A sluggish evening

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From the “Beer in the Evening” website

My parents came to stay last night on their way back from a few days holiday in Devon. After supper, made all the more succulent by the fact that I didn’t have to cook it, we decided it would be a fine wheeze to take advantage of the beautiful summer’s evening and go for a stroll along the seafront.

The toddler is currently keeping unsociable hours, her sleep patterns are totally out of whack due to a combination of teething, the heat and that despite my best efforts she will insist upon falling into a comatose state around about 5pm and refusing to wake until early evening, whereupon she’s ready to party for the rest of the night.

‘Why don’t we put her in the pushchair and take her with us’ suggested my mother, wondering whether a blast of evening sea-air might make her drop off. So once the other children were settled down, off we trotted; me with the lolloping labrador in tow and my parents dutifully wheeling the buggy – the novelty and enjoyment of pushing a child in the pram has yet to diminish 8 grandchildren down the line, my mum will glad-hand it away from me at every possible opportunity.

Like Pooh-bear my mother is always in the mood ‘for a little something’, except the honey is replaced by coffee or if she is feeling particularly adventurous, a Kir Royale and so she thought it would be rather civilised if we were to find a convivial establishment in which to sit outside and indulge her favourite hobby.

Sadly there isn’t anywhere open on the Hove/Shoreham stretch of the promenade on a summer’s evening, so once we’d walked a fair way along the seafront we went back into central Hove on our way home. Walking past the Slug and Lettuce in George Street, my mum spied empty coffee cups on an outside table, surmised they served coffee and went inside to be served, whilst my dad picked a table. We had a fair bit of choice, every single outside table was empty and indeed the bar inside probably only had about 1 customer, something which suited us quite well. The toddler had fallen asleep and the puppy is yet to outgrow his over-friendly and boisterous tendencies.

My mother approached the barman and asked for 3 large coffees and was met with a curt “I’m not serving you, you’ve got a child”. Not wishing to argue the toss or have an embarrassing scene, she promptly left, surmising that the chap just couldn’t be bothered.

As we trundled disappointedly back towards home, I wondered aloud whether or not it was a licensing issue, which didn’t really make any sense seeing as we were sat outside and hardly likely to cause a problem, especially with the baby asleep. My dad thought that the person clearing the tables had heard me deliberating whether or not to order a G&T and was being over-zealous or a nannying fuss-bucket, and was taking a “I’m not serving you alcohol when you’ve got a child to look after” attitude.

We were completely baffled and rather humiliated to boot. We were told that our custom was neither wanted or welcome, on account of having a small sleeping child in a pushchair, with no explanation given as to why her presence posed such a problem.

Reflecting on it later, the encounter proved rather useful, in that it was a timely insight into how Michael Black and John Morgan might have felt when turned down for a double room at Peter and Rosemary Bull’s guesthouse. They felt that they had done nothing wrong and yet were made to feel like irresponsible pariahs, thanks to the religious views of the proprietors, to which they did not subscribe.

It’s very much how I felt, perhaps like the Bulls, the Slug and Lettuce do have a very good reason for refusing to serve customers with babies, a friend from these parts who is a vicar’s wife recounted a similar experience of being denied a hot drink due to having a baby when returning from an evening service at the church which is almost next door, but whatever their reason is, the surly barman didn’t bother to communicate it properly and made my mum and myself (being the person who has responsibility for said small person) feel about 6 inches tall.

It’s not the first time I’ve been turned away from an establishment, in my decadent hey-day as a trolly dolly, cabin crew, certain gay clubs would have the effrontery not to admit women, which similarly was often rather embarrassing if you were on a night out down-route with your colleagues (being stranded in the middle of Amsterdam, Cologne or Bangkok is no joke), but I always took it in my stride. Their gaffe, their rules and if having a small group of women was going to cause a problem or upset their clientele, then fair enough, trying to gain entrance in the first place required some brass neck.

