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APRIL 27 2012 THE CATHOLIC HERALD
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Top barrister: Church will have to offer gay marriages
BY SIMON CALDWELL
DAVID CAMERON will not be able to exempt churches from a duty to offer marriages to gay couples, a senior Catholic barrister has warned.
Neil Addison, the director of the Thomas More Legal Centre, said that the Prime Minister’s assurances to the Church that they would not be compelled to perform religious marriage for gay couples are worthless.
He said two judgments by the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg, combined with a Court of Appeal ruling in 2010, clearly showed that the Government would be acting illegally if it legalised civil gay marriages without permitting them on religious premises too.
It means that if the Coalition Government presses ahead with its plans to re-define marriage to include gay couples the Catholic Church could face prosecution under equality legislation for acting in accordance with its teachings.
“The Government will be obliged to permit same-sex marriage on religious premises on exactly the same basis as it permits heterosexual marriage,” said Mr Addison, a specialist in religious discrimination law.
“How this will affect the rights of churches which are registered for marriage and in particular how it will affect the Church of England and its clergy who are registrars of marriage by virtue of their status as priests of the established church is legally very arguable,” he said.
“Certainly a good legal case can be made that any place or person who is registered to perform marriage must be willing to perform same-sex marriage on the same basis as they conduct heterosexual marriage since, in law, there will be no difference between the two.”
In its consultation document launched last month, the Government stated that a new law would “make no changes to religious marriages” which “ will continue to only be legally possible between a man and a woman”.
But Mr Addison said that a recent European Court of Human Rights case involving two French lesbians found that, although there is no human rights obligation for any country to legislate for gay marriage, once a state had passed a gay marriage law it must be applied to all citizens equally. The ruling upheld the findings of an earlier case involving a homosexual who had sued the Austrian government.
Mr Addison said: “What the Government assurance is ignoring is the fact that, in law, there is no difference between and no status for civil as opposed to religious marriage – both are in law the same thing and merely take place in different premises.”
He said the position of the churches had already been undermined by a ruling of the Court of Appeal ruling against the registrar Lillian Ladele who in 2009 had taken Islington Council to court for refusing her the right not to officiate at same-sex civil partnership ceremonies.
The judges decided that her orthodox Christian view of marriage “was not a core part of her religion”.
Mr Addison said: “Churches which perform heterosexual marriages will have to be willing to perform same-sex marriages and they will have no legal grounds to resist since the courts have determined that the ‘orthodox Christian view of marriage’ is not a ‘core’ part of Christian belief.”
The remarks of Mr Addison came as British Muslims grew increasingly vocal against the proposals.
Dr Majid Katme, the head of the Islamic Medical Association, called on Britain’s two million Muslims to form “a holy alliance” with Christians and others against the proposals.
Dr Katme said: “Marriage in Islam is only between a man and a woman. This is the belief of the two million British Muslim believers and the belief of about 30 million Muslims who live in western Europe.
“It is the same belief of 1,600 million Muslims in the world,” he said. “It is the same belief also in the holy teachings of Judaism and Christianity.”
He continued: “The time has come to establish a holy alliance of all faiths with those sensible people who are without faith in order to oppose gay marriage in any new law.”
He urged Muslims to sign Lord Carey’s Coalition for Marriage petition which has already attracted about 450,000 signatories opposed to gay marriage, making it one of the largest petitions in British history.
The words of Dr Katme were substantially stronger than the statement issued by the Muslim Council of Britain, which last month had described the Government’s case as “strikingly weak”.
All the mainstream Christian churches are opposed to the proposals.
St Charles Borromeo church, Hull
Alex Ramsay Photography/Committee for Patrimony
Archbishop warns against Government’s VAT proposal BY DAVID V BARRETT
ARCHBISHOP Vincent Nichols of Westminster has joined other senior clerics in criticising the Government’s imposition of VAT on alterations to listed buildings, including churches.
