THE CATHOLIC HERALD MARCH 9 2012
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Midwives must manage staff for abortions, court rules
BY SIMON CALDWELL
A SCOTTISH court has ruled that two senior Catholic midwives have no right to conscientiously object to overseeing staff involved in lateterm abortions in a state-run hospital.
The Court of Session, Scotland’s supreme civil court, ruled that Mary Doogan, 57, and Concepta Wood, 51, could not invoke the conscience clause of the 1967 Abortion Act to opt out of their duties at Glasgow’s Southern General Hospital because they were not directly involved in performing the abortions.
The pair, who worked as labour ward coordinators, had been obliged to delegate, supervise or support staff involved in performing up to three late-term abortions a week. They claimed that such indirect involvement made them culpable in procedures they found to be abhorrent.
But the judge, Lady (Anne) Smith, said in a ruling last week that the conscience opt-out of the 1967 act was qualified, adding that nothing the midwifery nurses “have to do as part of their duties terminates a woman’s pregnancy”.
“They are sufficiently removed from direct involvement as, it seems to me, to afford appropriate respect for and accommodation of their beliefs,” the judge said. “The nature of their duties does not, in fact, require them to provide treatment to terminate pregnancies directly.”
Miss Doogan said that she Mrs Wood were “greatly saddened” by the verdict.
“Neither Connie [Wood] nor I
stand in judgment of any woman who chooses to terminate her pregnancy for whatever reasons,” she said. “We are more than aware of the difficult choices that some expectant mothers may be faced with in a crisis pregnancy.
“However, in holding to the view that life should be protected from conception to natural death, neither do we wish to be judged for exercising what is our legal right to refuse to participate in the process of medical termination of pregnancy. We wish now to take some time to consider all options that are available to us, including appeal,” she said.
Paul Tully, general secretary of the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children, a lobby group which has supported the nurses, said his organisation “will now be considering their further legal options” with the midwives.
Miss Doogan has been absent from work for two years because of ill-health and Wood moved to other work because of the dispute, the court was told.
The midwives have served for more than 20 years at the hospital and the dispute arose only when their employers – National Health Service Greater Glasgow and Clyde – demanded in 2007 that mid-term and late-term abortions would be performed on the labour ward rather than on the gyneacology ward. The late abortion procedure, Mr Tully explained, “entails the mother being given drugs to induce labour, and then having to go through labour and deliver the baby. In more advanced pregnancies the baby is killed first by an ultrasound-guided lethal injection while still in the womb.”
During the case, which was heard in January, the midwives said attempts by their employers to compel them to oversee such abortions also breached their rights under Article 9 of the European Convention on Human Rights, which guarantees the right to freedom of religion.
Archbishop Mario Conti of Glasgow said the ruling caused him “deep concern”.
“I wish to put on record my admiration for the courage of the midwives who have, at very great cost to themselves, fought to uphold the right to follow one’s conscience,” Archbishop Conti said.
“It is fundamental to the functioning of society that all citizens act in accordance with an informed conscience,” the archbishop said.
“Any law or judgment that fails to recognise this contradicts that most basic freedom and duty which we all have as human beings, namely to follow our conscience and act accordingly,” he added. “Any assault on this principle undermines the very basis of the law itself and society’s moral cohesion, which the law should seek to guarantee.”
Neil Addison, a Catholic barrister and the director of the Thomas More Legal Centre, a Catholic charity dedicated to upholding religious freedom, said the courts had used the European Convention on Human Rights “to protect murderous terrorists but have refused to use it for two midwives who do not want to kill unborn children”.
“What is more surprising is the extremely restrictive interpretation the judge has put on the conscientious objection clause in Section 4 of the Abortion Act,” Mr Addison said. “As the judge has interpreted it, believing Catholics, Muslims, etc, will never be able to take any form of supervisory or management role as midwives or nurses unless they are willing to be complicit in the provision of abortions.”
He said the decision was “in stark contrast to recent decisions in the United States courts, which have applied the American First Amendment to protect the conscience rights of pharmacists who refused to dispense the morning-after pill”. Editorial Comment: Page 13
Catholic schools embrace Gove’s academy model
BY MARK GREAVES
DOZENS, if not hundreds, of Catholic schools are preparing to convert to academy status, it emerged this week.
The news comes after 13 schools, including five schools in the Diocese of Westminster, became academies last week. The total number of Catholic academies, which are independent of local authority control, is now 68.
Gail Meill, director of education for the Diocese of Nottingham, said that six Catholic schools in the diocese were now academies, but that by the end of the academic year there would be 40.
She said that by converting in clusters – a group of schools becoming academies under a single academy trust – schools could support each other more.
As a result of the cuts, she said, many local authorities had been forced to reduce their services or hand them over to outside bodies and were “not necessarily able to offer the same level of services to schools as had been given in the past”.
She said that groups of academies could offer each other the support that once might have been provided by the local authority. She also explained that academy status offered a financial advantage and the chance for schools to strengthen their Catholicity across the curriculum. She added that voluntary-aided schools actually already had freedom over their curriculum, “but governors and heads didn’t always recognise they had it”.
Up until now dioceses have paid 10 per cent of capital costs for their schools, but if schools become academies these costs are covered entirely by the Government.
Last week’s wave of conversions involved three schools run by religious orders – two by the Faithful Companions of Jesus and one by the Society of the Sacred Heart – as well as a joint Catholic-Anglican school and four schools in the dioceses of Nottingham, Hexham and Newcastle and East Anglia.
