National newspaper criticised for claiming Blair will become Catholic
ARESPECTED national newspaper has been accused of “embellishing comments beyond all recognition” after suggesting that Tony Blair would declare himself Catholic upon leaving office. The Times has denied that anyone had been misquoted in the article and has stood by its story. It reported that Fr Michael Seed, a Franciscan friar who celebrates Mass for the Blair family at Downing Street, made the prediction to friends at a memorial service. When Fr Seed was contacted he said that he did not know whether Mr Blair would ever be “formally” received into the Church, the Times added. But a senior adviser close to the Church hierarchy criticised the newspaper for “embellishing comments beyond all recognition”. It is understood that Fr Seed was contacted by the Times a week before the article was published and not the previous evening, as was suggested in the report. The Franciscan friar was quoted as saying: “He’s been going to Mass every Sunday. He goes on his own when he is abroad, not just when he is with his wife and children.” The article also suggested that Mr Blair, like the early martyrs, could be held to have a “baptism of desire” and would not therefore require a
Tony Blair, an Anglican, has attended Catholic Mass with his family for years
formal conversion. But the claim has been disputed by Fr Tim Finigan, a parish priest at Our Lady of the Rosary, Blackfen, Kent, who wrote on his weblog that a formal conversion was still required. He added: “In the case of the martyrs mentioned, the rite of baptism was not possi
ble on account of their being eaten by lions, set on fire, dying in squalid prisons or other similar pressing circumstances.” Downing Street would not comment on whether Mr Blair would declare himself a Catholic. A spokesman told the Times : “This story is
always circulating in one form or another. The PM remains a member of the Church of England.” But although Mr Blair may still be an Anglican he has attended Mass with his Catholic wife and children for many years. Cardinal Basil Hume wrote a letter to him in
1996 demanding that he stop receiving Holy Communion at a Catholic church in Islington, north London. He added that it was “all right to do so when in Tuscany for the holidays... as there was no Anglican church near by”. Mr Blair made it clear that he disagreed with the Cardi
nal, and reportedly wrote in a letter: “I wonder what Jesus would have made of it.” Ruth Gledhill, the Times’s religion correspondent, argued that Christian principles had been important to Mr Blair throughout his period in office. “Tony Blair has been motivated by good Christian principles all along, despite how it appears to many people,” she said. “His journey of faith is evidence of how seriously he takes these principles.” The Times asserted that the conversion of Mr Blair would be a “triumph” for the Catholic Church, but many Catholics disagree. They point to the Prime Minister’s consistently proabortion voting record in Parliament, and to his support for research involving experimentation on human embryos. They also would raise the issue of same-sex unions, and the Government’s refusal to grant an exemption to Catholic adoption agencies from this year’s gay rights legislation. But earlier this month Cardinal Cormac MurphyO’Connor, the spiritual leader of Catholics in England and Wales, paid tribute to Mr Blair for his decade of service as Prime Minister. The Cardinal praised his efforts to secure peace in Northern Ireland and his “constant concern” over poverty in Africa.
Woman had illegal abortion at 28 weeks, says doctor
ABRITISH doctor is considering calling the police to report the abortion of a baby four weeks over the 24-week legal time limit. The GP refused to refer a 28-week pregnant woman for an abortion in February. His colleague referred her to
the British Pregnancy Advisory Service, one of the leading abortion providers in Britain. Several weeks later the patient returned to the surgery on a different matter and was no longer pregnant. She told the doctor that she “had it sorted privately”. Concerned that an illegal abortion
had been carried out, the GP, who wished to remain anonymous, consulted fellow medical practitioners who advised him to contact the police. “I feel decidedly uneasy about what has happened here,” wrote the GP, who wanted to remain anonymous, on the website doctors.net.uk. “It doesn’t seem right that as far as her medical
record is concerned, the baby vanished without medical explanation. “For someone to have taken money to perform an illegal and damaging service cannot be condoned and if I let this go I am condoning it.” It is not known whether the woman used BPAS’s advisory or abortion services.
“There is no evidence to link BPAS with the situation of that woman,” said a spokeswoman for the abortion provider. “We have not been contacted by a GP or by police on this matter.” The cut-off point for legal abortion in this country is 24 weeks. Pro-life campaigners say the police should be alerted immediately.