But just like LGBT clients who encounter retailers who won’t provide them with various services such as cakes, flowers, photography or cars for their weddings, I felt ‘judged’ and found wanting in the balance. Obviously there is something very wrong about wanting to sit outside a bar on a pedestrianised street in the middle of Hove with a sleeping baby in a buggy. I should instead have gone home and glugged my way through one of Waitrose’s finest wine-boxes free from the eagle-stares and disapproval of the imaginary other customers in the outside seating area.

Of course if I had a thicker skin, I would have not given two hoots. What does the opinion of a misanthropic barman and the management of the Slug and Lettuce matter? It was admittedly humiliating and mildly inconveniencing, we’d been looking forward to a drink after our walk, but lives were not lost. All they did was to tap into an innate insecurity and neurosis about what other people might think of me, for slightly unusually being out and about with a young child at a late hour. Which is I suspect closely related to the type of insecurity experienced by gay couples in terms of not liking it when their choices are not affirmed. I’m charitably assuming that the bar does have a good reason for not serving customers with children, even if they are lacking the skills to communicate their policy. At the end of the day, no matter how uncomfortable I felt, it’s still their prerogative.

Next time my parents come, we’ll know better and head off to one of the more friendly local establishments or hang the adventure, go to one of the Cafe Neros which stays open til late.

Readers won’t be surprised to learn that when I got home, I did what all self-respecting people with an axe to grind about customer service in this day and age do, namely moan about the service on Twitter as a result of which the Slug and Lettuce have invited me to fill-out an online form with my complaint and promised to investigate. People can make up their own minds whether or not to give the bar their custom.

It all seems a lot easier than taking someone to court, suing them for compensation, attempting to put people out of business and getting the law changed to ensure my feelings are never hurt in this fashion again.

Alternatively, a move to the Italian riviera seems the best solution all round.

Vigil vigilance

Thinking about this whole vigil issue, I’ve just had a bit of crucial insight, courtesy of a friend who was also thinking out loud. Being so close, I just couldn’t see how a peaceful pro-life prayer vigil, especially one that helps women in desperate situations, could be perceived in a bad light by other pro-life groups, or how they undermine education.

The answer is all to do how with how they’ve been framed by a frantic pro-choice movement desperate to discredit and how this narrative has been picked up by a sensationalist media.

40 Days for Life are being portrayed as a weird fringe activity, dangerous Americans have been conflated with prayer vigils and then education has been chucked in, to make the whole pro-life movement appear as one threatening mess. Prayer vigils are the hinge that allow the pro-choice movement to discuss the importation of American methods and we all know that Americans kill people, American culture is innately evil and all traces of it must be stamped out lest it corrupts and ruins our society.

Groups such as Education for Choice, (who are owned by the Brook sexual health charity) are campaigning for pro-life groups such as SPUC, LIFE and the Right-to-Life trust to be kicked out of schools, claiming that children deserve to be taught about ‘individual choice in a safe environment’ and who promote ‘enabling easy non judgemental access to abortion’, have openly called for parents’ rights to remove children from sex-education lessons to be removed as they are ‘neo-Victorian’. Abortion eduction in schools needs to be vastly improved, in their considered and wholly unbiased position as consultants to abortion providers, opinion. It’s worth reading how they single out SPUC’s campaign against same-sex marriage here.

This passage from their toolkit for best practice, makes disturbing reading for anyone who may be concerned about women or young girls being coerced into abortion and should surely make anyone who would claim that abortion is a woman’s right to choose, bristle:

If a young man has or goes on to have experience of unplanned pregnancy with a partner, it is important that he knows who he can talk to and where he can go for help and support, as well as being able to signpost his partner to appropriate agencies. This is especially important when a couple are not agreed about what the outcome of a pregnancy should be, which can be a very difficult situation for a young man to face. Signposting to young men’s services is an important part of abortion education.

