engagement with the issue the opponent is attempting to address;
(d) If I am considering voting on the basis of the strength of my views on one or two particular issues, have I asked myself two questions ? First, have I listened to the public figures with real experience of those issues before coming to my conclusions. We are in the very healthy position that many such figures have expressed their opinions on where the national interest lies in this referendum in speeches and in print (although not all have always reached the headlines) and these speeches and articles are mostly freely available on the internet. Secondly, have I properly assessed how important those particular issues are when balanced against the other issues in the debate. These questions require both humility and generosity of spirit;
(e) Is my decision based on my like for or dislike of particular aspects of the European Union or is it genuinely based on my honest assessment of whether as a matter of principle being a member is in the long term interests of the country and the peaceful stability of the world? On any view the decision to leave or remain has very substantial implications. It would not be right to take that decision on the basis that you disagreed with some of the rules or some of the structures (even where you were satisfied that you were properly informed as to how those things actually worked in practice), unless the disagreement or the rule or structure were really substantial. Would it be rational to vote for Scottish independence on the sole basis that you disagreed with an unelected House of Lords? Is there a danger of an ‘easy divorce’ mentality creeping into these decisions? That is to say are we leaving because things are not perfect when we should be getting stuck in, speaking to the other parties and trying to improve the situation ? Similar considerations apply in reverse, have I got too rosy a picture of the EU, am I blind to its flaws ? Have I adequately considered whether any of these flaws is really fundamental such as to outweigh the benefits I perceive in remaining;
(f) This decision will engage the head and the heart. It will raise emotions and prejudices as well as self interest. Have I examined my motivations in humility and generosity of spirit? Is my decision as dispassionate and realist as I can make it?
(g) Finally, but by no means least, in light of my Christian duty to consider my neighbour, have I considered how the outcome of the referendum one way or the other will affect other countries and international institutions and, as already said, the peaceful stability of the world? Have I considered which option will really lead to the UK’s ability to influence world affairs for the good? Have I considered what kind of country and world my decision might help create for my children and grand children ? None of us, alone, can possibly answer those questions without properly taking into account the views which, objectively, could be regarded as having some credibility on them (again, they can be found on the internet).
This is a genuinely important event and one we cannot approach except with seriousness. Our Christianity demands no less.
RELIGIOUS FREEDOM: THE CATHOLIC APPROACH
By David O’Mahony
Chairman – The Catholic Union of Great Britain
Talk given to the Ecclesiastical Law Society on 12 March 2016
I should make plain at the beginning that I am neither a theologian nor a church historian, and I do not represent the catholic church. What follows is merely my understanding of the key documents and some of the key interventions by the church on this topic of the last 50 years.
‘it is a fundamental human right, a privilege of nature, that every man should worship according to their own convictions’
This Vatican Council declares that the human person has a right to religious freedom. This freedom means that all men are to be immune from coercion on the part of individuals or of social groups and of any human power, in such wise that no one is to be forced to act in a manner contrary to his own beliefs, whether privately or publicly, whether alone or in association with others, within due limits.
It is in accordance with their dignity as persons-that is, beings endowed with reason and free will and therefore privileged to bear personal responsibility-that all men should be at once impelled by nature and also bound by a moral obligation to seek the truth, especially religious truth. They are also bound to adhere to the truth, once it is known, and to order their whole lives in accord with the demands of truth. However, men cannot discharge these obligations in a manner in keeping with their own nature unless they enjoy immunity from external coercion as well as psychological freedom. Therefore the right to religious freedom has its foundation not in the subjective disposition of the person, but in his very nature… the exercise of this right is not to be impeded, provided that just public order be observed.
There must be no prohibition on religious people freely expressing their views in the public square;
The rights of the family, in particular, as regards the education of their children and choice of schools should be respected.
Therefore the care of the right to religious freedom devolves upon the whole citizenry, upon social groups, upon government, and upon the Church and other religious communities, in virtue of the duty of all toward the common welfare, and in the manner proper to each.
…Men are to deal with their fellows in justice and civility. Furthermore, society has the right to defend itself against possible abuses committed on the pretext of freedom of religion.
