News Roundup

Pope Francis to Catholic healthcare group: cease works “contrary to moral law”

Pope Francis has instructed the Catholic healthcare group, the Knights of Malta, to cease any and all activities that are contrary to the moral law, including the distribution of contraceptives as part of aid programs. The letter was in response to report that the Knights had been involved in the distribution of contraceptives in aid packages to countries in the developing world.
In a leaked document reported on by LifeSiteNews, Pope Francis wrote: “Furthermore, the Order must ensure that the methods and means it uses in its initiatives and healthcare works are not contrary to moral law. If in the past there has been a problem of this nature, I hope that it can be completely resolved.” He added: “I would be very disappointed if — as you told me — some of the high Officers were aware of practices such as the distribution of any type of contraceptives and have not yet intervened to end such things”.

New York Cardinal Calls Democratic Party’s ban on pro-life candidates ‘extreme and disturbing’

In a searing response to the Democratic Party’s pledge to support only pro-abortion candidates, New York Cardinal Timothy Dolan branded the move as disturbing and called on the party to “recant this intolerant position”.

“The recent pledge by the Democratic National Committee chair to support only candidates who embrace the radical unrestricted abortion license is very disturbing. The Democratic Party platform already endorses abortion throughout the nine months of pregnancy, even forcing taxpayers to fund it; and now the DNC says that to be a Democrat—indeed to be an American—requires supporting that extreme agenda” he said in a statement.

Last week the head of the Democratic National Committee, Tom Perez, was slammed mercilessly by pro-abortion lobby groups for supporting a Democratic candidate in a Mayor’s race in a city in Nebraska who happened to be pro-life. Within days, he reversed himself, dropped that support  and pledged instead that “Every Democrat, like every American, should support a woman’s right to make her own choices about her body and her health,” adding, “That is not negotiable.”  Perez was praised by the Huffington Post for becoming “the first head of the party to demand ideological purity on abortion rights”.

But that demand for “ideological purity” has itself been forcefully condemned by Cardinal Dolan and he called on all members of the Democratic party to likewise reject it: “In the name of diversity and inclusion, pro-life and pro-‘choice’ Democrats, alike, should challenge their leadership to recant this intolerant position.”


Prof Binchy blasts outcome of Citizens’ Assembly

Prof. William Binchy, an expert in constitutional law, has blasted the recommendations of the Citizens’ Assembly and dismissed it as an exercise in futility. “Before it was established, the assembly was touted as representing a guide to politicians as to public opinion. It is now clear that it is useless in that regard,” he wrote in the Irish Times, adding: “The Assembly’s recommendations, with all respect to its participants, are a ragbag of slogans, lacking any logical consistency or normative coherence. No sensible legislator would go near them.”

Prof Binchy who is a legal advisor to the Pro-Life Campaign pointed to the continuing success of the Eight Amendment in saving lives and called for greater reflection on that accomplishment. “What emerges from the debacle is that this is a time for calm reflection, not resort to slogans.  A mature society with an open mind – the essence of genuine liberalism – would appreciate that our present constitutional dispensation offers the most effective way to protect all of our members on principles that respect the human rights of everyone without discrimination.”


Court ruling imminent on same-sex marriage across the EU

A landmark case that could lead to the EU-wide imposition of same-sex marriage will be decided by the EU’s Court of Justice in the coming days. The case regards a same-sex couple who asked the Romanian Government to recognise their foreign marriage as valid. When Romania, in line with its national law, refused to consider the pair to be a married couple, they sued the government. In 2016, the Romanian Constitutional Court referred questions of interpretation to the European Court of Justice.

Legal experts now fear that a decision in favour of the couple would not only impose same-sex marriage on all EU States, but would also undermine the principle of subsidiarity. “Many European countries recognize and protect marriage as a union between a man and a woman in their laws and constitutions, as is their right. A Member State should remain free to affirm in their laws that a mother and father are both essential in a child’s life,” said Sophia Kuby, Director of EU Advocacy for ADF International, based in Brussels. “The core notions of family law – ‘spouses,’ ‘family member,’ and ‘marriage’ – fall within the competence of EU Member States. . . . If this Court puts forward a definition of ‘spouses’ as including same-sex partners, national competence on the issue would be eradicated,” explained Adina Portaru, Legal Counsel for ADF International and leading lawyer on the third party intervention.


Ministers push for Abortion Referendum

Senior Government figures have expressed a desire to move quickly on holding a referendum on abortion in response to the sweeping, pro-choice recommendations of the Citizens’ Assembly. Children’s Minister Katherine Zappone said the emphasis was on “the repeal and the replacement” of the Eighth Amendment. “There is no reason why a referendum to achieve this could not be held in the spring of 2018,” the Dublin South West TD added. Independent Alliance Minister John Halligan said “the sooner” that the referendum was held, “the better”.

 Fine Gael TDs would like to see a referendum be done and dusted before the next general election campaign gets under way. FG Deputy Kate O’Connell told the Irish Independent: “It wouldn’t serve the people of Ireland well for this to be the single number one issue on the agenda in the general election.” A number of senior Fine Gael figures privately expressed their surprise at the scale of the recommendations, particularly the prospect that they would lead to a radical overhaul of the country’s abortion regime.

