Saturday, March 31, 2007

A public holiday for St George

Please support this campaign to have the 23rd April, the Feast of St George, patron saint of England, made a public holiday. This is a way to counter the de-Christianisation of our public culture.

Click here to vote for it on the campaign website.

For more on St George, soldier and martyr, see here.


Thursday, March 29, 2007

Calls for children's right to sex at the UN

Background briefing: although this is not an official UN document, it expresses the ideas of many officials and NGO hangers-on. See the document in full here.

From C-Fam: At the Human Rights Council in Geneva this week, a radical homosexual
umbrella group released a homosexual rights document authored by several UN
human rights officials that claims that even the youngest children are capable
of discerning their sexual identity and they should be given governmentally
protected free reign to express it. The document goes on to demand revision of
international and national laws to reflect these and other ideas on the far
frontier of social policy.

Called the Yogyakarta Principles, the document lists 29 rights that
already exist in binding international law such as the right to life and
freedom from torture, and reinterprets each one to include homosexual rights.
Based upon the idea that “international human rights law imposes an absolute
prohibition of discrimination in regard to the full enjoyment of all human
rights,” the Principles assert that nations are legally bound to change their
constitutions and penal codes to incorporate homosexual rights.

The Principles also assert that states that must force changes in school
curricula, facilitating “access" by those who seek sex change operations, “the
right to express identity or personhood, including through speech deportment,
dress, bodily characteristics, choice of name or any other means”,
non-discrimination “against asylum seekers on the basis of sexual orientation
or gender identity and “the right to found a family, including through access
to adoption or assisted procreation (including donor insemination)”

According to the Principles, “sexual orientation is understood to refer
to each person’s capacity for profound emotional, affectional [sic] and sexual
attraction to, and intimate and sexual relations with, individuals of a
different gender or the same gender or more than one gender.” The document
states that “gender identity is understood to refer to each person’s deeply
felt internal and individual experience of gender, which may or may not
correspond with the sex assigned at birth, including the personal sense of the
body (which may involve, if freely chosen, modification of bodily appearance or
function by medical, surgical or other means) and other expressions of gender,
including dress, speech and mannerisms.”

Of the 29 human rights experts who drafted the Principles, 11 are UN
special rapporteurs or treaty monitoring body members. Other members include
former UN officials such as Mary Robinson, former High Commissioner for Human
Rights. Conservative observers at the Human Rights Council told the Friday Fax
that by signing onto the Jogyakarta Principles, “These UN Special Rapporteurs
have betrayed the requirements of impartiality and independence required by
their mandates.”

Conservatives argue that the Principles’ equating sexual orientation and
gender equality to other established discrimination categories such as age,
race, and religion pose threats to the freedom of speech and freedom of
religion for any individuals, organizations or institutions that present a
traditional view of marriage and the family. They also point out that the term
“sexual orientation” has never been included in a non-discrimination clause of
any binding UN document. Likewise, the terms “sexual rights” and “gender
identity” have never been included in a binding UN document or defined by the
UN General Assembly.

The document concludes by calling on the UN system to endorse the
principles and incorporate them into the work of the organization and calls for
action from all levels government, the media and civil society.


SORs: what will it mean for you?

Background briefing. A useful summary from CCTV.

Equality Act (Sexual Orientation) Regulations 2007 and the Equality Act (Sexual Orientation) Regulations ( Northern Ireland ) 2006.

Well, now we have it. In spite of huge Christian opposition, the Government chose to rush the SORs through Parliament last week. The Regulations will become law on Monday 30 April. The Government arranged an 11th hour vote in the House of Commons. The vote took place on Monday 19 March. MPs voted to approve the regulations by 310 to 100. The final vote on the regulations took place in the House of Lords two days later on Wednesday 21 March. In spite of powerful opposition, led by Lady O'Caithan, the Lords voted 166 to 120 in favour of the SORs. The regulations were passed with only a small majority of 46. They do not contain the exemptions for religious freedom that were demanded by Christians across the country.

What does the new law mean for Christians?


ƒƒƒ State and independent schools can be expected to give equal weight to heterosexual and homosexual lifestyles in the curriculum

ƒƒƒ Homosexual pupils or parents could sue their school on the content of the curriculum. Christians and other religious believers do not have this right. It will be easier for pupils or parents to do this in Northern Ireland where the 'harassment' offence has been introduced.

ƒƒƒ Government recommended homosexual texts, which are already on the shelves of some school libraries, could be forced on schools (eg Daddy's Roommate and Strange Boy. You can find the list of books recommended by the Government at - scroll down to the bottom of this page and access item 10 on the list.)

ƒƒƒ The National Union of Teachers (the NUT), the UK 's largest teachers' union, has demanded that even nurseries provide homosexual material to children as young as 3. It wants toddlers to read homosexual texts, alongside Christopher Robin, Winnie the Pooh and Piglet. The NUT wrote, 'It is particularly important to begin to make three to five-year-olds aware of the range of families that exist in the UK today; families with one mum, one mum and dad, two mums, two dads, grandparents, adoptive parents, guardians etc.'

ƒƒƒ Schools could be forced to teach about gay sex in sex education.

ƒƒƒ If homosexuality is promoted across the curriculum, parents indirectly lose the right to control their child's sex education (even if they can still withdraw them from specific sex education classes)

ƒƒƒ Christian teachers could face litigation or dismissal if they teach that homosexual relationships are wrongful and sinful.

Christian charitable organisations / welfare groups

ƒƒƒ Christian charitable organisations or other religious groups undertaking social or welfare work in the community, and which receive Government funding, will be forced to include homosexuals. This would include, for example, adoption agencies, local mum's and toddler's groups and youth groups. Any activities they undertake must not be discriminatory against homosexuals, so singing Christian songs or talking about the Bible could be outlawed.

ƒƒƒ The law will apply even if you are providing free goods or services. Even informal voluntary services, such as youth groups, mum's & toddlers groups, or coffee mornings, may be forced to include homosexuals.

Christian Businesses

ƒƒƒ A Christian hotel or B&B could be forced to offer a double bedroom to two homosexual men, or face closure;

ƒƒƒ A Christian old peoples' home could be closed down for refusing to accommodate gay or lesbian couples;

ƒƒƒ A Christian wedding photographer could face legal action for refusing to photograph a Civil Partnership ceremony.
Exemptions for religious organisations

ƒƒƒ Churches - or those acting for them - can discriminate against homosexuals, providing (1) this is necessary to comply with the doctrine of the organisation or to avoid conflicting with the strongly held religious convictions of a significant number of the religion's followers, and (2) the church is not acting on a commercial basis. (Churches that are under contract with a public authority do not benefit from the exemption).

ƒƒƒ This means that, for example, churches or synagogues (that are not acting on a commercial basis and do not receive Government funding) can lawfully refuse membership, marriage, baptisms or other benefits to homosexuals. They can also deny access to facilities or activities to homosexuals.


The Regulations for England , Scotland and Wales are now called the Equality Act (Sexual Orientation) Regulations 2007. The Regulations for NI are called the Equality Act (Sexual Orientation) Regulations ( Northern Ireland ) 2006.

ƒƒƒ The Regulations for England , Scotland and Wales do include an offence of 'harassment', unlike the equivalent regulations for NI. However, harassment will be introduced at some point in the future.

ƒƒƒ The Regulations create a civil offence. It will not be a criminal offence to break this law. This means that an individual or organisations can be sued for failure to comply with the law, but this will usually be a claim in civil courts for compensation, rather than a state prosecution. The Equality Commission can also get involved and investigate. You cannot be sent to jail simply for failing to comply with this law.

ƒƒƒ The Regulations only apply to people or organisations providing 'goods or services' - it will not apply to the ordinary man on the street expressing an opinion, although there are examples of the police trying to use existing public order offences for that.

ƒƒƒ The Regulations apply to all schools, including independent schools, regardless of whether the school has a religious ethos. The exemptions for religious organisations do not apply to faith schools.

ƒƒƒ The provisions on education apply to all areas of schooling - admissions, discipline and access to benefits. While there is no mention of the curriculum in the Regulations, there is also no exception for it, which means that homosexual groups can argue that it is covered. There is a glimmer of hope in section 7.6 of the Explanatory Memorandum to the Regulations ( The Explanatory Memorandum explains the law and may be used by the courts when interpreting the Regulations to see Parliament's intention at the time the Regulations were created. The Memorandum states that the SORs do not affect the subjects taught in schools. It goes on to say that the law does apply to the delivery of education (which would include the curriculum) but that teachers can still express views on sexual orientation based on their religious belief, provided this is done in an 'appropriate manner'. Of course, it is much better to have a clear exemption in the law itself.

