Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Amnesty International: secret abortion policy?

Update 29/5/07: reactions to Amnesty's pro-abortion policy.

From SPUC: Australian members of Amnesty International have expressed their disappointment over the organisation's new pro-abortion stance. Many of AI's numerous Christian members are "lining up to resign" according to school principal Fr Chris Middleton. "As a Catholic priest and the Principal of a school with an active Amnesty group, such a change in policy places me in the unwanted position of contemplating the closing down of Amnesty's presence in the school," he said. AI currently has 500 groups in Christian schools, many of which it may lose. Church leaders in other countries have also criticised AI's new policy. Canada's Catholic bishops said: "Such a change in policy would be considered by the Catholic Bishops of Canada to be a step backwards for an organization that has done such outstanding work in defending human life and the rights of the most vulnerable. This change in policy would make it difficult for Catholics to continue supporting the work of Amnesty International". Their statement
follows a similar response from the Catholic bishops of England and Wales.

Update 05/05/07: Amnesty International has admitted to changing its policy on abortion and will begin lobbying globally in favour of abortion. The new policy will involve campaigning for the decriminalisation of abortion and promoting abortion in cases such as rape. A senior policy director denied that the policy change had been kept secret, even though it was kept on a members-only webpage with instructions that the change was not to be made public. [LifeSiteNews, 11 May]

Comment: This is, sadly, the end of the line for Catholic members of Amnesty International, an organisation founded by a Catholic which, whatever criticisms one may make, has done much great work over many decades. The adoption of this policy, in secrecy and in the teeth of opposition from members and other interested parties, indicates that it has been taken over by people with a completely different agenda from the one it was founded to advance. The pattern is very similar with the UN and the EU (see our reports passim), but unlike those organisations, Catholics can resign from AI, and should do so.


From SPUC: It is asserted that Amnesty International has secretly changed its policy on abortion from neutrality to one which regards the procedure as a right. Mr Ryan Anderson of First Things is reported as saying that Amnesty's restricted-access website contains pro-abortion policy and that text on the same site forbids publication for the time being. [LifeSite, 3 May]


Monday, May 28, 2007

Hospital of St John & St Elizabeth: continuing saga

Update 28/05/07: the final showdown has been delayed.

From CFNews: A crunch meeting over the adoption of a proposed new code of ethics at the Hospital of St John and St Elizabeth in London has ended in deadlock. Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor resisted pressure to reject the code forbidding doctors working from the Catholic hospital from providing contraceptives and abortion referrals. But hospital board members also rejected demands by Church leaders to accept the code, which makes it explicitly clear that anyone working from the hospital facilities or premises will not be able to offer any service which conflicts with Catholic teaching on either the value of human life or on sexual ethics. A spokeswoman for the hospital said it was 'decided that further professional research and assessment would be undertaken for the consideration of the board at its next meeting'. Speaking after the meeting, Lord Bridgeman, chairman of the board, said: 'We are, therefore, seeking expert professional advice and will weigh up the legality and viability of the options before us conscientiously before we take any final decisions.

Meanwhile, all who use and work in the hospital should be confident that we will continue to put the needs of our patients first and foremost and provide the high quality care for which we are rightly famous.' The code would also stop doctors referring elsewhere any women who inquire at the hospital about contraception, the morning-after pill or abortion. It also bans amniocentesis to detect Down's syndrome in unborn children and in vitro fertilisation for couples struggling to conceive naturally. Cardinal Murphy-O'Connor ordered the code to be revised after it was revealed that GPs had been prescribing the morning-after pill and referring women for abortions. The Cardinal, as patron of the hospital, had ordered an inquiry in 2005 after the Linacre Centre for Healthcare Ethics, a Catholic bioethical institute which shared the site at the time, raised concerns that some doctors -most of whom were not Catholic - were flouting the existing code.

One surgeon even admitted to carrying out 'phalloplasties', a sex change operation in which prosthetic penises are attached to women who want to be men. Nicholas Bellord, the secretary of the Restituta Group, which is campaigning for the hospital to keep its Catholicity, said that Church leaders were made aware of their legal obligations in the days before the meeting. He said: 'We were able, with the assistance of John Finnis, Professor of Law and Legal Philosophy at Oxford, to provide a statement of the legal position to all members of the board prior to their meeting. We are glad to hear that this statement of the legal position has caused the board to step back from the brink of the abyss of secularising the hospital. Now, however, we sincerely hope that they [the board] will follow the request of Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor, the arbiter on ethics at the hospital, to accept the revised code of ethics and make the extensive reforms necessary at the hospital so that it once again becomes a truly Roman Catholic hospital following the teachings of the Church as required by their legal constitution.'

He added: 'We further note that, in the meantime, they will follow the old code of ethics which has frequently been ignored in the past and that the needs of patients will be put first and foremost. We trust this will extend to all patients from the moment of conception to natural death.' The row over ethics erupted after the Medical Advisory Committee of the hospital said the majority of doctors were opposed to the new code.

Briefing, 14/05/07. See here for previous post.

From CFNews: Doctors at a the Hospital of St John & St Elizabeth in London are rebelling against a proposed ban on providing contraceptives and abortion referrals and demand that Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor step down as its patron. Some staff say they are unhappy at a suggested new code of ethics which will prevent them offering any service that conflicts with Catholic teaching on the value of human rights. On Wednesday, the hospital's medical advisory committee will tell the hospital board that opposition to the proposed rules from staff and resident GPs is overwhelming. It will suggest that a 'secular' code of ethics be adopted instead and call for Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor to resign as patron.

Dr Martin Scurr, the chairman of the hospital's ethics committee, has already informed board members of the advisory committee's position. In a letter, he told them: 'It is to be anticipated that the Cardinal will withdraw his patronage from the hospital. The hospital will continue as a non-Catholic hospital, with a Catholic heritage, and a new ethics committee will subsequently be formed which must evolve a code of ethics which is acceptable to the secular cadre of clinicians of the hospital, in alignment with the jurisdiction of the General Medical Council.' The hospital was founded by the Catholic Church in 1856. Although it is a Roman Catholic charity, as a private hospital which charges fees for its services it also accepts referrals from the National Health Service and patients of all religious faiths. Two years ago, Cardinal Murphy-O'Connor ordered an inquiry after the Linacre Centre of Health Care Ethics, which at the time shared the site with the hospital, claimed that some doctors, most of whom were not Catholic, were flouting the existing code.