The tax change, which was in George Osborne’s recent Budget, will add 20 per cent to the cost of improvements to listed church buildings.
Archbishop Nichols said the move was “regrettable”.
“Our Grade I listed churches are places of worship which are open to all. They are also buildings of great architectural beauty and historical significance. At a time of increasing austerity, it would be regrettable if they had to face higher costs for repairs and alterations from planned changes to VAT,” he said.
The Diocese of Westminster has 59 listed buildings, including three Grade 1: Westminster Cathedral, St Etheldreda, Ely Place and Our
Lady of Willesden. Because it has many more old churches the change will hit the Church of England the hardest; around 12,500 of its 16,000 buildings are listed.
The Anglican bishop of Southwark, Dr Christopher Chessun, said the imposition of VAT would “cause a great deal of difficulty for those caring for the nation's heritage”.
Dr Richard Chartres, the Anglican Bishop of London, has written to the Chancellor asking him to exclude places of worship from the extension to VAT, or to improve a scheme through which churches can reclaim the money.
The change was intended to address the anomaly by which repairs to l isted buildings are charged VAT while alterations are not; the addition of a conservatory or an indoor swimming pool to a millionaire’s listed home was VATfree until the change. But nearly half of Britain’s listed buildings are churches, and the change in tax regulations would mean that even installing heating and lighting, toilets or disabled access will cost 20 per cent more. Many such projects are entirely funded by volunteers in church communities.
Sophie Andreae, chairwoman of the sub-committee for Patrimony of the Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales, which works on the care and conservation of church buildings, said: “It’s a very significant backward step, at just the t ime that many Victorian Catholic churches are beginning to embark on major work.”
She cited major restoration work on buildings such as the Grade II* l isted church of St Charles Borromeo in Hull, which would cost an extra £200,000, “a very significant additional cost for a congregation struggling to do its best for the church in what is now a deprived inner city area,” she said.
An e-petition to “urge the Chancellor to reconsider” has so far attracted over 18,000 signatures.
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Religious orders to give £90m to abuse victims Catholic groups back free school meal campaign
BY MICHAEL KELLY
SOME 15,000 former residents of state-funded, Church-run institutions in Ireland will be able to apply for further compensation for abuse they suffered, the government has announced.
The new compensation fund will be financed from the cash contributions of up to €110 million (£90 million) offered by the 18 religious congregations involved in running the institutions. The government has already paid out nearly €1.30 billon (£1.1 billion).
To date, contributions of £21 million have been received from the congregations toward the fund. This is in addition to some £78 million that religious congregations contributed to a 2002 deal under which the government committed to indemnify the orders from further claims.
Following the publication of the Ryan Commission’s report in 2009, which found that abuse was widespread, it emerged that compensation to former residents and legal fees had climbed to over a billion; pressure mounted on the religious congregations to contribute more than the £104 million agreed upon in 2002. The government insisted that the orders should contribute 50 per cent of the total cost, but the religious orders said they cannot contribute that amount. However, by the time they add in property they have transferred to the government with money they have paid, the £411 million to the overall cost of redress.
In announcing the compensation fund, the government also repeated a call to religious orders to hand over their schools to the government as partial payment for abuse compensation.
Minister for Education and Skills Ruairi Quinn said: “I am continuing to pursue the 50-50 division with the management bodies involved and have proposed the transfer of school infrastructure to the state for the benefit of the taxpayer as one mechanism to allow those involved the opportunity to shoulder their share of the costs.”
He said he hoped “that this new fund will provide ongoing support to those who suffered as children in residential care in state-supervised institutions”.
“We have let these people down in the past. I am determined that we will not fail them again,” he said.
There was no immediate reaction from the 18 congregations concerned.
Last year, the Irish bishops’ conference and the Conference of Religious of Ireland, which represents 136 religious congregations, agreed to an additional £8 million.