ƒƒƒ The Regulations do not affect parents' existing rights to be consulted on sex education classes, or to withdraw their children from sex education classes. [Christian Congress for Traditional Values]


Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Benedict XVI: without Christian values, Europe will collapse

Background briefing: this the Pope's message in his new document, 'That Europe may again be "leaven for the world“'

Full text follows.

Esteemed cardinals,
venerated brothers in the episcopacy,
honorable parliamentarians,
dear ladies and gentlemen!

I am particularly happy to receive so many of you in this audience, which is
taking place on the eve of the fiftieth anniversary of the signing of the
Treaty of Rome on March 25, 1957. This event marked an important step for
Europe, which had emerged exhausted from the second world war and wanted to
build a future of peace and of greater economic and social well-being, without
dissolving or denying the different national identities. I greet Adrianus
Herman van Luyn, bishop of Rotterdam, president of the Commission for the
Episcopates of the European Community, and I thank him for the gracious words
that he has addressed to me. I greet the other prelates, the distinguished
personalities, and those taking part in the conference sponsored in these days
by COMECE to reflect upon Europe.

Since March of fifty years ago, this Continent has taken a long journey that has
led to the reconciliation of the two “lungs” – the East and the West – bound by
a common history, but arbitrarily separated by a curtain of injustice. Economic
integration has stimulated these political developments and has fostered the
search, still underway with great effort, for an appropriate institutional
structure for a European Union that, by this point, numbers 27 countries and
aspires to become a global actor in the world.

In recent years it has become increasingly clear that there is a need to
establish a healthy balance between the economic and social dimensions, through
policies capable of producing wealth and increasing competition without
overlooking the legitimate expectations of the poor and marginalized.

Under the aspect of demography, one must unfortunately note that Europe seems to
be traveling along a road that could lead to its disappearance from history.

Apart from putting economic growth at risk, this can also cause enormous
difficulties for social cohesion, and above all it can foster a dangerous
individualism heedless of future consequences. One can almost think that the
European Continent is, in fact, losing trust in its own future.

Furthermore, concerning the examples of respect for the environment or of
orderly access to resources and energy investments, solidarity is incentivized
with great effort, not only on an international scale but also on a strictly
national one. It is seen that the very process of European unification is not
shared by all, because of the widespread impression that various “chapters” of
the European project have been “written” without adequately keeping in mind the
expectations of the citizens.

It clearly emerges from all this that one cannot think of building an authentic
“common European home” while overlooking the very identity of the peoples of
our Continent.

This is, in fact, an historical, cultural, and moral identity before being
geographical, economic, or political; an identity constituted by a collection
of universal values that Christianity has contributed to forging, thereby
acquiring a role that is not only historical, but also foundational in relation
to Europe.

These values, which constitute the soul of the Continent, must remain in the
Europe of the third millennium as a “ferment” of civilization. In fact, if
these were to be diminished, how could the “old” Continent continue to carry
our the function of being “leaven” for the entire world? If, on the occasion of
the 50th anniversary of the Treaty of Rome, the governments of the Union wish
to “get closer” to their citizens, how could they exclude an element of
European identity as essential as Christianity is, and with which the vast
majority of them still identify themselves? Is it not a cause for surprise that
today’s Europe, while striving to position itself as a community of values,
seems more often to contest the idea that there are universal and absolute
values? Does not this remarkable form of “apostasy” from itself, even before
[apostasy] from God, perhaps induce it to doubt its very identity?

This ends in the spread of the conviction that the “weighing of benefits” is the
only method of moral discernment, and that the common good is synonymous with
compromise. In reality, if compromise can constitute a legitimate balancing of
different particular interests, it becomes a shared ill whenever it involves
agreements that are harmful to the nature of man.

A community that constructs itself without respect for the authentic dignity of
the human person, forgetting that every person is created in the image of God,
ends up by not being good for anyone.

This is why it appears increasingly more indispensable that Europe should guard
itself against that pragmatic attitude, widespread today, which systematically
justifies compromise on essential human values, as if the acceptance of a
presumably lesser evil were inevitable. Such pragmatism, which is presented as
balanced and realistic, is not that way deep down, precisely because it denies
the dimension of values and ideas that is inherent in human nature.

When, later, secularist and relativist tendencies and currents are woven into
this sort of pragmatism, Christians are in the end denied the right to
intervene as Christians in public debate, or at the very least their
contribution is disqualified with the accusation that they want to safeguard
unjustified privileges.

In the present historical moment and in the face of the many challenges that
mark it, the European Union, in order to be a valid guarantor of the order of
law and an effective promoter of universal values, cannot help but acknowledge
clearly the certain existence of a stable and permanent human nature, the
source of rights common to all individuals, including those who deny them. In
this context, the right to conscientious objection must be safeguarded whenever
fundamental human rights may be violated.

Dear friends, I know how difficult it is for Christians to make a strenuous
defense of this truth of man. But do not grow weary, and do not be discouraged!
You know that it is your task to contribute to building up, with the help of
God, a new Europe - one realistic but not cynical, rich in ideals and free from
naïve illusions, inspired by the perennial and life-giving truth of the Gospel.

So then, be present in an active way in the public debate on the European level,
aware that this is now an integral part of the national debate, and accompany
this effort with effective cultural action. Do not bow to the logic of power as
an end in itself! May you draw constant motivation and support from the
admonition of Christ: if salt loses its flavor, it is good for nothing but to
be thrown out and trampled underfoot (cf. Mt. 5:13). May the Lord bring
fruitfulness to all of your efforts, and help you to recognize and value the
positive elements present in today’s civilization, while still denouncing
courageously everything that is contrary to the dignity of man.

I am certain that God will not fail to bless the generous effort of those who,
in a spirit of service, work to build a common European home in which every
cultural, social, and political contribution is ordered toward the common good.
I express my support to you, who are already involved in various ways in this
important human and evangelical undertaking, and I address to you my most
lively encouragement. Above all, I assure you that I will remember you in
prayer, and, invoking the maternal protection of Mary, mother of the incarnate
Word, I wholeheartedly impart to you and to your families and communities my
affectionate blessing.


BBC: Christianity and slavery

Update: thanks to complaints, the BBC have changed the name of the web pages to 'Atlantic Slave-Trade and Abolition', removing the implication that they present an assessment of Christianity on the issue. Here's their response to one complaint:

This article was written on our behalf by the author Richard Reddie in the context of the current commemorations of the bicentenary of the abolition of the Atlantic slave trade. Throughout the article he seeks to present, in a balanced and fair way, the contradictions within Christianity in relation to the Atlantic slave trade. He does not discuss whether certain denominations within Christianity officially condoned or did not condone slavery, indeed the conduct of Church bodies is not the subject of the text. Instead the author shows how the Scriptures were interpreted and used to support different stances on the issue by both Christians who participated in the Atlantic slave trade and those who stood against it.

That said, we do take on board your comments and in order to clarify the perspective of the piece we will change the title from 'Christianity and slavery' to 'Atlantic slave trade and abolition'.

We will also look at our coverage and see whether additional material is needed.

I hope that this will address your concerns. Thank you for your helpful comments.

Religion Online team

Action, please:
the BBC is trying to portray Christianity as complicit in modern slavery, in a web-page devoted to the issue. Please point out to the BBC (here) that the Catholic Church, through the papal magisterium, repeatedly condemned slavery.

Hat-tip to Hermeneutic of Continuity, where there are further details, and links to papal documents.


Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Tyburn Walk in honour of the Catholic martyrs planned

Please attend this on 23rd June if you can; if not, please pray for its success.

Miles Jesu is planning a 'Walk' in honour of the English Catholic martyrs, many of whom were executed at Tyburn, near what is now Marble Arch.

The long-standing tradition of such a witness to the faith has been discontinued because of the concern by Monsignor Stark of the Guild of Our Lady of Ransom, which had previously organised it, of disruption to shoppers in Oxford Street. (Comment seems superfluous.)

So please come along!

June 23rd, meeting at 11 am at Tower Hill
where Saints John Fisher and Thomas More gave their lives for the Faith
and proceeding to Tyburn, via stops at Greyfriars and at St Patrick's Church, Soho Square, where there will be talks, and Benediction

Hat-tip to Joanna Bogle.


Monday, March 26, 2007

Westminster's 'Masses for Gays' used to promote dissent

Protests, please, to the Cardinal Archbishop of Westminster:

Comment: there have been two such Masses, officially provided by the Archdiocese (4th March and 18th March), and they have turned out exactly as the opponents of these Masses said they would, and as the Archdiocese said they would not. See previous post here.