MAY 25, 2007 THE CATHOLIC HERALD
Dominican priest clinches Anglican theology prize
THEPRESTIGIOUS Michael Ramsey Prize for Theological Writing has been awarded to the British Dominican scholar Fr Timothy Radcliffe. The £15,000 award was given to Fr Radcliffe for his book, What is the Point of Being a Christian? The prize was awarded at the Christian Resources Exhibition at Sandown Park racecourse in Esher, Surrey. Fr Radcliffe said: “On
Kentucky Derby Day recently [a horse called] Dominican came 11th, so it’s good that a Dominican should be first past the post at Sandown Park.” He added: “I am especially pleased to win an award linked to the name of Michael Ramsey. I never knew him but he had an enormous influence on young Christians of my generation.”
Bishops listen to family problems
THEBISHOPS ’ CONFERENCE of England and Wales reported last week on some of the basic lessons it had learned from studying the response Listening 2004. When the questionnaire, which asked families to list their specific needs within the parish community, was launched, it was hoped that the answers would provide strong direction for the Church. To the surprise of the bishops, among the more than 15,000 responses the most frequently noticed request was for family-friendly parishes. This led to the launch of the “Everybody’s Welcome” initiative, the first stage in a threephase drive to support marriage and family life. One direction the initiative took was to look beyond the conventional idea of the family. That meant, for example, examining what the Church could do for families with members suffering from mental health problems, the effects of a divorce or remarriage, bereavement or disability, and for families that include members from different faiths.
Combat ʻnonsenseʼ, says Foley
THE MEDIA spread “all types of nonsense” about religion, sometimes out of malice, but usually out of ignorance, American Archbishop John Foley has said during a visit to London. While all Catholics have an obligation to share the saving love of Christ with others, Catholic communicators have an obligation “to be accurate and to help others to be accurate”, the president of the Pontifical Council for Social
Communications said. “This is not so much to evangelise or even to catechise, but — if I may invent a word — to ‘accuratise,’ to make sure that all who write or broadcast or blog have accurate information and do not, consciously or unconsciously, disseminate misinformation,” he said. Archbishop Foley was in London for the annual media Mass.
Editorial Comment: Page 11
Catholics urged to ʻlive simplyʼ
ACATHOLIC charity has urged people to use the simple lifestyle of Jesus as an inspiration for reducing their “carbon footprint”. Progressio, an international Catholic development charity, has released a short book called Live simply: Let others live which puts forward a theological argument for sustainable living.
Help protect pro-life medics and unborn children
Pro-life medical professionals are facing growing pressures to participate in abortions against their conscience and they need your help. The key issues are:
• Government demands that medical workers provide abortion, without hesitation or delay; • Thinly-veiled threats of severe punitive action against health care professionals who break a strict code of secrecy concerning abortions for children who are under 16-years old. On 23 June 2007, young SPUC supporters will be climbing Mount Snowdon, Wales’ highest peak, to raise funds for the Society’s work and to show solidarity with pro-life doctors and nurses.
Please show your support for pro-life medics and unborn children by sponsoring SPUC’s young members in their important act of witness. To receive a sponsor form or to make a donation, please fill in and return the coupon below. Alternatively, you can contact Carole Adamson on (01772) 258580 or email email@example.com. I endorse the young SPUC supporters' witness to uphold the rights of pro-life medics. I wish to make a donation and enclose a cheque/PO payable to SPUC for the amount indicated below.