BY DAVID V BARRETT
MORE THAN half of children living in poverty are not receiving free school meals. Two Catholic agencies are supporting a campaign to make free school meals available to all children in poverty.
Caritas Social Action Network (CSAN) and the Catholic Education Service are backing the Children’s Society’s Fair and Square campaign which aims to ensure that all 2.2 million children living in poverty will receive free school meals. All children whose families receive the new universal credit, they say, should be entitled to free school meals.
The Fair and Square campaign hopes to secure healthy free school meals for the 1.2 million children in poverty who currently do not receive them. It is calling for extended entitlement, the provision of cashless systems to remove stigma and a new national review of nutritional standards.
Helen O’Brien, chief executive of CSAN, said: “The current system not only disadvantages the poorest children, jeopardising their nutrition, well-being and education; it additionally creates work disincentives by penalising parents moving into low-paid employment. The introduction of universal credit is a key opportunity for the Government to take account of the evidence and public opinion,
and adopt a fairer approach to this fundamentally important issue.”
CSAN and its member charities have also raised concerns over food provision for children in poverty during school holidays.
Dr Rosemary Keenan, Chief Executive of the Catholic Children’s Society (Westminster) said: “I have heard first-hand from poor parents, at our St Francis Family Centre in the East End of London, about the tremendous difficulties they have in making ends meet when they have to feed their children during the school holidays. The free school dinner is the main meal of the day for their children and having free school meals helps parents on very tight budgets to ensure that their child has at least one healthy meal a day.”
The Fair and Square campaign has three target dates. It is calling for the extension of eligibility for free school meals to all children living in poverty in England by October 2012. It aims to increase the number of local authorities and schools committed to introducing cashless or other non-stigmatising systems for the delivery of free school meals by March 2013. By the same month it hopes to secure a commitment to review and improve the implementation of the guidance on nutritional standards for school meals across local authorities.
NEWSBULLETIN Catholic pop group release song in support of Asia Bibi Catholic pop group Ooberfuse will be performing their new single “Free Asia Bibi” at a rally for the Pakistani Christian on the third anniversary of her imprisonment.
rie Anderson said: “We hope that the song ‘Free Asia Bibi’, performed in conjunction with Hammad Bailey, will help to spread the word about the grave injustice Asia and others like her are enduring today around the world.”
Following a dispute with neighbours Asia Bibi was found guilty of blasphemy and sentenced to death.
Ooberfuse singer Cher
The peace rally and concert will be held outside the Pakistani embassy in London on June 14.
Cathedral opens toilet block WESTMINSTER CATHEDRAL has opened a toilet block with disabled access following many requests from visitors. This will be the first time in the Cathedral’s history that street-level toilets, which include a baby-changing room, have been made available to the public.
The building has been built on the former car park on Morpeth Terrace. The facilities will be accessible from inside the Cathedral during Cathedral opening hours.
Special attention had to be paid to the materials used in construction. The Historic Churches Committee ruled that the bricks for building the toilet block had to match the 12.5 million handmade bricks belonging to the Cathedral. This required great attention to detail, as the original bricks were an unusual size.
Every layer of brickwork, as well as the band of stone, and window sills, needed to match the main Cathedral exterior in keeping with the original design.
Church exempt from new tax THE CHURCH in Ireland is to be exempt from the country’s new property tax, saving it €500,000 (£400,000) a year.
Following the 2011 Local Government Act, the Church is exempt from the payment of household charges because it is a charity.
The Church has 1, 368 parishes in Ireland and over 10,000 houses, schools, halls, churches and shops.
Sikh receives papal award One of Britain’s Sikh leaders has been invested with the Order of St Gregory at a special Mass and ceremony at St Chad’s in Birmingham.
Archbishop Bernard Longley of Birmingham invested Mohinder Singh Ahluwalia with one of the highest Papal Awards. The Order of St Gregory is normally bestowed on Catholics but in rare cases it is also conferred on nonCatholics.
