Sunday 23 March 2008
2. The angel’s extraordinary words terrified them and must have burned into their minds and hearts. One can imagine them repeating the words. In fact, it’s easy to imagine that, for the rest of their lives, they were ready to repeat them to anyone and everyone who would listen:
‘He is not here, for he has risen as he said he would. Come and see the place where he lay; then go quickly and tell his disciples. He has risen from the dead and now he is going ahead of you to Galilee. That is where you will see him.’
3. “He is not here” – not in the tomb – that place of sadness and terrible memories. He is risen from the dead. We hear these words, which are very familiar. But it would be easy to miss the wonder of it all.
The Gospel tells us that the women were ‘filled with awe and great joy’. And that was even before they saw Jesus coming to meet them.
4. The accounts of Easter Sunday pay great attention to the empty tomb. The angel invited them to come and see the place where Jesus lay. When the apostles heard the women’s news, they came running and they ‘saw the linen cloths on the ground’. They saw and they believed. The tomb was no longer a tomb. Is it likewise for us? Are we aware that Jesus is alive and offers hope to each one of us?
5. The Sequence of Easter expresses it like this:
‘Death with Life contended: combat strangely ended!
Life’s own Champion slain, yet lives to reign.’
6. Everything has changed, changed utterly. The one inescapable, inevitable, unconquerable reality - the reality of death - had seemed to defeat Jesus as it had defeated every human being, every living thing on earth. But the reality now is that Jesus conquered death.
7. We must hold on to the hope of these words: Jesus conquered death! We need to hold onto this truth today because death takes on so many guises;
· through legalised abortion – that kills nearly 200,000 children a year,
· through experimentation on the unborn, that has resulted in the deaths of 2.2 million,
· and euthanasia through the withdrawal of food and fluids, here the numbers are countless.
Jesus has conquered death, but the powers of death and evil still strive to overcome the light of love and life.
The tragedy is that the authority and power of Government seem to be behind the greatest threat to the dignity and rights of human life.
As your bishop, I want to join my voice to that of Cardinal Keith O’Brien and others, in protesting in the strongest terms against the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill.
If this bill becomes the law of the land, it will allow the creation of animal-human hybrid embryos for medical experimentation.
Supporters of this so called ‘medical’ experimentation, justify it by offering the hope that at some unknown date in the future the dissection and destruction of unborn human life will lead to cures for truly terrible diseases, such as cancers, Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s and M.S.
All right thinking people will agree that we must seek to discover cures for diseases that cause so much human suffering. But compassion cannot result in us exploiting and destroying the life of unborn human beings.
Many in government, the media and research are so strident in promoting research on embryonic humans that they forget to mention that the greatest strides in discovering cures derive from adult stem cell research - not the defenceless unborn.
We need to ask who are these vested interests in the promotion of experimentation on embryonic humans and the creation of animal-human hybrids. I read about them but I’ve yet to find them in person.
The Prime Minister has made it clear that he wants Britain to be the world's number one centre for genetic and stem cell research. He sees it as building up the hi-tech sector of British industry and contributing to economic growth.
It is good to develop British industry and foster economic growth, but not through exploiting and destroying embryonic human persons.
A society that seeks medical cures and economic development at the cost of human rights, human dignity and human life is ‘monstrous’.
It is not the defenceless, human-animal embryo, that is ‘monstrous’; it is we ourselves who have become ‘monsters’ for allowing the exploitation of the unborn for our economic and medical gain.
On this holy night when we celebrate life conquering death, I want to make two appeals as your Bishop:
First, to the Prime Minister and his ministers. Please stop the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill. Stop exploiting embryonic human beings, and support adult stem cell research instead.
Prime Minister, if you insist on promoting this bill through parliament, allow members of your government and party to vote according to their consciences.
Second, I call on the Catholic community - clergy and laity - to speak with one voice and insist that parliament: protects and cherishes human life.
Pray, Protest, and Petition your Member of Parliament to stop this monstrous medical experimentation on human beings.
Never give up hope, nor allow it to be dimmed, because the light of Christ shines out in the darkness, and the darkness can never overcome Him.
8. We began our vigil outside the cathedral with the Easter Candle spreading its light through the darkness. We processed singing “Christ our Light!” In the Scriptures we heard how God rescued Israel from the Egyptians and how promised to quench their thirst by sending his Word, his Son. Tonight this promise is being fulfilled and we are given a new depth to that truth.