The Cardinal later wrote to Lord Bridgeman, the chairman of the hospital, to say that a revised code would be produced and that the hospital had to abide by it. 'There must be clarity that the hospital, being a Catholic hospital with a distinct vision of what is truly in the interests of human persons, cannot offer its patients, non-Catholic or Catholic, the whole range of services routinely accepted by many in modern secular society as being in a patient's best interest,' he wrote. Yesterday, a spokesman for Cardinal Murphy-O'Connor said: 'The Cardinal is expecting that the board takes the decision to maintain the status quo under which the hospital operates as a Catholic institution.' However, he admitted that the Cardinal was likely to resign if he did not win the support of the board. 'It is rightfully the board that decides,' he said. 'If they reject the new code of ethics then the Cardinal will have to consider his position.' Nicholas Bellord, the chairman of Restituta, a group set up to campaign for the hospital to keep its Catholic identity, said that his organisation would take 'immediate legal action' if the code were not accepted in its entirety.


California Sex Ed programme passed

Briefing: coming soon to a school near you... In fact this is only slightly worse than what is on offer in schools in the UK already.

From CFNews: Radical legislation, mandating that schoolchildren as young as kindergarten learn about transsexuality, bisexuality and homosexuality, has passed the California State Senate. SB 777 requires textbooks, instructional materials, and school-sponsored activities to positively portray cross-dressing, sex-change operations, same-sex marriages, all aspects of homosexuality and bisexuality, and so-called 'gay history.' Silence on these sexual lifestyles will not be allowed. Yesterday's vote, 23 to 13, was on a party line -- Democrats for, Republicans against. No Republican senator rose to speak against the bill. SB 777 would teach these sexual subjects without parental permission. The new mandate would be enforced by the attorneys of the California Department of Education, which would sue school districts that do not comply.

'The notion of forcing children to support controversial sexual lifestyles is shocking and appalling to millions of fathers and mothers,' said Randy Thomasson, president of Campaign for Children and Families (CCF). The group is calling on the governor to pledge to veto the bill. 'Parents don't want their children taught to become homosexual or bisexual or to wonder whether they need a sex-change operation,' said Thomasson. 'SB 777 will shatter the academic purpose of education by turning every government school into a sexual indoctrination centre.' The bill would also replace the definition of sex in the Education Code, which currently reads: 'Sex means the biological condition or quality of being a male or female human being.' It would be replaced with 'Gender means sex, and includes a person's gender identity and gender related appearance and behaviour whether or not stereotypically associated with the person's assigned sex at birth.' The definition was authored by lesbian Senator Sheila Kuehl.


UN continues to push abortion: appeal to US

Briefing. The US weilds considerable power over the UN, as a major financial contributor and the world's superpower. It has nevertheless failed to stop the UN's politicisation: going far beyond their mandates, UN agencies routinely demand that countries introduce anti-family and anti-life legislation. The example below involves Pakistan.

From CFNews: The Catholic Family Institute (C-Fam) reports from New York that, in a letter to the Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, several US senators have argued that the US Senate must demand UN reform prior to US ratification of any UN treaties or conventions. Samantha Singson writes: 'Citing concern over the UN's vulnerability to 'corruption and mismanagement,' the letter to Senator Joseph Biden calls on Congress to ensure that the UN human rights treaty body authorities, which oversee state implementation of ratified treaties, will be 'impartial and will not attempt to exceed [the UN's] mandates.'

A week ago, a diverse coalition of more than 30 influential American NGOs sent a similar letter to US senators expressing their concern about an 'unreformed and politicized UN' which would exercise implementing authority regarding treaties such as the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) and the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC). Their concerns were validated recently when the text of the Colombian high court decision to legalize abortion was translated and widely distributed. According to the document, the court cited the non-binding recommendations of the CEDAW committee as part of its justification for liberalizing Colombia's abortion laws.

These two letters arrived in the US Senate as the CEDAW committee convened in New York. During its first review of Pakistan on Tuesday, treaty body experts questioned the country on its abortion laws and access to services and contraception. Abortion is illegal in Pakistan except to save the life of the mother. Three separate CEDAW Committee members pressed the Pakistani delegation about possibly liberalizing the country's abortion laws. In response to the questioning, the Pakistani representative said, 'Abortion is considered murder once a foetus is conceived.'

In what has become boilerplate during CEDAW reviews, the committee members linked maternal mortality to unsafe abortion and claimed that Pakistan's low contraceptive prevalence also led to increased instances of unsafe abortion. This line of reasoning contradicts findings the committee has made elsewhere. In their sixth periodic report of France, for example, CEDAW found that, 'despite the massive dissemination of information regarding contraceptive methods in the past thirty years, the number of undesired pregnancies is still high. According to the most recent data, almost one-third of all pregnancies are unexpected; of them, half end in voluntary termination.'

Some experts argue that the committees are not objective and selectively use data to promote a radical social agenda. They argue that the same NGOs that influence the committees to promote legalized abortion are now pressuring the US to ratify CEDAW and other UN treaties. Concerned Women for America president Wendy Wright told the Friday Fax, 'The need for UN reform is an irrefutable fact in the wake of the Oil for Food and Food for Sex scandals. Yet rather than mending their ways, UN officials abuse their authority and pressure countries to adopt immoral and life-threatening policies. The UN needs tough love, and the US is in the position to administer - but that won't happen if the US lends credibility and subjects itself to unrepentant UN officials by ratifying more UN treaties.' [C-Fam]


Saturday, May 26, 2007

Pope Benedict on Catholic politicians and abortion

Briefing: this issue has been in the news in the Americas, but clearly has equal relevance here. A 2004 document written by the then Cardinal Ratzinger, 'Worthiness to Receive Holy Communion', has been made public and bishops in Mexico and the United States have agreed to abide by it. It makes clear the long-standing position of the Church, that, first, support for abortion and euthanasia result in automatic excommunication, and, second, that those publicly known to be supporters of abortion or euthanasia must be refused Holy Communion.

