The real facts of life

We are rightly concerned about secular attempts to lay down how we should teach our beliefs about the proper use of sexuality. The threatened Bill on children, schools and families would, on first reading, appear to do just that.

But we will be relieved to read that we will remain entirely free to teach full Catholic doctrine. And if you think that to be of no significance, take a look at the steam rising out of the ears of the secularists at what they see as a flagrant betrayal of the principle of non-discrimination.

No, the difficulty lies with the obligation to give children a fair and balanced view of the issue being discussed and to recognise that there are alternative views which others hold, and are entitled to hold, even though we may believe them to be mistaken. That is no more than straightforward Catholic teaching on the sovereignty of conscience.

But I want to go beyond that and argue that a new educational approach will bring its own advantage. Not that it is a big challenge to get better results than the traditional spoon-feeding approach. Spoon-feeding has not worked because young people on the verge of adulthood are unwilling to accept authority blindly. They may profess to do so in the classroom, but they are aware that real life is different and, when temptation looms, defences fall. It is true of them, as it is true of us, that “a man convinced against his will is of the same opinion still”.

There is no formula guaranteed to send our young out into the world as perfect models of Christian chastity and virtue. But it is possible to help many to understand for themselves and live out their understanding. If some of these then make mistakes, at least they have a solid background to which they can return.

The principle is straightforward. The school is rightly obliged to give the teaching of the Church. It is a Catholic school and that’s what it says on the tin. In doing so it must give the full reasons why it holds a doctrine. But it must also evaluate, with scrupulous fairness, the opposing arguments. It is only then that the pupils are truly free to accept and internalise the Church’s teaching.

What has been lost? Those who do not accept would not have accepted the spoonfeeding approach at any useful level. What has been gained? Those who accept are able to make a free, internalised commitment. All whose previous knowledge of the debate was scanty or misinformed are now fully briefed, and ready to defend their beliefs against all comers. Let me illustrate this approach with some examples.

The Church teaches that sexual congress is such an invaluable gift of oneself that it belongs only within the unconditional commitment of marriage. We all know the general arguments for this, and the competent teacher will be able to display the strong sociological evidence in support. Everyone will be aware of the powerful temptations which draw many into a betrayal of this gift. The only reward for pretending otherwise is loss of credibility. It would be more useful to ask pupils to compare Catholic teaching with the proposition that sex is appropriate in casual relationships, or as a form of entertainment. Do we really put such little trust in our ability to present the Church’s good or in our young’s ability to recognise it? And, if so, what have we been doing as parents?

Contraception involves the problem that if teachers, clerical or lay, follow the pattern of surveys then the majority will not, in practice, accept the Church’s blanket condemnation of artificial forms. But here the orthodox teaching must also be given, accompanied by the best evidence, both theological and sociological. The choice here is simple: either leave the children with their half-baked erroneous ideas or teach them the facts on contraception – from which methods are abortifacient to the level of safety they give against conception and disease. This is general knowledge, not advocacy of a way of life. But every parent must face the question: What would I do if I knew that my child was involved sexually, against my wishes, and I didn’t know whether they were protected? Bear in mind that the Church’s teaching on contraception applies only to marriage.

I hardly dare enter the subject of homosexuality for the thunder of red rags and bulls charging over the horizon. So I will confine myself to saying that bullying a gay person on the grounds of orientation or lifestyle is a sin against love far greater than any which might be imputed against homosexual acts.

For me, strength of feeling makes the question of abortion the test case. Unsurprisingly, our pupils are aware that abortions take place, and that we condemn this as the taking of innocent life. What the pupils need is a proper understanding of the wonderful work of God in how the baby grows and flowers from the foetus to their newborn brother or sister. The duty of balance requires that ultrasound scans should be used, since the emotional factor is normally inhibited by the invisibility of the baby. And full information on the practical provision available for the prospective mother is necessary information.

But pupils should also understand how fear, family pressure or plain ignorance leads some women to have abortions. We must be clear about the objective wrong of abortion but we are in no position to judge the mother. Rather, she should be the object of our prayers, and our practical help – particularly if she chooses abortion. Needless to say, our practical help does not include colluding with the abortion.

I am sure that some readers will think that I have sold the pass. I would say to them: take consolation from the fact that the credibility among the young towards the Church’s sexual teachings could scarcely be lower than it is today. There is nothing to lose. And bear in mind that secular schools must provide similar objective information about our views. I don’t think this is what the champions of the Bill had in mind – but, if they provided the noose, they too must be prepared to hang in it.

Quentin de la Bedoyere was a marriage counsellor under Catholic auspices for 20 years, working with schools, with engaged couples and in remedial counselling. His major work on counselling, Managing People and Problems, was published by Gower Press in 1988, later in paperback. It has appeared in several European languages. He has five children and 14 grandchildren

About Quentin

Portrait © Jacqueline Alma
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52 Responses to The real facts of life

  1. Daisy says:

    When Quentin published Truth and Rhetoric there were no comments for a long time. So I made one, and now there are 34!
    Does everyone hang back because they really have no thoughts on a subject which has been a matter of disagreement even among Catholics? Or perhaps people are afraid to disagree with Quentin.
    As a matter of fact I don’t really disagree with Quentin here. But I do wonder how many schools and teachers really have the skill to use Quentin’s approach.He seems to have had years and years of experience.
    Spoonfeeding may be criticised but at least the chidren got to know very clearly what the Church teaches. Quentin’s suggestions, in the wrong hands, could lead to great confusion.

  2. st.joseph says:

    Daisy, I have made all the comments necessary on this subject without going over all of them again if you would look back on the other comments within the other subjects you will find my approval on all Quentin said on this subject
    It would be good to hear some more from other people so that a discussion can come about!

  3. st.joseph says:

    I have made a comment on the Truth and Rhetoric site , which may also be applicable on this site ,in answer to Superviews comments to me on that Site yesterday.

  4. claret says:

    Daisy, Why would anyone be ‘afraid to disagree with Quentin?’ What a ridiculous thing to suggest.

    As for this latest feature by Quentin I totally disagree with him. In fact i am surprised that he paints so rosy a picture of the Bill when ‘stitch up’ is the phrase that comes to my mind and it is a restrained phrase at that!
    This Bill is devesatating for the the Catholic faith and Catholic education in this country.
    It makes not a single worthwhile concession to our beliefs because everything in the Bill that could be regarded as Catholic has to come with a ‘rider’ that the alternatives are equally valid and have to be taught as such.
    How can we promote the unique benefits and qualities of marriage between a man and woman when the alternatives of same sex unions (soon to become same sex ‘marriages’) and co-habitiation are of equal value?
    How can we say that abortion is wrong but at the same time be obliged to give directions to the nearest abortion clinic and give advice on how to access the pharmacy on the school premises that will dispense condoms, birth pills and abortificient pills? And all this without a parent having a say in any of it.
    And if, as parents, we want to protect our children from this kind of promotion of sexuality outside of marriage within a loving relationship then tough because they have, by law, to attend the very ‘classes’ where these things are actively promoted.
    The whole Bill has been fashioned by secularists and atheists to promote an agenda that is repugnant to Christian beliefs and we have fallen over ourselves to grab the few meaningless crumbs that have been tossed our way and which we have somehow celebrated as a victory.
    Within hours of thanking CES and Archbishop Nicholls the same Ed Balls was assuring the secularist lobby that ‘it changes nothing’ and that the very things the Church is opposed to will have to be taught.
    We should have distanced ourselves totally from this abhorrent Bill. We should have made it clear that while we have no option but to obey the law that we are totally opposed to it and will only sanction such evils under duress.
    We are being led by the nose down a path without end. I am ashamed at this total capitulation.
    Far from ‘steam rsiing out of the ears of the secularists’ as Quentin asserts, they will in fact be ‘whoopping it up’ at the ease at which the Catholic Church in this country can be bought off!
    Ask yourself this Quentin. “Where are the practising Christians in Government who promote marriage and family life and are pro-life?” and then ‘Where are the secularists in Government who promote co-habitation, same sex unions, abortion, and anti-life measures?” You’ll be hard pressed to name a single one in the first category and to omit a single one in the second!