Competition winners announced Michael Ryan, Elizabeth Banigan, Joanne Purcell, Adrian Baxter and Margaret Sproston have each won two tickets to hear the Sistine Chapel Choir at Westminster Cathedral. We will be contacting them shortly.
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Ministers back down over anti-pornography measures
BY DAVID V BARRETT
CATHOLIC FAMILY campaigners have reacted with dismay to suggestions that the Government is backing away from strong measures to limit access to online pornography.
The news came just days after a report by the cross-party independent parliamentary inquiry into online child protection revealed that four out of five 16year-olds regularly access pornography online and a third of 10year-olds have seen explicit images. More than a quarter of young people at one private clinic are being treated for addiction to pornography, the report said.
At a Downing Street meeting with the Mothers’ Union last October David Cameron said the
Government planned to introduce measures so that computer users would have to opt-in if they wanted to view sexually explicit images online. But now the Department for Culture, Media and Sport says it will be asking internet service providers to provide an opt-out procedure instead.
Danny Sullivan, chair of the Catholic Safeguarding Advisory Commission, said: “It’s a fundamental right of children to be protected by the adults in their community.
“The utmost should be done to protect children and vulnerable young people from anything that would be a danger to them,” said Mr Sullivan. “There’s a view that regulations turn us into a nanny state. But there’s nothing nannying about protecting children and young people from potential abuse, whether by other people or through the internet. It’s a fundamental right of children to be protected by the adults in their community, and at times that will be the Government.”
Norman Wells of Family Youth Concern said: “A requirement for adults to opt-in to receive adult content would no more constitute a breach of civil liberties than other well-established and accepted child-protection measures that are already in place.
“No one complains about age restrictions on the purchase and hire of adult videos and DVDs, so why should it be any different when it comes to putting measures in place to protect children from exposure to pornography online? “If the modest recommendation of the independent parliamentary inquiry on this point is rejected, it will make the Government’s rhetoric about taking decisive action against the sexualisation of children sound rather hollow.”
The report of the parliamentary inquiry, which was sponsored by the online Christian radio station Premier Christian Media, found that in 2010 61 per cent of 11-16-year olds had internet access in their own rooms, compared to 30 per cent just six years before; 41 per cent of seven to 10-year-olds had such access, compared to just nine per cent in 2004.
Citing evidence from the NSPCC the report said: “Overuse of pornographic material has been shown to desensitise children and young people to violent or sexually aggressive acts, diminish sympathy for victims of sexual assault and reduce children’s own inhibitions, making them more vulnerable to abuse and exploitation. Moreover, a vicious circle of behaviour can develop where exposure to porn leads to early sexual involvement and an increased consumption of sexual media.”
Anti-pornography campaigner Matthew Fradd said: “Parents – myself included – have a grave responsibility to not only protect their children from the soul and mind-destroying effects of pornography, but to teach their children, in an age-appropriate manner, about the goodness of their bodies and the beauty of human sexuality. Those of us who fail to do so will be held responsible by almighty God for causing ‘these little ones... to sin’”.
Campaigners had been pushing for internet service providers to put a block on all pornographic websites as the default, with computer users having to go through a specific opt-in procedure in order to access it. But ministers are thought to be watering down this proposal and replacing it with an opt-out question: the default would be unrestricted access, and computer users would be asked if they wished to be able to continue accessing it or not.
One problem, say the parliamentary campaigners, is that of inertia: many users will simply accept the status quo rather than go to the trouble of going through an opt-out procedure. Another is that if the opt-out question is only asked once, it is quite likely to be responded to by computeraware children rather than their parents.
At present parents can install a filter that blocks pornography, but it can be time-consuming to download and install, and it has to be installed separately on each device. Only one of the four major ISPs in Britain, TalkTalk, covers all networked devices in a home.
