Tag Archives: Catholicism

Life, life, life

A few years ago, when I was on holiday in Belgium, I spent hours in churches. (The friend I travelled with, who hadn’t voluntarily been in a church in decades, and who knew I am an atheist, was worried I would catch Christianity.) What I wanted to see was the paintings. The invention of oil paint meant Lowlands painters could create pictures so finely detailed it is possible to see the weave in the carpet and the stitches in the embroidered clothing: pictures from five or six hundred years ago that glow from the canvas.

The Annunciation, by Jan Van Eyck, 1413And over and over again, pictures of Mary. Mary as a baby, with Anna her mother: Anna and Joachim, Mary’s father, together: Mary saying “Fiat” to the angel: Mary as a young woman, as a mother with a preposterously large infant on her knee, Mary being carried into heaven by a troop of angels on her death. Mary is supposed to have been conceived on 8th December, and on that date in 2009, The US Senate rejected by a narrow margin an amendment proposed by Senators Ben Nelson, D-Nebraska, and Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, that was intended to modify “Obamacare” so that any private insurance company that got federal funding for Obamacare insurance, couldn’t offer health insurance plans that included abortion.
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Filed under American, Healthcare, Religion, Scottish Politics, Women

To the Catholic Herald: cancer is not prolife

Breast cancer statistics from Cancer Research UK:

  • In 2009, 48,417 women and 371 men in the UK were diagnosed with breast cancer.
  • 11,556 women and 77 men in the UK died from breast cancer in 2010.
  • In 2005-2009, around 85% of women in England survived their breast cancer for five years or more.

Francis Phillips reviews books for the Catholic Herald. She wrote in her blog on Monday 18th June:

Every so often I receive a round-robin email headed by a list of other women also emailed, in which I am charged with passing on the urgent request to find a cure for breast cancer. The latest I received last week showed a picture of a pretty little girl toddler wearing a T-shirt with the slogan, “Find a cure before I grow boobs.” It is a very good cause and I am sure that much medical research is going on around the world with this specific aim, even as I type this. Because it is so common, we all know someone who has died of breast cancer; indeed, a very dear friend of mine lost her battle with it some years ago, leaving three young sons.

So why do I pause before pressing the “Forward” button to send on the message of this obvious good cause?

Why indeed?
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Filed under Healthcare, Religion

How it works: contraception

In the UK, all pharmacies are required to abide by the guidance of the General Pharmaceutical Council (GPhC) that a pharmacist has a right to refuse to sell the contraceptive pill (or emergency contraception) on the grounds of religious or moral beliefs.

Access to effective methods of contraception (including education in contraceptive methods and strong societal encouragement to use contraception except when intending to conceive) is shown to be the only effective method of preventing abortions.

Rising contraceptive use results in reduced abortion incidence in settings where fertility itself is constant. The parallel rise in abortion and contraception in some countries occurred because increased contraceptive use alone was unable to meet the growing need for fertility regulation in situations where fertility was falling rapidly.

From Boots the Chemist:

This is something that nationally affects all pharmacies, and not just Boots. The guidance however, is clear in that where a Pharmacist chooses not to sell or dispense, we expect that they explain this to the patient as sensitively as possible and that they’re directed to an alternative source for the medicine.

Whilst we appreciate that this isn’t great for any of our customers we have an obligation to respect the code of ethics to which all Pharmacists work to. I can, however, share with you that the GPhC are looking to review this particular area of their guidance and once this review has taken place we’ll support all our Pharmacy teams with whatever the changes could mean for them.

Most women are born with two ovaries and all the eggs she’ll ever have. Post puberty, most women go through a predictable hormonal cycle of roughly 28 days, during which one follicle on one ovary will ripen and release an egg, which travels down the Fallopian tubes. Since the dawn of recorded time (literally – there are recipes for contraception in some of the earliest written records in the world) the objective for everyone who enjoys heterosexual intercourse has been to solve the problem of women having unwanted pregnancies as a result. (There are records of abortions being performed even earlier than contraception.)

The PillHow the Pill works: Hormones in each pill, progestin and estrogen, restrict the follicles on the ovary from growing, and thus stop the woman from ovulating. No egg, no pregnancy.

Emergency contraception works the same way only more so Continue reading

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Gove okays teachings from Beasts of Gor

In 2010, the Diocese of Lancaster invited Jason and Crystalina Evert to speak to Year 10 & 11 pupils at every Catholic secondary school in Lancashire. This was part of the Sex and Relationships Education which is on the statutory curriculum for secondary aged pupils in England and Wales. As an example of the kind of thing Jason Evert tells kids:

The TUC is rightly concerned that a booklet Jason Evert wrote, Pure Manhood: How to become the man God wants you to be, teaches homophobia.
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Human Rights: Abortion and gay marriage

I got into an argument on a Catholic blog recently about same-sex marriage, and – in passing, but with vehemence – also got into an argument about being pro-choice.

The two are on the face of it only peripherally related – both equality/human-rights issues – but of course are very directly related in one respect: they challenge a man’s right to own his woman.

Equal marriage, where both spouses have identical obligations, rights, and responsibilities towards and for and about each other, is a fundamental redefinition of traditional marriage. In traditional marriage, the woman’s father gave her in marriage to her husband: a financially-independent widow might give herself in marriage, but once married, a woman’s rights were subsumed into her husband’s rights.