9. Only Jesus can satisfy our thirst and in a way that no human being had ever imagined. Here was a light that the darkness could never overpower. This was something far above and beyond our ways and thoughts.
10. It is so much beyond our ways and thoughts that we think about it with a strange, contradictory set of attitudes. On the one hand, we can take it for granted as if it were, almost something to be expected. We have heard the Easter story all our lives; we know that Jesus rose from the dead.
On the other hand, though we treat it so familiarly, we do not really let the wonder of what we are celebrating sink in. There is no more amazing truth than this, yet how far does it transform our lives and our attitudes?
11. Jesus has passed beyond suffering, death and graveyards into a life which is no longer subject to death. The Lord rescued Israel from the Egyptians, but for us he has done something even more extraordinary; the Lord rescued us from death. We live with him; we live a life that death cannot touch. Death has no more power over us. Death must give way to the resurrection as it did for Jesus.
That is the Gospel, the Good News. The Lord is risen indeed, alleluia!
+Patrick O’Donoghue, Bishop of Lancaster
Saturday 22 March 2008
Friday 21 March 2008
Actually, I wonder how prepared most of our MPs are for the kinds of decision-making that goes on now in Parliament. What kind of education did they have to form their understanding of what comprises the basic platform of human existence: human nature, ethics, society, culture, history and law. Anyway, I replied to him with the following letter:On abortion, should any bill come to the House I will support the status quo. It is my view that the existing law provides sufficient protection for all concerned and maintains the principle that ultimately it is a woman's right to choose whether to have an abortion of not. ... On the issue relating to human tissues, and indeed inter-species embryos, I support research into the former, but am somewhat nervous about the latter. ... I do not consider an embryo in any sense can be described as a human being. I am concerned about inter-species tissue development, since I personally would prefer that experimentation on animals for human benefit were phased out as we develop better methods of addressing our own health concerns. I will not support inter-species proposals.
Dear Mr Challen,
Thank you for your letter regarding the HFE Bill and for the indications which you have made to me. I am glad that you don’t want to extend the legal provision for Abortion, but I have to remind you to that it is not possible to say that the Law “provides sufficient protection for all concerned”, for Abortion, as you know, involves the killing of the pre-born child.
Later in your letter you explain that you “do not consider an embryo in any sense can be described as a human being”. This is extremely dishonest of you, since we know from science that a human life begins at fertilisation. Discussion over vocabulary and terminology such as “person” and “human being” is made at a philosophical level, whereas science has already clarified the status of the human embryo. And it is questions of science that are being put before Parliament at this time.
The reason for this Bill is because the UK wants to lead the global scientific community into the unknown. Whereas we should be refocusing our attention on adult stem cell research; not to do so will be a grave injustice to people with spinal cord injuries and other illnesses who could benefit from these technologies.
As for the “right to choose” which you speak about: freedom is not a political category but flows from the right to life. To place freedom before life actually goes against the fabric of political life and will tend to destroy it.
Sadly, I have to say, on the basis of your views, that in an Election I could not vote for you to represent me or any other human beings. Nor, on the same basis, would I recommend that anyone vote for you.
Thursday 20 March 2008
In the mind of the Committee the first issue was the elimination of selection of candidates for Faith schools which they considered to be to the disadvantage of “the poor”.
The measurements of poverty being used were the percentage of special-need pupils within the school and the uptake of free school dinners (Community schools 15%, Catholic schools 13.50 % and Church of England 11 %.). One had the distinct impression that the Committee had already formed the opinion that Faith schools were guilty of such discrimination.
The second leitmotiv of the Committee’s concern was ‘community cohesion’. On this, a list of specific mandatory proposals were sought from the academics on tightening up admission policy to Faith schools These were to spell out what schools must do rather than relying on prohibitions.
The clearest evidence was given by Professor Mark Halstead of the University of Leeds.
In answer to the question “In what sense can you blame Faith Schools for a failure of social cohesion?” Professor Halstead made the following points:
· Multiculturalism is the problem, not the Faith Schools.
· People, locally, were very suspicious of the government’s Community Cohesion policy.
· In the Bradford riots, there had not been one rioter from a Faith School.
· Young Moslems learnt to drink a bottle of vodka not at the mosque, not at home, but in the Community schools.
· What they learnt at Community schools caused a confusing conflict with the values both of their homes and the Mosque.
· Only 5-6% of Moslems go to Faith Schools.
Professor Halstead concluded firmly that Faith Schools could not be blamed for the lack of social cohesion.