For Catholic voters, the document states that “A Catholic would be guilty of formal cooperation in evil, and so unworthy to present himself for Holy Communion, if he were to deliberately vote for a candidate precisely because of the candidate’s permissive stand on abortion and/or euthanasia. When a Catholic does not share a candidate’s stand in favor of abortion and/or euthanasia, but votes for that candidate for other reasons, it is considered remote material cooperation, which can be permitted in the presence of proportionate reasons.” See Jimmy Akin for commentary on this.

For an article on a Honduran Cardinal who apparently rejects this position, see here.

For the fury of pro-abortion US politicians, and the reaction of the US Bishops' Conference, see here.


Friday, May 25, 2007

Scottish NUS to vote on 'homophobic' Christian course


From Christian Concern for our Nation: MEMBERS of the Scottish National Union of Students are attempting to ban a Christian course on relationships from taking place on university and college campuses.

At tomorrow's (26 May) Annual Meeting of the Scottish NUS in Glasgow, a Private Members Motion calls on delegates to pass a resolution banning the Pure Course on the basis that it is homophobic.

The course, run by Christian Unions, is based on the orthodox Christian teachings concerning marriage, and teaches the importance of fidelity in relationships. It has been run on campuses throughout Scotland over the past 18 months. The Pure course was suspended from being taught on campus by Edinburgh University at the end of last year following claims by the Lesbian Gay Bisexual and Trans-gendered Society that it was discriminatory and breached Equal Opportunities Policies. However, the University, after examining the course, allowed the CU to continue to teach it on campus, rejecting the claims.

The NUS motion to be debated claims: "The pure course is a homophobic course that denounces homosexuality as 'sexually immoral', supports the suppression and 'healing' of homosexuality, and advises students with 'same sex impulses' to consult homophobic literature to attempt to cure them of their homosexual tendencies."

However, Anna Shilliday, a Christian who supports the right of Christian students to meet and discuss the Bible's teaching on relationships, in the same way she defends the rights of all students including gay groups to hold seminars based on their beliefs, will speak against the motion on two grounds.

Miss Shilliday will tell delegates that approving such an amendment will make a "laughing stock" of the way NUS Conference resolutions are made, and that the claims of the motion are groundless.

In her speech she will say: "The Motion calls for a ban on the Pure course, but there has been no official opportunity for delegates to hear proper representation from UCCF, or the course writers, or presenters. This makes a mockery of quality debate, and is an insult to those of us being asked to vote on it. It invalidates any serious attempt we may wish for Conference decisions to be taken seriously by the outside world.

"Delegates are being asked to ban something they have never seen, read or in some cases, ever heard of. This is nonsense. As undergraduates or post graduates, we are taught, and pride ourselves, in research, examining the evidence, reflecting and then forming sound judgements and opinions based on careful analysis. Where is the evidence from both sides to this motion?

"Conference, voting on this motion without each of us having at least read the materials encourages us to be as prejudicial and intolerant of the Pure course as this motion claims the Pure course is of our friends and fellow colleagues who are homosexuals."

Miss Shilliday will tell fellow students that the Lesbian Gay Bisexual and Transgender societies in Aberdeen and Glasgow have very good relationships with
the Christian Unions and the Pure course has been run in both these universities, without problems, despite holding disagreements."

Kay Cathcart, UCCF staff worker for Edinburgh CUs, said: "The purpose of the Pure course is to help Christian Union members develop a biblical perspective on their relationships. It is about living out relationships in the light of God's love, forgiveness and design. God values us all as people made in his image and it is in response to our relationship with him that Christians choose not to satisfy their sexual desires outside of marriage, whether in a heterosexual or homosexual context. Refraining from acting on some of our sexual desires is a good and normal part of human experience. None of this promotes homophobia.

"The Pure course is not a 'healing' course for homosexuality. If someone on the course recognised strong feelings of same-sex attraction and requested guidance, we would encourage them to contact the True Freedom Trust, which would empathise and help them to work out what they actually want to do.

Miss Shilliday will advise conference that the allegations of homophobia could easily have been refuted if UCCF/Pure course leaders had been allowed representation.


For further information: Kay Cathcart 07954 162 488 (UCCF workers); Paul Eddy
(PR) 01202 522177, 08932 019 430.

Editor's Notes:-

The wording of the Anti-Pure Course motion is as follows:-

The Motion:
Conference believes:
1.That over the past year the UCCF has attempted to run a course called PURE at colleges and universities in Scotland through their Christian unions.
2. The pure course is a homophobic course that denounces homosexuality as 'sexually immoral', supports the suppression and 'healing' of homosexuality, and advises students with 'same sex impulses' to consult homophobic literature to attempt to cure them of their homosexual tendencies.
Conferences further believe:
1. That this sort of intolerance and prejudice is unacceptable regardless of where it comes from.
2. That pure and other similar courses promote the continued homophobia we see in society and affect vulnerable LGBT students.
3. That homophobia on our campuses must be stopped
4. That our pure prejudice campaign has helped prevent the pure course from running on our campuses so far.
5. That it is vital LGBT Officers and societies are kept informed about the pure course and similar courses
6. That it is important for our campaign to continue to support LGBT students with faith in organised religion
7. That neither religion nor faith should be used as a shield to deflect criticism of homophobia.
Conference resolves:
1. To condemn the pure course and other similar homophobic courses
2. To continue the pure prejudice campaign to keep the pure course out of Scotland
3. To help LGBT officers and societies campaign against these courses on our college and university campuses
4. To continue to support LGBT students of religious and work with religious organisations to promote tolerance, understanding and better working

UCCF's brief response at the request of Anna Shilliday:-

UCCF statement for NUS Scotland conference regarding the Pure course. (May 2007)

We find common ground with the desire expressed in this motion to work against hate and intolerance.

The purpose of the Pure course is to help Christian Union members develop a biblical perspective on their relationships. It is about living out relationships in the light of God's love, forgiveness and design. God values us all as people made in his image and it is in response to our relationship with him that Christians choose not to satisfy their sexual desires outside of marriage, whether in a heterosexual or homosexual context. Refraining from acting on some of our sexual desires is a good and normal part of human experience. None of this promotes homophobia.

The Pure course is not a 'healing' course for homosexuality. If someone on the course recognised strong feelings of same-sex attraction and requested guidance, we would encourage them to contact the True Freedom Trust, which would empathise and help them to work out what they actually want to do.