  5. tim says:

    Quentin, it’s your last remark that strikes me. “All we want are the facts, Ma’am” as the chap in the raincoat used to say. As you point out, this is a two-edged sword. But you underplay it. It’s not just the facts about what Catholics believe that all schools must teach, it is the objective scientific and sociological facts about contraception and – particularly – abortion. It will now be possible to require secular schools to give the full facts about the dangers of abortion to the mother. Some of these – for example, the increased risk of breast cancer – are controversial. Better still – there will be an opportunity to lift up the carpet under which they’ve been brushed and test them in Court.

  6. tim says:

    Ion Zone had a comment up ahead of mine complaining that his comments were being deleted. I thought this was a self-refuting utterance, but posting my comment seems to have caused his to disappear. Curious!

  7. Ion Zone says:

    It could go either way, really.

  8. Tim, no great mystery. A contribution of Ion Zone’s was removed for technical reasons – and so his noting of this, before he knew the reason, could be removed. It wasn’t you wot did it!

  9. Claret, I am sure that others will want to support or disagree with your views, and I look forward to hearing their thoughts. But perhaps you can help me first at a factual level.
    I can find no reference in the current Bill to any obligation to inform pupils of the whereabouts of abortions clinics etc. Indeed a word search does not show the word ‘abortion’ at all. Perhaps you could indicate where this clause is.
    It is quite clear that the hard-won right to teach according to the religious ethos of the school doe not oblige us to give an equal status to views with which we do not agree. It does, as I understand it, oblige us to teach that other people have other views, to which they are entitled, and to give a fair account of their reasons. But a good educator would do this anyway. We have long ago given up the idea that because we believe that someone is wrong they are not entitled to hold that opinion.

  10. Frank says:

    Quentin – I object to your use of the phrase “traditional spoon-feeding approach”. It makes Catholic education in the past sound as if pupils were infantilised, perhaps even ‘force-fed’ only Catholic propaganda. Perhaps they were given robust Catholic moral teaching at an age when these foundations need to be laid, to prevent confusion and relativism? The phrase “spoon-feeding” sounds perjorative; to use it in this context suggests that we are now all grown-up, including teenagers, and therefore can bear the weight of “We teach this; the secular society teaches that…”

    Many teachers in Catholic schools are confused themselves about what they believe; they will not be able to enlighten their pupils who are already very aware of the seemingly attractive worldly alternatives.

    I agree with ‘claret’. This Government does not want Catholic schools to teach objective truth with clarity and vigour. It believes that the only way to combat the very high UK figures for teenage sex and STDs is to have more and more ‘sex education’ at ever younger ages and to force this on all schools, regardless of faith. The results are predictable.

  11. Ion Zone says:

    There are certain people who do think that we are spoon feeding propaganda, though they have an emotional outrage that we teach our beliefs to our children. If we are guilty of it, then so are they, and everyone else.

    We do need to stop telling them homosexuality is evil, but we should make clear that abortion as contraception ends a life and turns babies into a convenience. We need to make clear that they are the absolute last resort – the refuge of rape victims, young children, and those who are in danger medically or psychologically.

    We also need to make “Sex equals babies” the primary message of sex education.

    Those are two things I was never taught, and I doubt most even come close.

  12. I imagine that Claret has not had time to find the passage in the Bill which obliges faith schools to steer pupils towards abortion clinics etc. So I won’t attempt to deal with this yet but confine myself to a couple of general points which are broadly directed at both him and Frank. (Good to see you blogging again, Frank – we’ve missed you.)

    There are two approaches to helping people towards the truth. Some believe that it is most effectively done by straight authoritative teaching, brooking no contradiction or questioning, the other that it is is best done by enabling someone to see the different aspects of an issue and helping them to explore the truth. I think you will find that all professional helpers prefer the second method because, except with those who have dangerously subservient personalities, it is the one that works.

    Frank’s point that we have to be careful with the young, who may not have the capacity to think for themselves, is well taken. But if he is a parent he will know about grading the task according to age and intelligence. (Which the Bill specifically allow for.) By the age of 15 a young person is far from mature, yet he is living in a sexualised world which requires maturity. He or she is exposed, often several times day, to a mass of information which is biassed and often factually incorrect. We can choose between leaving him or her in ignorance, or ensuring that correct information is available and discussed.

    It may be worth making the point to Claret that “valid” and “true” are not synonyms. If a premise in argument is that a child in the womb has subordinate rights to born human beings, then it may be validly shown that abortion is justified. But because the premise is not true the conclusion is false.

  13. st.joseph says:

    The Church does not teach that homosexualty is evil.

    2357.. in the Catechism of the Catholic Church. Chastity and Homosexualty.
    I am a widow now(yes a female) ,I am expected to live now in a chaste relationship, I dont go around now proclaiming my right to have a sexual affair with someone -as I dont want to marry again-I dont have the right either to go on Marches and proclaim my right waving my underclothing in the air-proclaiming I am catholic and single and proud of it and want my right to my sex life. We do have an organisation called EnCourage-homosexuals who are living there life with their own self-respect- and what they do in their own time I believe is their right and leaving the rest to the Lord. Chastity comes into this in more ways than one.I have been to a ‘Gay Club’ and seen the life style that the ‘gay rights’ are ‘seeking.’.
    God sees all even the inner hearts of man (women) . This is what ought to be told in sex education in our schools.And I think Quentin said it all. Some people will ignore the fact that unlawful acts against sex are sinful.. ‘But dont use a condom- you might go to Hell.’! We dont want that kind of sex instruction.’There will always be sexual attraction between the opposite sex ,and it is good when we do or else the human race would decline! But we must teach young people the consequences of their actions and not go blindly into a life style that others have to relieve them of their responsibilities.-
    Is Chastity taught in schools now?

    My children didnt go to a catholic school Primary or Secondary. Although they were Faith schools. I know all children do not have the Gift of Faith as christians so we teach them with the best of our ability,the first duty of parents. I have always been of the belief that they are only ‘loaned ‘to us by God and that they are His children first.

  14. Frank says:

    I am still not happy with your ‘either/or’, Quentin: either we give straight, authoratitive teaching or we show both sides of the question.
    I take your point that the world outside is already trying to corrupt young people But I don’t think the answer (below the 6th form, at any rate?) is to give what is called a ‘balanced view.’

