And vigils don’t work?

Clare at the Good Counsel Network has the joyous news that BPAS have announced that their flagship facility at Bedford Square in Central London, is to close.

While BPAS have announced this as an operational decision – they are merging with their clinic in Stratford, this means that client numbers will fall and thus there is one less site in central London carrying out the destruction of human life on a daily basis.

Who says that the power of prayer doesn’t work? Whichever way the pro-choicers try to spin it, this is a seminal moment for the UK prolife movement. If the demand was there, BPAS would remain open for business.

Though the national press will be uninterested, the significance of the 1st UK abortion clinic closure should not be underestimated. Fewer women are choosing abortion, mothers and babies will be safer. Thank God for that.


BPAS would appear to have been caught on the back foot claiming that their clinic is not in actual fact closing, but it is very clear from their statement that they will no longer carry out abortion procedures at Bedford Square.

This is evidently not something that they would have chosen to advertise, BPAS are a business, clearly there is no significant demand for abortion facilities in central London, and their clinic is not proving cost effective, otherwise they would be continuing provision.

The decision to transfer provision to East London demonstrates the cynicism inherent in BPAS’ operational decisions. While Stratford enjoys good transport links, it entails a longer, more expensive journey for many London residents. If BPAS claim that they are locating clinics closer to where people are living (and we have yet to see evidence of more planned clinics) it is very telling that their area of most perceived need is a place with a diverse population, consisting of a high proportion of ethnic minority groups, young people and high levels of social deprivation. Funny how there are no mooted plans to open up in other residential areas such as Pimlico, Knightsbridge, or further out to the west of the city, such as Chiswick or even Weybridge. I wonder how a BPAS clinic would be received by residents of wealthy stockbroker belts such as Shenley or Sevenoaks? Still that isn’t going to happen…

Irrelevance of evidence

Nothing highlights more starkly the irrelevance of solely evidenced-based policy than the campaign to criminalise possession of pornography that depicts acts of rape.

A debate is currently raging as to whether or not there is evidence that such material causes people to commit this heinous crime. Two recent convicted child-killers, Mark Bridger and Stuart Hazell were found to have accessed this type of pornography as well as having viewed and downloaded sickening images of child abuse.

Louise Mensch highlights the inconsistency of the UK legal approach in a sensible fashion here, claiming that the UK law does not reflect the gravity of these crimes.

Some intellectual honesty is required. The link between the viewing of pornography (whether violent or not) and sexual crime remains unproven. It’s certainly fair to state that viewing pornography normalises deviant and niche sexual behaviour and can prove damaging to those predisposed to addictive behaviour as well as those who are having difficulty forming normal healthy relationships. There is a plethora of emerging data that suggests that pornography is having a deleterious effect on the psyche of society at large.

But until this can be definitively quantitatively proven debates will rage centred around civil liberties, censorship and the consenting individuals involved. In all likelihood there are those who can view rape porn and not go on to commit crime. Pornography does not turn people into automatons, we still retain free will even in the midst of the most terrible addictions. An addiction to porn may require much strength to break free from, it may increase the desire to commit sexual crime to those inclined that way, but it won’t in and of itself cause someone to take the conscious physical step of forcing oneself upon another. Pornography should not be used as a mitigating factor when considering how these crimes should be dealt with and viewed by society.

Instead of pouring over evidence and data, policy-makers should have the courage to admit the question of porn should be purely one of morals and values, not one of gradation of different levels of harm. All porn is degrading, seedy and harmful or damaging. It desensitises and cheapens both participant and viewer. It will always exist, but the question is whether or not it should have an overt place in society. Should porn be a matter of moral neutrality, should we sanction it, turn a blind eye or should we be brave and bold enough to state that it has no place in a civilised society, even if people then chuck glib insults or labels our way?

The evidence of the dangers of porn will take considerable time to consolidate, as with tobacco. By that time it will be too late. Whether or not we want a porn free society is entirely a value judgement. Evidence has little to do with it.

I know it’s only RocknRoll…

You can be blasé about some things Kate, but not about marriage...
You can be blasé about some things Kate, but not about marriage…

There’s been something of a brouhaha following the publication of an admittedly acerbic article by Judith Rogers in the Daily Telegraph that called the oscar-winning actress tacky, after her announcement that she is expecting her third baby by her third husband, later this year.

In typical fashion various feminist commentators laid into Ms Rogers and the Telegraph with accusations of misogyny and the ubiquitous ‘slut-shaming’ label. A second article was then hastily churned out by the newspaper’s Wonderwoman section, in condemnation of the first.

A few observations. While sharp, the original article had a point in that it highlighted the folly of having three children by three different men. Before I go any further I am well aware that I lay myself open to charges of blatant hypocrisy as my relationship history has not been unblemished. I too attempted a marriage not in possession of a full understanding of what that meant and lacking the emotional maturity to realise that my judgement was flawed. Mea maxima culpa.