- Dissenting leaflets are handed out with the hymn books, making clear that the 'Soho Masses Pastoral Council' regards this as 'their' Mass.
- Sermon from Fr Shaun Middleton (4th March: see here) endorses the dissenting theologian, ex-priest James Allison.
- Promotion of Gay Pride march.
- Bookstall in the church full of dissenting literature.
- No reference to the groups which help homosexuals live in accordance with Church teaching.


Sunday, March 25, 2007

Archer book on Judas: absurd claim of Vatican approval

Background briefing: the launch of the perjured peer's latest book is a complete non-event, but the usual sloppy and sensationalist reporting by once-respected papers like The Times demands a correction.

From CFNews: Message from Fr. Paul Mankowski, S.J.'A week ago, we Jesuits of the Pontifical Biblical Institute were informed in the course of a regular community meeting that our main lecture hall would be in use on March 20 at the request of a former faculty member (Salesian Father Frank Moloney) for the public launch of a novel he had co-authored with Jeffrey Archer. The rector apologized in advance for any inconvenience caused by the event itself and for any ructions caused by attendant publicity.

That publicity -- both before and after the event -- gave rise to lurid headlines ('Pope Gives Blessing to Gospel of Jeffrey Archer') and to nonsense of other kinds as well. Here's the Times of London:

'Jesus never turned water into wine, He did not walk on the water and He never calmed the storm on the Sea of Galilee, according to a new 'Gospel' published today with Vatican approval and co-authored by Jeffrey Archer'.

The following points are offered in correction of errors of fact, emphasis, or interpretation.

The Pope did not 'bless' the Archer-Moloney novel.

* The Pontifical Biblical Institute provided the bottled water at the speaker's rostrum for the Archer-Moloney press conference, but its scholars had nothing whatever to do with the book's content.

* The Archer-Moloney novel was not 'published with Vatican approval'.

* No biblical scholar, including my former colleague Father Frank Moloney, believes Father Frank Moloney to be 'the world's greatest living biblical scholar.

* Father Moloney is not 'one of the Pope's top theological advisers.'

* The International Theological Commission, of which Father Moloney was a member, enjoys the same level of teaching authority as the Philatelic Office of the Holy See -- that's to say: zero.

* The teaching of the dogmatic constitution Dei Verbum has not been abrogated.

In crudely commercial terms, the authors' choice of Rome as a launch-site and their promiscuous use of the words 'Vatican' and 'Pontifical' in their promotional efforts was a shrewd move. Hype apart, though, the notion that biblical scholarship or Church teaching has been advanced by the novel is unwarranted.

Father Moloney's insistence that certain miracles of Jesus recorded in the Gospels never really took place is a stance not compatible with Catholic orthodoxy (see Dei Verbum 19), though many heterodox scholars hold similar views. Nor are his judgments doubtful on purely fideistic grounds. The methodology he invokes to reject such miracles is the flimsiest of all critical tools for adjudicating claims of historicity, for the reason that there is almost never a way such a claim can be falsified. It's a game that almost anyone can play because almost no one can find a way to lose.

Take Moloney's assurance that Jesus didn't turn water into wine at Cana. The Gospel of John (2:11) says this was the first semeion that Jesus performed. But semeion is a Greek word meaning, 'the kind of thing invisible to historians using a form-critical or source-critical method.' In terms of epistemic cash value, Moloney's claim is vacuous. You report that there are no black swans on your radar scope? Fine. I believe you. But that tells me nothing about the existence or non-existence of black swans, because they're not the kind of thing a radar set is designed to detect.

I am not suggesting that source criticism or form criticism are not valuable tools in biblical studies or that the scholars that employ them cannot be first-rate critics. But the connections they make are connections that obtain between texts, and they are useless for telling us whether something reported in a given text really happened or not. What results in fact is that scholars with an axe to grind insinuate their philosophical premises into the critical hat while our eyes are elsewhere and -- presto! -- pull out historical/existential conclusions to dangle before us. It's the kind of magic act that rewards the rhetorical skill and (most of all) the pedagogic self-confidence of the performer.

There's an amusing example of the stunt in this video of an interview with Jeffrey Archer conducted by the Times journalist Ruth Gledhill. Archer recounts to Gledhill how Moloney bowled him over by his insistence that Jesus 'never did' walk on water, etc. Archer never suggests there was a reasoned chain of argument, he merely mentions Moloney's knowledge of the ancient languages and admits to despair about knowing when the Gospel accounts are true: 'You have to be as clever as Frank,' he says, 'to know when they are and when they aren't.'

That admission is tantamount to saying that truth is irrelevant to the Bible, since only a fraction of Christians could ever be so endowed as to make the critical distinctions. But I'm not convinced the situation is as bad as all that. Someone with reason to know once remarked that many things revealed to mere children are hidden from the clever. In the same interview, Archer relates Moloney's dissatisfaction with the King James translation of the line 'God moves in a mysterious way his wonders to perform'-- whence it's radiantly clear that neither the priest nor the novelist is aware that the verse belongs not to the Bible but to a famous hymn by William Cowper (1774). Can I do you an Aramaic Vorlage for that, milord?

So we can all exhale a bit. This too shall pass. In fact, it's curious that writers of a certain age develop an itch to detonate the Gospel by re-writing it. Norman Mailer tried it ten years ago with a flop called The Gospel According to the Son. A.N. Wilson and Gore Vidal took a whack at it in turn. And now Archer and Moloney have their moment in the sun.

My advice: save your money for the forthcoming Cowper'.


Kelly welcomes SORs

Background briefing: is Kelly a Catholic?

From CFNews: The Government's Communities Secretary Ruth Kelly has hailed controversial new homosexual equality laws a 'major step forward.' The Catholic minister and Opus Dei member said: 'These measures will help tackle the practical barriers and real, everyday problems faced by lesbian, gay and bisexual people. 'It cannot be right in a decent, tolerant society that a shopkeeper or restaurant can refuse to serve a customer because they are gay. 'It cannot be right for a school to discriminate against a child because of their parents' sexuality or not to take homophobic bullying as seriously as they should.'


Channel 4 'Let's Talk Sex' prog and poll

Action, please: please complain about the programme here and vote against compulsory sex education ('regardless of the parents' views') in Channel 4's on-line poll here. See a previous post about innacuracies in this programme here.

From an email: It was brought to my attention today that last night on Channel4 there was an abhorrent show hosted by Davina McCall. It was called 'Let's talk sex' and was utterly offensive and disturbing. Her aim is for our education system to become like schools in Holland, teaching children as young as 5, liberal and offensive sex ed. (She even claimed that schools do not do that much at the moment, so I shudder to think what she is trying to bring in). The fear is that the Government will latch on to these ideas and even follow them through. Children were also interviewed in this programme, and my friend called it 'paedophilia'. There was also mention of promoting gay weddings and partners etc in schools. This was shown at 8pm-9pm which is also an unacceptable time.

Our suggestion is that we all e/mail or write complaints to C4 immediately, storming them with our comments and feelings toward this . I have the website here which actually has a page or so devoted to sex! It's outrageous.


Saturday, March 24, 2007

Red Nose Day condemned

Background briefing: the Bishops of England and Wales have stated that Catholics can support Red Nose Day in good conscience (here). But pro-life groups are queuing up to point out that Red Nose Day supports abortion, through One World Action, which campaigns for abortion in poor countries (see SPUC here). It is an open and shut case: money for Red Nose Day/Comic Relief promotes abortion; donating for non-abortion purposes (by ticking a box) simply means that other donations can be diverted to fill the gap.

The bishops' attitude undermines the refusal of Catholic schools to support the event. Red Nose Day must not be supported.


Political Parties: correspondance in the Catholic Herald

A question for readers: we'd be interested to know what people think on this. Please use the com-box.

Responding to a letter pointing out the failure of all three main parties to maintain pro-life principles (abortion up to birth for the disabled was legalised under a Conservative government), a certain N. Parker writes (23/3/07; in part):

There is a fundamental difference. The Left is ideologically committed to abortion. The proof is Emily's List, whereby any female prospective candidate has to sign up for the right to choose.
Public opinion is starting to change... The Right will respond as its position is based on expediency.
Tony Blair has stated privately that he is pro-life but even he dare not translate this into voting against 'Emily'.

Comment: politicians saying 'privately' that they are pro-life, or saying publicly that they are 'privately pro-life', should be understood as committed to a pro-abortion policy; Blair's crocodile tears for the unborn don't save any lives.

