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Archive for March, 2013

I first heard this piece, from Pietro Mascagni’s opera, Cavalleria Rusticana at the funeral of Robin’s elderly uncle. The evocative and rousing melody along with the proclamation of the Resurrection seemed absolutely perfect for the occasion as well as for Easter morning. Perhaps most poignantly, the recording that was played as the coffin departed, featured the voice of the deceased who had sung this in a recent amateur production. How many of us get the opportunity to sing at our own funeral?!

This is a piece of music that never fails to reduce me to tears, it is so incredibly moving. Utterly breathtaking, beautiful, audacious and as triumphal as the event it portrays.

Happy Easter.

O rejoice for the Lord has arisen,
He has conquer’d the power of the grave,
He has broken the gates of the prison,
He has risen in His glory to save;

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Hot on the heels of the initiative which allows Catholic women to pledge their support for Catholic doctrine (the aim of which is to present Pope Francis with a significant number of signatures as well as present a forum for Catholic women and apologetics), Catherine Lafferty has written a piece for the New Statesman’s version of Comment is Free, which suggests ten ways in which Pope Francis can renew the Catholic Church’s relationship with women.

It is no secret that I have personal issues with Lafferty. Many people witnessed her behaviour towards me last year when I was pregnant, with alarm and dismay. The episode caused considerable distress and much prayer is needed because I still struggle with forgiveness and coming to terms with it all.

This should be borne in mind when reading my critique of Lafferty’s piece – this isn’t about ad hom or personal attack, I wish to lay my animosity to one side and engage with and critique what was written, but it should be noted that perhaps understandably, I find it extremely hard to be objective towards someone, who I believe caused actual harm to my health and that of my unborn baby with a campaign of unfounded and malicious allegations and whose repeated presence in my timeline has been an occasion of sin at the start of the Triduum.

The article’s premise is that the Church needs to renew its approach to its female followers with regards to sex and reproduction. This would seem to be a little misleading, not least because it implies that the Catholic Church somehow needs to change its doctrine, something which is impossible. Secondly, it buys into the myth that most Catholic women are unhappy with the Church, especially in relation to the doctrine on sex and reproduction. This is a myth that I’m looking to disprove.

If women are unhappy with Church doctrine on these issues, the blame can largely be laid at the door of poor or inadequate catechesis. This would certainly be an area that one could argue is in need of renewal, but the Emeritus Pope Benedict did much in terms of sowing the seeds in this regard. The growing Juventum movement is packed with young women as well as men. A newer, younger generation of orthodox faithful Catholic women is emerging. Before claiming that the Church needs to take action to renew its relationship with women, some evidence as to this fractured relationship needs to be provided. A more accurate assessment would be to say that the Church needs to engage with lapsed Catholic women and evangelise better. It needs to send positive and joyful messages of female sexuality as well as remind everyone of the beautiful teachings of John Paul II, in Theology of the Body and Mulieris Dignitatem.

Here’s my take on the some of the suggestions:

