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THE CATHOLIC HERALD DECEMBER 16 2011

BBeeccoommee aa ffaann ooff TThhee CCaatthhoolliicc HHeerraalldd At Facebook.com

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Cardinal: civil partnerships not in society’s best interests

BY MADELEINE TEAHAN

SCOTLAND’S most senior Church leader has reiterated his opposition to the introduction of civil partnerships, which were legalised across Britain in 2004.

Cardinal Keith O’Brien said this week that the introduction of civil partnerships was “not in the best interests of our society”.

His comments came after Archbishop Vincent Nichols of Westminster said that he recognised the existence of civil partnerships, while opposing same-sex marriage.

Cardinal O’Brien said that the 2004 civil partnerships legislation in Scotland was “not in the best interests of our society.”

He said: “The empirical evidence is clear, same-sex relationships are demonstrably harmful to the medical, emotional and spiritual well being of those involved.

“No compassionate society should ever enact legislation to facilitate or promote such relationships. We have failed those who struggle with same-sex attraction and wider society by our actions.”

Cardinal O’Brien said that the Scottish bishops endorsed the 2003 Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith document (CDF) which

Be silent in church, says Bishop of Aberdeen

BY MADELEINE TEAHAN

Bishop Hugh Gilbert of Aberdeen has written to his flock urging them to observe silence during Mass. Writing in a pastoral letter the bishop said: “There is a time and place for speaking and a time and place for silence. In the church itself, so far as possible, silence should prevail. It should be the norm before and after Mass, and at other times as well. When there is a real need to say something, let it be done as quietly as can be.

“At the very least, such silence is a courtesy towards those who want to pray. It signals our reverence for the Blessed Sacrament. It respects the longing of the Holy Spirit to prepare us to celebrate the Sacred Mysteries.”

In his letter the Archbishop said that in order to build a real relationship with God we need silence.

He said: “For us God has the first word, and our silence opens our hearts to hear him. Only then will our own words really be words, echoes of God’s, and not just more litter on the rubbish dump of noise.”

At a time when there are often hymns during Mass, Bishop Gilbert called for silence when the faithful receive Holy Communion.

He said: “When we receive Holy Communion, surely we want to listen to what the Lord God has to say, ‘the voice that speaks of peace?’ Being together in this way can make us one the Body of Christ quite as effectively as words.

“A wise elderly priest of the diocese said recently: ‘Two people talking stop 40 people praying’.”

The bishop made clear that parishioners should be interested in one another and retain their warmth with each other and build good relationships.

He said: “Create silence! I don’t want to be misunderstood. We all understand about babies. Nor are we meant to come and go from church as cold, isolated individuals, uninterested in one another. We want our parishes to be warm and welcoming places. We want to meet and greet and speak with one another.

“There are arrangements to be made, items of news to be shared, messages to be passed. A good word is above the best gift, says the Bible. But it is a question of where and when. Better in the porch than at the back of the church. Better after the Mass in a hall or a room.”

Bishop Gilbert was installed as Bishop of Aberdeen on the feast of the Assumption in August. For nearly 20 years he had served as abbot at the Benedictine Pluscarden Abbey.

said that Catholics should oppose civil unions.

He said: “In 2003, the Scottish bishops welcomed the document from Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger of the CDF on same-sex unions and endorsed it. The president of our doctrine and unity commission, Archbishop Mario Conti, said: ‘The only privileged legal union in society is the family, attempts to give equivalent rights and legal recognition to other unions would be subversive of the right order – it is not for the law to reconstruct humanity.’ This remains the position of the Bishops’ Conference of Scotland.”

Archbishop Nichols’s position on civil partnerships first sparked discussion following remarks made after the bishops’ conference plenary meeting in November.

Speaking at a press conference, Archbishop Nichols said: “We would want to emphasise that civil partnerships actually provide a structure in which people of the same sex who want a lifelong relationship [and] a lifelong partnership can find their place and protection and legal provision... the Church holds great store by the value of commitment in relationships and undertakings that people give.”

Archbishop Nichols was asked to clarify his position on civil partnerships when he delivered the Thomas More Institute lecture last week. He urged people to listen for themselves to his original comments online “rather than what people construe out of things that I say”.

Archbishop Nichols explained: “What I have done is recognise the existence of legal arrangements for same-sex partners who wish to avail themselves of protection to do with rights and property, inheritance and access to each other.”