The writer of the previous letter, Pauline Gately, is to be commended for encouraging Catholic voters to grill all their local candidates, not on their 'views', but on their 'voting intentions', and to tell candidates that their vote depends on it.


Friday, March 23, 2007

Arrest for home-schooled children in Germany

Protests, please: the link will give you the details. This is par for the course for Germany, but the situation there sets an extremely dangerous precedent for other European countries, including the UK. Not wishing to overturn a long-established German law (actually, dating back to the Third Reich), the European courts have refused to uphold parental rights in such cases: and so they won't uphold them for us either. See our recent post on threats to homeschooling in the UK here.

Hat-tip to Cathcon; but the link to the story is here.


Poland loses abortion case in ECHR

Background briefing: it is increasingly clear that the 'human rights' brigade - at the UN and at the EHCR - are simply using their power to push abortion in the few places where it is still significantly restricted.

From C-Fam: In a 6-1 decision this week, the European Court of Human Rights ordered the government of Poland to award 25,000 euros to a woman who claims her human rights were violated when she was denied an abortion.

The court ruled that there had been a violation of Article 8 (right to respect for private life) of the European Convention on Human Rights, “reiterating that legislation regulating the interruption of pregnancy touched upon the sphere of private life, since, whenever a woman was pregnant, her private life became closely connected with the developing fetus.”

In 2000, Alicja Tysiac, who suffers from severe myopia, was told by several eye specialists that carrying her pregnancy to term could put her eyesight at serious risk. However, neither the specialists nor her general practitioner would authorize an abortion. Following the delivery of her third child, Tysiac suffered a retinal hemorrhage and says she fears the possibility
of future blindness. Tysiac filed suit with the European Court in 2003 with the help of an NGO, Interights.

Poland’s current laws only allow abortion if the life or the health of the mother, fetal malformation or as a result of rape or incest. According to the court’s summary of the judgment, “no procedural and regulatory framework had been put in place to enable a pregnant woman to assert her right to a therapeutic abortion, thus rendering that right ineffective.”

In the section entitled “relevant non-convention material”, the European Court quoted the 2004 non-binding recommendations of the UN Human Rights Committee (HRC) stating that Poland “should liberalize its legislation and practice on abortion.” Conservatives point out that there is no legal basis for such a statement and the ICCPR does not mention abortion.

Polish MEP Konrad Szymanski issued a press release on the court decision and emphasized that “The court has now opined on the right to abortion in Poland, which was the single purpose of the lawsuit supported by pro-abortion organizations. Such a pronouncement lies beyond the competences of the Council of Europe and outside the scope of action of the European Convention.”

Ewa Kowaleska of the Forum of Polish Women, which submitted an amicus brief to the court, noted that “none of the relevant medical specialists considered the state of the applicant’s case as warranting an abortion. Retinal detachment is a consequence of the progressing sight impairment. There were no medical contraindications against carrying the child to term and giving birth by cesarian section.” She went on to say that, “The judgment of the European
Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg has an ideological basis. It is a form of pressure on Poland to consider abortion as a ‘woman’s right’.”

Upon submission to the EU accession treaty, Poland made the caveat that no EU treaty would “hamper the Polish government in regulating moral issues or those concerning the protection of human life.” In spite of this latest ruling, no changes are expected to be made in Poland’s abortion laws.


Thursday, March 22, 2007

Lords back SORs

Background briefing: this outcome is partly a result of the state of ruination to which the British parliamentary system has been brought, deliberately, by the Blair government. The House of Lords is traditionally a place in which independent and often expert voices could make themselves heard, and legislation could be improved. This is, alas, no longer the case, and the situation is unlikely to be improved by making the Lords a second chamber of elected political hacks. Readers may like to sign this petition, to voice their disgust to what has taken place. And to pray for the fortitude which will be necessary for faithful Catholics to live under these regulations.

From CFNews:
An eleventh-hour attempt from a Conservative peer to overturn controversial gay rights regulations was last night defeated in the House of Lords. The motion put forward by Baroness O'Cathain in objection to the Equality Act (Sexual Orientation) Regulations was defeated by 168 to 122 votes. As the debate was taking place, around 1,000 Christians gathered outside the Houses of Parliament to take part in a prayer vigil organised by Christian Concern for Our Nation against the regulations. (Left). Andrea Minichiello Williams, Public Policy Officer at the Lawyers' Christian Fellowship, said the passing of the regulations marked 'the imposition of a new morality'. She said that ordinary Christians may now be sued if they refuse to provide a good or service to homosexuals on grounds of conscience. 'The new laws today will impose upon us a new morality and if we don't accord to that morality we will find ourselves falling foul of the law,' she told Christian Today. The LCF previously criticised the Government for passing through the regulations undemocratically, saying they had been 'rushed through Parliament without proper debate and proper procedure'. (See item below) Ms Williams, meanwhile, said the regulations indicated growing persecution in the UK and that the church needed to 'awaken' to the fact that Christians in the UK were being 'persecuted by a silencing across the church'. She said that Christians were being pushed out of the public square and were now unable to live according to their values, adding that the new regulations were a 'censorship' of Christian values. 'That is at the very least the beginning of persecution. And that is something we need to be very alive to,' she said. 'We are no longer able to live according to these [Christian] values and there is the beginning of oppression. Things that are against God's will are being legislated and it would be good if the church could wake up just upon hearing that and call the nation back to Christ, call for revival in this land.' The LCF said it would be looking to challenge the regulations and that it would defend Christians finding themselves taken to court under the new regulations. 'These are battles that we are going to have to fight,' said Williams. [Christian Today]

Just 3 out of the 26 unelected bishops that sit in the House of Lords voted last night over the government's Sexual Orientation Regulations. Forty-two lay members of the Church of England's General Synod wrote to the bishops last week urging them to turn up and voteagainst the SORs. [Ekklesia]


How SORs were rushed through

From CFNews:

At 8:55am the House of Commons committee of 16 MPs met for just 90 minutes to decide on the fate of the Sexual Orientation Regulations. Even the MPs on the Committee itself had only been appointed 15 hours before it met and the room arranged for the debate was so small that there was not enough room for all the MPs and people had to sit on the floor.

The meeting started in confusion as MP after MP stood up to voice complaints at the way the Government was rushing through the SORs with no time for MPs to look at the Regulations (which having been taken offline were only made available again at 3pm on Tuesday and with over 20 changes from the original published Regulations). Labour, Lib-Dem and Conservative MPs all criticised the Government for refusing to allow a full debate in the House of Commons.

Repeated requests were made to postpone the debate and to give time to find a more appropriate room. The requests were refused by the Labour MP chairing the debate. That chairperson declared that the only way possible to delay the debate would be for a special motion to be passed: David Burrowes MP duly sought to bring such a motion for the Committee to decide the issue and the chairperson refused to accept it: she would not even allow it to go to a vote.

After speeches from only 4 MPs, the chairperson took a vote and the vote was won by those supporting the Sexual Orientation Regulations.

The Labour, Lib Dem and Conservative parties all united to support the Regulations: it was left to back-bench MPs (mostly conservative) to give strong opposition (most of whom were unable to vote because they were not officially on the Committee). However, Eleanor Laing (the official spokesperson for the Conservatives) supported the Regulations and said that 'her brand of Christianity' preached 'live and let live'. This contrasted with her fellow-Conservative, the Shadow Attorney General, Dominic Grieve, who spoke about the deep legal flaws to the SORs.

In addition, the Joint Committee on Statutory Instruments which met on Tuesday, gave the SORs the 'all clear', even though a number of committee members raised serious questions. The way in which the JCSI allowed the SORs to be rushed through, despite many outstanding concerns, seems odd in light of their readiness to draw the 'special attention of both Houses to the [almost identical Northern Ireland] Regulations on the grounds that they are defectively drafted' only 6 weeks ago.


UK's Catholic Family news: comment on the SORs debate


This email from Nicholas Romer arrived just before Parliament's approval of the SORs.

(1) 'The vote on SORs will be a straight vote yes or no without the possibility of amendments? Correct.

(2) All that a member of the public can ask for is for the MP to vote against SORs in order to protect Catholics, Protestants, Jews and Moslems etc from the discrimination consequent upon this legislation? Correct.

(3) This will not get the support of the hierarchy because they want SORs with exemptions, thereby saving their faces in Rome. Correct.

(4) Only Divine intervention will prevent it being a waste of ink. Correct.