  • Use the reform of the Curia to promote female excellence in the corridors of power. Hard to argue with this one, it’s a point that I have argued and would do much for the Vatican in terms of its perception. With that it mind, it should be remembered that the pursuit of power is not a goal that should be encouraged, for any Catholic in good conscience. Secondly, whilst female excellence should be encouraged, the Vatican needs to be extremely careful to ensure that it does not engage with secular identity politics that are contrary to Catholic teaching which teaches that our identity lies in our dignity as created beings in the image of God. If women are promoted it needs to be because they possess requisite competence and fulfil the criteria of any given position, not solely because of their sex. Woman quotas should be avoided because they are a form of unfair discrimination and buy into the idea that the Catholic Church is somehow oppressive or patriarchal as demonstrated by the priesthood. Whilst it would be good to see more women in the Curia, this should not be for the sake of political correctness. The Catholic Church is not a political party or democratically elected institution.
  • This bureaucratic reform should be extended downwards to Bishop’s Conferences and diocesan offices, which should also become more efficient and productive with professional staff and dragged out of ‘sleepy backwaters’ with a similar drive for female excellence. This seems primarily a comment on the Catholic Church in the UK. I’m not sure that the same could be said of other countries, such as America for example, and who knows what the situation is in the far-flung corners of the globe. We need to be wary of accusing hardworking diocesan staff of ‘complacency’ or not doing their jobs properly. Many dioceses, such as Portsmouth have in fact, recently undergone restructuring, the Catholic Church works on a model of subsidiarity to which diocesan bishops are key. Where failures are identified, it should be up to the individual bishop to take appropriate action, rather than for centralised guidelines – every diocese will have different requirements. Furthermore some of the staff working in and supervising diocesan offices are stipendiary priests who are unpaid. Many parish secretaries, admin and finance staff are also unpaid volunteers. Instead of replacing them with a professional bureaucracy, which will prove costly, additional training would seem to be the answer in areas where there are gaps in knowledge or experience. There are admittedly diocesan roles that require paid professionals, standards matter and dioceses do conform to employment laws and norms, so I think we need to be careful before making sweeping statements or wholesale accusations of inefficiency. The same sentiment as above would apply when it comes to promoting female excellence. Replacing priests and unpaid volunteers with a professional bureaucracy would cost a considerable amount of money at a time when we know that many dioceses are running a deficit. In any event most diocesan offices are filled with the laity.
  • Turn all Catholic workplaces into centres of excellence for family-friendly employment. How do we know that this is not already the case? I can think of several positions in my diocese which are staffed by women and are part-time or job-share. As employers, Bishops are subject to UK laws with regards to unjust discrimination when it comes to employment and would legally need to demonstrate that they have the relevant policies in place, which means amongst other things, that women returning from maternity leave will already have the right to request family-friendly hours and parental leave. When it comes to building creches, that is entirely dependent on the size of the plant that a diocesan office may occupy as well as number of staff. There doesn’t tend to be a high staff turnover in diocesan offices, so a creche could quickly become obsolete.
  • Take a lead in providing affordable childcare. The Catholic Church teaches that couples should be open to the gift of life, a principle which is made harder to live up to by women’s economic needs. Lovely idea in theory. Pie in the sky in real life. The Catholic Church does teach that couples should be open to the gift of life, but she also teaches that parents should be the primary educators of their children. A mother’s economic needs revolve around providing food and housing for her children. Ideally speaking a woman should have the choice as to whether or not she wishes to work, countless surveys demonstrate that most mothers yearn to be at home with their children. Jonas Himmelstrand, a Swedish sociologist, is reporting that psychological disorders in children have trebled in Sweden, widely held up as being a childcare utopia, where over 90% of children under 3 attend full time nurseries. Having children in full-time childcare should not be encouraged. It is not in the common good to encourage or promote a system whereby mothers have little choice other than to become wage slaves. That mothers have always worked is undeniable, but traditionally women needing extra income did this inside the home, whether it be by a bit of extra farming, being a nursemaid, taking in ironing, sewing, craftwork etc. Whilst that is admittedly out of step for today’s era, the rise of the mumpreneur, or woman who works from home, whether that’s freelance writing, running a business on ebay, or whatever, shows that this is still seen as an ideal. Women should be their own bosses, as they always have been, working on their own terms, providing for themselves and their families in a way that fits around family commitments, and not wage slaves to outside employers, trying to split themselves between two masters. Ultimately, it tends to be the children who suffer, when mum has to put them in wraparound care 5 days a week, in order to keep working for an implacable inflexible boss who pays the wages.
  • Aside from the fact that the Catholic Church lacks the resources to provide free or cheap Catholic nurseries and ignoring the fact that such a practice would inevitably fall foul of laws regarding discrimination, there would bound to be some vexatious litigation surrounding the nature of such provision, encouraging mothers to put their children in nurseries would not renew the relationship with women, but could cause alienation and resentment. The Church would be sending a very definite message as to the desirability of work, and no nursery, no matter how wonderful or gleaming the equipment or activities on offer, can replace a mother’s unique love and care. Children aren’t objects, they should not be viewed as barriers or commodities to financial or economic success and to put one’s own self-fulfilment on the same level as their welfare, is directly contrary to church teaching. Whilst the Church recognises and argues that women should have equal access to public functions and roles, speaking in Familiaris Consortio, John Paul said this

While it must be recognized that women have the same right as men to perform various public functions, society must be structured in such a way that wives and mothers are not in practice compelled to work outside the home, and that their families can live and prosper in a dignified way even when they themselves devote their full time to their own family.

Furthermore, the mentality which honours women more for their work outside the home than for their work within the family must be overcome. This requires that men should truly esteem and love women with total respect for their personal dignity, and that society should create and develop conditions favoriung work in the home.

