June 16, 2015

Bioethics and the Not-Yet-Dead

Here is another Straws for the Camels Back  column from the Brandsma Review: this time from Issue 45 around the year 2000. 

Australian Peter Singer, Professor of Bioethics at Princeton University has proposed early (and, of course, painless) infanticide for those whose prospects he thinks poor. There has been some mention in his writings of euthanasia for disabled adults as well.

His friends at Princeton have found themselves engaged in quite a nasty guerrilla war with a group of militant disabled adults called Not Dead Yet. On his first day’s teaching, they chained themselves in their wheelchairs to the outside entrance of the classroom, and 14 of them were arrested—something of a political difficulty for the “free thought, free expression” crowd at Princeton. Speakers at a three-hour rally included a disabled person who spoke with the help of a computer.

Singer is described as a philosopher. His full title is the Ira W. DeCamp Professor of Bioethics in the school’s Center for Human Values, no less. In a recent book, he wrote that “children younger than one month old have no human consciousness and do not have the same rights as others. Killing a defective infant is not morally equivalent to killing a person. Sometimes it is not wrong at all.”


The Roots of Apathy

I smiled ruefully at the following headline in the Catholic Herald: BISHOP BLASTS APATHY AS UNIONS BACK TERMINATIONS ON DEMAND: CATHOLICS ARE BLAMED FOR ABORTION MOVE. Bishop John Jukes, the English hierarchy’s “world of work” committee chairman was wagging a finger at Catholic trade unionists for not doing more to stop pro-abortion moves in their unions.

What does he expect? I seem to remember a time not so long ago when the English bishops heeded some very bad advice from professional Catholic politician Norman St John Stevas (who’s now Lord Somethingorother) that they shouldn’t mobilise their people against anti-life measures because it would be a bad thing for abortion to become a “Catholic issue”.

When a handful of us Catholic hacks left the NUJ because of its advocacy of abortion in Ireland, we hoped that many others—above all, some priest-journalists—would follow suit. At that critical stage, a few dozen resignations could have forced the union to abandon its policy. Alas, the spiritual advice given to some was to “stay and fight abortion from within”, which of course was sheer humbug. Many of the kind of Catholics who’d sing “Faith of Our Fathers” at the drop of a hat just sat tight. Apart from some kind words from Bishop Brendan Comiskey, we had little support from the clergy. A notable exception was Fr Cyprian Candon, OP, editor of Intercom, the magazine of the Catholic Communications Institute. He joined the alternative Institute of Journalists, and published items strongly critical of the NUJ.


Liberal Censorship

The redoubtable Daphne McLeod, who was done so much to defend Catholic children from the poison of neo-modernist catechetics (and angered the English Bishops in the process) features prominently in this issue—not only among the articles but in the Letters column as well. Readers will be interested to learn that her piece, which we have headlined “Treston the Tree-Hugger Meets the Pink-Shirted Priest” was originally commissioned by the Catholic Herald—which declined to publish the finished article. [I intend to republish that  piece in this blog in the near future—Stramentarius.]

It’s not surprising, really; the Catholic Herald board in London is extremely “liberal” and therefore keeps its editors on a tight rein. There’s also pressure from the English hierarchy to toe a particular line. I am reliably informed that the late Cardinal Hume was largely responsible for the sacking of Alice Thomas Ellis—the best reason for reading the CH—because she wrote some unfashionable (and true) things about Archbishop Derek Worlock of Liverpool. (Mrs Ellis now has a cookery column in the paper, but her wicked wit is no longer on display.)

Yes,it must be a ticklish business being editor of the CH. One’s anticipated term of office, while perhaps longer than that of a British infantry officer on the Somme, would not compare too favourably with that of a wife of King Henry VIII. I understand that the Herald once went through seven editors in 10 years.

So of course one has to sympathise with the present editor, William Oddie, who has not yet fulfilled expectations that he would steer the Catholic Herald back to orthodoxy. Maybe he’s moving very cautiously and will eventually succeed. He recently carried a good piece on the perils of the Alpha evangelism course, which quoted our Welsh correspondent Robert Williams.


Good Leaven?

When are our bishops going to learn that “Catholic” feminists, far from being mollified by expressions of appreciation, will always try to use them as a weapon in the push for priestesses? When the Archbishop of Dublin issued a pastoral referring to women as the “good leaven in our society” I knew another silly letter would appear in the Irish Times within a few days.

Sure enough, far from accepting this gracious compliment in the spirit in which it was meant, Ms Soline Vatinel of BASIC threw it back in Dr Connell’s face.“As long as the only orders women can receive in the Church are orders telling them what to believe and what to do, all praise will be pious platitude, not the Good News of Jesus Christ.”.


Examiner Should Examine Its Conscience

The Examiner used to be a great newspaper. Not any more. A new low in journalism was touched by its lead story of September 16 headlined ANTI-ABORTION GROUP FLIES IN MILITANT WITH CRIMINAL PAST. It began: “An American convicted of running a criminal enterprise that threatened women considering abortion is to address a conference in Dublin at the weekend.”

The “criminal enterprise” was Operation Rescue, whose members have saved the lives of countless pre-born babies by protesting at abortion clinics. Joe Scheidler, the target of the Examiner‘s attack, was found guilty under the so-called “RICO” statute (Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organisations). A Federal jury upheld the argument of the pro-abort “National Organisation of Women” that by protesting at abortion clinics, pro-life activists were depriving those clinics of their income and that this amounted to extortion.

