Volume 13 Issue 2
Parliament in View
CATHOLIC PARLIAMENTARY OFFICE
24 February 2012
Abolishing Husbands and Wives The campaign group Stonewall has released its proposal for legislation for changing marriage and its first provision would remove the terms “husband and wife” from marriage law and replace it with “parties to a marriage”. The campaign group is used to getting what it wants from politicians and this gives an insight into the depth of change that the proposals for marriage will mean for Scottish society. The Stonewall proposals are aimed at changing Westminster legislation but Scotland is facing the same efforts to change marriage as we have always understood it. Sadly leaders of all opposition parties in Holyrood have given their support to the change. Johann Lamont, Ruth Davidson and Willie Rennie, leaders of the main opposition parties, all signed up to supporting the campaign for what is being called ‘equal marriage’. The government is however asserting that it will await the outcome of the consultation, which is presently being analysed, before it sets out its position on the matter. There are serious consequences should the proposals be successful and many in the political world are glibly supporting this radical change
without due attention to how it could affect freedom of speech, religious teaching, religious practise and in fact the health of families in general. It would for instance mean that the best institution for children, which is with their own biological parents committed in marriage, could not be promoted and in fact promotion of marriage as it has always been understood will increasingly be seen us unacceptable. People are often labelled as bigoted and intolerant for refusing to approve of ‘same-sex marriage’; that label will have legal weight behind it should change come. It would inevitably impact on what schools can teach and on what views organisations can have. It will become very difficult for organisations to maintain that they believe that marriage is between a man and woman without falling foul of various equality law provisions. Teaching children about families and relationships will become fraught with danger as activists have shown themselves willing to allege their opponents are guilty of a hate crime simply for disagreeing with them. Our
nation has already found that businesses unwilling to condone same-sex marriage may have to fold; such was the outcome for Peter and Hazelmary Bull whose business was crushed for not giving married accommodation to two men. There has also been an unwillingness to respect different views- colleagues of registrar Lillian Ladele were willing to conduct civil partnerships in her place but her employers were determined that she had to do them or be sacked. The head of the Equality and Human Rights Commission, Trevor Philips, has even likened allowance for those who want to be exempt from following laws which equate homosexuality with marriage, to the enforcement of Sharia law. Ironically it is he who wants everyone to be forced to follow his morality and he will not respect the conscience or freedom of others. Such concerns underline the necessity of taking a stance for marriage whilst we still can. We can make that stance by ensuring that politicians, newspapers and the media hear from the usually silent majority. Petition PE1413 presently before the Scottish Parliament calls for the protection of marriage and is being considered by MSPs.
Independence Issue In this time of polarising debate on the future of Scotland, every word or phrase is analysed to determine one’s views on the issue. Whether you speak of 'Independence' or 'Separation' immediately gives the game away. Jesus has not been quite so explicit. He has not declared for either side. What he has revealed, through the Social Doctrine of His Church, are the governing principles which need to inform this momentous decision. Democracy is an important ideal but in practise it is often compromised. An authentic democracy ensures that: the dignity of every human person; the respect of human rights; and the commitment to a common good are the inviolable values of it's political life. None of our 'mainstream' political parties fully uphold these values. This is a reminder to us, that when we vote, we need to vote with an informed conscience and not just
ideologically for a political party that we feel most connected to. We need to decide on the merits of the issue and that is where the difficulties begin. Much of the current political debate is focused on the process around a referendum rather than a reasoned discussion about the substance of the argument. It is right that we as electors, have a say in Scotland's future and a referendum can be a good way to let our voice be heard but we need to know more about the fundamental issues concerning Scotland's future. Economic factors will be very important but they can never be the only criteria to guide us. As Christians, we are greatly concerned about material poverty but even more importantly we strive to ensure the spiritual health of every citizen. We need to weigh up which form of government will be best at upholding the freedom of religious practice
and expression; exercising a fundamental option for the poor; supporting marriage as the foundation of the family and society. So far, these issues have not been fully addressed by our political leaders. The Church rightly makes a moral judgement on economic and social matters when the fundamental rights of the person or the salvation of souls requires it. However the Church respects the legitimate autonomy of p o l i t i c s fo r d e t e r m i n i n g constitutional arrangements.