  • The Catholic Church can plough funding for research into fertility management which complements rather than compromises its core principles. No need for this. The technology, already exists, NFP methods such as Creighton are 99% effective. Pope John Paul II singled out the Pope Paul VI Institute, who are world leaders in terms of reproductive technology for special praise and worthy of support. Catholics have to accept however, that no method of contraception is 99% effective, and whilst couples may have serious reasons not to add to their families, they must also tread a fine line in terms of not falling into a contraceptive mentality. Where the Church needs to do better is at communicating its message on human sexuality to young men and women, which really needs to start at grassroots level. The technology exists, it’s just not promoted heavily enough and neither do many priests do a great job in terms of preaching about contraception or promoting the alternatives. Likewise NaPro technology, has success rates far and above those of IVF, treating the underlying cause of which infertility is just a symptom. A fertile married couple has to regularly think and pray when it comes to the issue of whether or not to add to their family, and not simply use NFP as an alternative form of contraception. It involves a wholly different mindset.
  • Put women and their needs at the heart of its Pro Life activism. This is what happens now. Organisations such as the Good Counsel Network and LIFE Charity do just that in terms of their activism, campaigning and actual pro-life work. A creaking Pro Life lobby is ill-equipped to consider why women opt to have abortions and what they need to continue their pregnancies willingly. The pro-life lobby in the UK may be creaking, but there are certainly signs of healthy rejuvenation, such as in the recent foundation of the Alliance of Pro-life students and the success of the 40 days for Life movement. Speaking at the launch of APS, Eve Farron their founder, explained how they made common cause with feminists on campus and forced campaigning and provision for pregnant students at certain universities to be drastically overhauled, so that students with a crisis pregnancy were presented with actual realistic options enabling them to keep their baby and continue studying. Again the Good Counsel Network help women on a day to day basis, they are well versed in the multitude of reasons why a woman may find herself at the door of an abortion clinic and provide help accordingly. A pro-life movement that lacks cohesiveness will find it hard to gain political traction, but that doesn’t mean that it is unable to discern why women may abort. Pro-life work does need to consist of a political element, not simply in terms of legislation surrounding abortion laws, but legislation to enact a society that is open to life and the needs of pregnant women, but this is not its only role. For Catholics, pro-life work consists of prayer, politics, practical action and PR. The pro-life movement is at its strongest when we recognise and hammer home the message that a life is a stake here and the injustice of abortion, to mother and child. Politicians will respond to the will of the people and even SPUC, an organisation of which I am highly critical, is extremely effective at marshalling and consolidating grass-roots support. This is vital.
  • as tough on the causes of abortion as abortion itself. Good soundbite, albeit a modified version of William Hague. But we need to very careful here. Whilst society must clamp down on those factors that contribute to a woman’s feeling that she has little other ‘choice’, the causes of abortion are very often complex, there is not one single factor. Women who abort their babies are not two dimensional creatures simply exercising a choice because they can, or because they see it as a form of contraception and not the taking of a life. Whilst some women undoubtedly do view abortion as a trivial matter, many don’t and abortion is arrived at via a contribution of factors, not least a society that advocates and promotes abortion as being ‘no biggie’ and certainly not something that one should feel guilty about. Whilst we have to work to bring about an elimination of those factors that conspire to make a woman have an abortion, human history shows us that there will always be women who feel they have reasons to abort. We cannot concede that a reason to abort is a justification and neither should we be giving any fuel to the notion that until reasons to abort are demolished, then abortion itself can be tackled. When we consider the causes of abortion, we have to be extremely careful not to play into the hands of pro-choicers, who will argue that abortion has always existed, there will always be a good reason to abort and so abortion must be safe and legal. People will always want to engage in destructive behaviour, sadly there will always be those who are compelled to hurt their fellow human beings and themselves, but that does not mean that society should legislate, normalise and accept harm, on the premise that it is a lesser evil. Whilst we must be tough on the cause of abortion, we must not lose sight of the fact that abortion is, to use the hated words, a moral evil. That does not mean that women who have abortions are morally evil, or of dubious character, but in our compassion, we must not forget what abortion is. We must continue to be tough on it and not fall into the hands of well-meaning pro-choicers who attempt to justify abortion. Being tough on various causes of abortion includes getting tough on lifestyles of sexual impropriety as well as on repeated abortions, and accepting that a woman’s judgement is not always sound or prudent, by virtue of her gender or reproductive organs. This is a always a flashpoint or bone of contention, no-one likes to be seen as finger-pointing or interfering in others’ sex lives, it plays into the Christian fundie fiddling with ovaries stereotype, but ultimately as Christians we are compelled to make moral judgements with regards to certain courses of action, including abortion.

The other points with regards to population control, education and women’s rights are fairly sound. But as I said at the beginning, the Catholic Church needs to be very wary about succumbing to identity politics. Women are signing up thick and fast at CatholicwomenRising to pledge their support for Church doctrine. To state that the Church needs to renew its relationship with women, implies that there is a schism, one that is only evident in the minds of the media. What the Church does need to do is continue to win souls of all ages, be they the elderly, middle-aged, or young. Part of this must involve evangelisation. But Church renewal is a question that each subsequent generation has to face – we have to enthuse our children and young people to lives of Christian witness and holiness. This is why identity politics is so irrelevant, because Catholic doctrine reflects that men and women were created equal but with different vital roles to play. Our strengths and weaknesses are disparate, we are not all one homogenous mass. The way we go about renewal is in two ways – firstly by how we live our lives and the examples we set to others, Pope Francis is leading the way here, and secondly by implementing decent catechesis and instruction at a local level.

That the Catholic Church in the Western world needs to find ways of countering the rising tide of secularism, atheism and the prevailing zeitgeist of individualism and renew itself is indisputable. But it has to start at catechesis and finding effective ways of educating its laity, be they male or female. Women friendly policies may make for fluffy soundbites in left-wing publications and make a convenient flag for Catholics to wave to show off their progressive credentials. But the New Evangelisation requires action that goes infinitely deeper.

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Royal Society of Medicine

BPAS are advertising a conference in June which they appear to be sponsoring, called ‘abortion, motherhood and the medical profession’. It seems a strange title for an organisation who is predominantly concerned with removing motherhood, but this conference needs to be called out for what it is. An attempt at co-opting the Royal Society of Medicine (RSM), in order to endorse abortion as being a matter of medical treatment when as a recent symposium on Excellent Maternal Healthcare noted in their press release, abortion is never medically necessary to save the life of a mother. 

Abortion is a medical procedure, hence the involvement of the RSM, but this conference will obviously be incorporated by BPAS into their promotional material, with the RSM being used as leverage, in order to endorse any findings or conclusions as being those of a  professional body or allegedly evidence-based. The RSM describe this event as a joint meeting with BPAS, which raises questions about impartiality, as well as funding. Have BPAS subsidised this meeting in any way? It probably falls under costs of marketing and PR, in their Profit and Loss account.