'My Lord' said Saint Thomas More at his trial, when he was told that he had set himself up against all the bishops of the realm and against the King's Majesty, 'for one bishop of your opinion, I have a hundred saints of mine' 1338.13


German Catholic abortion counsellors told to cease involvement with state system

Background briefing: this issue has been rumbling on for many years. The Vatican has repeatedly ruled providing the counselling necessary, in German law, for a woman to have an abortion, is too great a material cooperation in a grave evil, for the good it may do to justify it. It is to be hoped that the ruling will now be enforced.

From CFNews: German bishops have been instructed by the Vatican to distance themselves from a group that counsels women seeking abortions, the newspaper Die Tagespostreports. Cardinal William Levada of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith asked certain German bishops to make it clear that Catholics should not be involved with the work of Donum Vitae, Die Tagespost said. In June 2006, the German bishops officially called upon Catholics employed by church agencies to refrain from collaboration with Donum Vitae. According to the newspaper report, Cardinal Levada is now asking for a more energetic enforcement of that directive. Donum Vitae was founded by Catholics who opposed a decision by Pope John Paul II that Catholic agencies must not be involved in the country's pregnancy-counseling system. German women who seek abortions are asked to furnish proof that they obtained such counseling. Thus the Church agencies were providing documents that allowed women to procure abortions. Some German Catholics, including members of the hierarchy, had defended involvement in the counseling process, arguing that the system allowed Catholic counselors an opportunity to persuade women that they should not abort their unborn children. Pope John Paul replied that while such efforts in themselves are admirable, Catholics cannot justify participation in a system that regularly ends in the killing of an unborn child.


Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Homeschooling petition

Update, and new petition. In response to the persistent and extremely worrying signs that the Government is preparing to impose burdensome regulations on homeschoolers, a petition was set up to tell the Government to leave the issue alone. (See original post.) With 1,627 signatures, the petition deadline passed and the government make its official response:

The Government respects the rights of parents who choose to educate their children at home. Local authorities have a limited scope for intervention if it appears to them that a child in their area is not receiving a suitable education. We do not believe it is unfair for local authorities to scrutinise the quality of provision when legitimate concerns are raised. This should be done sensitively, and recognise that home educators do not have to follow the National Curriculum and have a broad discretion as to how and when education takes place.

This is merely a reiteration of the current policy, with no acknowledgement that the policy is under review. It suggests that the response was generated entirely mechanically, without any thought at all.

Accordingly, it makes sense to sign another petition, worded more explicitly: 'Keep homeschooling legal'!


Sunday, March 18, 2007

Votes on SORs this week

Action: contact MPs and Peers.

From Christian Concern for our Nation: In our email of yesterday we asked you to ask your MP (by letter, email or telephone) to be present and formally object to the SORs being laid on the floor of the House of Commons on Monday 19th March at the close of
parliamentary business.

We have been told that there may now be a vote on the floor of the House of
Commons at the same time on Monday and not on Wednesday as would be usual
practice in this situation. This news has come to us late and at a time when it
will be difficult to contact MPs. It is also clear that many MPs may not know
about or be prepared for the vote on Monday if it takes place. If possible,
could you pass this information to your MP and let them know. The Labour Party
is working extremely hard to get their MPs there and get this passed through as
quickly as possible.

The vote in the House of Lords will still take place during the evening of
Wednesday March 21st as indicated in my previous email. Please contact any
member of the House of Lords you may know or who lives in your area.


UK and EU support sex-selective abortion at the UN

Action, please: please protest to the Government, especially the Prime Minister. So much for human rights! So much for feminism!

From the Friday Fax: Negotiations went down to the wire at the UN last week at the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) as delegations struggled to come to consensus on the final outcome document. Despite assurances from delegations such as the EU,
the issue of sex-selection was largely ignored within the final text.

The United States initiated a formal resolution at the CSW that would
condemn the now widespread practice of aborting baby girls because of their
sex. The US took the position that the issue deserved to be highlighted in its
own resolution, like the other four stand-alone CSW resolutions on issues such
as female genital mutilation, HIV/AIDS, forced marriage and the plight of
Palestinian women. This was especially relevant since the theme of the CSW this
year was "discrimination and violence against the girl child."

When negotiations for the resolution on sex-selected abortion began, the US
delegation had expected other like-minded countries to speak up in support of
the initiative. Observers were not surprised by resistance to the resolution
from the delegations of China, India, EU, Canada and others, but they were
disappointed that many pro-life countries did not support the resolution, and
suggested that the issue, while important, be relegated to the main conference
document called the Agreed Conclusions.

Citing lack of support, the US chose to withdraw the resolution with the
understanding that the content of it would be included in the final conference
document called the Agreed Conclusions. The US submitted four paragraphs to be
inserted into the draft Agreed Conclusions calling on states to collect data on
prenatal sex selection and female infanticide and to develop information and
awareness campaigns to reinforce the “intrinsic value of girls to their
families and societies.”

Much to the surprise of delegates, on the final morning of the CSW, the
chairman of negotiations on the Agreed Conclusions, Tom Woodroffe of the United
Kingdom, had cut the draft text in half and omitted the US proposed paragraphs
on prenatal sex selection. In the final version of the Agreed Conclusions,
only one reference to prenatal sex-selection appears.

At the close of the conference, Ambassador Patricia Brister delivered the
US explanation of position. Commenting on the politicized nature of
negotiations and the resistance of some delegations to address prenatal
sex-selection, Ambassador Brister stated, “The United States is dismayed to see
that much of the language in the Agreed Conclusions is more attentive to the
political preoccupations of international conference goers than to the needs of
women and particularly of girls. For instance, the document mentions “sexual
and reproductive health” several times and life-saving immunizations only once.
Some delegations insisted that the document could not contain an explicit
reference to the violent and discriminatory practice of aborting unborn baby
girls for the sole reason that they are girls – and yet they insisted on
multiple references to programs and activities to help girls “understand their
sexuality”….However, we are happy that the document condemns female infanticide
and “harmful practices of prenatal sex selection,” which is universally
understood to include sex-selective abortion, even if some delegations insisted
that this practice not be called by its real name.”


Commons Committee approve SORs

Background briefing: the Government has disgracefully abused parliamentary procedure to avoid a debate on the SORs (what are they frightened of?); the Opposition has disgracefully failed in its duty to oppose this abuse of power, and to oppose this badly drafted and unjust law. Christian Concern for our Nation is organising a prayer vigil outside Parliament.

From Christian Concern for our Nation: Yesterday morning at 8:55am the House of Commons committee of 16 MPs met for just 90 minutes to decide on the fate of the Sexual Orientation Regulations. Even the MPs on the Committee itself had only been appointed 15 hours before it met and the room arranged for the debate was so small that there was not enough room for all the MPs and people had to sit on the floor.

The meeting started in confusion as MP after MP stood up to voice complaints at
the way the Government was rushing through the SORs with no time for MPs to
look at the Regulations (which having been taken offline were only made
available again at 3pm on Tuesday and with over 20 changes from the original
published Regulations). Labour, Lib-Dem and Conservative MPs all criticised the
Government for refusing to allow a full debate in the House of Commons.

Repeated requests were made to postpone the debate and to give time to find a
more appropriate room. The requests were refused by the Labour MP chairing the
debate. That chairperson declared that the only way possible to delay the
debate would be for a special motion to be passed: David Burrowes MP duly
sought to bring such a motion for the Committee to decide the issue and the
chairperson refused to accept it: she would not even allow it to go to a vote.

After speeches from only 4 MPs, the chairperson took a vote and the vote was won
by those supporting the Sexual Orientation Regulations.

The Labour, Lib Dem and Conservative parties all united to support the
Regulations: it was left to back-bench MPs (mostly conservative) to give strong
opposition (most of whom were unable to vote because they were not officially
on the Committee). However, Eleanor Laing (the official spokesperson for the
Conservatives) supported the Regulations and said that “her brand of
Christianity” preached “live and let live”. This contrasted with her
fellow-Conservative, the Shadow Attorney General, Dominic Grieve, who spoke
about the deep legal flaws to the SORs.

In addition, the Joint Committee on Statutory Instruments which met on Tuesday,
gave the SORs the ‘all clear’, even though a number of committee members raised
serious questions. The way in which the JCSI allowed the SORs to be rushed
through, despite many outstanding concerns, seems odd in light of their
readiness to draw the “special attention of both Houses to the [almost
identical Northern Ireland] Regulations on the grounds that they are
defectively drafted” only 6 weeks ago.


Thursday, March 15, 2007

Torbay Council questions children on sex and drugs

Local action as appropriate. Torbay won't be the only coucil seeking such information.