To say that the Pure course does not agree with LGBT views on homosexuality is true. To suggest that anything in the Pure Course constitutes hate speech or promotes hatred towards homosexuality is untrue and irresponsible. The motion as it stands could lead to innocent people being unjustifiably accused of homophobia and prejudice. This is a very serious and avoidable outcome. We do not serve each other well by banning each other's views, or stereotyping each other's responses, particularly in matters of such fundamental personal and social importance..

The motion resolves to support LGBT students with religious faith, yet at the same time the motion discriminates against those LGBT students who wish to explore the historic, orthodox Christian views expressed in Pure. The only consistent way to truly respect LGBT students who choose not to live a gay or lesbian lifestyle because of their faith, is to allow the Pure course even while disagreeing with its contents.

In conclusion we submit that the motion does not accurately represent the Pure course's aims or values. Nor is it responsible in seeking to ban Pure, since the repercussions of such a major removal of basic freedom will be significantly harmful to the student body. We wholeheartedly support the desire to speak well of each other, even when we disagree and to that end would appreciate dialogue that allows concerns to be expressed and understood. UCCF would be positive about promoting NUS initiatives that encouraged dialogue with CUs. In addition we are confident that CU's would welcome any NUS representatives who wished to experience the course for themselves."


Thursday, May 24, 2007

SPUC petition against infanticide for the disabled

Action, please: please sign and distribute this petition. It can be downloaded here (though not signed online).

From SPUC: The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG) has called for a debate on infanticide - i.e., the killing of newly born babies.

The RCOG is the body which represents doctors who perform abortions including abortions on babies up to birth. Disabled people, particularly those with conditions regarded as 'severe' will be both appalled and made afraid by the RCOG's call.

Already disabled babies are killed up to birth because of 'severe disability'. Once it is established that killing is acceptable on grounds of disability it is inevitable that it will spread to encompass increasing numbers of victims. The British pro-abortion philosopher John Harris has made the point that there is no ethical difference between killing unborn disabled children and killing those who are born. This is true, but his conclusion that therefore both are acceptable is false. Deliberate killing on grounds of disability is always wrong regardless of the age or status of the victim.

You can help raise awareness of this extremely serious attack directed against babies who are, or may become disabled, by taking part in our Petition Day on Saturday 2 June.

If you belong to a SPUC branch, please enquire about the branch's plans to promote and stage the Petition Day. If you are not in a branch then please contact Tony Mullett, our national branch development manager, on (01772) 258580 or email tonymullett@spuc.org.uk, for copies of the petition and details of how to promote it publicly.
Demo at the RCOG - 13 June

SPUC's group for disabled people and their carers, No Less Human, is
planning a demonstration at the headquarters of the Royal College of
Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG) in London and SPUC supporters are
invited to attend and present our petition to the RCOG at the

For more details please contact Linda Davidson at SPUC HQ on (020) 7222
5845, or email lindadavidson@spuc.org.uk.


Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Audio downloads from Pro Ecclesiae

Announcement: readers interested in this kind of thing, particularly the remarkable Ven Fulton Sheen, should also have a look at Keep the Faith.

From PEEP: "We are pleased to announce an addition to our website. We now have a page containing a list of catechetical and devotional talks by eminent Catholic speakers here. Titles already include the catechetical series "What We Catholics Believe" by Daphne McLeod, "A Catechism of Christian Doctrine" by Fr Hugh Thwaites SJ, and "Ye Shall Know the Truth" - a series of 50 catechetical talks by the late Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen. The files are recorded in MP3 format and can be listened to through Windows Media Player. They can also be saved on a computer's hard drive and then burned to a CD with suitable software. In the interests of making the teachings of the Catholic Church available to all, the speakers have donated these recordings to Pro Ecclesia et Pontifice for free downloading and distribution. The original recordings are the legacy of John Edwards (R.I.P.) of CV Productions. They must not be altered and they must not be sold on. If you want any further information, please telephone Daphne McLeod on 01372 454 160. We hope to add further talks to this already invaluable collection in the near future. Please visit this site, and tell others about it, and get downloading and distributing to help spread the Faith!"


Friday, May 18, 2007

Martyrs' Walk, London 23rd June

Please support this witness to the Catholic faith.

Continuity Presents: Martyrs' Walk
June 23rd, 11:00-6:00, Tower Hill to Tyburn Convent

“Christianity is a warfare, and Christians spiritual soldiers. It cannot come to full growth unless it be fostered with the showers of the martyr’s blood.
–St. Robert Southwell, SJ Martyr

“Jesus, convert England, Jesus, have mercy on this country; O England, be converted to the Lord thy God!”
–Bl. Henry Heath, OFM Martyr

11:00 Tower Hill Gathering for Introduction & Meditation
13:00 Lunch and Presentation at Greyfriars
14:00 Procession to St. Patrick’s Church
15:00 Benediction & Sermon at St. Patrick’s Church
15:30 Refreshments in Soho Square
16:30 Procession to Tyburn Convent
17:30 Closing Mass at Tyburn Convent

Full details here.


Briefing on Hybrids

This issue is becoming important, so here is some more detailed background information. For the report on the Government's decision to legalise hybrids, see here. Don't forget to take part in the HFEA consultation, here.

What are hybrids? Also called 'chimera', human-animal hybrids are creatures with both human and non-human components.

Used broadly, the term includes a human with a animal organ transplant (such a pig's heart-valve), or an animal (such as a laboratory mouse) which has been injected with human brain cells. These cases can be medically and experimentally useful, and are not morally problematic. What is usually referred to, however, is the creation of an embryo with both human and animal genetic material. For this distinction see the 'Mary Meets Dolly' post here. In the latter case, if the creature were to reproduce, the genetic mixture would be passed on; in the former, it would not (it is not 'proliferative').

Hybrid embryos can be produced in three ways.
(1) A sperm of one species could be used to fertilise an egg of another, as happens when a horse and a donkey produce a mule; this might prove to be possible between humans and closely related species, such as chimpanzees, but has never been done.

