The Catholic Herald - 23 November 2007
THE CATHOLIC HERALD NOVEMBER 23, 2007
THE CATHOLIC HERALD
A colossal battle in defence of human life lies ahead
Amendments to the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act have been formally put before Parliament after years of consultation. The sad result of this apparently laborious scrutiny is that each time a new consultation was conducted the proposed amendments simply got worse. We are now facing a horrifying Bill and a colossal battle ahead to defend fundamental issues relating to human life and dignity. This is a tripartite Bill addressing the embryo, the family, and very likely abortion as well. The embryo under attack is no longer exclusively the human embryo, but also includes interspecies embryos created by combining human and animal tissue. Full hybridisation is proposed, with human sperm fertilising animal eggs, or animal sperm combined with human eggs. Respect for the human embryo has passed from an already hypocritical minimum to zero, and embryos could be used as practice tools for budding embryologists were this Bill to pass. The traditional family is under overt attack, with plans to remove from the existing Act a tiny reference to the child’s need for a father. This endorses the gay rights agenda, while ignoring the competing but superior rights of the welfare of the child created by artificial reproduction. It should be noted that the provision of IVF treatment to single and lesbian women is flourishing under the current law, and that the reference to the father in the existing Act is by no means an obligation. For the moment, abortion amendments remain in the pipeline and it is unclear whether the pro-life or pro-choice side will move first. But it would be foolish to imagine that abortion is not going to come into the debate and we must pray hard that the right decisions are made, and that abortion becomes more restrictive and not further liberalised. One of the areas of major concern in the Bill is the extremely permissive flexibility which has been deliberately incorporated into the text. It is the hope of the liberal scientific lobby that the new Bill will be able to embrace all future technological developments without wasting time going back to Parliament for approval. Even when specific restrictions are stated in the Bill, this is usually followed by a get-out mechanism to provide amendments or repeal without further ado. Abortion might be the most fortunate aspect of the tripartite Bill insofar as it is at least likely to benefit from a free vote from all parties. The unfortunate embryo and the marginalised traditional family will be much harder to defend.
Hoping for more sober times
‘Ireland sober is Ireland free” ran the slogan of the 19thcentury Irish temperance movement. A country could never stand as a free nation while its men could not stand up straight. In contrast to national stereotypes, Ireland was always a land where drunkenness – especially female and youth drunkenness – was frowned upon. Until recently, the country had the highest proportion of teetotallers in the Christian world, and being drunk in public, or at least being unable to hold one’s drink, was a source of shame. Ireland is undoubtedly now free, and yet it has never been less clear-headed. The Irish drink three times as much as they did in 1960, and alcohol-related violence is an accepted fact of life. The void left by the collapse of the Catholic faith has been filled by a dark cult of excess and self-destruction, and an alcohol and drugs epidemic of Hogarthian proportions. Lord Salisbury, the famously Hibernophobic Victorian prime minister, once said that only wealth would put an end to Ireland’s political troubles. He was right, and yet the Victorian capitalist system of which he was an enthusiastic supporter was balanced by Christian ideas of self-restraint, moderation and deferred gratification. The same cannot be said of the 21st-century variant, which holds spending and endless consumption to be the answer to personal unhappiness. As Cardinal-elect Sean Brady put it: “One of the great myths in our culture today is the belief that you can only be happy when you can do what you want, when you want, as you want... [but] to be really happy we need self-control as well as self-determination. Above all, you need self-respect. You need a sense of your own dignity and of your own worth.” He could not have articulated the Catholic response better; let’s hope it is the start of a new temperance movement.
By Fr Tim Finigan
My friend has been told that her baby will be severely deformed, will have no brain and will not live for more than a few hours. What can I say in response to the pressure that she is under to terminate her pregnancy?
I hope it will be helpful to pass on the thoughts of some Catholic parents who have spoken to me after going through this kind of experience. Their strong commitment to the sanctity of human life meant that for them the “termination” of the pregnancy was not an option to consider. In itself, this gave them a greater freedom in their response to the situation and removed a source of conflict presented to so many parents who are made to feel that bringing a “deformed” child into the world would somehow be a selfish decision. Parents who have been through this emphasise to me the importance of the opportunity to love their child, however “deformed” other people might judge him or her to be. (In fact, many parents have told me that the dire predictions of their child’s future condition turned out to be exaggerated.) Even if the child lives only
for a week, that child is a part of their family for ever, and always remembered. In days gone by, when infant mortality was much higher, families remembered with great affection their children who died in infancy. The child’s short life gives the family the opportunity to take part in the celebration of the sacraments of baptism and confirmation and subsequently, the funeral of a new saint, celebrated in white vestments, with the appropriate texts celebrating the child’s entrance into heaven. Our compassionate approach to parents of unbaptised children should not be allowed to diminish the joy and certainty that is given in the liturgy of the Church for a baptised child. It is very sad that your friend is under this emotional pressure to end her child’s life. If you are able to help and support her, and “allow” her the option to affirm the goodness and sanctity of her child’s life, she will have a great deal to thank you for.