From SPUC: A Torbay vicar has criticised the council after it sent out questionnaires to children as young as 12 asking them personal questions about drugs, alcohol and sex. The questions were sent to children without the knowledge of their parents and included questions on whether they knew where to get the morning after pill or had had sex whilst drunk. Rev Tony Macey said:
"It was inappropriate to send this out, and inept in the way it was done. There should have been an accompanying letter to parents." Torbay's Director of Children's Services defended the survey. [24dash, 13 March]


Mencap: NHS is killing the disabled by neglect

Background briefing.

From SPUC: British charity Mencap has accused the National Health Service of indifference towards patients with learning disabilities after they reported that six patients had been left to die in NHS hospitals through negligence because they were disabled. One case involved a 43-year-old man who could not speak, and died after he was deprived of food for 26 days and
became to weak for surgery. Patricia Hewitt the health secretary said she was "shocked" by the report, and immediately agreed to set up an inquiry into the cases and the wider implications. [The Guardian, 12 March] Comment: Paul Tully, SPUC General Secretary, commented: "It is
unbelievable that Patricia Hewitt is 'shocked.' She must have been aware of cases like the late David Glass, who had cerebral palsy and whose family intervened to save him from a fatal overdose in hospital. Ms Hewitt's department co-sponsored the Mental Capacity Act 2005, and Mencap supported it. It sanctions the kind of (mal)treatment of patients with compromised mental function that Ms Hewitt and Mencap are now deploring."


Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Dissident Jesuit disciplined by the Vatican

Background briefing. Sobrino was the author of one of the articles in the infamous book presented to the gay activist Pendergast. The CDF's document can be seen here.

From CFNews: A Jesuit theologian who is a leading exponent of liberation theology will soon be disciplined by the Vatican, according to the Spanish newspaper El Mundo. Father Jon Sobrino will be barred from teaching in Catholic schools and instructed not to publish written works, El Mundo reports, citing informed sources at the Vatican. The newspaper claims that the disciplinary measures will be announced by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith within the next two weeks. Father Sobrino's work was cited as distorting the role of Jesus in the plan of salvation, the Vatican sources said. The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith reportedly found that his theological works placed an undue emphasis on the figure of Jesus as a human actor involved in social causes, neglecting his divinity and his unique role in Redemption. Father Sobrino, a Basque priest, became an influential leader in the school of liberation theology during his years in El Salvador. He taught at the University of Central America, an institution that was caught up in the civil war of the 1980s when 6 Jesuits and 2 staff members were killed by right-wing death squads in 1988.


Attack on religious charities

Background briefing.

From CFNews: The director of a leading Catholic charity has said that new laws could pose a threat to religious charities, forcing them to hand over millions of pounds in tax. Neville Kyrke-Smith, director of Aid to the Church in Need, told The Catholic Herald that although this week's Charity Commission Consultation document did not 'immediately endanger' religious groups, it could be used as a 'tool to target certain charities'. He said: 'This might eventually come to mean that we, as independent charities, have to toady up to the Government in order to retain our charitable status, in the way that some of the larger charities already do toady up to the Government.'

Christian charities have traditionally been granted tax relief because religious work was 'presumed' to be beneficial to the public. However, the new Charities Act, passed in November 2006, abolished this clause. In future, all charities will have to prove to the Charity Commission that the public benefits from their work in order to retain charitable status. A consultation document explaining how the new rules work was published this week amid concerns that the Government was attempting to use the Charity Commission to increase its control of the voluntary sector. 'As soon as you start to tread on this, you get a political correctness, or even a religious correctness, that could be used to attack certain charities,' said Mr Kyrke-Smith.

'We feel this might be used as a sort of off-stage threat to independent charities.' He argued that some Aid to the Church in Need projects, such as its work in Pakistan, where it supports an embattled Christian minority against persecution from the Muslim population, could be seen from a secularist viewpoint as 'divisive'. However, Belinda Pratten, senior policy officer for the National Council for Voluntary Organisations, said that the 'public benefit test' was not designed to hamper independent charities. 'I think it is more important to ensure that the public has trust in the voluntary sector,' she said.

Enclosed Catholic orders in England and Wales fear that new laws could strip them of their charitable status and force them to pay millions of pounds to the taxman. Dame Abbess Paula Fairlie of the Benedictine nuns in Curzon Park, Chester, said she was worried about demonstrating precisely how the work of the sisters, which involves offering their land for private retreats, could benefit the public. 'You are really asking me to prove that something intangible like air and sunshine and prayer are for the benefit of humankind,' she told BBC Radio 4's Sunday Programme. 'The obvious answer is that they are so obviously beneficial that you take them for granted.' But Suzi Leather, chairwoman of the Charity Commission, insisted that religious organisations should not be alarmed. 'Let me reassure organisations in advance that I see no reason why most of these organisations should not be able to retain charitable status,' she said. 'I think it is very important we don't assume that simply because something is intangible that it is not identifiable and it is not of public benefit.' Miss Leather did admit that 'prayer by itself' was not sufficient. 'For completely closed religious communities which have no contact with the outside world, it will be very difficult for them to retain charitable status,' she said.

But closed communities such as St Hugh's Charterhouse, Parkminster, West Sussex, have not had charitable status for several decades precisely because they did not offer a visible public service. 'This is very much a post-Reformation thing,' said Mr Kyrke-Smith. 'A refusal to acknowledge that prayer can have any use whatsoever.' However, now even Catholic monasteries and convents which help the outside world are worried. In future, monks and nuns will have to show not only that they 'advance religion' - which for centuries has been enshrined in law as a charitable cause - but also that their work benefits the public. 'We are very concerned about this,' said Sister Zita of the Blessed Sacrament Convent, Sussex. 'We will be keeping our ears very close to the ground.'


Links on SORs

Two intersting posts: Fr Tim Finnigan on the interpretation of SORs by a Commons Select Committee; and Archbishop Vincent Nichols' call for lobbying of MPs.

The Select Committee is only making suggestions, but it is good to be aware of them. The key point is the extraordinary claim that Church schools - state or private - should not teach about religion 'as if it were true.' If implemented this would end Catholic education in its entirety.

More from CFNews: A committee of MPs and peers has urged the Government to extend homosexual rights legislation so that Catholic schools cannot teach that homosexuals acts are sinful. The parliamentary Joint Committee on Human Rights said in its report that homosexual pupils should not be 'subjected to teaching that their own sexuality is sinful or wrong'. But critics say the proposal would stop Catholic schools from teaching Catholic moral doctrine as revealed truth. The legislation will be debated in a committee meeting that will last only one and a half hours, and will not be debated in Parliament, according to Conservative MP Ann Widdecombe.

Miss Widdecombe said it was a 'scandal' that the Sexual Orientation Regulations (SORs), which aim to outlaw discrimination against gay people in the provision of goods, facilities and services, would not be debated in the House of Commons. She explained that the decision to bypass Parliament was taken 'when there wasn't any idea that the legislation would be as controversial as it has been'. She said: 'We thought they would have the decency to move it down to the House. It is government by diktat.' The regulations, which had not been published as The Catholic Herald went to press, will still need a ratifying vote in Parliament before they come into force in England and Wales in April. In its report the human rights joint committee praised the new rules and concluded that no exemptions should be granted to Catholic adoption agencies because they would conflict with the rights of homosexual people.

The report said that the rules should be extended to schools and the curriculum so that homosexual pupils are not taught that their behaviour is sinful. Schools would be allowed to explain that 'certain religions view homosexuality as sinful', but would not be allowed to teach Catholic moral doctrine as truth. 'In our view,' the report said, 'there is an important difference between this factual information being imparted in a descriptive way as part of a wide-ranging syllabus about different religions, and a curriculum which teaches a particular religion's doctrinal beliefs as if they were objectively true. The latter is likely to lead to unjustifiable discrimination against homosexual pupils,' the report added. Labour MP Andrew Dismore, chairman of the committee, said: 'Nobody should be required to perform same-sex marriages, or to admit homosexual people to their organisations, if it would be against their religious beliefs. But any wider exemption, to allow religious bodies to discriminate on the grounds of sexualitywhen providing goods, facilities and services, or performing public services, cannot be justified.' [Catholic Herald]


Saturday, March 10, 2007

Catholic fostered by Protestants sues

Background briefing.

From The Universe: A Scottish council say they will defend their actions in placing a Catholic girl with Protestant foster carers. The girl, who is now 18, but is identified in court papers as just “AR” recently launched a court case against the Highland Council seeking £70,000 in damages claiming she was denied the chance to follow the religion of her birth.

Full story here.


Thursday, March 08, 2007

Catholics may not be Masons

Background briefing.