Fiona Mc Taggart MP (Labour) expressed her concern that government policy on social cohesion was unpopular. ‘Did the teachers need more guidance on this, indeed did the policy need more resources?”, she asked. Professor Halstead replied that Faith groups were largely unaware of the government’s policy on social cohesion but believed that the issue was moral rather than political.
When challenged on whether Faith Schools used the prism of religion to view the issue of tolerance, Professor Halstead said that social cohesion is a problem of adults not of children. He believed that the key issue was education in moral values. He added that the teaching of moral education was taken very seriously in Moslem schools, whereas the teaching of morality was squeezed out in Community schools.
In reply to Fiona McTaggart’s question on whether Faith Schools were better at teaching tolerance, Professor Halstead replied that tolerance implied a framework of values as a starting point. To be tolerant you have to have your own values and, in this, Faith Schools had an advantage over Community schools.
My conclusions (Tom Ward)
1. The dominant section of the select Committee would allow Faith Schools, provided that they conformed to their political agenda - i.e. that theological and moral absolutes were absent.
2. There was no hint of understanding on their part that the Government’s unremitting attack on marriage and the family was largely responsible for child poverty.
3. Basically, they regarded the solution as the problem and the problem as the solution.
Following this part of the Hearing the Right Reverend Patrick O’Donoghue Bishop of Lancaster was questioned.
Bishop O’Donoghue told the Committee that in the Lancaster Diocese he has 84 schools with between 13% to 50% Moslem pupils and an increasing number of Eastern European children. He dismissed the school dinner statistics as not relevant to the Catholic schools, and stated that there was no evidence that the Catholic system discriminated against the poor.
On his Fit for Mission document he made the following points:
· God would be at the centre of his schools, as would Catholic morality.
· Religious education was no longer to be marginalised in the schools in his diocese, but rather it must now be clear and pervade every aspect of the school.
· Anti-Catholic books, such as the work of Marx and Camus, would be banned. This vetting would take place throughout Catholic schools in his diocese.
· Red Nose Day and Amnesty International would no longer be supported, because of their support for abortion.
· With conviction and passion he said that the Church was under attack in the media and in certain political circles.
· His intention was to develop and deepen young peoples’ faith.
· On being accused of “proselytising”, Bishop O’Donoghue said that he would have nothing to do with coercion, pointing out that they were Catholic schools and that parents chose them.
When he insisted that the Faith not be compartmentalised in his schools, an MP claimed that the Bishop was going to “evangelise every pupil in the school”. Bishop O’Donoghue answered that they have their freedom to accept or reject what was taught - as indeed was shown by the figures for non-practising former pupils of Catholic schools. When asked by an MP if he felt that he would have been given such a difficult secularist cross examination were he a Moslem, the Bishop adroitly replied by saying that Moslems in Catholic schools were very sympathetic to Our Lady.
Mr Sheerman disrespectfully asked whether or not in the light of “the change of occupant in the Vatican” the Bishop supported combined Catholic/Anglican ecumenical schools. Bishop O’Donoghue insisted that Fit for Mission? Schools would apply, and that parents would have to approve of the schools.
When challenged on Fit for Mission? Schools, he said he would not change his policy, insisting that without identity, sustainability and mission there would be no survival for his schools. He made it clear that 800,000 Catholics voted with their feet for Catholic schools, that Roman Catholics pay tax twice, first as citizens and secondly through the Church which pays 10% of the capital cost. In addition they were also very generous in their financial support for their schools. Furthermore, that Catholics rights are enshrined in the 1944 Act and in European Law. When challenged that the Catholic Hierarchy had fought “tooth and nail against an admission quota for non Catholics he replied, “and we will again!”
I was left with following impressions:
1. Against a hostile cross-examination, the Bishop had courageously defended God and our children’s right to be evangelised.
2. The Bishop has, with skill and clarity, defended the Church’s vision of Catholic Education as represented by Fit for Mission? Schools.
3. His dignity, goodness and competence were, on the whole, respected by hostile politicians who might otherwise have been yet more aggressive.
4. In this battle with the dominant neo-pagan culture, the Bishop has bought us a little time to begin the re-evangelisation of our youth.
6. The issue of the parents being primary educators was firmly emphasised.
7. In this, the centre of Common Law Jurisdiction, the war between the Civilisation of Love and the dominant Culture of Death will not be won by the secularists, few of whom will go to the stake for their disbeliefs. Rather it will be lost by Catholics if other Bishops fear to support Bishop O’Donoghue’s courageous witness to Our Lord Jesus Christ.