It’s worth looking at that toolkit in full – here’s another passage that stood out, warning schools about inviting in pro-life speakers and telling them to check the organisation’s website as an outside speaker can be lent weight and credibility by their invitation to speak:

For example, some websites promote abstinence as the only effective way of preventing pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections; understate the efficacy of condoms and hormonal contraceptives; cite emergency contraception as a form of abortion; stigmatise homosexuality; and overstate the risks of abortion, in relation to physical and mental health and wellbeing.

Without stating the blindingly obvious here, we can see what pro-life groups are up against and how they could do without the bad press of prayer vigils.

I’ve unpicked the inherent racism and ill-conceived myths about America and the pro-life movement previously. In a country which has a wholly different political demographic, not to mention very liberal gun laws, atrocities will sadly occur, as they will all over the world. It is not the vigils themselves that incur and incite violence – it is a handful of unhinged individuals who take the law into their own hands. 8 individuals in the US abortion industry have been killed since Roe v Wade in 1972. That’s 8 too many, pro-lifers abhor violence of any sort and believe all life to be sacred, (the clue is in the name), but this isn’t a case of big scary gun-toting fundamentalists regularly shooting at folk. It’s actually those who are on the vigil who regularly put themselves in the line of fire, being shot at and fire-bombed in some cases, by those from within the abortion clinic. Just as the LGBT lobby distanced themselves from and condemned the individual who shot at a worker at the Family Research Centre last year, pro-lifers equally condemn any who defile their cause by the use of senseless violence.

That prayers and vigils are an important part of pro-life work goes without saying. They matter profoundly and we should not have a situation where one part of a cause undermines another – this should not be an either/or and one of the strengths of 40 days for life is that it has managed to unite many of the different sections within the pro-life movement and bring together Christians of all denominations.

I can well understand the antipathy, but we have to bear in mind, this is not purely a political or educational effort, there is a spiritual dimension and this highlights one of the downsides of a purely secular pro-life group, who wish to distance themselves from the publicly praying weirdos.

I think what those of us on vigils have to do and keep on doing, is what we’ve always done, just quietly and continually pray and know that our witness will eventually shine through. The lies and the conflations of the abortion industry can easily be disproved, BPAS or Marie Stopes have admitted that there is no need to provide clinic escorts, they know full well no harassment, let alone violence takes place, they have cameras constantly trained upon those on the vigils and there have been no arrests or requests to move on and neither do volunteers engage with or respond to any insults or abuse. Neither do they hold up any judgemental or inflammatory slogans or material – there is simply a verse from scripture and a sign which states ‘we are here to help’. If women entering clinics feel bad, it is because their own conscience has been pricked or because they cannot cope with a physical manifestation that not everyone is prepared to validate abortion, as opposed to anything that the volunteers may say or do.

If 40 days for Life are being portrayed as a bizarre fringe movement, the absence of Catholics only serves to reinforce the image and allows the pro-choice movement to dictate the frame. If however, they prove by their witness, actions and lives that they save, that the only threat vigils pose is to the abortion clinics’ balance sheet, the general public will begin to see behind the lies.

I understand the concern, the vigils are being used as a hook on which pro-choice groups are seeking to get pro-lifers out of education, as theirs is the only voice to be tolerated, but this attack upon freedom of religion and attempt at one-sided indoctrination in which abortion is presented as a preferable option in some situations and at worst as morally neutral, must be resisted on the strongest possible terms and shown up for its inherent and ironic illiberality. Prayer vigils should have nothing to do with whether or not children ought to be given a wholly one-sided and relativistic view of sexual morality and neither should they be banished from our streets due to a misconceived fear of US style ‘culture wars’. The UK is not the US and culture wars feed upon an atmosphere of intolerance. The UK is thankfully a largely tolerant country without the same divisions as exist in the US. The issue of abortion is not split so evenly along political lines and 40 Days for Life is not a political protest or one that seeks to denounce women or those with a pro-choice mentality.

The only ‘war’ here is the cultures of life versus death and we should not allow fear to drive prayer out of the public square. The battle for education goes way beyond the activities of those praying for an end to abortion outside a clinic.