From CFNews. Catholics who become members of Masonic lodges are guilty of serious sin, a Vatican official has confirmed. Bishop Gianfranco Girotti, the regent of the Apostolic Penitentiary, told a Vatican Radio interviewer that membership in a Masonic lodge is not necessarily grounds for excommunication, but it is a grave matter. Reacting to the story of Father Rosario Esposito, an Italian Paulist who recently announced his membership in a Masonic lodge, Bishop Girotti said that a 1983 statement from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith remains in force today. That statement, signed by then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, said: 'The faithful who enroll in Masonic associations are in a state of grave sin and may not receive Holy Communion.' [CWNews]


Wednesday, March 07, 2007

SORs for England and Wales: final draft of law

Background briefing: we'll be calling for lobbying of MPs when this goes before Parliament.

From Christian Concern for our Nation: After spending 9 months drafting the proposed SEXUAL ORIENTATION REGULATIONS (SORs), the Government have today published the final version of the new law without making any significant concessions to protect the rights of Christians and others with deeply held religious beliefs.

The SORs can be found at

The Regulations, which make discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation
unlawful in relation to the provision of goods, services, premises, education
and public functions, are due to come into force on the 30th April 2007.

Under the Regulations it will be illegal for a Christian printer to refuse to
print material promoting homosexual sex, it will be illegal for a Muslim
website designer to refuse to build a website for homosexual dating, and it
will be illegal for a Jewish conference centre to refuse to accept a booking
from a Gay and Lesbian society who wish to hold a meeting promoting homosexual

Thomas Cordrey, Barrister and Public Policy Analyst at the Lawyers' Christian
Fellowship, commented:
"This legislation is unprecedented in its complete intolerance of those who have
religious beliefs. The Government did not put forward a single piece of
evidence to justify the need for the Regulations, they have ignored 72% of the
public[1] who opposed their approach to this law, and they have ignored the
majority of the 3000 responses to their consultation. Despite this weak basis
to the law, the Government is prepared to take the landmark step of making it
illegal for Christians to hold to the Bible's clear teaching that God loves
everyone and wants all people to know him, but also, that extra-marital sexual
conduct (whether homosexual or heterosexual) is wrong."

"To think that the Government would prefer to shut down the widespread and
compassionate voluntary services provided by Christian adoption agencies, drug
rehabilitation centres, homeless shelters and community centres, rather than
accept that Christians should not be forced to promote homosexual practices, is

Andrea Williams, Public Policy Officer at the Lawyers' Christian Fellowship
"Whilst Christian groups have been clear from the outset that they would not in
any way wish to deny the provision of basic goods and services to homosexuals,
the Government have refused all calls that the Regulations should contain a
simple clause that "no-one should be forced by this law to promote or actively
condone any sexual practices which are contrary to their deeply held religious

"Rather than balancing rights the Government have chosen to draft these
Regulations so that in almost every case the right to live a homosexual
lifestyle trumps the right to live a religious lifestyle."

"Every concern held by the Church of England and Catholic Church on the issue of
gay adoption is magnified by the publication of these Regulations. The new
morality being imposed by the Government on the British people has just taken a
giant leap forward."


Monday, March 05, 2007

BBC bias: new book

Background briefing.

From CFNews: The author of a new book about the BBC has said that the Corporation should apologise to the Church for its Panorama documentary 'Sex and the Holy City'. In a chapter from his book, Can we trust the BBC?, former BBC journalist Robin Aitken examined how the Panorama team misled its audience about the role of Catholicism in the fight against Aids. Looking at examples of BBC bias, Mr Aitken came across a document written by David Kerr, a BBC employee, which revealed how the programme screened in 2003 was riddled with factual inaccuracies and anti-Catholic prejudice. Mr Aitken said: 'A lot of Catholics are aware that there is anti-Catholic bias in the BBC. But the trouble is that nailing down bias is very tricky.

'The value of David Kerr's research was that it showed that, in the instance of that Panorama programme, the BBC fell woefully short of its own standards of objectivity.' He added: 'I think the BBC owes the Catholic Church an apology.' Mr Aitken said that the Panorama bias was astonishing considering the huge number of checks and balances that a Panorama programme is normally subjected to. How did a programme like that go out'? he asked. 'Answer: all the people involved in the production couldn't see its bias against the Catholic Church because they themselves share that bias.'

Mr Kerr's unpublished study shows how the makers of 'Sex and the Holy City', in seeking to blame the Vatican for the spread of Aids, caricatured Catholic teaching and distorted statistics. The producer, Mr Kerr reported, was Chris Woods, a prominent homosexual rights activist who was one of the founder members of campaigning group OutRage. In 1992 OutRage protesters targeted the papal nuncio's home in London and interrupted a Mass in Westminster Cathedral. Mr Kerr also uncovered a complex web of relationships between the BBC and groups such as the International Planned Parenthood Federation, whose pro-abortion agenda has brought it into conflict with the Church..

In his book, Mr Aitken writes: 'You do not have to sympathise - at all - with the Catholic Church, or with its teachings about contraception and reproductive rights generally to appreciate that Kerr makes a very strong case against Panorama. ''Sex and the Holy City' was a wholly one-sided, inaccurate and unfair piece of journalism. It made no attempt to be even-handed and it traduced the Catholic Church and the Pope.' In Can we trust the BBC? Mr Aitken a practicing Catholic, argues that for the last 40 years the BBC has promoted a set of secular, liberal values at odds with traditional morality and Christian ideals. 'For good or bad that campaign has been hugely successful, transforming public attitudes on a range of issues including abortion, marriage and homosexuality, among others', he writes. He claims the Corporation is too 'self confident' to redress its biases; 'Yes, they concede there may be some flaws, but they are nothing when set against the achievements. Mr Aitken concludes that the BBC is a 'profoundly influential opponent of nearly everything social and political conservatives believe'. [Catholic Herald]


Westminster's 'outreach' to homosexuals: debate in The Tablet

Background briefing: further to the issue of special Masses being provided for homosexuals in the Archdiocese of Westminster, The Tablet has published an interesting pair of articles on the subject.

The first, from Britain's foremost Catholic philosopher, John Haldane, Consultor to the Pontifical Council for Culture, expresses our own concerns about the Masses, saying

The diocesan initiative recognises the pastoral needs of some of those on whom the Church's longstanding teaching on sexuality may rest heavily. Well intended, therefore, and explicit in maintaining church teachings, it nevertheless gives rise to certain risks: first, encouraging or even recognising sectionalist interest; secondly, confusing and giving scandal to the faithful; thirdly, undermining the efforts of those who, though of homosexual inclination, strive to live according to the Church's teachings and seek no special privileges; and fourthly, compromising the conduct of the Mass and the gift of the Eucharist.

(Full article here: readers need to 'register' to access the website)

The second, from the prominent dissenting theologican and ex-priest James Alison, is rambling and repetitive, but the leading idea seems to be that the emergence of a militant gay sub-culture itself shows that the Church's constant teaching, far from being infallible, is wrong. Or, in Alison's inimitable jargon, there is

an emerging anthropological truth about a regular, normal and non-pathological variant within the human condition. In other words, it is not so much that the Church's teaching about sexual ethics is being challenged by insufficiently heroic people, but the field of application of that teaching is being redefined by emerging reality. And of course it is proper to the Catholic faith, where Creation and Salvation are never to be completely separated, that it takes very seriously "what is" as informing "what should be" rather than trying to force "what is" to fit into an understanding of "what should be" derived from other sources.

(Full article here.) So stop trying to cleanse people from mortal sin, let along make them saints! Leave them as they are, since the reality of misery and estrangement from God should guide our understanding of the Christian ideal, not the reality of Christ.


Thursday, March 01, 2007

Sex Ed DVD under attack

Urgent local action: find out what your local school is using and protest!

From CFNews: An English primary school has been forced to reconsider its sex education policy after parents complained of an 'offensive' film to be shown to children as young as five. They say a DVD and accompanying worksheets are far too graphic for impressionable children. The controversial Living and Growing material features illustrations of a naked man and woman and invites youngsters to label the vagina and penis. Sherwell Valley School in Torquay, Devon, planned to use the government-approved sex and relationship lessons. But angry parents complained that the video, which also includes detailed descriptions of the effect of touching private parts, is inappropriate. A presentation to parents and governors at the school showed the film in which viewers are told that 'rubbing the clitoris will give them a warm feeling'. One concerned parent, who has a five-year-old daughter at the school, said: 'I find it offensive. The programme is inappropriate and unsuitable for a five or six-year-old. I think the school has made a grave error of judgement which is morally wrong. We were told it was part of a programme to reduce teenage pregnancies in Torbay. Teaching my daughter about her clitoris is not going to stop teenage pregnancies. It's liberal clap-trap.'