The report recommended a new approach to controlling access to pornography, allowing people to opt-in, but it appears that the Government has backed away from this approach. Editorial Comment: Page 13
BBC to air live radio show from abortion clinic
BY MADELEINE TEAHAN
A PRO-LIFE charity has urged the BBC to stop its plans to make broadcasting history by airing a two-hour radio show live from an abortion clinic.
Life spokesman Mark Bhagwandin said: “For the BBC to promote a particular abortion clinic and by extension, the entire abortion industry, at a time when it is reeling from recent allegations of improper conduct, is bizarre and clearly not impartial. Can we look forward to the BBC spending a day with a Life Education Officer in the near future?
“We strongly urge the BBC either not to proceed with this programme, or to balance it with an honest look at prolife work.”
Mr Bhagwandin also challenged the argument that the programme was trying to address the “taboo” of abortion. He said: “We have to wonder about the objectives behind this programme. The BBC claim that it wishes to do this show because of an abortion “taboo” seems very strange when we consider there are over 500 abortions performed every day.
“What this really seems to be is an attempt to further normalise abortion through the use of emotive stories, and perpetuate the myth that only abortion clinics are truly interested in women’s welfare.
Paul Tully, general secretary of the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children said that the show amounted to a “licence-fee sponsored advertorial”. He said: “It appears to be part of the public relations initiative by abortion chains to re-sanitise their image.”
Victoria Derbyshire of the BBC Radio Five Live show said the aim was “to bring new insights into areas of British life”.
“What we want to do is to talk to everybody involved who works in a clinic – the receptionist, the doctors, the consultants, the counsellors, and, if patients agree, we will talk to them.
“We appreciate the sensitivity around it and I would hope listeners would trust us to do it carefully.”
But Robert Colquhoun of 40 Days for Life, an organisation that leads prayer vigils outside abortion clinics, said that the BBC’s programme would only trivialise the issue of abortion.
He said: “If the BBC really wanted to provide some objective, impartial information about abortion, they should show the reality of abortion with images on television. Yet in 2001, images of abortion were unlawfully censored by the BBC in a party political broadcast.”
Meanwhile Britain’s largest abortion provider, the British Pregnancy Advisory Service, has said that thousands of attempts have been made to hack into their computers.
Some 2,500 attempts to hack into the site have been made following the conviction of James Jeffrey, from Wednesbury, West Midlands, was jailed for two months and eight years when he pleaded guilty to breaking into the BPAS website.
The controversy surrounding abortion clinics was reignited after journalists secretly filmed health professionals endorsing abortions on the grounds of the baby’s sex. The undercover reporting prompted a formal investigation by the Health Secretary which concluded that up to one in five abortion clinics is suspected of breaking the law.
The Care Quality Commission conducted a series of unannounced raids on abortion clinics in March and found that 50 out of 250 clinics were “not in compliance” with the law or regulations.
Doctors refusing to carry out sex changes could be struck off under new rules BY SIMON CALDWELL
DOCTORS WHO r e fuse t o either carry out sex change operations or give contraceptives t o unmarried women could be struck off under new r egulations proposed by the General Medical Council.
The regulatory body has said in the new draft guidance that medics could not object on grounds of conscience to participating in “gender reassignment” procedures.
The GMC also stressed that doctors could not pick and choose which patients r eceived contraception, saying that under the 2010 Equality Act if a GP gave the pill to a married woman he or she must make i t available t o unmarried women too.
Section 5 of the guidance, “Personal Beliefs and Medical Practice”, which was put out for consultation last week, says that doctors may opt out of some procedures, such as abortions, because of their “beliefs and values” – as long as they ensured t he patient was referred to a doctor who would meet their demands.
Some doctors have argued that such a narrow interpretation of conscience rights would s t i l l make t hem culpable in acts to which they hold a personal objection.
The guidance then says:
“The exception to this is gender reassignment since th i s procedure i s only sought by a particular group of patients and cannot therefore be subject to a conscientious objection.