It is one of the major tenets of Catholic doctrine that man’s response to God in faith must be free: no one therefore is to be forced to embrace the Christian faith against his own will…God calls men to serve Him in spirit and in truth, hence they are bound in conscience but they stand under no compulsion. God has regard for the dignity of the human person whom He Himself created and man is to be guided by his own judgment and he is to enjoy freedom…He refused to be a political messiah, ruling by force
17. To me at any rate, and I imagine many who come from the western liberal tradition, some of the statements by the church as to the centrality of this right in the calendar of rights, seemed surprising when I first read them. However, when one analyses the statements, the content of the right (both its vertical and horizontal aspects) and ordinary human experience, I for one, begin to see that the church might have a hint of a point. It may not be a coincidence that arguably the most freedom loving nation on earth (the United States) has taken a robust approach to this topic.
[The previous Vatican secretary of state, put it, somewhat picturesquely: ‘Wherever religious freedom blossoms, all other rights germinate, develop and flourish; when it is threatened, they too are weakened’]
22. Once it is understood that the catholic approach to religious freedom is an obligation both of the State (what might be termed its vertical aspect) and of religious people themselves (what might be called its internal and horizontal aspect) its role in ensuring peace and stability can be seen. Respect for religious freedom by the State is crucial in order to protect the state from the feelings of injustice and disenfranchisement which inevitably (and probably rightly) arise when one’s most deeply held convictions (both in their internal and external) aspects are interfered with. However, this vertical aspect also assists the internal and horizontal aspects by respecting open expressions of different religions so that the two together can encourage harmony and guard against what Pope Benedict in his Westminster Hall speech called: distorted forms of religion, such as sectarianism and fundamentalism,’
[All recent defenders of religious freedom appear to quote the American sociologists J Grim and Roger Finke whose mathematical model in a book entitled ‘The Price of Freedom Denied’ is said to show a direct correlation between the denial of religious freedom and hate crimes against religious minorities. I have not read that book and cannot say whether it is a credible study but I mention it here for completeness.]
25. It seems to me that the view that religion is generally a bad thing and a threat to everything we are supposed to hold dear has gained a degree of respectability in public discourse. This is not a new phenomenon, the early Christians faced similar views and, to pick a spot in history, we find writers like Chateaubriand in his great work The Genius of Christianity published in 1802 attempting to answer such charges.
The Catholic tradition maintains that the objective norms governing right action are accessible to reason, prescinding from the content of revelation. According to this understanding, the role of religion in political debate is not so much to supply these norms, as if they could not be known by non-believers – still less to propose concrete political solutions, which would lie altogether outside the competence of religion – but rather to help purify and shed light upon the application of reason to the discovery of objective moral principles… This is why I would suggest that the world of reason and the world of faith – the world of secular rationality and the world of religious belief – need one another and should not be afraid to enter into a profound and ongoing dialogue, for the good of our civilization.
Religion in other words, is not a problem for legislators to solve, but a vital contributor to the national conversation.
It should be clear that religious fundamentalism and secularism are alike in that both represent extreme forms of a rejection of legitimate pluralism and the principle of secularity. Both absolutize a reductive and partial vision of the human person, favouring in the one case forms of religious integralism and, in the other, of rationalism. A society that would violently impose or, on the contrary, reject religion is not only unjust to individuals and to God, but also to itself
 Prohibits the government from substantially burdening a person’s exercise of religion even if the burden results from a rule of general applicability unless the government ‘demonstrates that application of the burden to the person- (1) is in furtherance of a compelling governmental interest; and (2) is the least restrictive means of furthering that compelling governmental interest’ and that the government’s burden is a substantial one.
 More than half a century ago, while I was still a child, I recall hearing a number of older people offer the following explanation for the great disasters that had befallen Russia: Men have forgotten God; that’s why all this has happened.
Since then I have spent well-nigh fifty years working on the history of our Revolution; in the process I have read hundreds of books, collected hundreds of personal testimonies, and have already contributed eight volumes of my own toward the effort of clearing away the rubble left by that upheaval. But if I were asked today to formulate as concisely as possible the main cause of the ruinous Revolution that swallowed up some sixty million of our people, I could not put it more accurately than to repeat: Men have forgotten God; that’s why all this has happened.