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DECEMBER 2 2011 THE CATHOLIC HERALD
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MP takes on Government over same-sex regulations
BY MADELEINE TEAHAN
A CATHOLIC MP is resisting Government plans to push through a measure permitting same-sex civil ceremonies on religious premises without formal debate or scrutiny in the House of Commons.
Edward Leigh MP is seeking to prevent regulations from coming into force which lift the ban on hosting civil ceremonies on religious premises. The removal of the ban was approved in the House of Lords last year.
Lord Alli tabled an amendment to the Equality Act in March 2010 to lift the ban after some Jewish and Quaker communities voiced their support for the change in the law.
But concern has been raised among some religious groups, peers and MPs that permitting civil ceremonies on religious premises will prompt legal action against priests or ministers who refuse to register civil partnerships.
The legislative procedures used by the Government to ratify this change have provoked particular disquiet as it would exclude debate in the House of Commons.
Edward Leigh has tabled an Early Day Motion to annul the new regulations. He said: “These regulations don’t do what the Government promised which is to protect churches that do not want to register civil partnerships. It is an issue of the utmost seriousness. Yet the Commons currently isn’t even being given a chance to debate them.
“We’ve seen all this before. The Sexual Orientation Regulations went through Parliament without proper scrutiny and they closed down our adoptions agencies as a result. If the Government cares anything about the churches, it will withdraw these regulations and think again.”
If Mr Leigh’s motion galvanises the Government, a committee will be formed of approximately 30 MPs who will revisit the regulations and put their conclusions to the House of Commons.
If members object to the committee’s findings, then the regulations will be voted on by MPs but without debate on the floor of the House. But this pause in the regulations’ legislative passage is down to the discretion of the Government.
Although the situation is still uncertain in the House of Commons, Baroness O’Cathain has secured a debate for December 15 in the House of Lords which seeks to annul the regulations that will lift the current ban. Members of the house have traditionally been allowed a free vote on this issue as a matter of conscience.
Christian lobbyists are particularly concerned that Parliament re-examines Lord Alli’s amendment because they say it did not receive sufficient parliamentary scrutiny or support at the time of its passage.
Simon Calvert, spokesman for the Christian Institute, said: “The Government has chosen to legislate in a way that allows no scrutiny in the Commons, and very little in the Lords. There is no opportunity to amend the regulations. Peers concerned for religious freedom have no option but to try to vote them down. We must hope they succeed.
“The original amendment which gave rise to the regulations was passed in irregular circumstances. Only 95 peers voted for it, and 21 against. The Labour government pulled a surprise late night vote when only supporters of the amendment were still present. They listed a series of major flaws with the amendment, but declined to vote it down. It was reckless.
“The Coalition Government is reinforcing the error with these regulations.”
Neil Addison of the Thomas More Legal Centre said that on the surface the regulations to lift the ban on civil ceremonies on religious premises were innocuous.
But, he said that the use of the Equality Act by local authorities could result in them refusing to register churches for marriage unless they perform civil ceremonies.
He said: “As they are drafted the regulations deal with concerns because they are very clear that no religious organisation will be obliged to host civil partnerships.
“The problem is that in all areas of law these days you can’t just look at these regulations in isolation because the Equality Act and the Human Rights Act will affect them.
“The real danger is the possibility of churches being sued under the Equality Act for refusing to host civil partnerships.
“But what I think is much more likely is that local authorities will refuse to register churches for marriage unless the churches are willing to host civil partnerships. This will affect Catholic churches, synagogues, and many other denominations.”
He said that in future years registration of Catholic marriages may take place outside of Mass.
Ken Russell, pictured in 1992, said the Virgin Mary helped him to overcome an addiction to snuff AP
Convert Ken Russell mourned BY MADELEINE TEAHAN
THE FILMMAKER and Catholic convert Ken Russell has died at the age of 84.
Friends and family said that he had died in hospital on Sunday following a series of strokes.
The filmmaker’s son, VerneyElliot, said: “My father died peacefully. He had a series of strokes. He died with a smile on his face.” His wife Elize said that she was “devastated” and that her husband’s death was “completely unexpected”.