In case of any doubt, I’ll run through the programme of events and outline the credentials of the speakers:

Introduction and Opening remarks:

  • Mrs Joanne Fletcher, Consultant Nurse, Gynaecology, Sheffield Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust 

An impartial consultant nurse? Actually Joanne Fletcher was the publication co-ordinator of this document about abortion care for the Royal College of Nurses in 2008. Interestingly the document was sponsored by Exelgyn, manufacturers of the abortion pill, RU486, Bayer Healthcare, who manufacture contraceptives and abortifacients. So, absolutely no vested interests there whatsoever then? Back to Mrs Fletcher, not only did she co-ordinate publication of this document but she is also a member of the RCN group – ‘Nurses working within termination of pregnancy Network’.  So it’s obvious where she stands on abortion.

  • Ms Jennie Bristow, Publications and Conference Manager, British Pregnancy Advisory Service

Fairly straightforward who this lady is, she’s in charge of commissioning and publishing research and organising conferences that promote abortion such as this one.

Foetal imaging and imagining the foetus:

This session, is chaired by Clare Murphy, Director of External Affairs at BPAS. She used to tweet as @clare_bpas before deleting her account in favour of a more professional generic BPAS account. I remember her tweeting about the appearance of some of those on 40 days for life – if one can be bothered to search through the blog, I’m sure there’s a tweet somewhere about her deriding the colour of tights of a volunteer, but again, I think we all know where Ms Murphy stands when it comes to abortion.

What intrigues me is why she is chairing a session on foetal imaging and “imagining the foetus”? Is she some sort of leading expert in the field of foetal imaging and diagnostics? Is she a qualified sonographer? My understanding is that she’s been promoted up from her original role within PR at BPAS.

What is imagining the foetus? One has a scan and sees a foetus on the screen (well actually you don’t at BPAS, they won’t show you and will dissuade you if you ask, can’t begin to imagine why). What has imagination got to do with it? Either you see a foetus or you don’t, if one is present on screen, it’s certainly not a figment of imagination.

Which is really the entire point of this session. It’s nothing to do with medical science and more to do with helping the client conceptualise her unborn child as being as un-human as possible. It’s about understanding the psychology of a pregnant woman and manipulation, by using medical terminology such as ‘gestation sac’ and ‘the pregnancy’ instead of what’s actually there, a foetus. (Fetus: Latin “offspring”, “hatching of young” “bringing forth”)

So, who have we got discussing foetal imaging and imagining, conceptualising (or lack of) of the foetus?

  • Dr Stuart Derbyshire, Reader in Psychology, University of Birmingham

A psychologist, able to discuss ‘helpful’ ways of thinking about and describing the foetus to the mother. Not only is he a reader in psychology, but he is one of the medical experts who argues against the notion that foetuses may be able to feel any pain. So no doubt, his talk will have something to do with the fact that even though the baby might look human and fully developed, it probably won’t feel any pain (how can any of us know with any certainty and besides medical opinion is divided) and so it’s perfectly okay to kill it.

  • Professor Carol Sanger, Columbia Law School

Professor Sanger is also a fellow of St Anne’s college Oxford. She writes articles on family law and women’s ‘reproductive rights’. She’s an abortion advocate who last year delivered BPAS 2012 public lecture on abortion in the US. Sanger has fought against laws in the US requiring mandatory ultrasounds for pregnant mothers.

And our final ‘expert on this session regarding foetal imaging and imagining is:

  • Zoe Williams, columnist for the Guardian

Zoe Williams frequently churns out pro-choice feminist propaganda for the Guardian. She describes her views as left-wing and feminist and has written some amusing guides to pregnancy and motherhood. Not quite sure what she’s doing on a session which is ostensibly about foetal imaging. I’ve got 4 children to her 2, have had numerous scans and know quite a fair bit about embryology and foetal development, I’d wager that I’m every bit as qualified when it comes to discussing foetal imaging…

So anyway, then we come on to the next session

Information, counselling and the law

Chaired by:

  • Dr Ellie Lee, Reader in Social Policy, University of Kent

I’m actually rather an admirer of Dr Lee, despite being co-ordinator of the Pro-choice forum and a strong advocate of abortion. She’s often on Women’s Hour and other media, advocating for abortion. Always eloquent, she has written this paper which is essential reading for any pro-lifer, discussing how the issue of abortion must be ‘de-moralised’, i.e. stripped of any notion of morality. She argues that pro-choicers have not yet won the battle on abortion and discusses ways that the issue should be approached in Parliament. Notably for pro-lifers, Dr Lee has observed that failing to sustain arguments about the sanctity of life has derailed pro life groups in the past, but nonetheless, the idea that abortion should be outside of politics is one of concern. That abortion is  political, favours pro-choicers as they well know, despite their protestations about ‘politicising the issue’. It seems pro-life hasn’t done very well, when it has deviated too far from the idea that a baby has a right to life. Her research is invaluable for pro-lifers who wish to inform themselves and develop effective strategies.

  • Dr Patricia Lohr, Medical Director, British Pregnancy Advisory Service

Needs no further comment

  • Ms Jane Fisher, Director, Antenatal Results and Choices

Despite their title, Antenatal Results and Choices, whilst not overtly partisan, certainly favour abortion, Jane Fisher has spoken about the improvements in first trimester ante-natal testing which means that women can access ‘abortions they need’ earlier – a good thing in her view.

  • Professor Sally Sheldon, Kent Law School

Another abortion advocate, who argued in favour of a woman’s right to have a sex-selective abortion and states that it should be women, not doctors who decide whether or not they need one. (Unlike every other medical treatment).