(2) A human somatic cell nucleus (i.e. a nucleus from an ordinary cell, not a sperm or egg), can be inserted into an egg of another animal (such as a cow), from which the nucleus has been removed. Giving the product an electric shock can get it to start growing like a newly fertilised egg. All the genetic material would be human, with the exception of the mitochondrial DNA, which is outside the nucleus. This is called a cytoplasmic hybrid embryo. It has been claimed that this has been done.

(3) Genes of one species could be inserted into the DNA of another, at a very early stage of development; this would create a 'transgenic embryo'. So far, human genes have been inserted into animal embryos, but not vice versa. On all this see the HFEA consultation pdf here.

Why do scientists want to produce hybrids? For several reasons.

The shortage of human eggs means that making human embryos for experimentation - whether cloned or fertilised in vitro - difficult. Using human sperm or somatic cells and animal eggs would solve the problem. Also, it is hoped that there would be fewer ethical concerns about experimenting on a creature which is not fully human.

Another motive, bizarrely, is to annoy Christians by showing that humans are nothing but animals. How this would work as an argument is hard to see, but the proposal is reported here.

Finally, anything which hasn't been done before, and which is controversial, excites some members of the scientific community.

What are the medical or scientific benefits of hybrids? As with human cloning and embryonic stem cells, the claims made on behalf of hybrids are enormous, but the reality is different. A great many scientists have pointed out that hybrids tend to die very quickly, and have very little potential for medicine or research. On this, see Comment on Reproductive Ethics press release.

How much opposition is there to hybrids? It has been banned in a number of countries, including Canada, Australia, France and Germany, and condemned by a number of scientific bodies. See here for the Scottish Council on Bioethics; the Royal Society has said "There is at present insufficient scientific justification for creating human-animal hybrid embryos.''

What exactly is the ethical problem with hybrid embryos? Deliberately creating a creature with human and animal genetic material is an attack on the sanctity of human life.

It is true that the exact moral (and theological) status of a hybrid embryo is unclear, and may never be clear. It will also, no doubt, depend on the exact process used to produce the embryo. It may never be known, for example, if the products of a particular procedure would, when sufficiently developed, be rational: they may, after all, never survive very long. However, even humans with very severe handicaps have the right to be treated with respect, including the right to life, and hybrids could be thought of as severely, and deliberately, handicapped humans.

What is clear is that the deliberate creation of embryos whose humanity is unclear is itself a crime against human life: it is incompatible with respect for human life. No responsible parent would conceive a child with the intention that the child be handicapped, out of curiosity; that is effectively what the scientists are proposing to do. To subject hybrid embryos to destructive research, as is usually planned, on the plea that the moral status of the embryo is ambiguous, is another wrong: actions which may be murder should not be done.

Further information: 'Mary Meets Dolly'; 'Comment on Reproductive Ethics'; 'HFEA'


Morning After Pill in Staffordshire


From SPUC: Nearly 200 schoolgirls in North Staffordshire, England, have been given the morning-after pill by school nurses since a scheme was set up by the local health authority in 2003. The annual rate has risen from 19 in the first year to 84 in 2006. Our source quoted a SPUC spokesman as saying: "The answer to various modern problems isn't to make birth control and abortion more widely available but to have a culture which values human life." [The Sentinel, 9 May] Pupils at Lutterworth Grammar School, Leicestershire, which has been criticised for giving out 345 morning-after pills in the last four years, have expressed support on a website for their headmaster. They point out that the Strictly Confidential service was set up four years ago, and Mr Eddie De Middelaer has only been at the school a year. They think he was right to keep the service. [Leicester Mercury, 9 May]


Thursday, May 17, 2007

Hybrids: Government publishes draft bill to permit them

Action: please lobby your MP. The creation of human-animal hybrids is an attack on the sanctity of life. Please respond to the HFEA Consultation, which is open between till 20th July 2007, here.

From The BBC, in part: Ministers have bowed to pressure to allow the creation of human animal hybrid embryos for research.

When the ban was proposed last year there were fears among scientists it would hamper medical breakthroughs.

Hybrid embryos will only be allowed for research into serious disease and scientists will require a licence.

Scientists welcomed the proposals put forward in the draft fertility bill, but opponents questioned the ethics of using human cells in this way.

See here for the full story.


Monday, May 14, 2007

Masses for Gay activists, nationwide

Local action as appropriate: Bishops are increasingly giving permission for public Masses in Catholic Churches to be said at the request of dissident groups of gay activists, notably 'Quest', which was removed from the Catholic Directory in 1998 for refusing to bring its constitution into line with Catholic teaching. These Masses are being used to undermine the faith and give the impression of respectability to groups opposed to Church teaching. Readers must keep abreast of local developments and complain about them to their bishops.

From CFNews, on events in Liverpool: Following upon the widely criticised 'homosexual Masses ' currently being said in London, a similar event is now to take place at the University Catholic Chaplaincy in Liverpool. Quest, the self-styled 'group for Lesbian and Gay Catholics'' , is advertising a a meeting for Younger Members (under 40), allowing them 'to have an opportunity to engage with similar people in a relaxed and supportive environment'. 'We will be watching an LGB/Catholic related DVD, chatting about our own experiences, attending Mass, then going out for food at a local reasonably priced restaurant. For those of you with enough stamina, we will take you out to experience a few of Liverpool's many vibrant bars'.

Further local information:

Liverpool: as noted above, Quest is using the University Catholic Chaplaincy.

Birmingham: the local Quest group has Masses at St Catherine of Siena, Bristol St.

Leicester: the local Quest group uses the Holy Cross Church, a Dominican Priory, colonising the 9.30 Mass and in Feb 2006 had its first publicly advertised Mass (advertised in the parish and diocese). The Dominicans provide the group with a 'Chaplain'. See here.

Nottingham: Quest reports in its Newsletter that Bishop Malcolm McMahon OP has actively encouraged them.

Westminster: the Masses organised by the 'Soho Masses Pastoral Council', are setting a precedent for developments elsewhere.

There are also active Quest groups, with 'supportive' priests saying Mass for them, in
Manchester, Cambridege, Glasgow.


Thursday, May 10, 2007

HFEA permits embryo selection for hair colour

Briefing: remember, what this means is destroying all the embryos that do not have the required characteristics.