I would not attempt to justify, promote or validate my past as being ideal, nor would I seek to deny the devastating effect that divorce has upon children of a marriage, even if matters are resolved in a civilised fashion and former partners manage to avoid the trap that so many fall into of using their children as weapons or co-opting them into taking a particular side. It is painful and unsettling for children when their biological parents are not living together, they are subject to regular disruption, forced to live in two different homes, and always feeling slightly apart or different from their parents’ new families, a separateness that is reinforced by the fact that they may not even share the same surname as their mother or father’s families. When one of the parents re-marries, the child has to bond with and accept an additional parental figure of authority in their home, the new spouse, like it or not, bears an element of responsibility for the child living under their roof. We are fortunate as a family, there is no question for my eldest daughter that she is an equally valued and loved member of her stepfather’s family, she enjoys a close and loving bond with her stepfather alongside her relationship with her adoring biological father but there are still moments of pain and tears when visits end. It is a better situation than various alternatives, but it is not the ideal that all children deserve. It would be deceptive to claim otherwise.

The ‘problem’ is not one of sexual ethics, credit where credit is due, Kate Winslet is expecting a baby within a marital relationship, the ideal context. The difficulty lies not in her pregnancy, but that she does not appear to treat the bond of marriage entirely seriously. Either that, or she’s been incredibly unlucky, but from what was reported in the press, the break-up of her first marriage came entirely at her instigation with her former husband , Jim Threappleton joining the pressure group ‘Fathers for Justice’ as he seemingly does not get enough access to their daughter.

Multiple marriages or serial monogamy have a devastating effect on children and my eyebrows were raised not at the prospect of her pregnancy but at her third marriage which came after a relatively short courtship to a man who had recently changed his birth name to ‘Rocknroll’ by deed poll. It’s not indicative of maturity, each to their own, but with two children by different fathers and having ditched her previous model boyfriend upon meeting her spouse, it’s certainly doesn’t give the impression of a man who is giving much thought to responsibility and is an interesting choice for mother of two in her late thirties.

Perhaps having amassed considerable wealth as a result of her career, Kate is none too concerned about permanence as she has financial stability and is able to financially support herself should things go horribly wrong, but it seems fair to question the effect of the emotional stability upon her children. That will be the third father-figure in her eldest daughter’s life and doesn’t exactly model marriage in a good light as being a lifetime permanent stable commitment for her children.

This isn’t a misogynist attitude either, I have as little time for men who indulge in similar behaviour, I know I’ll cause gross offence if my former colleague Yvonne reads this, such is her passion for Rod Stewart, but he’s one such offender. Charlie Sheen is another who comes to mind. There will be plenty more.

 It’s fair to note that women celebrities are more prone to being singled out for this disapprobation than men, so perhaps there is a slight element of misogyny, but of more concern is the element of class here. I don’t see the feminists rallying round to the defence of Katie Price, who has open season declared on her private life, (not helped by the fact she aids, abets and positively invites comments with her regular magazine spreads and reality shows) but the general consensus seems to be that La Price is trashy and vulgar for being on her third husband and expecting her fourth baby by her third different man, whereas Kate Winslet should be above judgement, because she is a beautiful and talented, Oscar-winning actress from a middle-class family.

Where's the sisterhood sticking up for the other thrice married Kate?
Where’s the sisterhood sticking up for the other thrice married Kate?

This isn’t about money, but about class. Society does still stigmatise those who have multiple children by multiple men and women but the difference is whether or not they have the funds not to be a burden on the taxpayer. Transfer Kate Winslet into a tracksuit on a council estate, aged 37, expecting her third child by her third husband and the moral neutrality and relativism would vanish.

Articles such as Judith Rogers’ may be the literary equivalent of pursing one’s lips into the shape of a cat’s bottom, but it’s noteable that the Daily Telegraph have attacked Winslet, one of their own, as opposed to Katie Price who they would not normally sully their pages with. Here is a middle-class publication casting judgement on a middle-class woman, one to whom many would aspire on account of her ability to look good when taking her clothes off in films, dazzle in glamourous gowns on the red carpet and her undeniable talent as an actress. The Kate Winslet brand previously exuded class, a few errors of judgement and the lustre is beginning to look a little tarnished.

Bearing in mind that as Christians we need to speak the truth but with charity, I wish both of the Kates, Winslet and Price well. We have to remember that people are not means to an end, but human beings with feelings. Being hated on for the crime of being pregnant by one’s new husband cannot be pleasant and doesn’t do much to spread Gospel values, although Christ was clear about the importance of marriage. Jesus doesn’t simply reference marriage but talks about it as God’s plan for humanity from the very beginning, as John Paul II reflected upon in his Theology of the Body.

In all societies since time immemorial, people who have deviated from societal norms or indulged in patterns of behaviour to the detriment of the common good have been ostracised. Fortunately these days we have moved away from public shaming practices lacking in compassion and mercy and are more tolerant and open to the prospect of forgiveness.

Newspapers reflect the interests and views of their readership nonetheless, which is why the Daily Telegraph will be passing judgement on Kate Winslet, the Daily Express or the The Sun, on Katie Price. We can but hope that it is third time lucky for these two women, not least for the sake of their children. It is perfectly acceptable to note that neither seem to possess much wisdom in terms of choice of spouse and/or value the commitment of marriage.