After lunch (if they can stomach it) we have the following session

Testing positive, negative and in between: How the semi-quantitative pregnancy test could transform the management of abortion, miscarriage, fertility treatment and ectopic pregnancy

A semi-quantitative pregnancy test is a self-administered urine test that one takes at home, following a medical abortion, that is once you’ve taken the abortion pill. At present, women require a clinic follow up if they have taken the abortion pill, in order for either a blood test or ultrasound to check whether or not uterine evacuation is complete. This obviously increases the clinics’ overheads and the cost of abortions. You’ve given the woman the pill, had her money, sent her home, it’s obviously a bit of a faff for all concerned that she needs to come back for any sort of check in person to see whether or not the pill has done its job or whether there might still be some bits floating about inside. Of course a pill could transform management of abortion and see a significant cost reduction (wonder if this will be passed on) enabling women to do the test at home before trekking back to the clinic where a person can actually check they are alright.

With the vast majority of abortions being performed under 12 weeks and clinics pushing the abortion pill which can be taken under 9 weeks, it’s no wonder they are excited about this option. More free time to see more new clients!

So which experts have we got on this panel then?

Chair:

  • Ann Furedi Chief Executive BPAS

Say no more, Ann (kill all the unborn up until birth) Furedi

  • Professor Paul Blumenthal, Stanford University

The man who argued against the banning of partial-birth abortion in America. That’s when they deliver the baby and crush its head as its coming out. A particularly nasty and gruesome procedure which is fortunately now illegal both over there and over here.

  • Mrs Joanne Fletcher, Consultant Nurse, Gynaecology, Sheffield Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust

As discussed above. A pro-choice activist consultant nurse

  • Dr Roy Farquharson, Consultant Gynaecologist, Liverpool Women’s Hospital

Author of a book on abortion in the first trimester

The day finishes off with the following session

Discussion: A new generation of abortion doctors – challenges and opportunities

Or, how do we entice more doctors into performing abortions, given there is an acute shortage of suitably qualified doctors, with more and more opting out of abortion procedures and training on conscience grounds, something that is naturally very concerning for abortion providers, hence they are resorting to all sorts of measures, including campaigning for the removal of conscience grounds and offering paid interships in order to train medical students.

So who do we have in this session?

  • Katharine Elliot 

A medical student from the University of Newcastle. I’m guessing she’s pro-choice. Perhaps she’s been on one of their placements and can testify to the joys of learning how to be an efficient abortionist?

  • Dr Richard Lyus, British Pregnancy Advisory Service

Again self-explanatory

  • Mr John Parsons, Consultant Gynaecologist

A doctor who believes that there are not enough abortions. 

In conclusion then, BPAS are hosting a wholly partisan conference, with a variety of pro-choice campaigners, activists and doctors and seeking to leverage the Royal Society of Medicine’s credentials in order to give the conference and any conclusions or press releases that may emanate from it, authority.

Whether you’ve read this in any depth, or simply scrolled through it to get the general gist, there can be no room for apathy. This is BPAS, this is what they do, it is extremely clever and slick manipulation, designed to fool the general public with medical terminology and assurances that their conclusions are following the deliberations and discussions of experts in the field, all highly scientific, evidence-based and neutral.

Nothing could be further from the case and no-one should be fooled. This is where some of the vast income from providing abortions for the NHS is diverted. Into promoting abortion as an option and finding ways of marketing and making it palatable to the general public, under the guise of science and using women’s rights campaigners as unofficial PR.

If SPUC or LIFE or Right-to-Life hold a conference on maternal care, this is immediately dismissed as being the work of loony nutjob fundies and therefore not worthwhile because their views on abortion are apparent in the name of the organisation. What BPAS are doing with conferences such as these, is a clever piece of PR, marketing and strategy, one that is not overtly political, but masquerades as some sort of scientific inquiry.

Pro-lifers need not only to disseminate this information, but also dispel the inevitable narratives that will pop up arising from this conference, as well as raise our game. We need to remember that there are equally well-informed experts who, on looking on the evidence available , take an opposing view, one that is peer-reviewed and evidence-based.

It is not surprising what is going on here, but anyone who feels apathy as opposed to anger, needs a wake-up call. This is life and death stuff, BPAS  are attempting the hijacking of the medical opinion to justify and disguise what is going on – the wholesale killing of the unborn, paid for by taxpayers’ money and wrapped up in important sounding conferences, which are nothing more than an echo chamber for abortionists and their supporters.

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Back to pro-life matters and it’s been heartening to watch LIFE charity who have really raised their game on social media over the past year, in terms of putting out some really useful information, along with biting commentary out into the public domain. Their Twitter handle is @LifeCharity

LIFE were live-tweeting testimony from the Parliamentary Inquiry (led by the all-party Pro-life group)  into abortion and disability which examined the unjust discrimination that allows for disabled babies to be aborted right up until the moment of birth, whereas ‘healthy’ children are subject to a 24 week limit. A discrepancy with which the general public are becoming increasingly uncomfortable following the resounding success of London’s 2012 Paralympics, which did much to raise awareness that having a disability does not preclude one from living an active and fulfilling life, nor from achieving success in a chosen field.