From CFNews: The Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority has granted the first-ever licence for embryo screening for a cosmetic defect. The licence was granted to Prof Gedis Grudzinskas of the Bridge Centre family clinic in London to help a businessman and his wife, both of whom have squints, to create a baby without the condition. Prof Gudzinskas said that he would seek to screen embryos for any genetic factor that would cause a family 'severe distress' including hair colour.


Euro Parliament attack's Croatia's Catholic sex ed

Briefing: first Poland, now Croatia: identical stories.

From CFNews: Croatia has been targeted by the European parliament over a sex education curriculum that opposes homosexuality and teaches abstinence before marriage. Deputies for the European parliament (EP) accused Croatia of 'supplying medically inaccurate and incomplete information about sexual and reproductive health and family planning as well as about available and legal contraceptive methods' in the proposed curriculum, in a letter sent to Croatian officials. The reproductive health and sexual curriculum was introduced by the GROZD Association, a parent-based group, with the backing of the Catholic Church -- Croatia is almost 90% Roman Catholic. The EP officials warned the curriculum could encourage 'stigma and discrimination' and suggested it may violate Croatia's laws against discrimination based on sexual orientation. They condemned the curriculum as 'gender-biased' and said it features 'negative attitudes towards homosexuality, thus contradicting Croatian laws.' The sex education program has received the approval of Croatia's education ministry but still needs to be approved by the ministry of health before being introduced into the schools. The EP's move against Croatia follows an earlier resolution by the EP to take 'homophobic' countries to court. First on their target list was Poland, which members of the EP vilified as 'hateful' and 'repulsive' because of proposed legislation that would make it illegal to teach pro-homosexual material in schools.


Latin American Cardinal calls on Catholics to defend the family

Briefing: there have recently been a number of statements along these lines by senior members of vaious national hierarchy and the curia, and this is representative. It is part of the Holy Father's strategy of leading by pursuasion. This particular statement chimes in exactly with the aims of this blog.

From CFNews: During his weekly radio program, 'Dialogue of Faith,' Cardinal Juan Luis Cipriani Thorne of Lima warned of the existence of a worldwide campaign to attack religion in order to destroy the right to life, marriage and the family, and said Catholics must put up resistance. 'Without the family there is no society, there is no globalization, nor economic progress, there is nothing; the family is the basic cell of society,' the cardinal said in reference to one of the central challenges that will be addressed at the 5th General Conference of the Latin American Bishops' Council in Parricide (Brazil), which he will attend. 'The Church, out of love of humanity, must wage this battle in order to stop the spread of campaigns that kill the unborn, destroy marriage and do not recognize the good of the family,' Cardinal Cyprian said, warning that 'in today's world there is a conspiracy to exile morality from public life, in the world of politics, in the business world and in the media. Therefore now is the time to defend morality.' The archbishop of Lima emphasized that Catholic parents 'are called to make the home into a school of values.'


Government Apology for the Dissolution of the Monasteries?

Please sign the petition. This is just a bit of fun, but with a serious point: if the Government, like John Paul II, feels it is appropriate to apologise for long past injustices, they should not exclude the Catholic Church from the list of victims.

The first signatory is John Jolliffe, the well-known Catholic journalist.


Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Government backs down on Home-Schooling

Briefing: a surprising turn-around from the ideas being floated over the last two years, during consultations on reforming the law on home schooling: see our earlier post. It has been welcomed by 'Education Otherwise', the home-schooling group.

From the BBC: [The Government] has decided not to propose any changes to current monitoring arrangements or legislation.

It has dropped plans for compulsory registration of home-educated children.

Instead it is proposing to issue guidelines for the first time, which point out that it is fundamental to the English system that the responsibility for educating children rests on the parents.

That same principle also applies in the devolved education systems in the rest of the UK.

What parents must provide is "efficient full-time education" suitable to their children's age, ability and aptitude and any special educational needs.

See the full article here.


Clifton's Catholic-Anglican Schools to have content-free RE

Local action as appropriate. PEEP's Daphne MacLeod has uncovered some very serious deficiencies in the RE syllabus of the new joint Catholic-Anglican schools established in Clifton.

From The Flock, newsletter of Pro Ecclesiae et Ponitifice. We have received a copy of the uncompleted R.E. Syllabus compiled for religious teachers in Catholic/Anglican Senior schools in the Diocese of Clifton. It covers the whole of the first Year, (Year 7) so is for eleven- to twelve-year-olds. It also gives a summary of the teaching to be given in the next two years. It seems to have been written by Lewis Carroll’s Humpty Dumpty, who made words mean whatever he liked them to mean because this Syllabus changes the meaning of even important words. For example, the first Module for Year 7 on The truth of faith misinforms the eleven-year-olds by stating that: 'Truth in the church is revealed by the shared understanding of the community' and again: 'In the church we understand that Truth is discerned by the understanding of the community.' This is clearly wrong!

Not only is this wrong, even about secular truths, but it also contradicts the Church’s consistent, universal and therefore infallible teaching that religious Truth is found in Divine Revelation. As the 1994 Catechism explains, Truth comes to us first from Old Testament prophets, then from Almighty God Himself when He became Man and now from His One Holy Roman Catholic and Apostolic Church. But this Syllabus ignores Divine Revelation and even the possibility of objective Truth. We are obviously dealing with blatant heresy here, and a very dangerous heresy, but one which is convenient for R.E. teachers who have to teach two conflicting beliefs like Catholicism and Anglicanism at the same time to their mixed classes.

Once the pupils have been indoctrinated with the belief that Religious Truth is merely subjective, the next module Truth about Jesus follows this dictum. So they discuss questions such as Why depict Jesus as a revolutionary? trying, it must be supposed, to come to a consensus! Most of their R.E. time is spent in discussing such questions - or using irrelevant resources like an image of Jesus looking like Che Guevara. The next unit deals with Salvation so: we need saving from ageing, death, poverty, boredom, etc is to be discussed and the outcome must be that Students will be able to agree their own definition of Salvation. There is a great deal of open discussion and very little solid teaching, and what there is misleads pupils. For example, after the Resurrection, the statement 'Jesus is alive in the spirit' qualifies 'Jesus is alive' and makes it look as if He is not really alive.

Clare Richards (despite her condemnation by the Vatican) is a recommended resource!