    When Archbishop Fulton Sheen was electrifying TV audiences across America in the 1950s with his series on ‘This is the Faith’, he wasn’t ‘spoon-feeding’ his audience or telling them ‘this is what we think, this is what they think’ etc. He was trying to convey the poetry, grandeur and magnificence of the faith to all comers i.e. he was capturing their imaginations.

    Surely this is what we need to do for our young Catholics? Capture their imaginations first – and then, later on, show how the world has strayed from Eden.

    Moses, on Mount Sinai, wasn’t spoon-feeding either; nor did he say ‘We think killing is wrong, the pagans think it’s OK’ etc. he said ‘Thou shalt not kill’. A terrifying and awe-inspiring edict from the Almighty.

    I recognise that the average RE teacher is not Moses or Fulton Sheen, but he/she still needs to convey a passionate love for the faith. Faith is caught before it is taught, don’t you think?

  15. st.joseph says:

    I remember the times when catholic teachers who wanted to teach the True Faith were criticised or even not given a job ,but it was given to a non-catholic. Life was made unpleasant for them so they were forced to leave. Hopefull that doesnt happen now!! Bishop O’Donogue’s This is my body- sex education for schools used in all the schools in Lancaster Diocese a Catholic approach under a religious context. It is not spoon fed just the Truth . Hopefully the Bishops will listen
    Information on 020 8405 0543.Perhaps it would be a good idea to write to our Bishops and declare our concern.
    I am hearing all the time from church bulletins, ‘How we have to move towards making way for fewer priests-for the laity to take an active part in the work of the parish,. Maybe if the Hierarchy would or priests would make way for more priests and teach more about our Faith in the schools we would have more vocations to the Priesrhood and Religious life. We have reaped what we have sowed.

  16. claret says:

    Never was the phrase ‘The devil is in the detail’ more appropriate than in this Bill. To quote Ed Balls “Schools
    (including catholic ones,) must give a balanced view on abortion, they must explain how to access an abortion.”
    The actual committment to direct young people to the nearest abortion clinic as I mentioned in my first post and which has been ‘challenged’ by Quentin does not have to be spelt out in direct terms in the Bill for it to become ‘understood’ as meaning the same. The words of the Bill are sufficently expressed as to be suitably vague when it comes to promoting catholic beliefs about abortion ( a balanced view?) and wide enough to encompass anything that this anti-life, secularist Government wishes to insert/ compell all schools to do to promote lifestyles that are directly contrary to our core beliefs and contrary to some of the commandments of God.
    Remember that schools will be ‘tested’ on how they have applied this legislation. Their funding and Ofsted results will be measured against them. Want a good mark from Ofsted? Want to secure funding? How about the school policy of providing condoms, how to take abortificient pills, how to access ‘abortion services’ for a a few brownie points! Are Ofsted Inspectors going to raise shouts of anguish at such proposals or are they going to say ‘well done,’ More of the same please.”
    The Catholic Church in this country is living in a dream world if it really beleives that it can gain one ounce of comfort from this hideous Bill.
    It is not the CES or Archbishop Nicholls who will have to stand up in Court to answer charges of offences against this Bill . It will be any brave Catholic teachers who will have to do so. Loss of job, pilloried as homophobic, forcing young girls to have unwanted prgnancies ( now referred to as ‘conceptions’ – a lot less dramatic a word,) would any of us in that situation still break the law to face those consequences?
    Where will the CES and the Archbishop be then?

  17. Ion Zone says:

    “The Church does not teach that homosexualty is evil.”

    You and I know that, but many people frame it as though it (and all of us too) does, we need to make it very clear, especially to teachers. They need to understand that a proportion of the children they teach are gay, as well as the church’s stance. We don’t want anything left up to interpretation.

  18. claret says:

    “The Church does not teach that homosexuality is evil.”

    True enough, but it does teach that it is ‘objectively disordered.’
    A phrase I would suggest that is indeed ‘open to interpretation.’
    However as this particular topic is about sex education in Catholic Schools I doubt that the school ethos will be permitted to describe the homosexual act as ‘intrinically disordered’ and ‘In no way can it be approved,’ as per The Cathechism.
    Not unless they want the school closed down and for them all to end up in the dock!

  19. Frank says:

    Would it not be better, Ion Zone, to re-phrase your sentence ‘need to understand a proportion of the children they teach are gay’, to: ‘need to understand that a very small number of the children they teach may develop a same-sex orientation at puberty’?
    Your phrase makes it seem that some children are born that way – almost a ‘gay gene’ notion – and this of course leads to sympathy (which is good) but no desire to help such young people to understand that they have a psycho-sexual disorder.
    All that I write here is discussed at much greater length and depth by Fr John Hardon SJ in his seminal book ‘The Homosexual Person’ (I think that is the title but you could Google it).
    Your phrase suggest, unfortunately, that you have been swayed by secular and Government propaganda on this subject.
    Claret rightly quotes the Catechism here. I have not met a ‘homophobic’ Catholic, though I have often met concerned Catholics who accept, as I do, that homosexual acts are intrinsically and always wrong. When Catholics try to say this out loud they are branded ‘homophobic’.
    If a Catholic teenager, who has come to be aware of his/her orientation, raises the question with a teacher in a Catholic school, how is the teacher to answer them – especially in the light of this current Bill?

  20. Juliana says:

    I’ve read all these posts and while I can appreciate Quentin’s hopefulness about some sort of balance in this bill (i.e. that the Catholic schools can teach their side of the story and then say however,the Govt want you to know about “the world, the flesh and the devil” so by law we must tell you about that too) I don’t think it’ll work.

    The Bill seems to want a non-judgemental approach to the teaching of all the beliefs that Catholics find sinful. This is where I think the schools will have a problem. Will they be breaking this “law” if they give information on abortion, homosexual acts but show disapproval? I suspect they will.

    But how can they, in conscience, do anything else?

  21. st.joseph says:

    St Thomas More is the Patron of Stateman and Politicians.
    In the Constitution Gaudium et Spes the Second Vatican (26).
    The life of St Thomas More clearly illustrates a fundamental truth of political ethics. The defence of the Church’s freedom from unwarranted interference by the State is at the same time a defence, in the name of the primacy of conscience, of the individuals freedom vis-a-vis political power. Here we find the basic principle of every civil order consonant with human nature.

    It was the defence of the rights of conscience that the example of Thomas More shone brightly.

    Extract taken from an Apostolic Letter issued Moto Proprio.,Proclaiming Saint Thomas More Patron of Statesmen and Pope John Paul 2nd 2004.
    (From The Keys of Peter bi-monthly magazine published since 1969.) It might be good to ask for St Thomas More to intercede for us at this time.


    It might be a good idea to ask for his intercession at this time.

  22. I think it might help at this stage for us to check whether we are singing from the hymn sheet. By all means check on the Bill, as it currently stands, but I have extracted what seem to be to be the relevant passages:

    (5) The first principle is that information presented in the course of providing PSHE should be accurate and balanced.

    (6) The second principle is that PSHE should be taught in a way that—

    (a) is appropriate to the ages of the pupils concerned and to their religious and cultural backgrounds, and also
    (b) reflects a reasonable range of religious, cultural and other perspectives.

