This submission to Parliament’s Women and Equalities Committee opposing the Westminster Parliament legislating on abortion for Northern Ireland was made on 8 December 2018 but was not published at that time due to the rules of the Committee. The Committee’s Report has now issued and is on Parliament’s website (www.parliament.uk). The Report contains within it a “minority report” proposed by Eddie Hughes MP which reflects some of the views in our submission.
This Catholic Union submission was made in December and has just been published on the website of the Women and Equalities Committee. It can therefore now be made public.
On 8 December 2018, the Catholic Union submitted a response to Richmond Council’s consultation exercise on making a Public Spaces Protection Order (PSPO) in relation to the abortion facility in Rosslyn Road.
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 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).
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 https://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.
29th December 2014
Abortion news in the Daily Mail 2nd June 2014
Lord Alton Vice-President of the Catholic Union has requested that the article published in the Daily Mail by Dominic Lawson be drawn to the attention of members and others.
In addition, the Daily Mail carries an article describing how the abortion laws are to be broken by allowing midwives and nurses to carry out abortions.
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.
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.
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.
The chairman welcomed a new member of the committee, Patricia Stoat as per last month’s announcement.
The chairman referred to a letter to the Daily Telegraph from Jim Dobbin, Sir Edward Leigh and others on the benefits of marriage to society. He noted the government was, belatedly, introducing a modest transferable tax allowance which seemed an acknowledgement of marriage as a public force for good.
Euthanasia of children in Belgium
The cardinal archbishop of Malines and a rabbi had issued a strong statement condemning this.
40 paediatricians had written that in their experience no child had ever requested death. However, it was now suggested the law should be extended to allow the euthanasia of children at the decision of the parents alone. The law had been signed by Philippe I, nominally a Catholic monarch.
This is still a live issue in parliament. Baroness Knight asked if the law on abortion was beingupheld but did not receive a straight answer. Baroness Hollins, (past president of the BMA), Lord Alton, Lord Patten and Lord Mackay of Clashfern asked about gender based abortion. The Government said it was illegal and would examine the ratio of male to female births. Fiona Bruce MP asked about abortion on “Ground E” – disability- and gave examples of trivial cases. The Chief Medical Officer had sent a letter to doctors reminding them of their duties without publishing the Contents. The Government seems very casual about enforcement of the Act and was still considering relaxation of the law to allow nurse-only abortions. It said new guidelines were in draft but again not published. Gary Streeter MP was asking for a full debate on these guidelines. There will also be debate on the RSOP (Required Standard Operating Procedures for licencing premises for abortions).
A legal case in the north of England claimed that injury to a foetus was an assault; it was considered likely to fail since legally a person did not exist until born. However, the right of the unborn have never been defined. The chairman had written to Baroness Hollins, thanking her for her intervention and had included two papers showing that mental health problems as grounds for abortion were spurious.
Lord Alton had made a strong statement about MD in so far as it alters the genetic composition of future generations, would be against international law and he claimed would make the UK a rogue state.
There had been a campaign entitled “One of Us” aimed at limiting the misuse of embryos. It had sought a million signatures to trigger a debate in the European parliament. It had obtained 1.7 million and the debate would be on 9th April.
Falconer Bill on Assisted Dying
This is likely to be brought back to the Lords after the Queen’s speech. Opposing such measures would best done as part of a coalition, ie with the“Care not Killing” group. There are now 193 new peers and their views on this issue were unknown. “Care not Killing” would approach these and try to elucidate their views without making any effort to persuade. In general, public opinion appeared to be moving towards assisted dying. An assisted dying bill was likely to be brought forward in Scotland at year end, after the referendum. Baroness Butler-Sloss, formerly president of the family division of the high court, has warned that assisted dying would put many vulnerable people at risk. The Catholic Bishops’ Conference’s brief document “Sense and nonsense on assisted dying” (circulated) was a valuable contribution.
Modern Slavery Bill and Global Freedom Network
The Bill was intended to consolidate and simplify existing legislation and to support victims. There had recently been a meeting in the Vatican of the Global Freedom Network, supported by Catholics, and other faiths. The meeting made the following declaration: “Modern slavery and human trafficking are crimes against humanity. The physical, economic and sexual exploitation of men, women and children condemn 30 million people to dehumanisation and degradation”. There will be a high level meeting in Rome between police chiefs, church leaders and others to establish more ties between the Church and the police. The emphasis would move from punishing the offenders to helping the victims.
Any Other Business
Same Sex Marriage guidelines: the Equality and Human Rights web site stated that holding to the traditional view of marriage is not in itself an offence if expressed in moderation; teachers will be allowed to teach what they feel is right with regard to their faith.
It was decided that in future selected items should be highlighted from each month’s minutes and sent to the appropriate member of the Bishops’ Conference, under the guidance of the Chairman.