All of our medal winning athletes would have been allowed to have been aborted up until the moment of birth according to current UK law.

Ann Furedi, Chief Executive of BPAS made no attempt to hide her extremism, with the following statement, which is an absolute gift to the pro-life cause. Whatever else, one cannot fault Mrs Furedi’s honesty, these are the thoughts of one the UK’s most prolific and influential advocates for abortion:

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That’s right. If it’s unfair to kill disabled children up until birth, let’s kill ALL the children, instead of attempting to save the lives of those who can be killed right up until the moment that they are born. And they scoff at the moniker culture of death? Highly appropriate I’d say. Instead of choosing life for all, let’s choose equal rights to be unjustly killed, if at any stage your life becomes an inconvenience.

Here’s another good one.

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So when the expectant mother feels her baby kicking and hiccuping from around 5 months, it isn’t really alive, and neither is a baby alive when you can see him or her kicking, somersaulting, stretching, yawning, swallowing on your 12 week pregnancy scans. That’s not life, no it’s just human sentimentality telling us otherwise. When a woman suffers a tragic miscarriage, she has no need to mourn, or hold a funeral because her baby was never really alive? I wonder what this organisation, which exists to support and counsel parents who have lost a baby at any stage in life would make of that?

On the contentious issue of time limits:

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I can think of some pro-lifers who may sympathise with that. It’s logically coherent, either abortion is acceptable or it isn’t. If you can kill a baby, does it really matter at what stage?

I think the answer is yes, for two reasons. Firstly, we know that late-stage abortions are physically much more dangerous to the mother, which is why there is always such a rush to get women to abort at the earliest possible opportunity. Late-stage abortions are also a lot more emotionally harrowing for a woman, which any organisation that claims to care about their welfare should acknowledge.  Read some of the testimony on this womens’ forum, I linked to in a previous post. Also note, that since linking to it back in November, a pro-choicer has demanded that the moderators remove said thread, due to its age and it allegedly being ‘unhelpful’ towards women thinking of late-stage abortions. Unhelpful being a euphemism for deterrent.

It’s an astounding coming from someone whose organisation purports to care about women, that time-limits which are related to the health and well-being of the mother as well as the baby, are deemed unimportant. Autonomy or choice must come before personal safety and wellbeing.

The other reason why late stage abortions are important from a pro-life point of view is that the 24 week limit means that no attempt is made to help babies who made be born prematurely before this time, such as the case of baby Jayden, who was left to die for hours, as it was against the rules to help him. Ideology must not cause us to stick our heads in the sand over this issue.

But so what if time limits are a political preoccupation? Abortion has become political ever since pro-choicers decided to politicise it back in the sixties. In a democracy politics exist to reflect the will of the people, the majority of whom are extremely uncomfortable with the notion of late-stage abortion. Does Ann Furedi deem public opinion irrelevant in the face of her own personal ideology. It doesn’t matter whether or not stomachs are churned by the idea of fully developed healthy babies being killed subject to the whims of others? People are obviously very ignorant, what matters is that babies must be able to be killed right up until the moment of their birth, if that is what an individual wants, regardless of whether or not it is in step with the views of the general public, who don’t really matter anyway. The kind of atrocities such as those committed by Kermit Gosnell, are irrelevant?

If anyone was in any doubt about the ethic of autonomy being paramount regardless of consequences, here’s a chilling example:

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So it doesn’t matter if parents abort a much-wanted unborn baby because they have been poorly informed about their potential quality of life, or future prospects? It doesn’t matter if parents later find out something that had they known prior to the abortion, would have changed their mind and then have to live with the fact that they aborted an unborn baby on a false premise. The anger and sadness of grieving parents doesn’t matter, their right to be properly informed is of secondary import, what really matters is that they made a choice, even if it then turned out to be the wrong one and one that they would not repeat given similar circumstances. All that matters is that a decision is made?

Blowing all claims of impartiality and informing women of all their options out of the water, the Chief Executive of the British Pregnancy Advisory Services, says this

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People were screaming blue murder at Nadine Dorries’ proposed amendment which suggested that abortion clinics did not offer wholly impartial advice and offered to give pregnant women the choice of independent counselling in which all options and alternatives could be discussed. Whilst wary of adoption being offered as a panacea or first solution to a woman with a crisis pregnancy, it should at least be discussed and given equal weight as an option as abortion. It makes a complete mockery of BPAS’ name of the British Pregnancy Advisory Service – the type of advice on offer is one way.

People say pro-lifers are the extremists? Try telling that to those from 40 Days for Life in Brighton yesterday, who had a car drive past them sizing them up, and which then returned to pelt them with eggs. Or to those working at the Youth Defence office in Dublin who found the memory of Savita Halappanavar defiled when her photo was stuck to their office doors with human faeces.

Sometimes there is no need for pro-lifers to make an opposing argument. Give some people enough rope…

Save all the children

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An interesting comment appeared in response to my post about the Catholic Women Rising project, stating that I am never going to manage to attempt to get every Catholic woman to sign up. Maybe not, but just because something may be difficult, doesn’t mean that it’s not worth doing.