A Battle between Heaven and Hell

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I went to see David Bereit, one of the founders of the 40 Days for Life movement, when he came to give encouragement and support to those involved in the vigils outside the Wistons clinic in Brighton, at a talk last night.

There were many positive and encouraging stories of what the movement has achieved, how a simple one-hour prayer vigil by a group of 3 friends outside a clinic in Texas in 2004 has rapidly expanded to become a worldwide and global movement, and the importance of the UK in this effort. Colette, one of the volunteers I met in London during the last campaign had travelled here in order to be a part of it, having been so impressed by what she’d read and has now taken the campaign back to her home country of South Africa. Another volunteer has also taken the campaign to Russia; the UK is seen as an international hub or a global gateway, what happens here influences other countries, so seen in this context its not surprising that the opposition has been quite so vociferous.

David talked about a seminal moment in his pro-life journey which sent shivers down my spine – whatever the explanation for events, there could be no doubting his sincerity and it certainly played well with the mainly Evangelical attendees.  David sees the mass slaughter of the unborn as the great spiritual battle of our age and attempts to rouse people out of their apathy and reluctance. Abortion is, he says, the defining crisis of our generation, it is literally a battle between  life and death, a battle between heaven and hell and what we will be accountable to God for. What we did and what we did not do.

In terms of the eschatological terminology I think he definitely has a point. Though many of the topics of this blog are unpalatable to many, it is without a doubt, the posts regarding abortion and the 40 days for life movement in particular, that arouse the most anger, vitriol and abuse, especially anything where I might write about pro-life witness. Someone once said to me ‘Caroline, you’re really rattling the cages of hell here’ and whilst I would eschew any description that would attempt to paint me in any sort of saintly, righteous or pious light, knowing that I am very very far from being pure in heart, it does sometimes feel like there are dark forces at work, not least in terms of anger and various attempts to prevent or put stumbling blocks in the way of 40 Days for Life, which has three elements at its heart – prayer and fasting, clinic vigils and community outreach.

Had the local feminist collective known about last night’s visit, they would no doubt have been protesting outside, with banners about ‘slut-shaming’ and removing their rights, we would have been seen as a group of moralisers seeking to oppress them and violently force them into gruesome births or seedy filthy backstreet abortions involving coat-hangers, whereas actually the discussion revolved around women’s welfare, what more could be done to help, how to make outreach compassionate and effective. There was no judgement about the women themselves let alone their sexual morality. This was a group of Christians wanting to bear witness and demonstrate caritas in action.

40 Days for Life was chosen as a result of its many biblical references – Noah was in the ark for 40 days and nights whilst God punished the world with a flood, Moses spent 40 days and nights on a mountain with God on two occasions, Goliath taunted the Israelite army for 4o days, God was planning to destroy the city of Ninevah in 40 days, before he saw the acts of repentance of the Ninevites and had compassion on them and in the New Testament, Jesus was fasted and was tempted by the devil when he was at his weakest after 40 days and 40 nights and of course following the Resurrection, he appeared to his followers and disciples for a period of 40 days before He ascended into heaven. Forty days is then a time of testing and a time of transformation.

Forty days for life is living God’s vision as if we were being salt and light. The clinic vigils take place because we know that whenever two or more are gathered in the name of Jesus, he is there among them. It is to bring Christ’s presence where it is most needed – outside the abortion clinics and to awaken the conscience of the Christian community. The frequent turnarounds (there have been at least 10 already in the past 8 days in London) show that sometimes God can reach the heart of the mother.

Which brings me on to the hard part. There is something troubling my conscience about which I have agonised over, in terms of whether or not to remain silent. I mentioned that last night the meeting was mainly attended by the Evangelical stalwarts of the campaign. Only 4 Catholics attended, including myself and the head of the Worthing branch of SPUC, despite the fact that Brighton and Hove is a thriving deanery. The Wistons clinics conducts 4,000 abortions every year, equivalent to two and half classes of schoolchildren every week, in the heart of our city.