Meanwhile, the Catholic Education Service for England and Wales (CESEW) has rejected the claim that Catholic schools “shun” poorer pupils.
A report by the Guardian newspaper suggested that three-quarters of Catholic primary and secondary schools had a more affluent mix of pupils than their local area. The claim was based on an analysis of the number of pupils eligible for free school meals.
Maeve McCormack, policy manager at the CESEW, said the argument was flawed because poor families did not necessarily claim for free school meals. She said: “The lower number of applications for free school meals in Catholic schools is an issue of real concern to us, as it suggests that many children who would be eligible for free school meals are not claiming them... for some families we know there is a cultural stigma attached to claiming free school meals and we are keen to work to remove that stigma and ensure that children from all backgrounds are given the support that they need to benefit.”
She pointed to data from the Department of Education which showed that 18.6 per cent of pupils at Catholic primary schools live in the 10 per cent most deprived areas of England, compared with 14.3 per cent of primary school pupils nationally. About 17 per cent of pupils at Catholic schools lived in the 10 per cent most deprived areas compared to 12 per cent of pupils nationally.
Parish sells Pugin furniture to fund L’Arche project
Cardinal: open Cause of murdered Minister
BY ED WEST
MORE THAN 100 i t ems of monumental and gothic furniture from the presbytery of St Thomas of Canterbury and the English Martyrs Church in Preston are to be sold next week to help fund a L’Arche community.
Lancashire auction house Silverwoods will sell the lots, most of which date back to the time when the church, which was designed by Edward Pugin and extended and furnished by Pugin & Pugin, the family firm, was built. The c i ty’s s ixth Catholic church, with room for 700 people, i t was constructed at a time when the city’s Catholic populat ion was booming, and opened in 1888.
Much of the furniture is in the Gothic style in oak and mahogany and includes a 19ft long oak wind-out dining table and several very imposing three- and fourpart glazed bookcases up to 10ft in l ength and 8ft in height.
As well as the many monumental pieces of furniture, the sale features an unusual Dickens desk, estimated at £400 - £500, altar tables, prayer chairs, desks, s ideboards and bedroom furniture.
It also includes a selection of oil paintings on canvas depicting martyrs, saints and other religious scenes, six watercolour scenes by Preston artist Edwin Beattie, brass candlesticks and ornamental crucifixes.
The proceeds of the sale will help the church fund a joint project with the L’Arche community, a Christian ecumenical organisation that helps people with disabilities to l ive in a community setting alongside volunteer helpers.
The money will be spent on modernising the church presbytery, which was once large enough to house six priests but is now used by just one, into a series of flats.
Fr Thomas Singleton, parish priest at the church, said there was no sadness about the sale, “none whatsoever”.
He said: “With this project we’ve got to clear it of all furniture and turn it into a community of flats, one of which is for the priest. The house will be brought up to scratch, put to good use.”
He added: “We can’t be a museum. We’re not in hoc to the furniture, were not in thrall. Buildings have to serve a purpose.
“I think i t ’s a positive move forward for us. Otherwise it’s buildings gradually decaying and running out of money and wasting resources. One person living in a huge house is a waste.”
The sale will be on view on Wednesday 14 and Thursday 15 March at 18 Garstang Road, Preston.
BY JOHN NEWTON
CARDINAL Keith O’Brien has called for the Church to consider declaring Shahbaz Bhatti a saint.
In a statement on March 2 – the first anniversary of Mr Bhatti’s death – Cardinal O’Brien, Archbishop of Saint Andrews and Edinburgh, expressed his hope that the Church will look into the option of canonising Mr Bhatti.
Appointed federal minister for minorities, a Cabinet position in Pakistan’s government, Shahbaz Bhatti took up the cause of religious freedom, speaking out against persecution and in so doing knowingly put his life in danger.
Noting that the canonisation process normally begins five years after the candidate’s death, Cardinal O’Brien said: “When that time comes I believe the Church should very seriously examine the question of whether Shahbaz Bhatti might be declared a saint.”
The cardinal went on to say: “It would be wonderful to think that... Shahbaz Bhatti could become a patron for justice and peace in Pakistan or indeed Asia.”
Cardinal O’Brien’s call to examine Mr Bhatti’s worthiness for sainthood was made in a statement to Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need, which is one of the organisers behind an event in central London tomorrow honouring the Pakistani politician.
Pugin’s parish in Kent marks 200th anniversary of his birth
A CATHOLIC church in Ramsgate built by architect Augustus Pugin has been awarded £40,000 for urgent restoration work only a few days after celebrating the 200th anniversary of the architect’s birth.
St Augustine’s Church in Ramsgate celebrated the bicentenary of Pugin’s birth last Thursday with a congregation of his fans. A group, known as the Friends of St Augustine, was formed in 2011 to raise funds for the restoration of the church.
In his homily Fr Marcus Holden spoke of Pugin’s faith which informed everything he did. He said: “He did not create dead art or fossilised things to be admired merely as works of interest. Everything had a living context. He was there to decorate function, in other words to make the working reality beautiful. The function was the living breathing Christian faith... He once wrote about his roodscreens, but the same could be said of every item and detail he designed for his churches, ‘The mere inspection of them is nothing... It is when they become associated with the life of divine worship that they produce the full power and lift the soul in ecstasy’.”
The celebrations began with the Latin High Mass and the laying of a wreath on Pugin’s tomb by his great-great-grandson Robert Pugin Purcell.