Britain’s political parties have released their manifestos, ahead of the general election on December 12. The two major parties are divided over Brexit, with the Conservatives promising to leave the European Union next year and Labour pledging to offer a new referendum, and over public spending, which Labour plan to expand by £83 billion, the Tories by £2.9 billion. Labour and the Liberal Democrats have said they will expand abortion access and sex education.
What the manifestos say
The Lib Dem manifesto promises to “Decriminalise abortion across the UK while retaining the existing 24-week limit”. It is unclear how the limit would be retained, since it is currently contained within criminal law: the head of BPAS, Britain’s largest abortion provider, has said that “there should be no legal upper limit – that is what taking it out of the criminal law means”. Labour’s manifesto says they would “decriminalise abortions”, without mentioning the 24-week limit, potentially opening the way to abortion on demand. The party have since said they would introduce “regulations”, without clarifying what these would be. Labour would also fund schools to “deliver mandatory LGBT+ inclusive relationships and sex education”.
What commentators are saying
In the Daily Mail, Melanie McDonagh said Labour could make Britain’s abortion law one of the most radical in the world. “The party says the procedures would be ‘properly regulated’ even though they’d be outside the law. But how? By whom? And to what effect?” The proposal “takes us into a very dark place where the humanity of the foetus isn’t acknowledged,” McDonagh wrote. In the Scottish newspaper The Herald, Kevin McKenna said that the Scottish bishops’ pre-election letter had been “interpreted as an instruction not to vote Conservative”. This was too simplistic, McKenna wrote. But the letter expressed “anger about the increase of food banks” and urged politicians to welcome refugees. The overwhelming tone, McKenna wrote, was “left/liberal … I think the Church has just about got the balance right.”
A religious Sister who founded a project which helps poor families in the Democratic Republic of the Congo has won a $1 million (£780,000) humanitarian prize. Sister Catherine Mutindi, a member of the the Sisters of Our Lady of Charity of the Good Shepherd, was awarded the Opus Prize, which recognises religion-based social enterprises.
Why was it under-reported?
The Church’s status as the biggest charity in the world remains an underreported fact. Sister Catherine’s work began in 2012 when a bishop invited her to the city of Kolwezi to help widows and orphans. The area is dominated by the mining industry, where there is often violence and exploitation. Her project, Bon Pasteur Kolwezi, has worked to offer training, financial support and services, helping children to access education and mine workers to find alternative work in agriculture or textiles. It has also addressed human rights abuses.
What will happen next?
Sister Catherine’s project is expanding: as well as the community of Kanina, where the project began, it will now be extended to six other mining communities around Kolwezi, and go from serving 5,000 to 23,000. There will be much work to do: human rights are “systematically violated” in these areas. Her approach could potentially become a model for addressing the conditions of workers in the DRC’s cobalt mining industry. Amnesty International say that Bon Pasteur is the only organisation “working effectively” to protect women and children.
On wednesday December 4 the Catholic Herald carol concert takes place at St James’s, Spanish Place, London. It starts at 7pm and will last about 45 minutes – followed by a mince pie and a glass of wine, which are included in the ticket price (£15, or £10 for subscribers). All proceeds go to good causes. Go to catholic-herald-carols. eventbrite.com or call 0207 448 3605.
December 3 is Giving Tuesday, which since 2012 has become a mass movement in many countries. Thirty-nine US dioceses have joined the “iGiveCatholic” campaign which provides details of local Catholic charities. See igivecatholic.org.
Catholics around the world will fast, pray to the Sacred Heart (left) and make reparation on Thursday December 6. The initiative was proposed by four anonymous exorcists in the National Catholic Register. They say that spiritual warfare “is happening within the Church”, especially concerning idolatry, and that we can drive out demonic influence by making reparation.