As a point of note, the Catholic Women Rising site is not meant to be a personal vanity project – the intention is to hand over blog administration to any other Catholic women (or men) who may wish to be involved, especially in the apologetics side. The aim is to promote the New Feminism, winning over lapsed Catholics and hopefully even persuading women of other denominations,  as well as a manifestation of the huge amount of grass roots support that exists for Catholic teaching.  I don’t care from whence the apologetics comes so long as it is not only sound, but gentle – there will be no time for hectoring those who struggle with teaching or at times fall short. Whilst sin or error can not be validated,  one catches more flies with honey than vinegar as the saying goes and it is intended to be a place of joyful witness to the truth, not petty sniping or personal carping. I wonder whether women are better placed in terms of evangelising to other women nonetheless.

In the meantime, it will mainly be pro-life and personal witterings reflections as per usual on this site, but so far the response has been overwhelming, my email and social media inboxes have been inundated with support, with Francis Philips of the Catholic Herald, Joanna Bogle and Marianne Cutherbertson, being among those who have supported the site and signed. It’s early days yet, but I do intend to keep plugging away at it and getting as many names as possible and publicising the initiative outside of the internet.

Whilst not wishing to pick on the person who left the comment, another one of her points was that unrest exists within the Catholic church with regards to women. If this is the case then this needs to be identified and engaged with, not least so that women who feel uncomfortable with doctrine, are at the very least, afforded the privilege of being listened to and it needs to be established whether any pastoral solution can be sought, or whether they are labouring under a misapprehension. No-one is claiming that unrest doesn’t exist, but it’s a question of how representative some of the media narratives are. The majority of Catholic female voices in the mainstream media (Catholic Herald staff aside), from Joanna Moorhead to even Cristina Odone, seem to publicly dissent from at least one aspect of teaching. The project aims to offer a response and counter, to which a new post has gone up, which names some of the women of influence within the Holy See itself.

Tina Beattie suggests that the handful of women to whom the Vatican are listening are “selected handmaidens”, a deliberately inflammatory phrase, designed to reinforce the notions of patriarchy and sexual subservience and oppression. If one were of a less charitable disposition, one might wonder whether or not there is a hint of bitterness or frustration that as a theologian in a Catholic university, she is not among their number.

Occam’s razor comes in handy here – if there are not as many women as perhaps would be desirable amongst those positions open to the laity in the Curia, it has as much to do with the fact that many Catholic women have a vocation of wife and mother which is incompatible with a full-time job located in Vatican City. The complaint that ‘diverse prominent women theologians’ are not being listened to is due to the nature of the dissenting views of such theologians as opposed to their gender. Hans Kung wasn’t stripped of his teaching faculties on account of his sex.

If the church fails to take account of the problems of the women in the world, and I’m far from convinced that this is true, then this needs further definition.

But the most interesting aspect of this comment, is that it appeared to jump on the fact that I had apparently misunderstood and taken Tina Beattie’s Guardian quote from Protect the Pope, out of context and it appeared to be leaping to her defence. I have no intention of attempting to out the person who made the comment, who I suspect was a student and neither do I have the time or inclination to pursue or track down those who leave comments expressing disagreement.

WordPress does however automatically log the IP address of those who leave comments and as such I can often identify persistent trolls. This commenter is not a troll, she was simply disagreeing with me as she is perfectly entitled to do so, however what jumped out at me was that WordPress assigned a name to the originating comment, which was St Mary’s University College, Twickenham, a Catholic University, which has been experiencing a fair amount ofshenanigans of late.

That we have a student who seems to be in agreement with Professor Beattie is nothing to get rattled about. But it does once again pose the wider question about what might be going on in terms of teaching or catechesis at that university, which seems rather sad.

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No-one could fail to be inspired by Pope Francis’ homily at this morning’s inaugural Mass. He calls for tenderness, and describes how authentic power comes with service, reminding us of our duty to protect one another.

We must never be afraid of goodness, of tenderness which is a great sign of strength. A tender heart is indicative of a capacity for concern, compassion, and a genuine openness to others for love.

Just as these are the qualities shown by St Joseph in his role of loving protector towards Mary, Jesus and over the whole church, these are also the qualities inherent in motherhood, whether that be of a spiritual or physical nature. Like St Joseph all of us must watch over and protect Christ’s mystical body, but his homily was a potent reminder of why we must be protectors of life, at whatever stage, from its conception to it’s final moments.

It reinforced the message of Christ to me as a woman, wife and mother, reminding me of my duty to nurture and protect my husband and children, as well as reaching out to fellow women in their moments of danger and crisis.

Last night, following a germ of idea in which I thought it would be a great to have an online space where faithful Catholic women can witness to their faith, I set up a new website, catholicwomenrising.wordpress.com in which women can stand up and be counted for their faith and offer their love, gratitude and prayers for Pope Francis as well as register their unqualified support for Church teaching.

Please could those who commented in the comms box here, go and register their support over there, spread the word and pray. My hope is that this could be a real gift and blessing, not only to Pope Francis, but to the Catholic Church as a whole, countering the repeated negative media cliche that the Catholic Church is not representative of well over 50% of its members.

I’d like women to stand up and be counted for their faith, to show the world that they embrace the freedom and love that comes with adhering to God’s plan for the world. Far from being oppressive, the New Feminism is all about empowerment and recognising the inherent dignity of all women as created beings of God, free of cultural and society’s expectations to become sexual objects and to limit and crush our innate fertility and restrict our ability to love. The culture of death pressurises us to murder our unborn children, put limits on our resources to love and to reject our elderly, in favour of our own selfish needs.