Inside this issue Responses needed to new assisted suicide proposal Progress on homelessness The fundamental importance of conscience under attack Saving women from the degradation of prostitution Catholic school projects praised
Return of Assisted-Suicide Threat The new proposal is that a licensed facilitator will attend the termination of life but without directly administering the lethal concoction, which instead the persons will take themselves. It is therefore an assisted suicide bill rather than a euthanasia bill. The facilitator is expected to get the poison for the person wishing to end their life and stay with that person during the selfadministering of it. The facilitator is to film the process and report the death to the police. The previous attempt at a bill permitted considerable analysis and a lot of Parliamentary time for the issue. After that it only led to 16 members of the Scottish Parliament voting for it. It is to be hoped that the change in the membership of the Parliament following last year’s election will not adversely affect the level of opposition to the proposals. The context within which the political debate on such issues takes place should be affected by events at a European level. The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe recently adopted a resolution stating that “Euthanasia, in the sense of the intentional killing by act or omission of a dependent human being for his or her alleged benefit, must always be prohibited”. The Council of Europe is responsible for the European Convention on Human Rights and the administration of the court which enforces it. The unequivocal statement on
euthanasia should help strengthen the understanding of the right to life which has increasingly been protected under human rights laws. Decisions by the European Court of Human Rights have tightened the responsibility on states to ensure they do all possible to avoid the unnecessary deaths of their citizens. The director of the European Centre for Law and Justice, Gregor Puppinck, commented that the passing of the resolution was “a clear indication that the ©Council of Europe
Margo Macdonald is set to try once more to have the law changed to allow people to have their lives ended. The independent MSP has produced a new consultation paper and she now has to start her attempt from the beginning of the Parliamentary process. Her failed attempt to introduce euthanasia was in the last term of the Scottish Parliament and therefore she is permitted under the procedural rules to re-introduce proposals. The consultation document attempts to put the principled opposition to killing people to one side by asserting “many of the moral and philosophical points… are unchanged. I do not intend to consult further on these general issues but would prefer… to investigate… the specifics of the process now proposed”. That however side-steps the greatest concern, which is practical as well as philosophical and moral. That is, the danger that arises once the absolute protection of innocent life is removed from the law; and ending life is consequentially seen as a therapeutic response to suffering. The present proposal from Ms Macdonald does not require a psychiatric assessment of the applicant; this had been a requirement of her previous bill.
growing majority of Europeans is opposed to euthanasia. The many abuses occurring in the countries allowing euthanasia are alarming and constitute violations of true human rights.” Please respond to the consultation which can be obtained at www.scottish.parliament.uk/ parliamentarybusiness/Bills/46127.aspx It will also be helpful for people to find out if their MSPs are supportive of the proposal and inform our office.
Conscience at Stake Two midwives who have taken action to defend their right to abstain from a b o r t i o n proceedings are upholding a right which is necessary for a free society. Critics have denounced their r i g h t t o conscientious objection for a variety of reasons. Some claim that if they are paid to do a job then they must do it regardless of their own views. Others say that they have no right to be an obstacle to the legal liberties of those demanding abortion. Another aspect of the case which has been criticised is that the nurses are called to supervise staff who perform abortions and that any involvement they have in the surgical aspect of the abortion is only after the life of the baby has been terminated. It is therefore argued that they are not morally responsible for the actual termination of life and therefore cannot have a right to conscientious objection. Page 2
Such arguments betray a mindset which in fact does not respect the rights of others to disagree; which is a fundamental aspect of the human right to conscientious objection and is enshrined in law. Responsibility after a particular act or for supervising a particular act can obviously be seen in countless scenarios in society. It would be foolish to think you can evade bank robbery charges because you only drive the getaway car. Similarly, those who organise the work of drug dealers could expect to get a hefty charge when caught by police. Typically the opponents of conscience find ways of avoiding reason and resort to emotional arguments to prevent the consideration of the points at stake. They are heavily influenced by a desire to reject the basis on which a person is making an exercise of conscience. Another red-herring raised in opposing the midwives is that they are judging a patient by refusing to be part of the care provided for them. It is argued that if they can judge people for actions which they do not approve then there is no end to who they can refuse to treat. This argument misses what conscience is about. It is not about judging other people, although we may indeed think that actions of other people are
very wrong. It is actually about judging our own actions and directing our actions so that we do what is right. This is how we exercise moral responsibility for what we do. It is conscience which protects human freedom and safeguards society from brutal or tyrannical systems which would coerce citizens to blindly follow laws which they know to be wrong. The human rights systems which developed in the 20th century were shaped by the lessons of World War II where the personal responsibility of people for their own actions was recognised as the bulwark against the tyrannical ideologies which aimed to control every aspect of a person and have then implement the most wicked of orders. The values of human rights are important to sustain as can be seen from the issues in this article and the article above. The Council of Europe has produced a film which encapsulates and promotes those values. It can be seen at: www.youtube.com/watch? v=MOcmUQTgjCw&feature=plcp&context =C31ae0edUDOEgsToPDskI6W3znOYbN heSgWr1z38n3
PARLIAMENT IN VIEW
Current Legislation Agricultural Holdings (Amendment) (Scotland) Bill (Ex) Stage 1 (lead committee (Rural Affairs, Climate Change and Environment)) 22 February Alcohol (Minimum Pricing) (Scotland) Bill (Ex) Stage 1 (lead committee (Health and Sport)) 21 February Budget (Scotland) Bill (Ex) Passed 8 February Criminal Cases (Punishment and Review) (Scotland) Bill (Ex) Stage 1 (evidence, lead committee (Justice)) 21 February Land Registration etc. (Scotland) Bill (Ex) Stage 1 (evidence, lead committee (Economy, Energy and Tourism)) 22 February Long Leases (Scotland) Bill (Ex) Stage 1 (evidence, lead committee (Rural Affairs, Climate Change and Environment)) 22 February National Library of Scotland Bill (Ex) Stage 1 (evidence, lead committee (Education and Culture)) 21 February Police and Fire Reform (Scotland) Bill (Ex) Lead committee – Justice Stage 1 (evidence, Local Government and Regeneration Committee) 21 February Stage 1 (evidence, Finance Committee) 22 February (Ex) = Executive Bill.