 There are those who, in the absence of any spiritual or moral formation take their cues from the rich and famous. Multiple children by multiple surviving former spouses is not in the best interests of individuals, children, families or society as a whole. It is neither misogynistic,  narrow-minded or judgemental to point this out. It shows that public disproval can still be a powerful tool. Kate Winslet is no victim, despite the clamouring of the feminist lobby to claim her as their latest figurehead. Their silence over the similar press treatment of Katie Price,  for her sexual antics, speaks volumes. They are as elitist as the patriarchy they claim to despise.

Cafod and the Seamless Garment

if-cafod-t-shirtsIf I were wiser and more prudent I would probably desist from writing about this, but I was horrified by a recent post by James Preece in which he highlighted the (perhaps inadvertent) promotion of organisations that support abortion, by CAFOD and urged people to sign a petition directed to Bishop John Arnold, Chairman of CAFOD, a call that has been echoed by Mark Lambert and the Ora Pro Nobis blog. This is a matter for concern and not something that should be ignored.

For those not already in the know, CAFOD have signed up as a partner organisation in the very worthy IF campaign that aims to tackle the causes of global hunger. The problem is that this campaign is being heavily promoted by CAFOD in Catholic schools up and down the land, as well as by various youth ministry projects and children are being encouraged to go to the website, where a click on ‘who we are‘ will lead to a page with logos and links of organisations that support or promote abortion.

At the risk of incurring the wrath of all (just for a change), I don’t have too much of a problem with CAFOD’s support for the campaign, which should be lent as much weight as possible. Global hunger is an urgent and pressing problem and it is an issue upon which we should be lobbying governments. Admittedly there were other ways that CAFOD could have tackled the issue without getting involved in the IF, but I don’t think that they should be attacked for doing so. An alliance of organisations seems a good way of concentrating efforts.

Having clicked on the logos and links page, as someone in the know, I could immediately identify which organisations support and promote abortion, but I wonder how obvious this would be to a member of the general public, or a schoolchild? Furthermore, those organisations which do support and promote abortion, are not overt about it, which some might venture makes them more ‘dangerous’. Where abortion is supported or promoted, it isn’t necessarily with an aggressive agenda of ‘reproductive rights and justice’ but as a misguided compassionate solution. The organisations involved seem to be predominantly interested in the provision of aid, which for some will include medical aid which encompasses abortion. Put it this way, it took me a a good hour to find the support for abortion in some of the listed organisations and that was after a targeted search. Would a schoolchild look for this with the same dogged determination? But if they did come across it, there is a real danger that they could believe that abortion was sanctioned and encouraged by CAFOD, the official aid agency of the Catholic Church.

Co-operation with evil (which is what this potentially amounts to) should be avoided. That said, my (albeit limited) understanding of Catholic Social Teaching means that Catholic organisations can partner with other non-Catholic organisations in pursuit of the common good, in this way. Whilst CAFOD could not partner with organisations such as Marie Stopes International, Planned Parenthood or BPAS, they can partner with other organisations whose main aim is not concerned with advocating abortion, to further a vital cause.

However, where CAFOD have been extremely remiss is that they have failed to spot that this association could be potentially problematic and therefore missed an opportunity for education and catechesis. What we should have seen is an explanatory statement from CAFOD, together with a re-statement of the Catholic position upon abortion, a pledge from them that they will not work with individual agencies who promote abortion and refer women for abortion, along with naming those agencies, as well as setting out their position in terms of the medical aid, assistance and education that should be provided to women in developing countries.

One of the most infuriating aspects of this campaign in schools is that an opportunity for further education surrounding the issues facing those in developing countries has been missed. If they had any nouse, decision-makers in CAFOD would have instantly identified the potential difficulties in such a partnership, and instead of sticking their fingers in their ears and going la, la, la and hoping that no-one, especially the pesky tenacious interfering bloggers would find out, they should have given qualified support to this campaign, together with additional materials for schoolchildren, including perhaps a ‘danger list’ of organisations as well as material to instigate classroom discussions of why Western norms of contraception and abortion should not be pressed upon vulnerable women.

As a result, they’ve left themselves with something of a mess to sort out. A seamless garment approach is not one that compartmentalises or prioritises one issue, such as as concern for global hunger, over another, such as abortion. These are all violations of issues of human rights and dignity and should all be given equal weight, one bleeding effortlessly into another.

This blog has a pro-life bent towards the unborn, not because I believe them to be more important than anyone else, but because it is an area in which I have a very particular interest and insight. Furthermore whilst I might get the odd article published elsewhere, I am largely an unpaid amateur, a blogger who happens to be Catholic, as opposed to a ‘Catholic blogger’, I don’t represent the Catholic Church in any official capacity and neither do I solicit any sort of contribution from the faithful.

The same cannot be said of CAFOD however and whilst it would be a positive development if CAFOD could at least qualify their involvement in this project, even better would be if they could take this opportunity to clarify their position on contraception and abortion, and better still if some kind of internal audit or overhaul could take place to ensure that this type of snafu does not reoccur.