Another concerned father said: 'Some of the content in the video was very explicit. We are Christian parents and we have quite strong values. We are not averse to discussing it, but our girls are too young to know.' Thousands of copies of the Channel 4 sex education packs have been sold to primary schools across the country over the past seven years. And this is not the first time it has prompted protests. Last year families campaigned unsuccessfully against the introduction of the classes for five- to seven-year-olds at Dobcroft Infant School in Sheffield. And in 2003, horrified mothers begged Cambell Infants School in Dagenham, Essex, not to use the material.

Some were so concerned about the contents that they burst into tears at a parents' viewing. In Torquay, headteacher of the 560-pupil school Roger Hughes has now agreed to review the school's policy with governors. But he defended the use of the film, saying: 'We are revising our sex education policy because girls are maturing earlier. Out of context, saying we are teaching four or five-year-olds about touching their clitoris sounds shocking. But in the context of the video it is taught well and is not offensive. It will go over the heads of most, but some children will understand it.' He continued: 'It's a fact that a child will find comfort by touching themselves between their legs, but there are times when they should not do it. In this video it is taught very nicely in a positive way. I would be comfortable with my children and grandchildren watching it. We have got guidelines on what should and should not be approached and how to handle awkward situations.' The complaints over the material come just days after serious concerns were raised over teenage pregnancy rates in Torbay.

A 14-year-old pupil at a school in Paignton last week told how having a baby is now regarded as 'fashionable' among schoolgirls. Kizzy Neal has been asked to give advice to four of her classmates who have also become pregnant since Christmas. She said: 'When my friends see my bump they say they wish they could have a baby, then three weeks later they're pregnant and don't know what to do.' Family campaigners said her comments showed how the Government's sex education policy had left teens with the 'ridiculous but extremely worrying' misconception that having a child was no different to getting a new handbag. Kizzy's revelations came as official figures show England and Wales have the highest rates of teenage pregnancies in Europe -- with the biggest increase among girls under 16. [Daily Mail]

NB. This 'Living and Growing' programme is used at St William of York RC primary school in Forest Hill, Southwark Diocese. Two parents who did had both their daughters at this school, battled for two years to get the programme removed from the school. To no avail. The school have subsequently introduced the BBC sex ed programm into the school, in addition to 'Living and Growing'. There are almost certainly other RC schools using this programme. [CF News]


Morning After Pill for 13 yr-olds in Portsmouth

Background briefing

From SPUC: Girls in Portsmouth, England, as young as 13 will be able to obtain the
morning-after pill free of charge and without parental knowledge, provided
they can prove their age. The pregnancy rate among 15 to 17-year-olds in
Portsmouth is 26% higher than the national average. Canon David Hopgood,
Dean of St John's RC Cathedral, has criticised the plan, saying that it
would not solve the problem, and "They need to be looking at family life,
the importance of marriage and good stable homes where children are
brought up with stronger values." [ The News (Portsmouth), 28 February]


Masses for Gay activists, again

Newest update (1/3/07): a spokesman for the diocese has assured CFNews that the 'Bidding Prayers for Civil Partnerships' proudly displayed on the SMPC website will not be permitted at the Masses in the Church of the Assumption.

Update (27/2/07):
fears that the new Masses will simply continue the pattern of the preaching of dissent and giving Holy Communion to public sinners appear to be confirmed by the website of the Soho Masses Pastoral Council, where we read:

The Soho Masses Pastoral Council is pleased to confirm that Masses for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgendered Catholics, parents, families and friends, will relocate from St Anne’s Anglican Church in Soho, to the nearby Catholic Church of the Assumption, Warwick Street, London W1, with effect from Sunday 4 March 2007. This follows a recent series of fruitful discussions between the SMPC and representatives of Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor, Catholic Archbishop of Westminster. The SMPC is an elected group of people from the Soho Masses congregation, responsible for the organisation of the Masses and responding to the pastoral needs of this community.

So is it the Archdiocese which is 'responsible for the organisation of the Masses', or this dissenting group?

Update 17/02/07:
the Catholic Herald of 16/2/07 claims that the Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Cardinal Levada, has approved the new Masses, as a pastoral provision for homosexuals in the Westminster Archdiocese, after prolonged negotiation on the wording of the document setting them up. This may explain the curious nature of this document. On the one hand:

This full and active participation [sc of homosexuals] takes place within the context of the wider Church and specifically within existing parish structures and pastoral services, always of course in accordance with the Church’s teaching and liturgical norms. In seeking to meet these pastoral needs there would be no attempt to create separate congregations and exclusive services out of step with the Church’s teaching.

But on the other hand:

The Archbishop’s Council of the Diocese of Westminster, reflecting on the pastoral needs of homosexual Catholics and their families and on Masses celebrated in Islington and at the Anglican Church of St Anne’s in Soho, proposes that in future a Mass should take place at Our Lady of the Assumption, Warwick Street, a Catholic Church in the West End of London. This Mass would be part of normal pastoral outreach, open to everyone and would be celebrated on Sunday at 5pm twice a month.

There is here a deliberate ambigity as to whether, and in what sense, these Masses are intended for homosexuals.

It should be noted that the new arrangements represent a victory for faithful Catholics who have been voicing their concerns about the previous arrangements for many years. Specifically, the Archdiocese seems to be seeking to take control of the Masses, to prevent their being hijacked by groups explicitly or implicitly opposed to Church teaching. The celebrants, for example, are apparantly going to be selected by the Archdiocese, and not invited by a self-selected committee of gay activists, as happened in the past. The implication seems to be that Martin Prendegast and his group of dissidents will have no role to play at all.

Legitimage concerns remain, however, as to how the arrangements will work in practice. Are these Masses, in practice, intended to provide a spiritual home for the 'Soho Masses Pastoral Council', whose website is filled with references to dissenting priests and theologians and their views? Will people giving public scandal by their lifestyles be given communion? And what, in light of the first of the two paragraphs quoted above, is the point of drawing Catholics of a particular sexual orientation away from their parishes, for worship as a group? Please take up these concerns with the Cardinal Archbishop of Wesmister ( , and with Cardinal Levada (

Original post:
There is no ambiguity in the guidelines given by the Vatican on these matters: dissident groups should not be given their own Masses, the use of Church buildings, or any other tokens of support by the Church - see the end of the post. As the Catholic Herald (9/2/07) report makes clear, these Masses are specifically for the benefit of the dissident 'Soho Masses Pastoral Council', for whom the notorious Martin Pendergast speaks in the article; see our previous post. Have a look at the 'Bidding Prayers used to mark Civil Partnerships' at the previous venue for these Masses permitted by the Cardinal. The Pope has condemned same-sex unions.

From CFNews: The Diocese of Westminster has pledged to undertake a series of practical steps to provide pastoral care for homosexual Catholics living in London. In a statement issued over the weekend Cardinal Cormac Murphy- O'Connor laid down the underlying principles behind the diocese's move, saying that the Church had a duty to 'bring the good news of Jesus Christ and to minister to all.. All people are created in the image and likeness of God and thus possess an innate human dignity that must be acknowledged and respected,' he said'.In understanding this teaching, the Church teaches that homosexual persons 'must be accepted with respect, compassion and sensitivity''.

The Church's pastoral outreach recognises that baptised persons with a homosexual inclination continue to look to the Church for a place where they might live in authentic human integrity and holiness of life'.Full and active participation is encouraged,' he added In future the diocese will celebrate a regular weekly Mass at Our Lady of the Assumption parish church in the West End, and will also provide a weekly listening service to be provided by Catholic churches in Soho and the West End to offer support and opportunities to speak with a priest. (Universe)

Here is the document again: Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, 'The Pastoral Care of the Homosexual Person', 1986: (See here for the full text.)

17: 'All support should be withdrawn from any organisations which seek to undermine the teaching of the Church, which are ambiguous about it, or which neglect it entirely. Such support, or even the semblance of such support, can be gravely misinterpreted. Special attention should be given to the practice of scheduling religious servand asnd the to the use of Church buildings by these groups, including the facilities of Catholic schools and colleges. To some, such permission to use Church property may seem only just and charitable; but in reality it is contradictory to the purpose for which these institutions were founded, it is misleading and often scandalous...'


Pope Leo XIII's Prayer to St Michael

Holy Michael, Archangel, defend us in the day of battle. Be our safeguard against the wickedness and snares of the devil. May God rebuke him, we humbly pray, and do thou, Prince of the Heavenly Host, by the power of God, thrust down to Hell Satan, and all wicked spirits who wander through the world for the ruin of souls. Amen