“This position i s supported by the Equality Act 2010 which prohibits d i scrimination on t he grounds of gender reassignment.”
It adds: “You must not refuse to treat a particular patient, or group of patients because of your personal beliefs or v i ews about them.”
The guidance warns doctors t hat “serious or persistent failure” to follow the regulations “will put your registration at risk”.
The guidance may also infringe doctors’ rights to conscientious objection by insisting that a doctor who does not wish t o r e f e r patients for abortions must send them to medics willing to procure the procedure for them.
Some doctors have argued that such a narrow interpretation of conscience rights would s t i l l make them culpable in acts to which they hold a personal objection.
A GMC spokeswoman said that the guidance only reflected the “law of the land”.
But Dr Peter Saunders of the Christian Medical Fellowship said that the
GMC was using new laws to force Christians f rom medicine.
“Recent legislation, and regulations claiming to be derived from it, are being used to marginalise Christian health professionals in Britain,” he said.
“This new GMC draft guidance i s yet another example.
“It is essentially a clever piece of double-speak. On the one hand i t says that ‘doctors should be free to practise medicine in accordance with their beliefs’, but i f this involves ‘denying patients access to appropriate medical t reatment or services’ then they must ‘be prepared to set aside their personal beliefs’.”
He added: “A significant number of doctors do not wish to be involved in sexchange operations or prescribing contraceptives to unmarried couples and will not want to be forced to make a r r angements for patients to undergo procedures or ‘treatments’ which they regard as unethical.
“But it appears that these doctors, i f this guidance emerges from this consultation unchanged, will soon be at r isk of losing their licences to practise medicine.”
Dr Saunders added: “British medicine in the 21st century now involves practices which many doctors regard as unethical.”
Ordinariate gains its youngest ever priests, aged 27 and 28
TWO FORMER Anglican curates were ordained priests on Saturday for the Personal Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham.
Fr James Bradley, 28, and Fr Daniel Lloyd, 27, are the first members to be ordained Catholic priests who were not Anglican priests beforehand.
The ordinations were celebrated at the newly restored St Patrick’s in Soho Square with over 400 people in attendance.
Fr James Bradley, who is resident at the parish of the Holy Ghost, Balham, said: “Fr Lloyd and I have been ordained at a particularly exciting time for the Catholic Church in England and Wales.”
Fr Lloyd will continue to work with former Anglican bishop, now Mgr Andrew Burnham, in the Oxford ordinariate group.
On Sunday both priests celebrated Mass for the first time, together with family, friends and members of their respective congregations.
This weekend’s ordinations bring the total number of ordinariate priests to 60.
Remains of priest to be moved to a cemetery
BY MADELEINE TEAHAN
A RELATIVE of a Polish priest has lost her appeal against having the priest’s remains moved from the grounds of an Oxfordshire stately home, where they are buried.
Fr Jozef Jarzebowski died in 1964 and was buried in the grounds of Fawley Court, because, according to his cousin Elizabeth Rudewicz, this was the spot where the priest wished to be buried.
Following the go-ahead in 2011 by Kenneth Clarke, the Justice Secretary, for the priest’s disinterment, Miss Rudewicz has challenged the decision on the grounds that it would be “disrespectful”.
Miss Rudewicz has been supported by about 2,000 others, among them the Fawley Court Old Boys’ Association and a coalition of Polish organisations in Britain.
But the Appeal Court judge, Lord Neuberger, said that moving the body to a cemetery would make it easier for people to pay their respects.
He said: “The religious concerns of Miss Rudewicz and the objectors have to be balanced against those whose religious beliefs appear to favour the grant of the licence.”
Fr Jarzebowski’s remains will now be exhumed and removed to Fairmile Cemetery, two miles away. The house was once the property of the Marian Fathers who ran it as a Divine Mercy College for Polish boys.
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