The convert was most famous for his controversial films Women in Love and The Devils.
Glenda Jackson, who won an Oscar for her role in Women in Love, said it had been a privilege to be his friend. She said: “He was absolutely wonderful to work with. He welcomed ideas from other people, from the clapper boy all the way up. But the final choice was always his. He created the kind of climate in which actors could do their job and I loved him dearly.
“Visually he was just extraordinary. It was as if he had a third eye. And he managed to transmit that third eye, which was always rooted in his own passionate sense of justice, on to the screen.
“Whenever I think of him I tend to smile and the sense of excitement of working for him and the camera is still palpable. It was a great privilege to work with him and it was an even greater privilege to regard him and be regarded by him as a friend.”
Ken Russell converted to Catholicism because, according to one friend, he “saw the world as a Romantic Catholic does – full of mystery and magic”.
In an interview with The Catholic Herald in 1999, he said that his interest in Catholicism was sparked when a newly converted housemate told him that Catholics “eat God”.
He said: “That totally freaked me out. I said ‘You’re crazy’ and he told me about the Last Supper and the whole lot. He convinced me it was true. I went for instruction and expected to go to Farm Street. But I was sent to Poor Clares off Portobello Road.
“I was there for six months talking to a 17-year-old novice. At the end of that, she said: ‘I think you are as ready as you’re ever going to be.’”
He said in the interview that he did not go to church but that he found God in the countryside and during long walks in the woods. He said: “The forest is part of God, a part a lot of people ignore. I’m very conscious of God when I live in the country; less so when I live in the town.”
Russell had a strong devotion to Our Lady who he claimed helped him to overcome an addiction to snuff while travelling on the number 19.
“I had a terrible addiction to snuff. I’d shake and I had to have it every 10 minutes. My eyes would stream. I felt I couldn’t think unless I had a pinch of snuff. I was very hard up at the time but I bought this statue of the Madonna and I had it on the bus.
“I had this tin of snuff with me and I couldn’t lever it open. I didn’t have a coin so I thought I’d ask the conductor to change a note. He came along and said: ‘I’ve got not change mate, forget it.’ The bus was rocking and I was having to hold her... I said: ‘For heaven’s sake, can’t you stop me taking this awful stuff?’
“I got off the bus. I put her on the mantle piece and I never touched the stuff again.” Editorial Comment: Page 13
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College: abortion counselling must not be mandatory Education agency offers guide to opposing bus cuts
BY MADELEINE TEAHAN
THE ROYAL COLLEGE of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG) has said that women who are sure that they want an abortion should “not be subjected to compulsory counselling”.
In its latest guidelines concerning abortion, the Royal College said that counselling should be available for women who want it but it should not be a mandatory part of the process in accessing an abortion.
The new guidelines state: “Women who are certain of their decision to have an abortion should not be subjected to compulsory counselling.
“Pathways to additional support, including counselling and social services, should be available.”
The timing of the guidelines is politically significant as the Government has scheduled a consultation on the current state of counselling services for women facing crisis pregnancies.
The issue of abortion counselling has become increasingly politicised since an amendment to the Health and Social Care Bill was defeated in September.
The amendment was tabled by Nadine Dorries, Conservative MP for mid-Bedfordshire,who tried to strip abortion providers of their role in pregnancy counselling because they have a financial interest in women having an abortion.
John Smeaton, the director of the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children, described the new guidelines as “bad science” which were rooted in ideology. He said: “The RCOG’s new guideline further entrenches its de facto role as the puppet of the abortion industry. Whether it is the physical and psychological effects of abortion, conscientious objection or counselling for women, the RCOG promotes ideology and bad science instead of high clinical and ethical standards.
“The RCOG says that counselling should be merely ‘offered on request’. The new guideline doesn’t even cover counselling in detail. The guideline does, however, give the paltry assurance that ‘[w]omen should be informed that they have a right to delay or cancel appointments and/or the [abortion] should they wish’.
“The RCOG is particularly keen to get women to use contraception even though contraception is closely associated with rising abortion figures.
Mr Smeaton said: “Chillingly, the guideline recommends that in some case ‘feticide should be performed... to ensure that there is no risk of a live birth.’ That is the reality of abortion: the killing of babies, denied their equal right to life.”