What’s your view? And do you have a dilemma of your own? Write to us at the address on this page or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org
“Christianity is the only religion on earth that has felt that omnipotence made God incomplete.’ – G K Chesterton THOUGHT FOR THE WEEK
Letters to the Editor
Herald House, Lamb’s Passage, Bunhill Row, London EC1Y 8TQ Telephone: 020 7448 3605 (Editorial) 020 7448 3614 (Advertising) Fax: 020 7256 9728 E-mail: email@example.com
Brothels could provide a safe haven for society’s most vulnerable
The adoption market
From Mr Christopher Keith
SIR –Many readers will recall that this time last year five young women were brutally murdered in Ipswich. Their only crime was to have been involved in street prostitution. Many will also recall that in January 2006 the Home Office declared that it would change the definition of the word “brothel” to enable up to three women to work together for mutual safety and discretion. Regretfully the Home Office bowed to moral majority pressure and shelved these plans. In light of the Women’s Institute voting in favour of legalising brothels I wonder if we should as a mature society take a pragmatic decision to amend the law to do so. Currently there is a Bill before Parliament, the Criminal Justice and Immigration Bill, which would enable this. Many women turn to prostitution through force of circumstance and not solely because of drugs. Many have to
do this in order to put food on the table for themselves and their children. Just as we do not as a society condone drug abuse by providing safe needle exchange and exit programmes to drug addicts, so too redefining brothels does not give moral license to prostitution. It merely creates a safe environment for a vulnerable group of whom some 60 women have been murdered in the past 10 years. As a society we are obliged to protect those who are vulnerable and this is a way to do so. An amendment can easily be drafted to prosecute those who traffic women or abuse children through prostitution or who are part of serious and organised crime. It just requires moral courage to protect these women and support them as they plan their exit in their own time.
Yours faithfully, CHRISTOPHER KEITH West Harrow, Middx
From Mr Adam Gibson
SIR –Aside from the universal moral objections to prostitution, Bishop Hollis’s suggestion (Report, November 16) that brothels be legalised does not make economic sense. The arrival of a new product in a marketplace does not detract from existing products, but merely popularises the market itself. Legal brothels would not take business away from sex slave houses established across Britain; they would rather only legitimise the idea that women, especially foreign women, are objects of lust to be bought and sold, increasing the already expanded sex market. As for the 90 per cent of British prostitutes who are addicted to either heroin or crack cocaine, they would be unfit for work in brothels, and would continue to walk the streets.
Yours faithfully, ADAM GIBSON London W11
Materialist medicine Bishop Robinson’s prophetic call for reform
From Mr Joseph Shaw
SIR –Fr Tim Finigan (Catholic Dilemmas, November 16) is quite correct to point out that acupuncture is based on a medical “model” related to Taoism, a philosophy incompatible with Catholic teaching. It should also be remembered that conventional western medicine is based on a medical model which takes the philosophy of materialism for granted. This philosophical outlook is held by the great majority of researchers and practitioners, and has many implications for medical practice. Like Taoism, this model is incompatible with Catholic teaching. As well as being impractical, it would seem unnecessary for ordinary Catholic patients to worry about the metaphysical commitments of their doctors. All medical models are imperfect; treatments based on imperfect models can still have good results; prudence directs us to the doctors best at curing disease, not the ones best at philosophy or theology. The focus of moral attention, on the other hand, should be on whether a doctor is giving concrete advice lacking in the moral dimension, as when materialist doctors propose to treat the unborn or the dying without the respect due to human persons. It is far from clear that medical traditions based on eastern philosophies such as Taoism are worse off, in this respect, than traditions based on home-grown absurdities such as materialism. Indeed, not even a medical tradition rooted in Catholicism, such as the “humours” theory used in medieval and early modern Europe, is immune to manipulation by immoral doctors. Ben Johnson and Nicolo Macchiavelli both wrote plays lampooning doctors who recommended sex (if necessary, outside marriage) as an aid to health. The compatibility of the medical model with Church teaching at a metaphysical level does not guarantee the compatibility of a practitioner’s advice with the Church’s teaching on a practical, moral level.