The next Module called Belonging deals with the Church and ‘church’ is redefined as 'a community who see in Christ their salvation and are called to be his presence in the world.' This is not precise enough. The Council of Trent defined the Church as: 'a union of human beings who are united by profession of the same faith, by participation of and in the same Sacraments and under the direction of their lawful pastors, especially the one representative of Christ on earth, the Bishop of Rome.' This definition was confirmed by the second Vatican Council and therefore must be taught to pupils at Catholic schools. The Vatican Document, Dominus Iesus in 2000, explained that the Anglican community cannot legitimately be called a Church.

The final module for this year deals with Sikhism and it is rather sad to read that the learning outcome is that 'Students are able to describe and explain the key beliefs in Sikhism' when they are extremely unlikely to be able to describe and explain the key beliefs in Catholicism. The next two years, taking the children up to 14 or 15 seem to offer only more vague questions loosely based on some aspects of Christianity with, in year 8, lessons on Buddhism and Judaism while year 9 deals with Islam.

There is no attempt in these three years to cover any of the material which should be covered, for example no explanation of the precepts in the Creed: no teaching on the Commandments: no exploration of the Sacramental System; nothing about the Fall, our Redemption, Sanctifying Grace or the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass; no attempt to introduce the children to Our Blessed Lady, the Angels and the Communion of Saints or even our holy Martyrs, no mention of Church History or the importance of daily prayer. No suggestion is made that teachers should consult The Catechism of the Catholic Church, called the “norm” for R.E. by Pope John Paul 11, nor is the Compendium, recommended by Pope Benedict XVI, even mentioned.

It is obvious from this Syllabus that these schools can no longer be described as Catholic as, not only do they fail to teach enough about the Faith for pupils to be able to lead good Catholic lives, they falsify the status of the Divine Revelation the children are entitled to hear unaltered. Rome should insist Bishop Declan Lang of Clifton removes the name ‘Catholic’ from them, admits to his flock that he has given away the schools their forefathers sacrificed so much for and advises Catholic parents to use state schools in future while teaching religion to their children at home with Faith and Life or another sound American Scheme. Catholic R.E. teachers, many of whom we understand are very unhappy with this Syllabus, would be well advised to seek employment in other schools.

Daphne McLeod


Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Support for Doctors' conscientious objection to abortion


From SPUC: Leading family doctors in Cambridge are supporting the right of doctors to
refuse to provide abortions, in response to a survey in Pulse magazine which showed growing opposition to abortion by doctors. Dr Mike Knapton, a family doctor, said "I think it is absolutely right doctors who have moral or religious objections to this treatment should have the right not to provide this service. It is only right and proper GPs (general practitioners) make it known [that] patients can see another doctor for assessment." A spokesman for Marie Stopes International said "it lends fuel to the argument that we should take doctors out of the picture." [Cambridge Evening News 4 May] Comment: "SPUC has warned that the publicity around doctors who exercise their legal and moral right to conscientious objection, will be used by the pro-abortion lobby as a pretext for arguing that less highly qualified staff should be allowed to perform abortions. As well as resisting this, doctors must continue to
resist the pressure to refer on for abortions - otherwise their moral and legal position will quickly be eroded."


Monday, May 07, 2007

Warwick Street Masses: call to action

Action, please: please pray, write to the Cardinal, and, if possible join the protest outside the Church; see below for the full details.

From The Flock, newsletter of Pro Ecclesiae et Pontifice:

Please pray that the Cardinal will be moved to take four important steps -

1 withdraw his approval of these Masses, forbidding the use of any of his churches or any of his priests for Masses involving those who are openly practising homosexual life-styles;

2 issue an Ad Clerum instructing his priests to give the Church’s teaching on homosexuality, as found in the 1994 Catechism, from their pulpits;

3 arrange for prayers of Reparation to be offered in the Cathedral and all his diocesan churches for the serious sacrileges committed under his jurisdiction;

4 with the duty belonging to his office obey Canon 808 of the 1983 Canon Law and insist the LGBT group must stop using the word 'Catholic' because, being public dissenters from infallible Church teaching, it is not theirs to use and it causes confusion and scandal.

Please also pray that these sacrileges will be stopped and hasten that by giving them publicity and writing and encouraging others to write letters to our leaders here and in Rome.

We have just heard that a similar 'Gay-friendly' Mass offered (by coincidence, also at a Church called St.Mary of the Assumption) in Salt Lake City, Utah, U.S.A. has been stopped after only three Masses. According to the report in The Salt Lake City Tribune of 5 th March, available on their web-site, it was stopped because there was so much publicity given to it by shocked American Catholics. The diocese is without a bishop at present because their bishop was sent to San Francisco to replace Cardinal Levada who had been sent to Rome to head the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

Lay people wrote to the Bishop elect, Mgr.John Wester, to the interim administrator Mgr.Terence Fitzgerald, and to the Vatican. There were so many letters they could not be ignored. Apparently the letters reported that no mention was made at the Mass that the Church teaches that homosexual 'practice' is seriously sinful and therefore a temptation which must be resisted. Well, I have news for the Cardinal: no mention was made of Church teaching by any of the priests or people present at the Mass on March 4 th in this country either. So, dear readers …………start writing!

For the full text see here.


Sunday, May 06, 2007

Cardinal Murphy-O'Connor: fails to criticise Blair in interview

Briefing: In an interview with Andrew Marr the Cardinal was asked about Blair's legacy, and has nothing but praise for him. Asked about the coming relaxation on restrictions on the Traditional Mass, he suggests the wording of the Good Friday prayer for the conversion of the Jews is indeed problematic (based on a mistake about the 1962 wording), but that it would be changed spontaneously by celebrants. This is all very depressing.

For the interview, see here; for commentary, see the Hermeneutic of Continuity.


Masses for Gay activists and Bishop Longley

Briefing. Bishop Longley, regarded as one of the more 'conservative' auxiliary bishops of the Archdiocese of Westminster, has been put in charge of the Warwick Street Masses for a group of militant gay activists, which we reported on here, by Cardinal Murphy-O'Connor. It remains the Cardinal's responsibility, however, and it seems a mistake to focus criticism of the Masses on Longley, who ultimately has no power to stop them. It also seems inappropriate to use the Rosary Crusade of Reparation as an opportunity for protesting about these Masses. It is a great success for the organisers that an English bishop will lead the procession: the hierarchy should be encouraged, not discouraged, from taking part in these events.