    (7) The third principle is that PSHE should be taught in a way that—

    (a) endeavours to promote equality,
    (b) encourages acceptance of diversity, and
    (c) emphasises the importance of both rights and responsibilities.

    (8) Subsections (4) to (7) are not to be read as preventing the governing body or head teacher of a school within subsection (9) from causing or allowing PSHE to be taught in a way that reflects the school’s religious character.

    414 Exemption from sex and relationships education
    In section 405 of EA 1996 (exemption from sex education), for “If the parent of
    any pupil in attendance at a maintained school requests” there is substituted—
    “(1) If the parent of a pupil under the age of 15 in attendance at a school in England to which section 403 applies requests that the pupil may be wholly or partly excused from receiving sex and relationships education at the school, the pupil shall be so excused accordingly
    (a) the request is withdrawn, or
    (b) the pupil attains the age of 15.

    It would be useful of contributors were to refer to the sections which cause them difficulty.

    The whole Bill may be read at

  23. st.joseph says:

    Quentin, I have taken my advice from a leaflet sent to me from] The Society for the Protection of Unorn Children’called

    ‘What is wrong with the government’s sex and relationship education (SRE) proposals

    SPUC are asking support for the campaign against compulsory sex education.
    It says below.

    ‘Primary schools will be forced to teach SRE from the age of five
    Government backed resources for teaching primary school children,including some produced for Catholic schools, include explicit images of male and female sex organs, lessons on menstruation in mixed classes (boys and girls) and graphic details of sexual intercourse.The impact of this can sexalise young children, destroying trust,innocence and love.
    It goes on to say about Secondary schools and so on.

    Now I read the Bill but it was too much for me to absorb.
    I felt reading SPUCs campaign, there must be a call for catholics to do something about it. Maybe you can enlighten me on this as I found your last comment hard to grasp.

  24. Ion Zone says:

    “Your phrase makes it seem that some children are born that way – almost a ‘gay gene’ notion”

    I wouldn’t say a specific gay gene is the cause, it is however *certain* that homosexuality is hard wired, that is the current science. Male homosexuals have a feminization of the brain, and females have a masculine brain structure (See my previous links).

    The idea of it being a mental condition is completely outdated -full gay people *cannot* like the opposite sex, something the church needs to understand. It isn’t a fetish or a lifestyle.

  25. Juliana says:

    (5) The first principle is that information presented in the course of providing PSHE should be accurate and balanced.

    Who decides what is balanced?

  26. Superview says:

    This morning I attended the packed Requiem Mass for a man named Joe Martin. He was in his 50’s and the youngest of a very large family of outstanding Catholics. Husband, father, musician, craftsman and enthusiastic servant of his parish and community, his coffin was preceded into church last night by a crucifix which had been, four years ago, smashed into fragments by a disturbed young man. As the parish priest explained, he was for disposing of it, but Joe with love and care restored it to a finer state. The celebrant explained this before remarking that Our Lord had now taken Joe, and with love and care restored him. In a brief and tragic interval of unexplained and acute depression Joe had taken his own life.
    In the past, the celebrant told the large, mixed, congregation, the Church did not understand about suicide, and denied those who committed suicide burial in holy ground. Thank God this had changed he said.
    The Mass was a true celebration of the life of a much-loved man. It was the Catholic Church at its best. It was the Church I want to belong to.
    There is no doubt that the times we live in are unsettling for Catholics. As an organisation, we are rapidly running out of manpower (literally, as the age profile of priests indisputably shows); what was left of our Hierarchy’s authority ‘to pontificate’ on morality has been more or less destroyed by the child abuse scandal, and especially the cover-up which all the evidence shows reaches right up to the top of the Hierarchy; major elements of policy (doctrine) are inconsistent with the beliefs of a majority of our members (for example, contraception, and the treatment of the innocent parties in divorce); as a consequence of extremism, religious beliefs are not generally associated with the good in our society; the separation of Church and State has never been more desired; and our engagement with the modern world is reluctant and confused, with a retreat from it being urged by some, even to the re-adoption of a dead language.
    Will a change of government make a difference? I’m afraid those who think this are sadly deluded. The assertion of secular values is, in democratic societies, universal (which is why Muslim extremists blow up polling stations). And I will readily own many secular values as consistent with Christian values.
    It may be that, as enrobed leaders of an organisation with, in reality, certainly in western liberal democracies, no or little control over its members’ beliefs, the Hierarchy will have to recognise that they must listen to the ordinary members of the Church. We are labelled ‘the laity’, a term that seems to me to be increasingly patronising in a world where, as citizens, we can depose presidents and prime ministers, and through education and information resources the like of which the world has never seen, access that knowledge which was otherwise reserved for an elite.
    Is Catholic education producing people who are better than those who have not enjoyed it? Good people, compassionate people who set example to others as to how to live the good life, people who are imitated by others, who give rise in the minds of those who are not Catholics that they have something precious, something that they must find out more about? I believe it often does, but mainly because their family is part of the formula.
    But here is the rub: what I see is that the generations behind mine, of which my now grown up children are one, are not so minded about the equalities agenda as we are. They are not so minded about sexual experience, and are impervious to the Church’s teaching on these topics. For example, from what I see our schools would be depleted of young Catholic teachers if those who are co-habiting or in full sexual relationships were barred from teaching. Yet they are good people, and, for the most part, practising Catholics. My point is this – Why are we losing the argument not just with the secular world, but with our own people as well?
    Several years ago a Catholic friend was talking with her 25 year old daughter about abortion. Her daughter did not share the same strong views about it. ‘In which case,’ said her mother, ‘you shouldn’t be going to Mass.’ Her daughter took her mother’s advice and hasn’t been to Mass since. The mother has bitterly regretted her words ever since. Is she right to?

  27. Thank you, Superview, for your thoughts. You have not only said some inspiring things, but you remind us of how much further we have to go in order to match up to what Christ wants for his Church.
    I hope everyone is now clear about the proposed law. I agree that, necessarily, it lacks detail – but that on the whole is a good thing. We have to leave our teachers freedom, within the general principles, to use their professional judgment. They must of course be in good communication with the parents. And since Catholic schools appear for the most part to get excellent reports from government inspectors I have no doubt they will do so in this area too. If they don’t then of course parents must withdraw their children and cater for themselves. Some will do it well, some will do it badly, most, in my experience, will effectively not do it at all.
    Meanwhile, we can insist that secular schools give an equally balanced account of our views.

    One underlying point perhaps needs some attention. How does one teach that abortion, for instance, is wrong, while being non-judgmental about those who disagree? This might be more easily seen by taking what, in this context, is a less emotional issue. I can lay out the arguments for and against capital punishment with complete fairness, while making it clear that I believe it to be wrong, and giving my reasons for this. Indeed my best title to express my judgment is, to borrow John Stuart Mill’s dictum, that I have exposed my view to every objection that could be made to it. Perhaps the nastiest aspects of the Church’s history (now thankfully corrected) has been its denial of the rights of others to hold, in good conscience, different views.