Yours faithfully, JOSEPH SHAW Oxford
From Fr Seáán Fagan, SM
SIR –While there are some reports of new life in the Church in Latin America, the Church in the western world is still struggling with its huge problem of credibility. We are still in shock from the scandal of clerical sex abuse and the much greater shock of the years of cover-up by Church leaders all the way up to the Vatican, who took notice only when the media publicised the sad facts. This cannot be solved by a general council or papal decree. A much deeper remedy is needed. The recently retired Australian Bishop Geoffrey Robinson has touched the heart of the problem by showing the absolute need for a profound and enduring change in Church thinking and practice on the subjects of power and sex. It would be sad if his call were to be summarily dismissed by people who will not take the trouble to read his excellent book Confronting Power and Sex in the Catholic Church(Columba Press, Dublin). A major step towards renewal in the Church could be taken if bishops and laity would study his book and discuss it in groups, truly sharing and listening to each other, not in the sense of just letting others speak, but in the
spirit of really “wanting to hear”, convinced that in genuinely listening they might just hear a whisper of the Holy Spirit leading them into the whole truth, especially the truth of the Gospel and the wisdom of Jesus. In spite of Vatican II, there are no structures in the Church for the leaders to hear the Holy Spirit speaking through the lived experience and lives of faith of the laity, God’s holy people who make up 99.9 per cent of Church members. Unlike most church leaders, Bishop Robinson actually listened to victims of sexual abuse and said it was one of the most profound experiences of his life. He is not a maverick, but a totally dedicated Catholic who truly cares for his Church. He has degrees in philosophy, theology and Church law, and this background shows in every page of his book. This is one of the most meaningful, inspiring and moving books that I have read in many years. It is no exaggeration to say that one who reads it with an open mind will experience something of the “burning of heart” felt by the disciples on the road to Emmaus.
Yours faithfully, SEAN FAGAN Dublin
The extraordinary form is not the norm
From Mr Tom McIntyre
SIR –Your signed leading article (November 16) attacking the bishops’ conscientious application of the Motu Proprio “freeing” the “traditional” Mass invites comment. They can hardly see it as “a threat to their own authority” since they, unlike the Curia, are of the Magisterium, and the Pope consulted them in preparing the Motu Proprio. Who better to know what he means? Tradition is the preserve of the Magisterium. It is not the bishops who exaggerated the discontinuity between the pre- and post-Vatican II Church, but those who treated the Council’s care for the liturgy as a
break with the past. The Pope has gone as far as he can to ease the reconciliation of those large groups, particularly in France, who are hardened in that error by mutual selfdeception. That does not relieve bishops of their pastoral responsibility to emphasise that however technically valid as a rite, the extraordinary form is not what the Church wills as a norm, and to check the many false opinions that lovers of the externals of the extraordinary rite advance to justify their avoidance of the more perfect form.
Yours faithfully, TOM McINTYRE Frome, Somerset
From Mr Clive Baulch
SIR –I wish Neil Addison and the Thomas More Legal Centre every success with their project (Report, November 16). However, with regard to the issue of the Sexual Orientation Regulations (SORs) and Catholic adoption agencies I beg to differ with Mr Addison that all it requires is a legal test case to solve this problem. The situation with regard to adoption in this country is that adoption is a commercial transaction and the marketplace is not a free or a fair one. In 99 per cent of cases there is only one source for children to be adopted, namely the Local Authorities through their social services departments. The children become, to use the legal jargon, Looked After Children (LAC). Sometimes care is shared between the biological parent(s) and the Local Authorities, and sometimes not. Sadly, it is often the case that care has to be completely removed from the childs’ parents or carers. This is a decision which the family courts have to take. The children remain “in the care” of the social services until such time as they leave care, are reunited with their families or are adopted into a new family. The point I am making is that it is Local Authorities who “put up” children for adoption after the family courts have “freed” the child for adoption. I do not think I will be contradicted if I say that we can safely assume that the Local Authorities broadly welcome the SORs and support the ideology behind them. After all, Local Authorities actively recruit same-sex couples and individuals and have been placing children with such couples for years. I think it is not too far-fetched to imagine that the Local Authorities, having control of the market place in the way they do, will choose to “do business” with those organisations of which they approve. I do not think they would approve of any agency or organisation which does not see the world as they do. Simply put, I believe that the Catholic adoption agencies will be “frozen out” of the marketplace anyway.