The moral theology of niceness – and anger
Can you be too friendly, or not angry enough? According to St Thomas Aquinas, yes, wrote Edward Feser on his blog. Anger, Feser said, is “nature’s way of prodding us to act to set things right when they are in some way disordered. “The absence of anger in cases where it is called for is, for that reason, a moral defect, and a habit of responding to evils with insufficient anger is a vice.” To quote St Thomas, while too much anger is a vice, “lack of the passion of anger is also a vice”. As for being friendly and affable, St Thomas “notes that just as one can be deficient in this trait and thus difficult for others to get along with, it is also possible to go too far in the other direction.” Always being amiable and eager to please becomes a vice when it stops someone from pursuing some good or avoiding evil. Since it’s sometimes necessary to be less than affable, St Thomas wrote, “if a man were to wish always to speak pleasantly to others, he would exceed the mode of pleasing, and would therefore sin by excess”. Today, Feser writes, Catholics can easily forget these truths. “The stern gravitas of the fathers, Doctors, and saints has with many churchmen been replaced by a back-slapping, glad-handing affability.” Even when there were threats to the faith, they tried to be as friendly as possible – but this “appeasement” had only intensified opposition to the Church. If bishops face more serious persecution in the near future, it will be “precisely because they did not speak and act boldly and consistently enough when bad press was all they had to fear.”
What McAleese missed about baptism
The canon lawyer Dr Edward Peters responded on his blog to Mary McAleese’s recent remarks on baptism. McAleese, the former president of Ireland, declared that canon law on baptism “flatly contradicts” a child’s “freedom of belief, thought, expression and action”. McAleese assumed that membership of the Church was imposed for life – but, though baptism is irreversible, a mechanism for a Catholic’s official departure from the Church “does exist”, as the Church has recently clarified. Meanwhile, “state-mandated obligations” were enforced far more harshly than Church-mandated ones – though both were unchosen. “Would, say, a Catholic child’s failure to show up for Mass on Sunday,” Dr Peters asked, “result in the dispatch of Church officials to the home to inquire what sort of religious upbringing the child was receiving, along the lines of a state truancy officer investigating a child’s absence from school?”
In Japan, the Pope is an emperor too
What is the Pope’s official title in Japanese? From 1942, documents used the term “Ho-o”, which literally means “king of law”. But in time for Pope Francis’s visit, the government has adopted “Kyoko”, which literally means “emperor of teachings”. According to Associated Press, “Catholics also used both titles but adopted the new title ‘Kyoko’ following the 1981 visit to Japan by St John Paul II.”
✣ With Fulton Sheen’s beatification now scheduled for December 21 (see page 10), and Christmas around the corner, a company has spotted an opportunity. SockReligious, a US-based Catholic outlet, is selling Sheen-themed socks for $14 a pair. The socks depict Sheen in front of a microphone – an allusion to the medium through which he became a household name – and with a Monstrance behind him, in reference to the archbishop’s advice to make Holy Hours before the Blessed Sacrament. “The greatest love story of all time is contained in a tiny white Host,” he once said. SockReligious recommend that you “Slip these socks on your feet to be reminded to share your gifts with the world, while keeping Christ at the centre!”
✣ Kanye West’s dramatic embrace of Christianity isn’t the only example of world-famous musicians singing about God. Coldplay’s new album Everyday Life contains a song called Church and another track – according to a review in the Times – is “a slice of what sounds like Christian folk, a churchy, choral hymnal”. However, singer Chris Martin told the Times that while he thinks “God is love”, the God he believes in is “wider” than the Christian God.
One of the particular ways to express concretely our turning to God is in the celebration of the liturgy
Bishop Precioso Cantillas of Maasin, the Philippines, asks his diocese to worship ad orientem
Advent pastoral letter
I was amazed that the false accusation … was already known to him
Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio, who denies abuse allegations, on being in a meeting with Pope Francis after news of the allegation broke
New York Post
This cannot be spiritually positive
Comedian Russell Brand says pornography turns ‘human beings into objects’
US Church employees who wish Church leaders would speak out more about poverty (the highest figure for any issue)
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