BY ED WEST
THE CATHOLIC Education Service of England and Wales (CESEW) has intensified its campaign against cuts to transport subsidies for Catholic schools with a new “transport toolkit”.
The guide gives teachers, governors, parents and diocesan officials information behind local authority cuts and advice on how to campaign against them and to gain media coverage.
Traditionally local authorities have subsidised school transport for religious schools, which tended to attract pupils from a wide geographic area, and the cost can be up to £1,379 per year per pupil. In other cases local authorities have removed bus routes that stop at Catholic schools.
The CESEW argues that local authorities have unfairly discriminated against religious schools and that cuts hit the most in need. They also argue that by cutting the subsidies of children already in secondary school, or already allocated a place, they are leaving parents with huge transport costs that may have influenced their decision to send their child to that school.
They also point out that central government has always supported the principle of subsidised transport, and that the cuts only bring minimal benefits to local authorities anyway. Those involved with the campaign are also advised about the legal duty. Assistance with travel costs to religious schools was enshrined in the 1944 Education Act, and the 1996 Education Act places “a duty on local authorities to ensure suitable travel arrangements are made to facilitate a child’s attendance at school”.
It also advises parents, teachers and governors to write to local authority officials, local councilors, MPs and the Local Government Ombudsman, and consider pursuing a judicial review into local decision-making, gives advice on writing press releases to local newspapers, and to making use of social media.
Middlesbrough diocese has meanwhile criticises plans by a local council to cut free transport for church school pupils as an attack on “human rights”.
Middlesbrough Council has begun a consultation over plans to cut the service, which it said would save £350,000 over six years, part of plans to save £38 million. The council spends £100,000 a year providing transport to 385 pupils and 12 schools – all Catholics that would be affected by the plans.
Councils in Wakefield, West Yorkshire and Hartlepool are also consulting on scrapping bus subdsidies.
NEWSBULLETIN For one week all donations to the Passage are doubled EVERY pound given to the Catholic homeless charity The Passage next week will net the company £2, after it signed up to the Big Give, a scheme which doubles donations given to charities.
fundraising scheme, established by employment agency Reed. For donations that are gift aided, the Passage gains another 25p per £1.
Any donation given from Monday to Friday next week will give the charity, founded in 1980 by Cardinal Basil Hume, a matched amount from the
The Passage recently received a £500,000 cut in funding. Chief executive Mick Clarke said: “Our residential projects help... break the cycle of homelessness.” For more information visit Passage.org.uk
Sixty Anglicans to become Catholic SIXTY Anglicans in Darlington are to be received into the Catholic Church at Easter next year.
The group, of St James the Great Anglican church, is expected to be one of the biggest groups of the Personal Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham.
The Rt Rev Justin Welby, the Anglican Bishop of Durham, has said that he will preach at their group’s final service in February.
The bishop told the Northern Echo that the departure of the Rev Ian Grieves, who is preparing to join the ordinariate, would be a “loss to the diocese”.
He said: “I have known Ian Grieves for a long time. When I was training, in 1992, I did a placement with him at St James and I learnt a huge amount from him. He’s a very good priest.”
Mr Grieves had been parish priest at St James for 22 years, according to the Northern Echo.
CESEW praises Bible initiative THE CATHOLIC Education Service of England and Wales (CESEW) has welcomed the Government’s announcement that it is sending a King James Bible to every school in England.
A spokesman for the CESEW said it was “excellent news” that the Bible would be made available to all children. The initiative is intended to mark the 400th anniversary of the Bible’s publication.
Bishop rests after operation BISHOP Crispian Hollis of Portsmouth, who was diagnosed with bowel cancer in June, has said he has received the last of his treatment and is recovering at Bishop’s House. He said: “Once again, I want to say that I don’t think I could have come through the traumas of the last three months without your constant love, care and prayers, so please know how grateful I am.”
Bishop resigns on health grounds POPE BENEDICT XVI has accepted the resignation of Bishop Seamus Hegarty of Derry, Northern Ireland, on health grounds. More than a quarter of Ireland’s 26 dioceses are now awaiting a new bishop.
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