Report in the Catholic Herald (Apr 27th) (in part): 'A bishop has been urged to step down from leading a rosary procession in London after he arranged the celebration of Masses especially for homosexuals.
Pro Ecclesiae et Pontifice, a conservative lay Catholic movement, wrote to Auxiliary Bishop Bernard Longley of Westmister to warn that he faced the threat of vigilante action if he led this year's Crusade of Reparation.
Daphne MacLeod, chairwoman of the group, said she has no advance word that the bishop would be heckled or accosted but said similar incidents has happened in the past when people were deeply annoyed.'

The accuracy of (this part of) the report is confirmed by a letter from Daphne MacLeod in the May 4th issue of the Catholic Herald, in which she explains that her letter to Bishop Longley must have been leaked to the press by someone in his office.

The article went on to report the accusations made against these Masses, and explains that the Rosary Crusade, a procession through the streets of London attended by 2,000 people, has not been led by a bishop of England and Wales for more than a decade.


Wednesday, May 02, 2007

'Homosexual hands off Poland'

Action: please sign the petition. Poland's refusal to adopt the agenda of radical homosexual groups has led to its being censured by the European Parliament: please defend Poland's right to be governed in accordance with the moral law.

From C-Fam: The power of the radical homosexual movement in Europe has just been shown. The European Parliament just voted to condemn Poland on what they term “homophobia.” What was Poland’s crime? The Polish Prime Minister said that Polish school children should not be subject to “homosexual propaganda.”

Polish authorities have also resisted demands from radical homosexuals that they be allowed to march in the streets. If you live in any major city you know these marches where leather boys and pedophiles march freely and disruptively through the streets.

The response of the European Parliament was to pass a resolution calling these sensible actions “hate speech” and asks competent legal authorities to take action against these officials and the government of Poland.

This is outrageous and all people of good will must stand with the Polish people against the radical homosexual movement in the European Union.

I ask you to go immediately to the petition “Homosexual Hands Off Poland”
at www.c-fam.org/handsoffpoland.php

The petitions will be delivered to the Polish authorities on Thursday, May 10. I will personally deliver them to Polish Members of the European Parliament and to members of the Polish government when I am in Warsaw for the World Congress of Families.

We only have a few days to get as many names as possible. I urge you to go to www.c-fam.org/handsoffpoland.php and sign the petition, then send this message to everyone you know. We need to deliver thousands of names of supporters from all over the world. I especially urge those in the EU countries to get this message to everyone you know. We must tell the radicals in the European Union to keep homosexual hands off of Poland!


Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Guidance on Sexual Orientation Regulations

Briefing: the Christian Lawyers Fellowship guidance is available here.


US opposes World Bank abortion policy


From SPUC: A decision on a proposed World Bank health strategy has been postponed because delegates from some European countries have objected to a change in wording suggested by the US delegate. Mr Whitney Debevoise proposed to insert the phrase "age appropriate access to sexual and reproductive healthcare" to replace "reproductive health services". The Europeans claimed that the change could restrict access to reproductive services by younger women. The World Bank has worked in population and reproductive health for more than three decades and has approved more than $3 billion in lending in those areas.


Baby adoption information campaign

Briefing: this seems worthy of support. Hat-tip to Christian Concern for our Nation. For the ASSIST leaflet, see here.

From CCfN: ASIST (Adoption Support In Society Today) was set up by a group of people who have adopted, as a support group who aim to give up to date information on adoption today. One of their aims is to reach women with unexpected pregnancies to inform them of adoption as an option and give them further information, assistance and support as necessary.

ASIST are about to embark upon a pilot scheme of distributing leaflets on Baby Adoption to GPs surgeries and pregnancy advice centres. The leaflets contain information on adoption and how to get further help.

There are currently fewer than 200 babies placed for adoption each year in this country, whilst over 600 babies are aborted every day. Most of the time adoption is not presented as a positive option for the mother or the child.

Please pray that the work of ASIST will help to change how people view adoption, so that GPs, councillors and people with unexpected pregnancies will see that, when handled well, adoption can be a positive choice for all involved.

For more information contact Hilary Howe on (01823) 253026 or email her at


Starvation of the old revealed


From SPUC: Patients in British hospitals who need help with eating, particularly the
elderly, are in danger of malnutrition because of a lack of nursing staff with time to supervise their meals, according to a survey held among members of the Royal College of Nursing. [Times, 19 April]


Reasons for late abortions

Briefing: this may not seem significant, but this is the argument used by pro-abortionists against banning later abortions. The long-standing goal of many pro-life groups, to squeeze abortion by limiting the time during which it can be carried out, may need to be rethought.

From SPUC: A study at a British university into why women have late abortions (after
13 weeks) has found that many women did not know that they were pregnant. Other common reasons given were taking time to come to a decision, and delaying 2 or 3 weeks between requesting and having an abortion. [BBC, 19 April]


Libby Purves on nursury care

Briefing: the debate on nursury schools is heating up; this is a good example, from The Times. Hat-tip to Full Time Mothers. See our recent post on family policy here.

Quotation: More than 200,000 children under 3 go to nursery, many full-time, and some 15,000 babies under a year old. Economics – especially house prices and the fact that women who take employment gaps lose ground heavily when they return – make it necessary. Yet one research project after another confirms that parents are not happy. Being human beings, not statisticians, they believe the evidence that early full-time group care stunts emotional development. Nor does it make mothers happy, to hand over most of their pay so that strangers will lay their babies down in cots that stand in rows.

The Chancellor could have tackled emotional, as well as physical, poverty in ways far less dirigiste, less centrally controlled but more natural. He could have supported couples’ own choices by restoring transferable tax allowances; or smiled financially on personal solutions such as care by relatives or local childminding. Government could acknowledge, with humane good humour, that very early learning and socialising are not best served by ticking off 144 goals per baby, but flourish in the mildly chaotic cosiness that all but the grimmest, dimmest homes produce. It could have concentrated on spotting and helping the minority of real problem families, like the dim malevolent women sentenced last week for treating toddlers as fighting cocks. There aren’t many. Most families are to be trusted, if government would only believe it.

Full text here.


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