One of the attendees. Michael Petek (who comments here on Protect the Pope) discussed his disappointment having read on a local parish newsletter, that the local deanery clergy were in consensus that Catholics should not attend the 40 Days for Life vigils because of the negative press coverage and because it undermined the educational work of other pro-life charities such as LIFE.

This has been weighing really heavily on me since I saw the announcement myself on a pewsheet on Sunday and it’s caused me many tears and anguish for a number of reasons. Firstly I know the clergy of the deanery, they are good wise and holy men and I have no doubt as to their integrity or that this is a considered decision. Secondly, I don’t want to be seen as an agitator or denouncer and someone who doesn’t know her place. The thing is that I’m very much of the WSIWYG school – what you see is very much what you get with me, I wear my heart on my sleeve much more than is probably wise and it’s why I would never consider a career in politics or the diplomatic service. I am worried that I am the wrong person to speak out on this one, for a variety of reasons, but what I would say is that my concerns and hurt are not personal grievances with individuals.

Like many Catholics, I respect, trust and look up to our clergy. If they advise me as to a course of action, I will follow their guidance. Therefore if they are advising people not to join the 40 Days for Life vigils, it feels like something of act of disobedience to participate. Whilst I know that clergy are not infallible and we have to be aware of clericalism, to participate in a prayer vigil, now feels like an open act of defiance. It will certainly deter many of the faithful from getting involved, knowing that the diocesan clergy seem to have reached a consensus (according to the notice) that the vigils are not a good thing for Catholics.

Personally I can’t help but feel very hurt and almost betrayed, given that I do volunteer a lot of my precious spare time and energy to this cause trying to shake people out of their apathy, which is obviously seen as being unhelpful and counterproductive. One of the other Catholics who attended last night’s meeting, kept repeating in disbelief,’ is this really what was being said’, such was her incredulity. Catholics, innate defenders of the unborn, are being urged not to publicly pray outside abortion clinics, because of what other people might think and because it might obscure the pro-life message in schools.

Think about that for a minute. Priests are telling Catholics not to pray in public, for fear of public opinion. It just feels so innately wrong and if nothing else, hands a huge victory to the pro-choicers. I am not clear as to how 40 days for Life might damage the work of LIFE in schools either.

I don’t wish to sow discord or more factionalism. I am more sad and hurt than anything else, but to me this seems symptomatic of the spiritual battle we are facing, one which I think we will win and one that I am proud to play my part in, despite the smears of those who would wish to portray  us as fundamentalist nutters looking to harass and threaten, when we, along with others, know the truth. Compare and contrast what the Good Counsel Network are offering with what the pro-choicers are offering.

Unborn children are saved, they may be small in number, but they are every bit as precious and valuable. Hearts and minds are changed by peaceful prayerful witness and surely as Christians we believe that God answers prayer and in the power of vigils? I cannot get my head around Catholics being asked to stay away from public prayer vigils for the unborn in this Year of Faith, by those who have care of souls. I am deeply deeply troubled and scandalised, whilst not wishing to cause scandal or escalate matters. I am writing this with a very heavy heart indeed.

As I said, I am no saint, but I have been praying here to Bernadette Soubirous, someone else whose public prayer was discouraged by the clergy. To me, this is simply yet another manifestation of David’s words, this is spiritual warfare, this is the battle between heaven and hell and I pray to God that I’m on the right side. One day my children and grandchildren will ask me ‘what did you do in the fight against abortion’ and I hope to be able to tell them how I tried my best, I wasn’t afraid to be painted as a nutter and face public vitriol and abuse for praying for the unborn, that I tried to reach out and help women and change hearts and minds.  I hope to be able to say the same to my Creator as well.

And before complaints come flooding in about the diocese or particular individuals (which won’t be published) I will state that this is an initiative that seems to be being supported by our diocese. 