  28. st.joseph says:

    Quentin ,the answer to your question you ask in the 4th paragraph is in your first Post.
    One tells people the truth about abortion and shows them the facts(not to 5 years olds ofcourse).
    You also made the point quite accurately when you said in another post that you critisize youself first.
    Judge not lest we will be judged ourselves, maybe not the right phrase,but with the same meaning! We are meant to be understanding as christians and I hope the teachers are well equipped in that area to teach children.
    Doctors must have a confused conscience when they take an oath to preserve life . We wont go into the other end of our life, that may open a can of worms-so to speak.

    One example about taking children away from lessons.
    My grandaughter went to Secondary (Catholic) school last year age 11. two months after starting, she was at home doing homework and seemed quite confused with the subject, My son being the good father he is checked her work.
    The subject was IVF, she hadn’t even started to menstruate yet. Why teach 11 year old a subject like that? She is not a worldley girl-and very modest.My son was quite annoyed, but why make things more difficult for the child to come out of lessons. Consequently his parish priest was asking him to become a Foundation Governer for years. He is one ‘now’!
    I am not old-fashioned so to speak-but a little modesty with school uniforms would not go amiss. I have noticed that private schools do keep a decent clothes sense, but I can only speak for those that I see.

    Just to make a point- I have always had a problem with I.R.A. Bombers, suicide bombers, who are also in good conscience, but I leave them to the Lord.

  29. claret says:

    Quentin is clear on the new law and expects us to be similarly so. A pity Ed Balls , one of the architects and proponents of this law, is not clear on it himself.
    But perhaps it is him who is clear as to the Bill’s intentions and rest of us that have been duped.
    Regretably I suspect this to be the case rather than the cosy picture painted by Quentin. (Ed Balls has been quoted more than once about his views on Catholic Schools and how they must show how to access an abortion.)
    I note that Quentin challenges me on where to find the word ‘abortion’ in the Bill but does not respond to my reply quoting Ed Balls.

  30. Frank says:

    I beg to differ from Ion Zone’s view that it is ‘certain’ that homosexuality is hard-wired. The research done by Fr Harden and associates, as well as that done by Fr John Waiss and Dr Jennifer Roback Morse in the US. and the testimony of James Parker, a former homosexual who has co-authored a symposium on morality chaired by Fr Alexander Sherbrooke of St Patrick’s, Soho Square, all point to a psycho-sexual source of this ‘disorientation’.

    Liek Claret, I am amazed that Quentin can be so trusting towards Ed Balls and his Bill. The road to Hell is paved with good intentions; this Bill is ‘intended’ to help change the moral chaos of our society by giving schoolchildren clear and factual sexual information. In practice, it will increase this chaos.

    To insist, as Quentin would like, that secular schools give a fair account of Christian beliefs, is simply whistling in the wind.

  31. I hold no brief for Ed Balls, but he doesn’t make the law, Parliament does. It is then interpreted by the judges.It is worth asking why the secularist lobby is screaming blue murder if they do not believe, with me,that his “concession” that teaching may be in accordance with the ethos of the faith school undoes everything they were trying to exclude. But then,you see, they took the trouble to read the Bill which rules the outcome, and ignored the face-saving propaganda which has no force.

    The obligation of all schools to give information that is accurate and balanced and covers a reasonable range of religious, cultural and other perspectives is no empty letter. At the very least it puts the secularists on guard that if they challenge a Catholic curriculum they are open to an equivalent challenge – and we may hope that our judges still remain even handed.

  32. Frank says:

    To answer Superview’s question about the mother and daughter and the subject of abortion: we all sometimes say things that we later bitterly regret.

    Perhaps the mother, in this case, should have said to the daughter: “Please read some of the facts produced by Life, SPUC before coming to your conclusion.’ Or ‘There has been much research on the psychological harm abortion does to the mother’ etc.

  33. Superview says:

    Frank is kindly in his suggestion as to what the mother might have said in the discussion with her daughter about abortion. However, knowing the young woman concerned, a good friend of one of my sons since schooldays, she will not have been necessarily ‘for’ abortion, but certainly not intolerant of those who believed differently about it. That was the purpose of recounting the incident as it came to mind when reading the responses to Quentin’s article.
    Her mother regretted her words because what she said was what she thought she had to say, rather than being her own words. Despite her daughter’s different opinions, she would rather she went to Mass. The truth is, she wishes she had respected her daughter’s considered views, because she knows she is, despite her opinions on abortion, a good person.

    I recoil at the word abortion, which must be one of the ugliest words in the English language, yet I understand that there are many people who are not ‘for’ abortion, but see it as the lesser of two evils in some circumstances. I was of that view in the case last year of the 9 year old child who was raped by her uncle and was expecting twins. The excommunication by the local Archbishop of the child’s mother, and both of the doctors involved in the abortion, was a cruel and unjustified act that attracted universal opprobrium. Yet I see another Archbishop, who thankfully said so, is being harried by those who hold absolutist views. What a mess.

    I mentioned the Requiem Mass for Joe, not just because I was moved by the tragedy of his suicide, but also because the circumstances bear on the relation between Church and State. The change in the attitude towards those who commit suicide follows what the secular world has known for a long time, namely, that compassion is required, not intolerance and cruelty. The Church has followed, not led. There are many situations where the Catholic Church is not seen to occupy the moral high ground (and any mention of children and sex must be one of them after what has happened) and the sooner we understand this, and deservedly win respect, the sooner we can have conversations with others about what is to be taught in schools, rather than negotiations.

  34. Ion Zone says:

    Frank, homosexuality is a spectrum, there is no such thing as a a ‘cure’ – psychological or otherwise. That he swore off homosexuality merely means he is repressing it or he is bisexual. You need only spend time around gays to realise that they incur many, many, mental problems through social repression.

    Though Fr Harden and associates are undoubtedly well-intentioned I doubt they have preformed comparative brain scans between men, gay men, and women. As mentioned, homosexuality as a psychological condition is an outdated theory that was arrived at by a generation of psychologists who were morally disgusted by the idea – it does not hold water. If it were you would expect other symptoms in conjunction. If you dis-include conditions such as depression, which are common to all social outcasts, there are none.

    In the words of Ernest van den Haag, psychotherapist.

    “I am reminded of a colleague who reiterated “all my homosexual patients are quite sick” – to which I finally replied “so are all my heterosexual patients.”

  35. Ion Zone says:

    My best friend is gay, he is as mentally balanced as anyone, but as he grew up he realised he had no interest in girls. He has always been quite feminine, and as such been bullied. Boys can pick up on difference like a dog can pick up on biscuits. The human ‘tribal’ mentality causes them to reject and attack anything that is ‘odd’. He did try to get a girlfriend because of social pressure, but he just had no interest in them.

    As such my friend has grown up very shy, and very depressed.

    Homosexuals come from every background. It has no trigger. There are gay animals.

    And when you get right down to it, which is more pressing, people who have same-sex relationships, or the abuses in, and decline of, the church?

  36. Frank says:

    I am surprised that Ion Zone can be so dogmatic about a subject so complex and -still – little understood and often misunderstood.

    It is very patronising, if not insulting to tell people such as James Parker, who have changed their orientation with help, both human and divine, that they must be bi-sexual.