Progress on Helping the Homeless The Scottish Government has recently received statistics on homelessness. The figures show that there were 23,796 homeless applications from April to September 2011. This is a drop of 20% from the corresponding period in 2010. This trend was mirrored in 28 out of 32 Scottish local authorities. The figures also showed that homeless households were predominantly single people and single parents. About 30% of the applications were households containing children. The lower number of applications has been helped by Councils developing services in which staff assist households to address their housing needs without first becoming homeless. Recent legislation has also contributed to the change. Since 2009 there has been an obligation placed on landlords and
creditors to alert local authorities at an early stage to the existence of households which could be at risk of homelessness due to eviction or property repossession. While some encouragement can be gained from this reduction in the “new” homeless numbers, it is a comment on our modern Scotland that there are still too many people who are exposed to the risk of homelessness, particularly in the current economic climate. Scottish Churches Housing Action has recognised that the Scottish Government has made significant progress in dealing with homelessness and is now proposing that further progress can be made which they say means: 1. Providing more affordable housing than envisaged by current plans; 2. Ensuring an
adequate volume and variety of support provision; 3. Handling the impact on homelessness of the current welfare benefit cuts; 4. Recognising the massive role played by churches in helping homeless people, and continuing to support it; 5. Focusing on national outcomes rather than targets. More information can be found at www.churches-housing.org The issue is open now for consultation and the consultation paper can be found at www.scotland.gov.uk/ Publications/2012/01/3716 a related consultation on affordable housing is at www.scotland.gov.uk/ Publications/2012/02/9972.
News in Brief In evidence to the Equal Opportunities Committee a spokesman for Dumfries and Galloway Regional Third Sector Forum identified “going to Church” as a “well-being” activity for older people. There is a lack of adequate transport provision, whether it be public or family-provided, to allow as many elderly people to attend Church as they would wish. having to go. ********* Liam McArthur MSP during a motion on educational attainment of looked-after-children, commended the ‘Place 2 Be’ initiative in St Benedict's Primary school. The initiative was also praised by Adam Ingram MSP. ********* During the same motion, Liz Smith MSP said, that "when we talk about the early years, we are talking not only about the early stages of a child's life after birth, but about pre-birth situations." This is helpful in drawing attention to the full humanity of life in the womb. ********* Annabel Goldie MSP put forward a motion congratulating the Volunteer Centre in East Dunbartonshire. She spoke about how their volunteering project was developed in partnership with Turnbull High School, Bishopbriggs. ********* The Broadcast Committee of Advertising Practice is to allow private abortion clinics to advertise on television and radio. A spokesman for prolife charity Life commented that “It will represent a not unsurprising business model that has at its heart, the interest of money and not of women. Where abortion businesses try to maximize profits through advertising their product, we are bound to see significant increases in the already extremely high number of abortions every year.” ******* Gender theory has blossomed below the radar of most of society and now it is beginning to burst in to public life. A petition in the Scottish Parliament aims to ensure school uniforms are non-gender specific and stories have recently arisen of cases of people claiming that gender is not physically determined such that little boys may actually be girls. Thus we are about to see the rise of a campaign that has already been successful in other countries to change society’s understanding of male and female in the eyes of the law. VOLUME 13 ISSUE 2
C ATH O LI C P AR LI AME NTA R Y O FF IC E John Deighan Parliamentary Officer 5 St Vincent Place GLASGOW G1 2DH Tel./Fax: 0141 222 2182 Mobile: 07930 405 313 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
An agency of the Bishops’ Conference of Scotland
Charity Number: SCO 16650 Edited by John Deighan with contributions from Tom Higgins, Lucille McQuade and Fr Paul Brooks