St Vincent’s affirm: everything legal will be available in new maternity hospital

St Vincent’s Healthcare Group have affirmed that the New National Maternity Hospital which it will own and help operate will offer every medical procedure that is legal in the State. This could include abortion if the pro-life amendment is repealed. “In line with current policy and procedures at SVHG, any medical procedure which is in accordance with the laws of the Republic of Ireland will be carried out at the new hospital,” its chairman, James Menton, said in a statement.

National Maternity Hospital’s deputy chairman, Nicholas Kearns, writing in the Irish Times, says a religious order will not control the hospital, “[a]nd whatever the law permits at any given time about carrying out particular procedures, these procedures will be available in this hospital.” The hospital’s clinical director, Prof Declan Keane, speaking on RTÉ, said he had “no doubt” that the nuns would not interfere with the clinical working of the hospital and that it would be able to offer IVF, sterilisation, gender reassignment and, where legal, abortion.


Harvard student guide: ‘it’s violence to deny gender can change from day to day’

Harvard University’s office of BGLTQ Student Life has published a guide that states one’s gender can “change from day to day” and to deny this is true “is a form of … violence.”

“Transphobic misinformation is a form of systemic violence,” the document states. “Fixed binaries and biological essentialism, manifest in gendered language, misgendering someone, and the policing of trans bodies, threaten the lives of trans people.” In other words, the traditional understanding of the distinctions between male and female is itself “a form of systemic violence.” Campus Reform reports that several Harvard students expressed outrage about the misuse of tuition money for the politically correct student guide, but “all declined to comment on the record due to concerns about potential repercussions from the school.” Chris Pandolfo at the Conservative Review commented: “One wonders if Harvard’s administration has paused to consider whether they are providing a ‘Safe Space’ for students who think that men are men and women are women. This is the sad state of affairs at colleges and universities,” Pandolfo concludes.  “Traditional values are called violent. Mob violence to silence free speech is called justice.”


Leading UK surrogacy agency accused of exploitation

An undercover Mail on Sunday investigation has revealed troubling questions about the methods and loopholes exploited by a leading UK surrogacy agency. The investigation of the British Surrogacy Centre (BSC) owned and run by the UK’s first same-sex fathers via surrogacy, Barrie and Tony Drewitt-Barlow, also highlighted the ‘abusive’ attitude to a vulnerable would-be mother and exposed a lack of rigour in the company’s medical and legal vetting of a potential surrogate.

The evidence has persuaded an industry expert, Baroness Warnock, architect of Britain’s fertility legislation, that the way BSC operates is illegal and should be investigated. Although the company gives the impression of being British, and operating according to UK law where commercial surrogacy is illegal, they are in fact based in California where profiting from surrogacy contracts is legal. Baroness Warnock told The Mail on Sunday: ‘It seems pretty clear that they are breaking the law. I think their motive is to get around the law and they should be investigated by the authorities on that basis alone. I would like to know the details of their financial profits and I think certainly the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority should investigate their activities. This is a plain case of exploitation.’

Kim Cotton, a pioneering surrogate mother and head of the not-for-profit British surrogacy agency COTS, branded BSC’s fees ‘extortionate’ and also accused the high-profile couple of ‘exploitation’.


St Vincents’ Hospital Group pushes back against criticism of new maternity hospital’s ethos

The proposed move of the National Maternity Hospital to a site owned by the Sisters of Charity is in jeopardy after the board of St Vincent’s announced it plans to review the status of the project. The board said the decision was prompted by “controversy and misinformation that has arisen in recent times” and the views expressed by Minister for Health Simon Harris and other TDs. According to The Irish Times, St Vincent’s was extremely reluctant to agree to the relocation of the National Maternity Hospital to its campus in the first place, and was subjected to considerable pressure from Government and the HSE to accept the plan. A source for the Hospital group said: “Vincent’s didn’t want this at all in the first place. . . They had to be persuaded to take it. Now they’re being portrayed as some sort of Catholic ginger group.”
Meanwhile, Bishop Kevin Doran has said that any Catholic hospital would have to operate in accord with a Catholic ethos. He told the Sunday Times: “A healthcare organisation bearing the name Catholic while offering care to all who need it has a special responsibility…to Catholic teachings about the value of human life and dignity, and the ultimate destiny of the human person.”

Citizens’ Assembly recommends abortion on demand

On Sunday members of the Citizens Assembly voted overwhelmingly to mandate legislation for abortion on demand.  64% voted for abortion upon request (i.e., for any reason whatsoever), while far greater numbers voted for abortion for certain defined reasons such as socio-economic circumstances, or for the mother’s health, including her mental health.  Of those who voted for abortion upon request, 48 per cent said there should be no restriction only up to 12 weeks, while another 44 per cent said there should be no restriction up to 22 weeks gestation. According to the Irish Times, the outcome is a recommendation far more liberal than many observers had expected.
On Saturday, some members asked for a re-run of an earlier ballot on whether to repeal or amend the Eight Amendment. They had voted to change rather than delete the Amendment on the advice of Justice Laffoy that repeal might leave the law uncertain and not actually make abortion more widely available. In regretting that decision, they asked for a re-run but Justice Laffoy refused. This, in part explains, the seemingly contradictory recommendations of voting to retain the Eight Amendment while amending it to mandate legislation for abortion on demand.