This perverse decision has been condemned by Professor Robert Blakey of Notre Dame University, who drafted RICO in 1969. He said that if he’d known that the law, which was intended to be used against organised criminal gangs, would be employed as a weapon of terror against social protest, he would never have drafted it.

No attempt was made by the Examiner to explain the circumstances of Mr Scheidler’s conviction. It’s a far cry from the days of the old Cork Examiner whose staff—many of whom were members of the Institute of Journalists rather than the NUJ—prided themselves on their professionalism. They would never have omitted such a crucial aspect of a news story.

Which prompts the question: who put the Examiner up to it? Predictably, the affair reopened potentially damaging splits in the pro-life movement at a most critical time.


From CMAC Denial…

When I was working part-time for the Catholic Standard some time in the early 1980s, one of my “snouts” (as British policemen call them) was involved with the Catholic Marriage Advisory Council, which has since—in the interests of Religious Correctness—changed its name to “Accord”. My informant told me that clients of the CMAC were being taught about methods of contraception and left to make up their own minds as to the morality of using them. This confirmed what I had been told by other sources.

I rang up several branch offices of the CMAC and was assured that, oh no, we don’t do things like that; we are a Catholic organisation. A witch-hunt then followed, in which attempts were made to find out who’d been talking to me. There was no reason for my snout to lie to me, and I am sure they weren’t. But I couldn’t use the story without risking exposing my source, so of course I didn’t.

The sequel to this squalid tale is that my snout shortly afterwards left the Church and became a freelance evangelical/pentecostal Protestant. I don’t know if the hypocrisy he/she had encountered in this Catholic organisation had anything to do with this decision, but I suspect that it may have helped start the process.


…to Accord ‘Maturity’

All this came back to me on reading a piece by one Jarlath Judge in the Irish Catholic a few weeks ago. Mr Judge and his fiancée attended the compulsory marriage preparation course organised by Accord, which they found a “worthwhile exercise”. As one would expect, there were two “course facilitators” and much discussion in small sharing groups. Participants were asked to reveal what made them angry, ashamed, hurt, or scared—and about their secrets.

Family planning, wrote Mr Judge, was dealt with “maturely”:

Both the male and female facilitators contributed. There were no blushes. Just the facts about the various forms of contraception.

That can only mean there was no attempt to defend Catholic teaching on the sinfulness of contraceptive acts. Well, at least Accord’s policy on these matters is now out in the open. All those years ago, the CMAC was already an Augean stable in need of cleansing, but the bishops could at least have had the excuse that they didn’t know what was going on. They’ve no such excuse now, with Accord.

Incidentally, I am reliably informed that one clerical gentleman has been going round the Dublin deaneries telling priests that while it’s too soon after Humanae Vitae to change the Church’s teaching officially, such a change is bound to come; and in the meantime, they should take a soft line in the confessional.

Now that makes me angry and ashamed.


Return of the Real Domini Canes

Another interesting piece in the Irish Catholic was by editor David Quinn. He’s been doing a useful piece of investigation on the Irish Dominicans, and his researches confirm some encouraging reports I’d heard about the Order. It would appear that the dead wood which has been calling the shots since the 1960s (sorry about the dreadful mixed metaphor) is beginning to be replaced by orthodox younger men who aren’t particularly interested in Vatican II, and are insisting on behaving like proper Dominicans. They actually want to wear their habits in public instead of baggy old ganseys, they like praying the Rosary, and prefer studying St Thomas Aquinas to Küng and Schillebeeckx. They’d rather preach the Word of God than sub-marxist sociological cant.

The Dominican Master-General, Englishman Fr Timothy Radcliffe has been travelling around the Order’s houses in various parts of the world telling the progressive old codgers to let the orthodox youngsters behave as they want. It looks as if he may have had a real change of heart. Anyway, he must have done some hard thinking and realised that if the young men were to leave in disgust, there won’t be any Dominicans left in 25 years or so.

One youthful Dominican (properly clad in black cloak and white habit) told me recently that the Friars Preachers are the only major Order never to have had a split.


An Appropriate Omen

The National University of Ireland, Maynooth, has let it be known that from next year onwards, it no longer wishes to take part in the Mass celebrated with St Patrick’s College every October at the start of the academic year. The motive, we are asked to believe, is ecumenical: the NUI does not wish to offend the susceptibilities of our separated brethren. It transpires that among 4,000 students, NUI Maynooth has 40 non-Catholics. Of these, just 12 are Protestant Christians.
At the last of these academic year Masses—on October 20—the emblems of the NUI Maynooth and of St Patrick’s College were displayed in the sanctuary. During the Our Father, at the words “Thy Kingdom Come” the NUI Maynooth emblem fell down.


Druidic Dowdstown

Some more treats from Dowdstown House retreat centre in Co Meath, which, Delphic-oracle-like, “seeks to promote and support family life in all its diversity in our changing world”, and aims “to empower leadership in ministry…in order to pursue healthy change in all areas of life”. How about this?

Reiki is a natural healing art using universal life energy to promote harmony, healing and wholeness to body, mind and spirit…These workshops attune you to the universal life energy and allow you to channel the energy for healing yourself, your family and others.

Or this?

Evenings of sacred circle dancing. Experience dance in all its different moods, empowering the body in a gentle way to flow to the rhythm of different styles, including Celtic and African dance.

They also offer training courses for “special ministers of the Eucharist” and retreats for senior pupils.


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