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Catholic doctors could be forced to refer women for abortions
CATHOLIC doctors could be stripped of their right to refuse to arrange abortions under proposals to be debated next week. They will no longer be able to conscientiously object to authorising abortions but instead will be compelled to send any woman requesting the procedure directly to an abortion clinic. The proposal has caused immense anger among the growing number of doctors who have moral objections to abortion –with about one in four now refusing to sign consent forms. Some may launch a test case if, as expected, the move is pushed through the British Medical Association’s policymaking body on Thursday. The motion has been tabled ahead of the BMA’s annual general meeting by the Oxford Division. It coincides with another amendment tabled in the House of Commons by abortion campaigner Dr Evan Harris, the Lib Dem MP and member of the Oxford Division, to scrap the requirement that two doctors must consent to an abortion before it can be carried out. This will mean that women with unwanted pregnancies can bypass their GPs and go directly to an abortion clinic where either a single doctor – or nurse –can authorise the procedure. Coupled with the proposed changes to the con
science clause it will also mean that if a woman presents herself to her GP then the doctor must refer her to an abortionist. On Tuesday Archbishop Peter Smith of Cardiff said: “I very much hope that the BMA at its forthcoming annual meeting will reject proposals to limit the right of doctors to conscientiously object to participating in the process of authorising abortions. The right of conscience is a fundamental human right.” Archbishop Smith added that one of the most recent codes of practice – the Mental Capacity Act 2005 – affirmed that the “doctor’s right to act according to his conscience remains firmly embedded both in medical practice and in the law”. Catholic doctors believe the plan will make them complicit in an act they hold to be evil, but they are also supported by other Christian, Jewish and Muslim doctors as well as some of no religious faith. They are ready to argue at the BMA conference that it would be unlawful to deny doctors a right of conscientious objection that is enshrined in Section 4 of the 1967 Abortion Act. Dr Tony Cole of the Catholic Medical Association said: “This would spell the death of the right of conscience. It takes away the right of conscience already guaranteed by statute. This is open to legal challenge.”
Dr Majid Katme of the Islamic Medical Association said: “The conscience clause should not be removed. You cannot force me, as a doctor, to do things against my conscience. Something very dangerous is going on.” The motion insists that GPs “must refer” any woman to a doctor who will arrange an abortion if they will not do so themselves. If adopted by the BMA it will become policy, informing future good practice guidelines issued by the Department of Health. Pressure will also be applied to the General Medical Council, which regulates the conduct of the medical profession, to enforce the policy among Britain’s doctors. Present GMC guidance states that a doctor must explain a moral objection to a patient and “tell them they have the right to see another doctor”. They are not obliged to refer women specifically to a named doctor or organisation in the knowledge that they will arrange an abortion. Neil Addison, a barrister and expert on religious discrimination law, said he believed the motion was in breach of human rights and employment rights law. He said the motion would create a weapon to impose a new morality “upon doctors who disagree with abortion”. He added: “Dr Harris claims Continued on Page 2
Editorial Comment: Page 11
Pope and Patriarch open Year of St Paul
Pope Benedict XVI and Orthodox Patriarch Bartholomew I open the Pauline year in St Paul’s-Outside-the-Walls AP
POPEBENEDICTXVIopened the Year of St Paul last weekend with the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople, the spiritual leader of the world’s 250 million Orthodox Christians. Speaking at an evening prayer service on Saturday in the Rome Basilica of St Paul-Outside-the-Walls, the Pope said that the Apostle should serve as a model for all Christians. “Paul is not a figure of the past that we remember with veneration,” he said. “He is also our teacher, an apostle and a herald of Jesus Christ for us too.” The liturgy had a strong ecumenical tone. Accompanied by Patriarch Bartholomew I and representatives of Orthodox and Anglican churches, the Pope lit the first candle from a large lamp that will burn in the basilica’s portico throughout the coming year. Then the Pontiff led a procession through the Pauline door into the church, which was built near the site of St Paul’s martyrdom and holds his tomb. It was the inaugural event of a jubilee year that will run until June 29 2009 in commemoration of the 2,000th anniversary of the Paul’s birth. Seated near Patriarch Bartholomew, the Pope said in a homily that the Pauline year should send a strong signal of Christian unity. St Paul understood the essential value of Christian unity because he understood the Church as the “body of Christ”, the Pope said. In St Paul’s time and in every age, repairing divisions is an urgent task, he said. “Who was this Paul?” the Pope asked in his sermon. He cited the saint’s own self-description as a Jew who was educated in Jerusalem according to strict ancestral law, and who later became, through an encounter with Christ, the “teacher of the gentiles in faith and truth”. The Apostle’s vocation endures, the Pope said. “We are not gathered here to reflect on a past history that is irretrievably surpassed. Paul wants to speak to us today,” he said.