    I, too, have good homosexual friends. Interestingly, they would agree with me on the ‘psychosexual’ element. This does not mean, of course, that they have a wish to change. (They are not Christians, as it happens).

    The last sentence, ‘And when you get down to it…’ strikes me as having a powerful political component to Ion Zone’s argument. i.e. ‘the Church is full of abuses; how dare this same Church ever try to tell homosexuals and the experts helping them, what to think or how to behave…’ I wonder if I Z is attacking the Church more than wanting to genuinely help those of a homosexual orientation?

  37. Frank says:

    Thank you Superview, for your very considered response to my comment. I understand what you are saying about the mother and her regrets; as a parent myself, I have also regretted saying things in the past which have produced a negative rather than positive effect in my children. Now , when faced by these challenges, I try to stay silent or only offer a response after praying about it.

    This said, Jesus also told us, ‘People will hate you on account of Me…’ When we try to uphold the truth we cannot expect an easy ride – most especially from our nearest and dearest.

    As to the Church and her human frailities over questions of abortion, suicide and others, she still has to maintain that both are gravely wrong in themselves – while allowing for pastoral compassion in individual circumstances.

  38. tim says:

    Superview has strong words of condemnation for what he thinks happened in Brazil last year. A nine-year-old, expecting twins as the result of repeated rape by her step-father, was aborted at over 20 weeks from gestation. Archbishop Cardoso, who had been aware of the case in advance, and had done all he could to save the girl from the procedure, when asked by journalists, confirmed that those responsible were, according to Church law, automatically excommunicated.

    This was a great coup for the abortionist movement – the Church demonstrating its total lack of compassion for a child in mortal danger. Added to which, a Vatican official, Mgr Fisichella, took it upon himself to intervene, strongly condemning Archbishop Cardoso, for lack of sympathy with the girl and the moral dilemma of her doctors.

    The fact appears to be that the girl was in no danger of death. The hospital that originally had care of her has admitted as much. A Brazilian obstetrics expert is quoted as saying she knows of no case in which a young mother, receiving adequate medical care, has died as a result of immaturity.

    The contention of supporters of Archbishop Cardoso is that the sad situation was deliberately exploited by a pro-abortion group (Grupo Curumim) for political purposes. The doctors who carried out the abortion saw no moral dilemma, since they believe abortion is a legitimate choice. The consent of the parents was obtained by convincing them (falsely) that the girl’s life was at risk. To carry out the abortion, the girl was removed from the hospital that originally had care of her. Mrg Fisichella, who (remarkably) heads the Pontifical Academy for Life, has been criticised by members of the Academy for what they see as an ill-informed and imprudent intervention, undermining the clear teaching of the Church.

    Thus the situation may be rather different from what Superview understands. “Audi alteram partem”. I can heartily agree with his conclusion, however: “What a mess!”

  39. Superview says:

    Tim has done his homework and all I’ve done is read the Catholic Herald for my information. I kept the edition (13 March 2009) when the story first appeared because it was the first I’d seen in years and it contained several notable items, and it also introduced me to Second Sight. In responding to Tim’s comment I want to avoid being argumentative, because in that mode the result is without conclusion, but I’m not sure if I’ll succeed.
    Details in the article differ somewhat from Tim’s, for example:

    ‘Doctors …performed the abortion on March 4 during the girl’s fourth month of pregnancy’

    ‘The girl, who weighs a little more than four and a half stone …’

    ‘Archbishop Jose Cardoso Sobrinho told the …Brazilian newspaper… that “it’s true the doctor said the child ran risks, but at any rate, the end does not justify the means. The good aim of saving her life cannot justify the killing of two other lives.”

    There may be something lost, or gained, in the translation, and, additionally, when the heat of controversy is high, numbers, like statistics, tend to get used by both sides to make a point with little respect for accuracy. The true facts are somewhere there, but I’m in no position to discriminate between one version and another; in the end we can lose ourselves in contention over which perspective is truest, especially if it distorts into an argument between those for and those against abortion itself.

    What I can do, however, is to address the story intuitively and try and convey my feelings about the matter. When I read Tim’s third paragraph my common sense compass reacts; a nine year old child expecting twins (agreed facts) is in no danger (of death indeed); an unknown obstetrician (an expert even) knows of no case where a ‘young mother’ properly cared for has died as a result of immaturity – how many nine year old child/mothers expecting twins has she researched?

    Again, intuitively, I have no sympathy for the Archbishop’s (indisputed) excommunications, with the full measure of my sadness resting with the treatment of the child’s mother whose circumstances are beyond wretchedness. I continue to ask in ‘sad situations’ like this whether these people, so attentive to their worldly status, really represent the body of the Church, really represent the Christ of the New Testament. In this story who are the Pharisees and who are the sinners? It causes me to reflect on how it can be the moral thing to do to weigh the life of a nine year old, wickedly abused child, against the two unknown developing lives in her womb, and come down against the child. I cannot see how the mother could have decided it any other way.

  40. claret says:

    Quentin writes ‘ Ed balls does not make the law, Parliament does.’
    He then adds how Judges interpret it and he ‘hopes’ they will be even-handed.
    I find Quentin’s trust in politicians and Judges to be naive and contrary to the evidence.
    But to correct him on the main point. It is not Parliament who makes the laws but politicians. Parliament simply passes them into legislation and these are the laws devised by the Govt. of the day ( with the exception of private Members Bills.)
    Ed Balls is a leading figure in the Govt. of the day and he has had ample opportunity to clarify his statements about faith schools and abortion and has pointedly failed to do so. What we have is a leading politician , who is leading architect and proponent of a peice of legislation, telling us quite openly and publicly what some of the intention of the act is. viz . Schools
    (including faith schools,) MUST give a balanced view of abortion. they MUST show how to access an abortion.”
    The second thing is the role of Judges that Quentin has such ‘hopes’ about. Hope is the right word because one of the grounds that judges must give due cognizance to when interpreting the law is what was the will of Parliament. In the matter of this Bill , Ed Balls has made it perfectly clear what he regards as the will of Parliament and it is not good news for faith schools.
    Judges too are prone to be swayed by their personal beliefs.
    (Eg. The Purdy case where one judge praised her for wanting to break the law.) Would a panel of pro-life judges have come to the same conclusion in this matter and then pronounnced their personal views as ‘riders’ to their decision?
    This is why we have three judges to decide ‘case law’ so there can be a majority decision, because one of them might well ‘defer’ from the other two as to how a particular law should be interpreted. Not an exact science therefore and one that leads to a personal interpretation of the law.

  41. Frank says:

    Superview refers to Christ in the New Testament. Exercising my intuition here I simply cannot imagine Christ giving His consent to an abortion in this situation. Love for the unborn twins as well as love for their young mother would have precluded it.

    We are all rightly exercised by the age of the child involved. Will it help her in years to come to know that twins she carried werer aborted, rather than brought to delivery by pro-life doctors and – probably – given up for adoption?

  42. tim says:

    I thank Superview for his considered approach to my comment. It is easy to become caught up in matters of controversy, and not recognise, in the heat of the moment, that one is being unfair. So I shall try to follow his example in that respect. I wish to continue to urge, however, that his posted criticism of Archbishop Cardoso was uncharitable and unjust, as well as directly opposed to important Church teaching, which he ought to support.