£10 £25 £50 £100 Other amount £ _______ I would like to collect sponsors for SPUC’s Snowdon event. Please send me a sponsorship form. Title Full name Address Postcode Tel (Inc. STD code) Email No acknowledgement required. (Thank you for your support.) Please return to SPUC, 5/6 St Matthew Street, FREEPOST SW620, London, SW1P 2BR
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BBC Panorama film sparks row in Italy
State television to air Church’s response to a programme that accuses Pope Benedict XVI of complicity in clerical abuse
Leading Catholic academic dies at 86
ABBCDOCUMENTARY that infuriated the English and Welsh bishops by accusing Pope Benedict XVI of covering up clerical sexual abuse has been given the go-ahead for airing on Italian state television on the condition that it be accompanied by balancing opinion from the Church. On Tuesday Claudio Cappon, director-general of RAI, Italy’s public broadcasting corporation, approved the purchase of the controversial Panorama documentary, which was shown in Britain in October. But he insisted that prominent Church members be permitted a chance to challenge the claims of “Sex Crimes and the Vatican” when it is aired on a popular Italian current affairs and discussion programme. However, Mario Landolfi, the conservative politician who heads the parliamentary committee that oversees RAI, called the decision “a Pontius Pilate solution” that “will permit a media trial against the Catholic Church”. After it emerged that RAI had asked to purchase the rights to screen the film, Mr Landolfi sparked a heated row in Italy over whether the
broadcast should go ahead when he called on Mr Cappon to block the transmission in order “to avoid public service television becoming a media execution squad ready to open fire on the Church and the Pope”. Meanwhile, the Catholic Church in Italy unleashed a scathing attack on the BBC programme. Avvenire , the newspaper of the Italian bishops’ conference, denounced the film as “fit only for the dustbin” and said the producers “should bow their heads and ask for forgiveness”. “Sex Crimes and the Vatican”, a Panorama special, claimed to reveal for the first time how Pope Benedict, then Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, had issued an updated version of a “secret Vatican edict” instructing the world’s bishops to put the interests of the Church before the safety of children. The decision to screen it in Britain led the spiritual leader of the Catholic Church in England and Wales to write to the BBC’s director-general in protest. “Your programme sets out to inflict grave damage on Pope Benedict,” wrote Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor.
Italian journalist Michele Santoro, right, plans to broadcast the Panorama special attacking the Pope PA/Empics
“The main focus of the programme is to seek to connect Pope Benedict with cover-up of child abuse... this is malicious and untrue and based on a false presentation of
Church documents.” Among these misrepresentations, the Church claimed, was that of an order originally issued in 1962 that was focused on preventing the
spread of information apprehended in the confessional, rather than directly concerned with child abuse. The Vatican three times refused to cooperate in the
making of the film, and it received little attention in Italy until this month, when bloggers translated it and posted a subtitled version on a website. Avvenire said the bloggers were
guilty of “wicked slander”. The BBC documentary was then picked up by Google Video Italia, where it currently ranks as the site’s most popular item. Now Michele Santoro, a Left-leaning Italian journalist, has said he will screen the documentary on his discussion programme, Year Zero. It would not be the first time the television host has caused controversy: two months ago he screened provocative images from Rome’s Gay Pride Parade, prompting Clemente Mastella, Italy’s justice minister who this week re-stated his opposition to same-sex civil unions, to walk out. Calls to prevent the screening of the film in Italy attracted criticism from Leftist politicians such as Giuseppe Giulietti, former leader of a journalists’ union at RAI, who said: “Neither oversight committee or individual politicians have the right to ask for a preventative censorship of any journalists or topic.” Giovanni Russo Spena and Gennaro Migliore, Leftist Italian parliamentarians, argued that the film should be screened because “paedophilia in the Catholic Church is wellknown, there is no mystery about it”.
PROFESSOR Dame Mary Douglas, the leading British anthropologist who won admiration from biblical scholars for her work on the literary structure of Scripture, has died aged 86. A Catholic, she was renowned for her extended fieldwork in the Kasai region of what was then the Belgian Congo which led to the publication of The Lele of the Kasai in 1963. Three years later she published Purity and Danger , in which she unpacked the “abominations” of Leviticus, basing the rules concerning which foods are unclean and abominable on the Hebrew perception of holiness. In 1970 she argued against the abolition of the Friday abstinence from meat in the Catholic Church, writing that the ritual was one that fostered the social cohesion of the group. Prof Douglas was born in San Remo, Italy. She boarded at the Convent of the Sacred Heart at Roehampton, south west London, then went to Oxford University. She became a Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire in 2006.