Please join me in prayers that it isn’t too late to change hearts and minds in Brighton. And let me know your thoughts from a Catholic perspective.

Ecumenical children (honey I married a Catholic)

The Church of England has joined forces with Prince Charles in expressing their concern over plans to remove barriers that currently prevent members of the royal family from marrying a Catholic.

I would venture that most Catholics really don’t care, no matter how worthy the proposal may appear. In theory either we or our offspring will not be prevented from marrying a member of the Royal family due to our faith. Is this really important in the grand scheme of things? It’s designed as a sop and cosmetic gesture to appease David Cameron’s uneasy conscience with regards to how he is continuing the relentless process of undermining freedoms of religion, began by the Labour government under the guise of equality.

As opposed to being concerned as to whether or not their offspring may now be able to snaffle Harry, the Princesses Beatrice and Eugenie, Catholics are made far more anxious by the threats to the family posed by this government, not least with the forthcoming imposition of the new definition of marriage – a process which has to be amongst the most undemocratic in history, with the state seizing control of something that is not theirs to define. I’d also wager that Catholics are far more concerned that a judge possessing all the religious literacy of Thomas the Tank Engine has arbitrarily decided that the fourth commandment is not considered part of the Christian faith, thereby compelling Christians to work on a Sunday. A measure that is as detrimental to family life, as it is illiberal.

Let’s face it, the average Catholic is hardly in a position to be able to be afford to send their offspring to the same schools as any royal personnages and how likely is it really that if, as in the case of Prince William and the former Kate Middleton, our offspring will mix in the same social circle as those who form part of the royal entourage even if they do attend the same university. Though the Duchess of Cambridge was technically a commoner, even  in our supposedly classless society, are we really going to see members of the royal family admit those who attended a large Catholic state comprehensive (no matter how excellent) and emanate from a socially deprived area, into their social set? Catholic congregations are typically far more eclectic than the ‘Tory party at prayer’ – are the young Polish, Nigerian or Mexican couple really bothered by whether or not their child can marry into Royalty, or are they more concerned as to whether or not they will be forced to work weekend shifts or if in healthcare, whether or not they will be forced to go against their conscience. Far more pressing is how work, particularly in the public sector is becoming more and more impossible and fraught with difficulty if you have any sort of religious faith.

In any event, discussions upon the potential constitutional repercussions would appear to be fairly academic and I’ll explain why. As a Catholic who married a vicar, i.e. a serious Anglican, it’s fair to say that the faith of  any of our children could be something of a potential flash point. At NO point did my husband ever have to promise that his children would be brought up in the Catholic faith, despite the fact that the Bishop was gracious enough to grant us a dispensation in order that we could have a full Nuptial Mass and to allow Robin to receive communion. The priest who married us was explicitly clear about this. As the Catholic party in the marriage, I had to sign to say that I would make all reasonable undertakings to ensure that any children were brought up in the Catholic faith. That is a subtle, but important difference from compelling one’s children to be brought up Catholic.

Furthermore it was made clear to me that potentially it could be the source of scandal and/or difficulty in our marriage, if our children were raised Catholic against my husband’s will and that the sacrament and covenant of marriage was every bit as important as the faith of our children. Therefore if my husband was unwilling (which he wasn’t in principle) to raise the children Catholic,  it would not be an issue that one should compromise the marriage for. Understanding that Catholics recognise one sacrament of Baptism, provided a child is baptised in a Trinitarian church the sacrament is valid, Robin had the privilege of being able to baptise his own child, in his own church with the support of my Catholic priest. My plan was that she would be fully received into the Catholic Church and supplied with the additional rites at the time she was presented for First Holy Communion, (although Robin was still mulling over her religious upbringing) but obviously things moved more swiftly and she was received at the same time as our third daughter was baptised.