    From his concern that the discussion may distort “into an argument between those for and those against abortion itself” I take it that Superview is not a “Catholic for a Free Choice”. Rather, he believes that abortion may be the lesser of two evils in some cases – such as this one. That is the view I wish to argue against. Every year, in England and Wales, perhaps one or two abortions are carried out when the mother’s life is in danger. But the view of abortion as a ‘lesser evil’ leads to an annual total of abortions around 200,000.

    His comment about the facts of the present case is entirely fair. They are not easy for us to determine – either side may have distorted them. All the more reason, perhaps, not to rush to judgment. My facts are derived primarily from a Pro-Life website, Life-Site News. See in particular . I hope they are at least as reliable as what has appeared elsewhere.

    Superview seems to have missed one point that I was trying to make about the excommunication. He says this is “indisputed”. Indeed. But what is disputed is that the Archbishop had any choice in the matter. It is not a ruling by him – it is (as I understand it) an automatic operation of church law (if I’m wrong about this, I hope I will be authoritatively corrected). So to criticise him for it seems unfair. Possibly it was imprudent to publicise it (another view would be that it was necesssary to do so) but in the face of direct questions should he have equivocated? It is certainly unfair that the mother should be excommunicated, if (as appears) her consent was obtained by fraud: and one would hope that the excommunication could rapidly be lifted for that reason.

    The excommunication however is not the main point. The main point is what compassion and justice demand in the specific situation. Do they conflict?

    Superview urges that compassion for the nine-year-old must outweigh the rights of her unborn children. The church teaches (again, as I understand it) that all human beings have equal (I think, infinite) value. This is one teaching that is widely accepted by the world – however they disagree as to who count as human beings. Of course, it can be a hard doctrine, and being unable to hold to it without finding numerous exceptions is understandable. Given that it is hard, all the more important to defend it if you think it is true. But I won’t press Superview on this: if he prefers the view of the world to that of the church, I have no great hopes of convincing him otherwise.

    What I do find inexplicable (indeed, shocking) is what Superview takes for granted: namely that the child herself will be better off if she has an abortion than if she delivers her children alive. He argues that ‘common sense’ means she must be in considerable danger of death (as to how soundly based this is, see further below): he assumes that it is obvious to everyone that an abortion solves her main problem. I have to ask why an abortion (particularly at 20 weeks) should be so clearly safer and in every way preferable. An abortion at 20 weeks would generally involve first killing the children in the womb and then having the mother deliver them dead. Wouldn’t that be an appalling experience for a nine-year-old? If however the children were allowed to mature in the womb until viable, they could be delivered by Caesarian, perhaps somewhat prematurely. This need hardly be traumatic at all (at least physically). Further, it would avoid the numerous and well-attested potential sequelae of abortion, including regret, infertility, psychological damage, prematurity of subsequent children, and perhaps (this is more controversial) breast cancer. One down-side would be the continued existence of two children in an irregular family situation, but I am sure that Superview would differ from many secular supporters of abortion and agree that this should not weigh in the scale.

    I say that compassion for the child means preventing her being subjected to abortion – leaving entirely aside the rights of her unborn children and the wrongs of killing them.

    As to whether she was really in danger of death, I confess that my own first reaction was like Superview’s – surely she must have been? That was why I quoted the obstetrician, whose name is Dr. Elizabeth Kipman Cerqueira. It seems that pregnancies at a very young age are unfortunately quite common in Brazil, so she is not without experience. Moreover, according to official Brazilian figures, 192,445 girls from 10 to 14 years old gave birth between 2000 and 2006 in Brazil, while 105 died during pregnancy, birth, or having an abortion, that is, 55 out of 100,000. This is lower than the average for Brazilian deaths in childbirth at all ages (quoted as 75 per 100,000). The low rate is remarkable – if correct, it is presumably to be explained by better medical care being given to very early pregnancies – but it certainly offers no support for the idea that the child was in exceptional danger. Superview’s previous post suggests that he will not be much influenced by these statistics (and I have some sympathy with that stance) but maybe others will be.

  43. eclaire says:

    I should just like to add that I share the views of Claret and Frank, and I thank them both for expressing their thoughts. It is a pleasure (for me) to read what they have to say on this matter.

  44. Frank says:

    And thank you, Tim, for developing what was merely implicit in my short post about the Brazilian girl.

    I suspect that the general reaction (from Catholics as well as others) to this story is emotive rather than reasoned, i.e. “It is a dreadful thing for a 9-year-old to be made pregnant in this heinous way; she is bound to be traumatised by the birth; therefore let us banish the pregnancy.” Tim has brought reason to bear; always the best way to combat an emotive response.

    The debate reminds me somewhat of the argument for euthanasia of the sick or demented: “They are in pain and living in great indignity; they are going to die sooner or later; therefore let us banish the problem by making it sooner.”

    Is it not we who find it hard to face the sick – or a nine-year-old girl who is pregnant?

  45. st.joseph says:

    I also share the views of Claret and Frank.
    Thank you.

  46. Superview says:

    This blog developed from Quentin’s article about the sex education legislation and I have had to retrace my steps to remind myself how I’ve come to be commenting on the case of the nine year old child who, having been raped, and becoming pregnant with twins, underwent an abortion with the consent of her Catholic mother, with the result that her mother was excommunicated by a local Archbishop. It came from offering the account of a friend who regrets bitterly that she told her daughter, who was not totally opposed to abortion, that she should not be going to Mass. I was trying to make the point that there is a diversity of views among ordinary Catholics on these issues, and that to insist that you are either against abortion in all circumstances, or you are not entitled to be called a Catholic, is to show intolerance of that person on that ground alone, despite all her or his other merits.
    It was with considerable trepidation that I touched on the topic at all, as it is characterised by the strongest of opinions and feelings on both sides. I persuaded myself that my credentials are respectable, if acquired decades ago – I have been on the marches, and even spoken at a major political conference, with some adverse consequences.
    I have arrived at my doubts on the question at issue through a painful transition, and if it seems that I am preferring the view of the world to that of the Church, which is certainly the case in the treatment of the child and her mother, it is not without considerable regret.
    I am therefore grateful to Tim for his considered response and will touch on his strongest points as best I can. My focus is on the child and her mother. I believe the child’s welfare is paramount and that it is probable (in the wretchedness of her situation) that the mother acted in her child’s best interest and with prudent medical advice. The loss of the developing babies is a terrible result, but it is the result of the wicked rape of a small child. The effect of the rape on the child is in itself too dreadful to contemplate, but that it should also risk the child’s life, and, if she survives the pregnancy and birth, her future, following the bearing of two children at nine years of age, is to compound the tragedy. It is my view that it is for the mother to make this decision. There is an irony here, in that in the debate about sex education the Church stresses the rights of parents over the State, but it would seem they have the right only if they agree with the Church.
    The abortion statistics show what must be a lax interpretation of the law. But whenever an argument is made from the personal case to the general (and the Church does it a lot) I always think of the case the High Priest made, that it was better that one man should die for the people.
    I confess I do not have a high regard for the Hierarchy, for numerous reasons that would only distract at this point. However, to be unfair to the Archbishop is not a result I would wish. The case for the defence seems to be that he had no alternative, the Church’s Law is categorical, the mother must be excommunicated, and he did his duty. I am unimpressed.
    In this morning’s Gospel we had the compelling account of the woman taken in adultery. The scribes and the Pharisees brought her to Jesus. “Master … Moses has ordered us in the Law to condemn women like this to death by stoning. What have you to say?” We all know what he said to them. But maybe we need to remind ourselves, as His followers, what he said to her.