Equal marriage is a victory of the feminist revolution, but it leads directly to the idea that given husband and wife are now legally equal and identical, why is there a ban on same-sex couples marrying? Of course this next step can only happen in a country with a strong LGBT equality movement, but it is a simple next step. Nothing about a same-sex couple marrying can affect a mixed-sex married couple.

The wild claim that same-sex marriage leads to polygamy is a product of the American Christian Right’s script, and is provably false even in North America where it originated and where there are small Mormon communities of men who marry each other’s daughters and exile the “surplus” boys, the sons who can’t be allowed to marry inside the polygamous community at all. Polygamy as traditional Mormonism would have it is a profoundly sexist marriage: a man has rights and privileges over his wives that they do not have. It is the reverse of equal marriage. It is a profoundly patriarchal concept: only the chief men of the community, and their heirs, get to marry. A recent attempt in Canada to claim that it was discriminatory to deny legal marriage to polygamous men and their wives, failed precisely because those opposed could show in court how damaging polygamous marriage can be: and how it would directly affect couples married already. No such evidence can or ever has been shown for same-sex marriage: the Catholic Church’s campaign against same-sex marriage in Scotland relies, as many another campaign, on the lies put out by an anti-gay hate group in the US.

Traditional marriage is already legally at an end in Scotland. No husband has rights over his wife that she does not already have over him. Even the old traditional signal that a woman must become part of her husband’s family and change her surname to his, is fading away: no one need change their surname on marriage, but it is as easy for a man to change his surname to his wife’s as the reverse, as easy for a mixed-sex or a same-sex couple to mutually change their names.

Denial of legal abortion to a woman who is pregnant and needs to terminate does not seem to connect to that: it’s a simple public health issue and a simple human rights issue.

With regard to public health, it is much more damaging (and more expensive for the NHS) if a woman who wants to have an abortion is forced either to wait until she can find the money to pay for it, or to have it done illegally on the cheap and use the health service to clean up after her. (There is something of a postcode lottery in Scotland as in the rest of the UK as to whether a woman who needs an abortion can get it easily and quickly on the NHS: but the vast majority of abortions done are on the NHS, if sometimes with unnecessary delays.)

Throughout Ireland, abortion is banned: the government of Ireland and the assembly at Stormont claim that Ireland is a Catholic country and abortion is unacceptable. The net result of this is what you might expect: Ireland exports almost all its abortions to the UK. Women in Northern Ireland, though they pay for healthcare on the NHS via their taxes like anyone else, must not only travel to mainland UK to get one, they must pay for it privately when they get there. The Catholic Church can make abortion illegal in Ireland, but they cannot stop women from getting abortions, they can only make it difficult and expensive for a woman to do so. In countries where abortion is illegal but there is no convenient pro-choice country to provide abortions for women living under a prolife regime, the net result is even nastier: women die of illegal abortions.

Not that the Catholic Church is the only prolife campaign organisation: the Christian Right in the US is mostly Protestant, and has ensured soldiers in the US military who need abortions must request leave to travel back to the US and pay for the abortion privately: they are not allowed to get an abortion at the nearest US military base, nor are they allowed to have their abortion paid for by the US military healthcare system. Nor, if they wish to continue their military career, can they put “pregnant, need an abortion” as their reason for requesting leave. This applies to soldiers who have been made pregnant by rape, married soldiers, soldiers who have an affair… all are simply denied this basic healthcare and the US military will not even take note of how many soldiers have been denied.

WIth regard to simple human rights: no woman should be forced against her will through pregnancy and child birth: no woman should have her body used against her will to make a baby. All women, therefore, should have as a basic human right, once pregnant, to decide whether to terminate or to continue the pregnancy. It’s her pregnancy: it’s her body: it’s her decision.

This upsets the patriarchal ideal of male ownership of women’s bodies. Prolifers will argue that a girl’s father ought to make the decision for her: that the “baby’s father” should have the legal right to decide whether or not the woman will have the baby: that above all the woman must not have the right to decide what’s best for her. Even the UK system of two doctors signing off a woman’s abortion is a product of this thinking: while most abortions in the UK are effectively abortion on demand, as is right, in law a woman has to convince two doctors that she or her family will suffer if she doesn’t get an abortion.

Just as anti-marriage campaigners bring up the false spectre of polygamy, so will prolifers bring up the false cuddly claim that they’re only concerned about the fetuses – that they want to prevent women having safe legal abortions because they regard a fertilised egg as exactly the same as a baby, and a woman having an abortion (and the doctor performing it) is exactly the same as a woman hiring an assassin to kill her child. This is a fantastic lie, told and elaborated on as a justification for hurting women who have abortions. We can tell it’s a lie because prolifers are vastly unconcerned with preventing abortions. The most effective means of preventing abortions is to ensure that every time a mixed-sex couple have heterosexual intercourse, unless they actually intend to conceive, the man uses a condom and the woman is either on the Pill or using a barrier method herself. If prolifers were really truly into preventing abortions, if the Catholic Church really regarded ending a fetus’s life as a sin worthy of excommunication, then the Catholic Church would be right out there promoting condoms and the Pill. (As indeed many lay Catholics already have.)

Denial of legal abortion is about denying women autonomy and equality. Denial of same-sex marriage is about denying that marriage is a relationship of equals. It’s not really surprising that the people who oppose the freedom of same-sex couples to marry are generally also the same people who oppose the freedom of women to decide how many children to have, and when.


Filed under LGBT Equality, Women