The culture of life and love recognises our abilities and strengths as women, it does not expect us to be subjugated to male desire, it allows for us to fulfil our potential, whether we are married, single, mothers, childless, whether we are working or seeking work, whether we are homemakers, businesswomen, volunteers or a combination of all of the above. It does not seek to put a lid on the female achievement in whatever a woman’s chosen area.

Catholic teaching allows for us to love Christ, to love ourselves and thus reach out to and love and protect for one another. It is freedom, dignity and empowerment.

Please could you pass on the website and urge every Catholic woman you know who agrees to sign. It would be a simple act of faith, in this Year of Faith, but send an incredibly powerful message to the world, that here is a group of happy, fulfilled, empowered and spiritual nurtured women; a message of encouragement, not only to each other and to the rest of the Church, but also to those women who have become estranged from the faith.

The plan is to set up some separate posts and sensible forum debate, whereby women who do not agree with Church teaching (yet) can debate and discuss the issues in an atmosphere of openness and non-confrontation. Where those who might be struggling with some of the challenging issues such as IVF or contraception, can talk this through in a  non-judgemental way and receive gentle explanation, encouragement, support and resources in terms of alternatives.

But first and foremost, it would be amazing if we could muster as many women as possible to say “Yes, I love the Catholic Church, I follow her teachings, not because I am brainwashed or fearful, but with a heart and mind that is open to God”.

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Okay, so this is a bit of an experiment, but I’d really like it to catch on and would also like the support of the entire Catholic blogosphere, certainly in the UK and what an amazing thing if this could go global.

Inspired by Deacon Nick Donnelly, who has such an inspirational apostolate with his Protect the Pope blog, my blood pressure rose when I saw that a certain ‘Catholic’ theologian is once again hinting at doctrinal changes, seemingly misunderstanding that these are simply not possible. This isn’t meant to be a personal attack on Tina Beattie herself, I can understand that it must be unnerving to feel constantly besieged by a group of bloggers on the internet, but in a recent interview in the Guardian she states:

The new pope must show that he is willing to engage seriously with women’s theological voices and moral perspectives in a way which is broadly representative of the diverse experiences and aspirations of women, and not just with a few carefully selected theological handmaids.

The Church is not a democracy. Furthermore doctrines cannot change, Catholicism is based upon the truth that was revealed to us by Jesus Christ and handed down by the apostles to their successors. Revealed truth cannot change, the deposit of faith is comprised of this revealed truth expressed in Scripture and sacred tradition and thus cannot change. The church does not have the power to change or remove anything that has been given to us by Christ and His Apostles.

It is beyond annoying being told what the Church should do in relation to women, by people who are either not Catholic, or want the Church to change her doctrine in order to accommodate their own personal agendas, whether that be to allow self-destructive behaviour, to validate their own insecurity or to give them more ‘power’, which is never a healthy thing. None of us should crave positions of power or leadership.

Many faithful Catholic women are fed up of being told that they are not representative of the Catholic faith, that they are somehow brainwashed or marginalised, that their Church hates them and that most Catholic women are against the Church’s teachings, especially with regards to contraception, abortion and the male priesthood, most of which is based on dodgy poll data.

Here’s what I’d like to do. I’m not sure if this blog is the best forum for it, but then again it is run by a married mother of 4 young girls, who is passionate about female equality and empowerment, it’s just my definition of what that looks like, is very different to that of militant feminists or unrepresentative politicians and journalists, who think working women is all about a high-powered job in a nice city office somewhere on mega-bucks, or perhaps a well-paid newspaper column working from home, whereas the reality for most working mothers and children is entirely different.

I’d like to get as many Catholic women as possible, to sign up in the comments box below, to say that they agree with the following statement.

I am a faithful practicing Roman Catholic woman, who attends Mass at least once a week and who believes in and practices the Church’s teachings, specifically pertaining to matters on sexuality, contraception, abortion, marriage and the ordination of women. I believe that the Roman Catholic Church is sympathetic to and representative of the needs and concerns of women and their children, wherever they may be in the world. I would like to offer our new Pope Francis, my prayers and support and thank him for his continued protection and support of mothers and their unborn children. I fully endorse Church doctrine in relation to women’s issues. 

This could be an amazing gift for the Year of Faith. Imagine if every single faithful Catholic woman were to pledge their solidarity to our new Pope and Church doctrine in one place. What a gift, blessing and comfort, not only for Pope Francis, but also for ALL the Catholic clergy, Cardinals, Archbishops, Bishops, Monsignors, Priests, Deacons, as well as those members of the laity, who are engaged in catechesis. How heartening for them to see the fruits of their work and how loved, supported and appreciated they are by Catholic women everywhere.

Also, what an opportunity for catechesis this could be, in terms of promoting the New Feminism. If you do see this and you are a Catholic women who feels in good conscience that she cannot sign up, don’t leave a comment on this post, I’ll open up another sticky and we can get debate going there, or better still, discuss it with your priest, or someone you know who can sign in good faith.

What a message to the Pope, to the Church and to the world and media at large. We, the undersigned Catholic women, have a love for Christ and his Church burning in our hearts and we do not wish to alter or change doctrine one little bit. We are empowered by a beautiful teaching that recognises us as having an equal dignity and sets us free to live in love.

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