Editorial Comment: Page 11
SSPX evades Rome’s ultimatum on unity
Ex-gangster to share stage with Pontiff
THEBREAKAWAYSociety of St Pius X has failed to either accept or reject the conditions set by a leaked Vatican ultimatum for the traditionalist group’s return to Rome, it emerged this week. A communiquéé issued by the group this Tuesday, in answer to the rumours and speculation unleashed by a leaked memo, said that the group wanted to talk about doctrinal issues and called for the excommunications on its four bishops to be lifted. It said: “The Society of St. Pius X wishes that the dialogue be on the doctrinal level and take into accounts
all the issues, which, if they were evaded, might jeopardise a canonical status hastily set up. The SSPX considers that the preliminary withdrawal of the 1988 decrees of excommunication would foster serenity in the dialogue.” Negotiations between the Church and the traditionalists came to a head earlier in June, when Cardinal Dario Castrillon Hoyos, the president of the Vatican’s Ecclesia Dei Commission, presented Bishop Bernard Fellay, who leads the traditionalist group, with an ultimatum during a meeting in Rome. The society’s founder Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre was excommunicated when
he ordained the group’s four bishops on June 30 1988 against Pope John Paul II’s express will. The bishops were automatically excommunicated. This week’s efforts to redraft the terms of the dialogue on the part of the SSPX have provoked reactions which range from optimism to anger. One Vatican observer said: “They’re not interested in returning to Rome and they’re not interested in complying with the conditions the Vatican has set. The cardinal made it fairly clear that it was an ultimatum, but I think that they are taking the same position as always.”
Vatican paper says Pope wears Christ, not Prada
THEVATICAN’Sofficial newspaper has sought to quash rumours that Pope Benedict XVI’s red shoes are made by the luxury fashion house Prada. L’Osservatore Romano
said that reports that the Pope’s red leather shoes were Prada footwear were “naturally false”. They are thought to be bespoke shoes, though the newspaper did not identify their maker. The article was written by Spanish novelist Juan Manuel de Prada, who is not connected to the Milanese Prada fashion house. He said that Benedict XVI’s choice of ornate liturgical vestments was not driven by fashion. Rather, vestments represent “dressing oneself anew in Christ” in
which the priest “transcends his identity to become someone else” to become one with Christ through a process of interior transformation and inner renewal, he wrote. “The Pope, in short, does not wear Prada, but Christ.” The article said that Esquire magazine naming the Pope “accessoriser of the year” caused “a certain amused perplexity” and indicated “a frivolity much characterised by an age that tends to trivialise what it doesn’t understand”.
THE HOLY FATHER will be sharing a stage with an ex-gangster at World Youth Day in Australia. John Pridmore, from London, will be speaking at the evening Vigil Mass on Saturday July 19. Mr Pridmore, 44, was at one time an enforcer in London’s underworld, and was involved in criminal gangs and large-scale drug deals. But after nearly killing a man during a fight outside a bar in 1991, Mr Pridmore had a spiritual experience which began his road to conversion. Since converting, Mr Pridmore is estimated to have spoken to around one million people in parishes, universities, schools and prisons. His autobiography, From Gangland to Promised Land, is a bestseller. Mr Pridmore is expected to speak on the effect of God on his life. Mr Pridmore said he could have received “no greater honour” than to speak at the event.