My point is really that there are ways around these things and it is likely that in the case of a serious Catholic (one who wanted to raise their child in the faith) marrying a case of a serious Anglican (i.e. the heir to the throne) then these matters would be discussed and smoothed out in advance. It would not be the Catholic faith itself that would prevent a union, more the intransigence of either party with regards to their children. Would a practicing Catholic with the expectation of wanting to raise children in the faith, really want to marry into a family where this would cause serious rupture and vice versa?

It’s not impossible of course, love conquers all but it seems that no-one has really advised the Bishops as to the practical realities as to what happens in the case of children in inter-demoniational marriages – the idea of the element of compulsion is a myth.

Perhaps more interesting is the underlying convergence of strands which are all coming together to push the idea of disestablishment to the top of the agenda. A constitutional crisis potentially looms in terms of gay marriage, women bishops in the C of E and now the plans to allow Catholics to become heirs to the throne, all of which requires Parliament to interfere with laws of the English Church.

Maybe that’s why as Catholics, we ought to give these plans a lukewarm reception – particularly when the Queen in her capacity as head of church and state, is compelled to give her assent to laws which undermine the Christian fabric of her nation.

Time to polish those tiaras?
Time to polish those tiaras?

Unnecessary battles

Catholic Care has predictably lost its battle to change its constitution to explicitly allow only heterosexual couples to adopt. It is a blow to religious freedom and difficult to see how the ruling fits in with Article 9 of the European Convention on Human Rights, which states that religious conscience rights should not be trumped, unless it is ‘necessary’.

What is concerning about the ruling is that in focusing purely on the perceived discrimination aspect, it seeks to put the rights of prospective adoptive parents above the needs of the child. The Catholic adoption agencies had particular specialist expertise in terms of placing the most difficult children, taking scores out of the care system and putting them in loving families. The legislation underpinning the decision was drafted in order to avoid discrimination in the provision of goods and services. Since when did the adoption of children become a service? It’s rather alarming if children are now consolidated as goods via the law and this decision paves the way for the inevitable gay marriage in Church test case which will occur if or when gay marriage is enacted into law.

The barrister for the Charity Commission also displayed a woeful lack of understanding of Catholic doctrine, by stating that ‘the Church’s belief that homosexuality is sinful’ must not be protected. The Church does not believe or teach that homosexual inclination is sinful, but that all sexual acts outside marriage constitute a sin. The Church understands that people may not be able to control their innate sexuality, however she asks all of her members to exercise appropriate restraint and chastity.

The irritating thing about this case, is that it could have so easily been won. Neil Addison blogged about it on three separate occasions. It’s worth revisiting his posts here, here, and here. Neil maintains that Catholic Care were pursuing entirely the wrong legal remedy and could never have hoped to succeed.

The change that Catholic Care wished to enact was automatically discriminatory and therefore destined to failure as Neil advised back in 2009. Had they amended their constitution as follows:

“The Charity shall not have power to engage in any activity which it knows, or reasonably believes, is contrary to the teaching of the Catholic Church; the formal opinion of the Bishop of [ ] shall be final in any question as to what is the teaching of the Catholic Church”

then this would have been indirectly discriminatory, rather than directly discriminatory and thus the Catholic agencies would have been able to continue their good work, as has happened in Scotland, who followed this route as did the Evangelical Protestant Alliance.

Of course one still cannot ignore the disturbing ramifications that the judgement has for religious freedom, the Catholic agencies should not have been put in the position where they were forced to chose between the exemplary work that they did or staying true to their ethos, questions need to be asked about why parental rights are put above the needs of vulnerable children and why could there not be scope for several different kinds of agencies. The type of work that the Catholic agencies carried out was as a supplement to local authority agencies, who are free to follow their own secular agendas. Why did there need to be a one-size fits all policy?

But most importantly, questions need to be asked as to why the advice of the Thomas More Legal Centre was not followed in order to allow the Catholic adoption agencies to continue their work unhindered. Rather than asking why we should not fight battles that we cannot win, the question should be why enter into legal battles that were wholly unnecessary in the first place?