Yours faithfully, CLIVE BAULCH London SE26
A public scandal
From Mr John de Waal
SIR –I may sound incredibly uncharitable in not welcoming the rumoured conversion of Tony Blair to Catholicism (Report, November 16), but such an event would be a massive public scandal. How can Mr Blair be received into the Church when he has presided over a Government responsible for attacks on human life from conception to the grave? I am thinking of his strong commitment to embryonic stem-cell research, his support for abortion, for euthanasia by the back door with the Mental Capacity Act, his attack on the Church’s adoption agencies by his obsession with homosexual rights, his assault on marriage by the championing of so-called civil partnerships, and his undermining of parental authority by allowing under-age girls to be prescribed the morning-after pill and abortions without even the knowledge of their parents.
Yours faithfully, JOHN DE WAAL London SW1
Letters should include a genuine postal or e-mail address, phone number and the style or title of the writer. Letters over 300 words are likely to be cut
Allowing God to take our time
It seems hard to believe that November is nearly over. Oscar Wilde was absolutely right when he said that punctuality is the thief of time, if by punctuality we mean the feeling that life is controlled by deadlines, by the pressure to get things achieved. Sooner or later this pressure takes over, and time becomes a tide we try to surf like a wave, rather than float in. This thought struck me quite forcibly as I sat with a woman waiting for her father to die. I phrase it thus deliberately. She was clearly very fond of him. She clearly was a good and caring person. But she kept saying: “I wish he would just go.” Time wasn’t the problem; the thousand things she felt she was neglecting by sitting by his bedside were keeping her
from allowing herself to be there fully, wholeheartedly, a defence against the painful impotence and sadness, excuses to escape from that inescapable undertow of time in which his ninety-something richly blessed years were now measured out by the duration of one struggling breath at a time. She feared, understandably enough, just to stop and let this moment be. Whenever we fear the intensity of something we seek to cut it down to size by asserting control, and business can be a form of being in control. I quite understand her feelings; I realised in my own way that I was in thrall to the same tyranny of punctuality, having a morning full of things to do and achieve and suddenly realising with a sinking heart that none of those things would get done because the overriding need was here. I must guard against a resentment that such unforeseeable demands are getting in the way of my “work”, and realise that they are my work. This seems to me to be the message of the scriptures of these last weeks of the year,
which speak of the end time, of a dramatic interruption to what we know of human activity and continuity. It will only be terrible if I have somehow imagined that I am immune to those last and great shocks, that they are an unfortunate interruption of an otherwise manageable human condition and not the consequence of it. I have to make my peace with this inability to set the agenda. I have to be
Understandably enough, she feared just to stop and let this moment be
on the watch for the thief in the night, not because I can catch him, but in order to prepare myself for the shock that the things I most value are not what give me my identity. I am reading a book entitled A Theology of Historyby the Swiss theologian Hans Urs von Balthasar. It is rather “heavy” and I am probably not doing it justice at all when I say that it deals with
questions of time and eternity. The point where these two modes meet is in the Incarnation of Jesus Christ, who is the Eternal Word who becomes flesh, who enters into the time of mankind. Now, for humans there is some kind of notional separation of those two things: time and eternity, perhaps inevitably, since we experience ourselves and our world as finite. Time becomes opposed to eternity as the place where man exists. The Incarnation changes all this. The Divine Son receives all he has from the Father. His identity, his existence, is never in any way anything other than from and for the Father. When he becomes incarnate that does not change. His identity as a human being is an expression of that being from and for the Father, which is why the Gospels are full of his insistence that he can do nothing of his own will, only the will of the Father, that everything the Father has is his, and he lays down his life for the Father. His human existence in time is not the expression of some kind of separateness
from the world of the eternal, but rather it is what reveals the Father’s eternal being in the world of time. Jesus is one whose earthly identity is his openness to the Father, and his endless offering himself back to him as a gift of love, and thus Jesus is the fulcrum between the worlds of time and eternity. We are chosen in him before the foundation of the world, St Paul tells us. Put very crudely, time is not the condition of my being human, nor what finally constitutes my identity; God’s love is the condition of my being and identity, and that love is eternity; we call it heaven. When I resent what Providence does with my time, when I live in denial of the reality of the end of time, when I will some particular thing just to be over, I am in some way refusing to accept my being from God and for God. Time is to be lived as a gift of love, of surrender, in the manner of the Incarnate Jesus, who tells us that the one who tries to save his life will lose it, but the one who loses it, will keep it for eternity.