  47. Frank says:

    I do not include Superview in this, but when people cite this wonderful Gospel extract, they often emphasise ‘Let he who is without sin…’ and omit the final words of Christ: ‘Go and sin no more.’

    We are not to judge others – but we are also enjoined to ‘sin no more’. Sometimes they can be a difficult balancing act.

  48. st.joseph says:

    Also in the Gospel on Sunday was that the Scribes and Pharisees wanted to stone the woman to death. Isnt that the very thing (not stoning of course) that happened to those babies in the womb! Wouldn’t He have condemned that too whilst claiming their innocence.

  49. Frank says:

    A good point, ‘St Joseph’.

    This whole question centres around the concept: ‘The lesser of two evils…’

    The trouble with this (seemingly) reasonable concept is that I cannot believe that Christ would ever have invoked it, under any circumstances.

  50. st.joseph says:

    Jesus said ‘The least you do to these my little ones you do unto me’. over 200,000 killed in this country alone last year.
    This is also child abuse. Apart from the morning after pill- being child abuse to 11 year olds, and abortifacients.
    The scandal in the Church is not the only one to hang their heads in shame. At least the teachings of the Church are Truth- even if not all can live them. I know we expect more of those who are priests and religous. We also ought to expect more respect as Catholics from those running the country.After all we do pay our taxes.
    Maybe if we had a bit more of St Thomas More about us we would be listened to. (I dont think they could send us to the Tower) That would be discrimination!

  51. tim says:

    The ‘case for the defence’ is slightly more nuanced than Superview suggests: it is not that “the Archbishop was only doing his duty in excommunicating the mother’: but that he did not excommunicate the mother, she excommunicated herself by what she did: he only announced that she had been excommunicated. As in matrimony, the priest does not marry the couple, they marry each other: the priest is only a witness. Is this tithing mint and cumin? Possibly the Archbishop has not done all he should to alleviate the consequences of the mother’s action:but we don’t know that.

    Of course, this discussion is all peripheral to the point Superview was seeking to make originally: but it originates from his illustration.

    It is a pity that Superview’s experience has led him to distrust Catholic pastors and modify his previous views on abortion (to what extent, he does not make clear). This makes it easier to understand why he prefers to accept that the doctors were ‘prudent’ and the Archbishop uncompassionate. My own preconceptions (no more or less reliable than his?) are the exact opposite. We agree that the mother has had a raw deal: who, assured that their daughter would die if not aborted, would withhold their consent? Clearly this was what she heard (if not necessarily exactly what was said). There remains a specific question as how great a danger the daughter was really in (which we differ about, and will be unable to resolve) – as well as the broader question (which neither I nor Superview has hitherto directly raised) as to how much risk in a situation like this a pregnant mother should be willing to take.

    Perhaps we can broaden the discussion further. I am concerned as to how far astray compassion alone, unhampered by principle, might take us. I do not suggest for a moment that Superview would approve or accept any of the possible consequences that I fear: but others may, particularly if they have different principles.

    The fact is (it may be Pharisaical, but still true) that hard cases make bad law. If you exaggerate the hard cases, you make even worse law. Few saw this when the 1967 Abortion Act was introduced: those that did, were accused of gross pessimism and disregarded by people like me, many of whom will today admit that what then seemed unjustified fears have been fully realised. Rather more recently, in the House of Commons, it was said to be offensive even to suggest that doctors would agree to abort a child for a minor defect such as a cleft palate: not long passed before such an abortion actually took place (unprosecuted). At present, we are in the midst of a flourishing campaign to legalise euthanasia. This concentrates on the hard cases, and makes much of ‘compassion’. If successful, the effect will not merely be to shorten lives and divert resources away from proper care of the dying, but, more seriously, to change public opinion: the ‘right to die’ for the sick, elderly or disabled, will become ‘the duty to die’. The end does not justify the means: the means corrupt the end. To believe otherwise leads to the Committee of Public Safety and ‘waterboarding’.

  52. Superview says:

    I see why Tim says that the mother ‘excommunicated herself’ as I searched the web and found the Canon Law item. This website even offered an article:
    The reference is Canon 1398: “A person who procures a completed abortion incurs a latae sententiae excommunication.”
    Helpfully this is explained thus:
    ‘The phrase “latae sententiae” means a judgment or sentence which has already been brought, in other words, a sentence or judgment which does not need a future additional judgment from someone in authority; it refers to a type of excommunication which is automatic. Such a sentence of excommunication is incurred “by the very commission of the offense,” (CCC 2272) and does not require the future particular judgment of a case by competent authority.’

    I must accept that it is clear that the Archbishop did not have to act to excommunicate. The Church did it automatically – that is, the ruling would have no context unless it has an agent to act on it. It cannot wash its hands of Canon Law 1398 as it made it and owns it. On the other hand, it does require some judgement, as the word procure ‘to obtain (something), esp. after an effort’ does not seem to justly describe the mother’s situation. I have no evidence that he exercised judgement in this case, and I think Tim makes the same point.

    I regret that Tim insinuates that my views about abortion may cover other than the limited circumstances represented by this type of case. I would not draw any wider inferences from his remarkably candid statement that “We agree that the mother has had a raw deal: who, assured that their daughter would die if not aborted, would withhold their consent?”. But as the greater part of this discussion rests on this very point, and the appeal it has to the wider world as humane and proportionate, Tim may wish to re-phrase it. Accordinging to the author of the article above, expressing should a view – indeed, thinking it even – is heresy, which also leads to automatic excommunication. Such are the pitfalls of religious totalitarianism.
    I understand and relate to the comments about ends not justifying means (and to his list Tim should add the recent events around child abuse in the Church, which demonstrate we do not hold the moral high ground on this principle), although I don’t see easily how showing compassion is an end which sometimes requires corrupt means to achieve. It depends upon the terms. In the case of the nine year old child, I would suggest that exercising compassion for her did not entail corrupt means.
    Some time ago Quentin started a conversation about the problem of the ageing population (The big ‘A’, August 2009) and I contributed mentioning my own mother’s death following five months of literally mindless distress and sedation. The NHS provided exemplary care, but I realised that we have to recognise that, because of the quality of care and the drugs now available, this could have continued, purposelessly, not for months, but for years. Multiply this tens of thousands of times and we have a problem that is far from arising from a so-called ‘culture of death’, but from the exact opposite. Never in the history of the world have so many people enjoyed full and long lives, protected from life-threatening diseases and accidents by a decent standard of living and free and expert medical care. However, this is creating an extraordinary dilemma – when should we be allowed to die? As I asked then and repeat again, where are the theologians applying themselves to this?
    I’m sure Tim will respond with vigour to this comment, but in the interests of letting matters rest after, for me, a valuable opportunity to have my position challenged, this is my last input on this topic.

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