Meeting over Catholic hospital code of ethics ends in impasse
ACRUNCH meeting over the adoption of a proposed new code of ethics at a Catholic hospital has ended in deadlock. Cardinal Cormac MurphyO’Connor resisted pressure to reject the code forbidding doctors working from the Hospital of St John and St Elizabeth, north London, 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
The Hospital of St John and St Elizabeth in north London
Photo: S Caldwell
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 Health
care 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 admit
ted to carrying out “phalloplasties”, a sex change operation in which prosthetic penises are attached to women who want to be men. Dr Helen Watt, director of the Linacre Centre, said last week that she was disap
pointed by the failure of the board to adopt the new code. “The board must accept the code of ethics in its entirety,” she said. “It is alarming and significant that it failed to do so at its most recent meeting.” Dr Watt added: “A truly Catholic hospital would be attractive to many nonCatholics, and indeed nonChristians. Creative ways must be found for the hospital to offer only genuine and life-affirming health care.” It had been suggested that doctors, who had rejected the new code, would call on the Cardinal to quit as patron at the board meeting and for a “secular” code of ethics to be implemented. But Nicolas Bellord, the secretary of the Restituta Group, which is campaigning for the hospital, founded by the Church in 1865, 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 MurphyO’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.” Although a Catholic charity, the private hospital accepts patients of all religious faiths and none and its surplus profits are pumped into its hospice, the place where Cardinal Basil Hume died in 1999. Its maternity unit is popular with celebrities living in the fashionable areas of north London. The hospital is described in magazines as the “poshest place to push”. Actresses Cate Blanchett and Emma Thompson and models Kate Moss and Heather Mills are among A-list clientele to have given birth there. The row over ethics erupted after the Medical Advisory Committee of the hospital said the majority of doctors were opposed to the new code.
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Cafod welcomes resignation of World Bank chief
ACATHOLIC aid agency has welcomed the resignation of World Bank President Paul Wolfowitz amid allegations that he promoted his girlfriend. George Gelber, head of policy at Cafod, the overseas aid and development agency of the Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales, said the departure of Mr Wolfowitz presented an opportunity to change the way that top appointments are made to the bank, which he described as a “creditors’ cartel”. “Paul Wolfowitz’s tenure at the World Bank and the recent scandal raises questions as to whether he was the right man for the job of fighting poverty in developing countries,” said Mr Gelber. “It is remarkable that in the 21st century these key appointments are made on the basis of nods and winks from the United States and Europe respectively,” he said. “The resignation of Mr Wolfowitz as President of the World Bank is an opportunity for this 50-year-old gentlemen’s agreement to be replaced by a democratic and transparent leadership selection process based on merit,” Mr Gelber added. He said that Cafod had long advocated that the heads of the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund should be appointed on the basis of merit and as a result of a transparent appointment process.
Mr Gelber said that Cafod would in fact like reforms to go even further, explaining, for instance, that votes on the bank’s board of directors lie disproportionately in the hands of the rich nations. This, he said, must change to give developing countries a greater voice on issues that directly affect them. Mr Wolfowitz, the former American Defence Secretary, came under pressure to quit his position after he secured a promotion and a substantial pay raise for Shaha Riza, 52, his British girlfriend. Mr Wolfowitz, 62, told investigators that he transferred Miss Riza to avoid a conflict of interest, but her pay was boosted by over £30,000, so that she made more than United States Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. He said he would officially quit as head of the World Bank on June 30. His decision came after a panel of the World Bank found that Mr Wolfowitz was guilty of provoking a “conflict of interest” and had broken its code of conduct. The World Bank has more than 180 member countries and helps to fund development projects in poor nations. It has taken a strong stance against corruption. Cafod and other critics of Mr Wolfowitz argued that he had damaged the reputation of the bank at a time when it was trying to secure billions of dollars to fund its projects over the next few years.
THROUGH THE YEAR WITH OSCAR ROMERO Daily Readings £9.95
‘Oscar Romero of San Salvador’s words spring out of a life lived in the pattern of Jesus Christ. They led him to a death like Christ’s. And so they proclaim the God of life who will make all things new, at great cost to himself.’
From the Foreword by John Sentamu, Archbishop of York
In these powerful and moving selections from his broadcast talks, Romero offers words of solidarity with the poor and voiceless, and invites us each day to move into the ‘intimate space’ of our conscience, to encounter ourselves there, and then to go out to create a more just world.
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