Tackling Prostitution Rhoda Grant the Highland Labour MSP is to introduce a bill which will criminalise the purchase of sex. This approach can tackle the exploitation of those caught up in the world of prostitution. Existing approaches to the crime often inflict punishment on those who are in the greatest need of help. Tackling those who make use of prostitutes is a way of reducing the demand for prostitution and punishes the person in the position of control. It is demand that fuels the sex industry and so it makes sense to put the focus on the buyers of sex. The ever increasing sexualisation of our culture and the use of internet and others social means to access pornography undoubtedly adds to the problem which helps turn people in to products to be used. It is always an act of great injustice to pay someone for sex. Prostitutes are seen as commodities rather than persons of worth created in God's image and any acceptance of prostitution encourages violence against women. Hooking up with a prostitute is not just lads' bravado or a bit of a laugh. It adds to the misery of the prostitute who could already have experienced a very traumatic life and also be funding a drink or drug addiction. Prostitution is bad enough for the victim when they have 'chosen' to sell themselves but there is also the added suffering for those who have been trafficked. According to a report by Brittany & Dave (2011) of the School of Law of Edinburgh University, forced prostitution is the second most profitable criminal activity after drug trafficking. Baroness Helena Kennedy has highlighted a particular problem of trafficking people from Nigeria to Scotland for sexual exploitation. There is evidence to suggest that there is often an increased demand for sexual services during major events and so there could be an increase in sex trafficking and prostitution at the upcoming 2014 Commonwealth Games. When any person is treated as a commodity, all of humanity is diminished. If Rhoda Grant's bill can save even one victim then there will be a lot to be thankful for.
Recommended Reading God’s Secret Agents by Alice Hogge, expertly relates the lives and times of the priests who tried to keep alive the Catholic faith in England at the time of persecution under Queen Elizabeth I. It is an impressive account of bravery, ingenuity and faith in the face of violence and hatred.
Consultations (with closing date)
E.F. Schumacher’s classic book Small is Beautiful inspired many lines of thought on environmentalism and on economic justice in the 1970s. The author’s personal journey in search of truth eventually took him through Buddhism into the Catholic faith and his subsequent book A Guide for the Perplexed , which we now recommend, is a wise exploration of what it really means to be human.
Affordable Rented Housing: Creating flexibility for landlords and better outcomes for communities (30/04/2012) Allied Health Professionals National Delivery Plan - A Consultation (30/04/2012) Consultation on the revised terms of a tenancy deposit scheme proposed by SafeDeposits Scotland (18/03/2012) Scotland the Hydro Nation Prospectus and Proposals for Legislation Consultation (12/03/2012) Consultation on the European Commission's proposals for the future Common Agricultural Policy (24/04/2012) The Marine Licensing (Fees) (Scotland) Amendment Regulations 2012 (28/03/2012) Your Scotland – Your Referendum – A Consultation Document (11/05/2012) Consultation on the proposed introduction of new statutory scallop fishing management measures (16/04/2012) Consultation on Housing Support for Homeless Households (13/04/2012) Forth Replacement Crossing: Consultation on Trunk Road Regulations 2012 (18/04/2012) Legal Challenges to Decisions by Public Authorities Under the Public Participation Directive 2003/35/EC: A Consultation (03/04/2012) Vulnerable Witness Provisions in The Children's Hearings (Scotland) Act 2011, (30/03/2012) DirectScot - Scotland's public services and information portal (01/03/2012) Consultation on developing a safety system for Adventure Activities in Scotland - January 2012 (30/03/2012) Scottish Ferries Review: Draft Ferries Plan (30/03/2012) Children’s Hearings (Scotland) Act 2011: Section 190: Effect of Orders outwith Scotland (02/03/2012) Consultation On Proposals for A Freedom Of Information (Amendment) (Scotland) Bill December 2011 (08/03/2012) Aquaculture and Fisheries Bill - Consultation Document (02/03/2012) Review of the Unified Voluntary Sector Fund and other Funds 2011-12 (29/02/2012) Children's Hearings (Scotland) Act 2011 Section 34: Safeguarders: Regulations (02/03/2012) The Children's Hearings (Implementation of Secure Accommodation Authorisation) (Scotland) Regulations 2012 (23/02/2012) The management of HIV-infected healthcare workers in Scotland: Consultation Paper (09/03/2012) A Consultation On The Definition Of 'Relevant Premises' Contained In The Fire (Scotland) Act 2005(22/02/2012) Consultation on Civic Government (Scotland) Act 1982 (Metal Dealers' Exemption Warrants) Order 2012 (29/02/2012) Regulations and Draft Charities Restricted Fund Reorganisations (Scotland) Regulations (24/02/2012) Discussion Paper: Improving Advocacy for Children and Young People: Principles and Minimum Standards (29/02/2012) Managing Change in the Historic Environment: Works on Scheduled Monuments (31/10/2012)