8. Every Catholic family in the country owes a debt of gratitude to Bishop O'Donoghue for Fit for Mission? Schools and for his defence of Catholic truth against a liberal Parliament.
Wednesday 19 March 2008
On Wednesday, July 16, the theme will be the call to live in the Holy Spirit, drawing from Galatians 5:25.
"Catechesis represents the spiritual heart of World Youth Day, when young people from various backgrounds and circumstances unite to listen, reflect, discuss and pray in harmony," said Auxillary Bishop Fisher, the Co-ordinator of Sydney World Youth Day '08. "I encourage all pilgrims who are attending WYD08 to begin reflecting on the catechesis themes now," he said, "so that come July, they are spiritually prepared to witness the Spirit and gain as much as they can from their WYD08 experience."
Saturday 15 March 2008
Barry Sheerman MP has taken up the baton in a mild way on behalf of Parliament. Others, such as Richard Dawkins already hold positions, created by the Government, to lead and inform popular media-making in issues related to faith, and especially the Catholic Faith. You can see him, and Sheerman, with others taking part in a TV debate (on Youtube) about the the place and influence of religion in schools. In fact, programmes such as these are very good to watch and analyse in order to see trends taking place in our culture. The media itself also has a 'big handle' on this and we are beginning to see a new phenomenon in TV: cameras entering into Catholic Churches and presenters speaking in a cynical way about the Christian Life. A good example is here. In this video insert you can see presenters, including so-called Catholics, speaking about the Faith in a disparaging way.
You may think that I am overplaying the point. However, over the past couple of decades we have seen the media intrude so intimately into the Family, that it has made families become and feel utterly vulnerable. The media has made society question the purpose and meaning of the family to such an extent that, for many in our society, the family has become an obstacle to the individual's freedom. Freedom of choice, over and against others, has corrupted our understanding of the Family and destroyed its irreplacebale role in society. And this has happened through the incisive and cynical way that cameras and presenters have entered into the privilaged territory of the family. The media has represented the family as an impersonal reality, it has presented false models of the family, especially in the Soaps, it has dominated the family and made it question itself, and it has offered 'the media family' so that living family life vicariously through TV dramas, people can step aside, as it were, from their real life mission.
This same process is now beginning to happen to the Church and its life. So, what you see now on the TV is the start of a concerted effort to make people of faith, and especially Catholics, feel vulnerable and seem out of sink with the general tenour of society today. And we will see the media and its cameras intrude more and more into churches and conciences, presenting them in a cynical and contemptuous way. Look at how the media has damaged families - do not under estimate the immense impact that this same project will have upon the Church.
"The time is sure to come when, far from being content withsound teaching, people will be avid for the latest novelty and collect themselves a wholoe series of teachers according to their own tastes; and then, instead of listening to the truth, they will turn to myths." (2 Tim 4: 3-4)
We need to be aware of this, so that the pagan media doesn't cloud our own vision, and so that we are able to respond directly to every instance where the media will play-down or distort the Christian Life.
Wednesday 12 March 2008
Tuesday 11 March 2008
Sunday 9 March 2008
Friday 7 March 2008
Through the Beauchamp Tower and along the Queens walk we entered the cell above in which St John Fisher, the rebel-Cardinal, had been held. This cell, somewhat better proportioned than More's cell was a place for a renewed encounter with that tremendous seam of grace which has been given to the Church in this country by the witness of the Martyrs.
After the Bell Tower we visited the crypt of St Peter's church where the bodies of More and Fisher were interred after their execution. Then we visited a sucession of cells in which the Martyrs had been held: in the Beauchamp Tower, Cradle Tower, Salt Tower, Broad Arrow Tower and Martin Tower. The photo above shows the inscription which St Henry Walpole made in his cell in the Salt Tower. This priest was tortured fourteen times in the Tower before being sent for execution at the Knavesmire in York. We were amazed by the enormous record left by the Martyrs and others on the stone walls of cells - no visitor to the Tower should miss the poignancy or the significance of these inscriptions which are a record of a great struggle which these martyrs endured for Christ.
Wednesday 5 March 2008
The Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill presents a lot of seriously questionable material which needs to be opposed. There will be an informative talk followed by a discussion on an action plan to defend life and oppose the bill by writing and petitioning MP's, and to plan Prayer Vigils in South Leeds Parishes. It is important for us to act now before the Bill becomes Law and to help co-ordinate our response. Please come along, just one small thing you do to defend life could make the difference. A Speaker from LIFE will address the meeting.