He added: “You should, I think, pay attention to the fact that when that legislation was put in place, to which we objected, there was a very, very clear undertaking given by the Government that this should not be confused with marriage.

“The actual scope of the samesex union regulation is not the same as marriage because when it comes to the same-sex partnerships there is absolutely no reference to the sexual relationship or sexual activity which is obviously essential to marriage, so there is a profound difference in law in this country at present.”

As The Catholic Herald went to press, the House of Lords was due to debate lifting the ban on civil unions taking place on religious premises.

The Government has announced that there will be a 12-week consultation in March on the legalisation of gay marriage. The bishops’ conference of England and Wales will announce the details of their submission nearer the time but they are expected to argue that the introduction of civil partnerships legislation makes gay marriage laws unnecessary.

Meanwhile, Cardinal Keith O’Brien has been mobilising opponents of gay marriage in Scotland. The Scotland for Marriage campaign was launched on the feast of St Andrew, with over 28,000 postcards opposing gay marriage handed in to the Scottish government, 4,000 of which are signed by Muslims.

Bishop Gilbert says silence is necessary to build a relationship with God Photo: Paul McSherry

Activists claim euthanasia has led to better care BY SIMON CALDWELL

EUTHANASIA campaigners this week launched a fresh push to persuade Parliament to change the law on “assisted dying” by claiming that the hospice movement in the Netherlands and Belgium has flourished since the countries legalised the practice.

A briefing for politicians sent out by Dignity in Dying – formerly the Voluntary Euthanasia Society – claimed that Britain had nothing to fear from following Holland, Belgium and the US state of Oregon in permitting euthanasia and assisted suicide.

But pro-life activists criticised the claims as verging on “farce” because they come just a week after the Dutch government admitted that it was considering mobile euthanasia units to kill people in their own homes.

In its briefing Dignity in Dying sought to assure MPs and peers that “assistance to die does not replace palliative care, rather it complements it”.

“A global study ranked the Netherlands as seventh in terms of quality of death and in a European study it ranked fourth in terms of the development of palliative services,” the briefing said.

“The number of hospice facilities has dramatically increased since assistance to die legislation passed.”

But Phyllis Bowman, the chief executive of Right to Life, disputed the claims, saying that the Dutch hospice system has been “an international disgrace for many years”.

“In the 1990s the late Dame Cecily Saunders – founder of the hospice movement worldwide – exposed the fact that the widespread use of euthanasia in Holland had caused the collapse of hospices,” she said.

“Even more to the point is the fact that in 2010 Dr Els Borst, architect of the euthanasia law in Holland, admitted publicly that it had led to a decline in the quality of care for terminally ill patients.

“In the book Redeemer Under God by Dr Anne-Marie The, Dr Borst, former health minister and deputy prime minister who steered the euthanasia law through the Dutch parliament, admitted that ‘more should have been done legally to protect people who wanted to die naturally’.”

She added: “MPs should challenge Dignity in Dying to quote the number of hospice beds available in Holland for the terminally sick and dying.”

Lord Alton of Liverpool said that about a quarter of an estimated 4,000 euthanasia deaths in the Netherlands each year were committed without the patient’s consent.

“Not content with this, the Dutch say that 80 per cent of people with dementia or mental illnesses are being ‘missed’ by the country’s euthanasia laws,” he said.

“They say that the deathon-wheels mobile units are necessary because some GPs have refused to administer lethal drugs to their patients.”

He said that in Britain the argument has increasingly been manipulated by “this same warped view” of human worth and dignity.

Number of diocesan priests falls by over 200 BY ED WEST

THE NUMBER of parish priests declined last year with a drop of seven per cent in the number of diocesan clergy in England and Wales.

The number of diocesan priests fell from 3,616 to 3,368, according to the 2012 Catholic Directory, while 70 churches closed, and Mass attendance fell from 898,852 to 885, 169. The number of religious priests increased, however, from 1,029 to 1,115.

The larger declines were in the Diocese of Leeds, where the number of priests declined from 245 to 195, more than a 20 per cent drop, Westminster, which declined from 464 to 378, and Arundel and Brighton, which fell from 186 to 145.

Last month it was reported that some dioceses in the north of England could lose up to 40 per cent of their priests in the next decade, with Lancaster and Hexham and Newcastle being the worst affected.

But the National Office of Vocation has pointed out that long-term figures for the priesthood were “not disastrous” and simply reflected temporary demographic changes.

The National Office of Vocation’s Development coordinator Judith Eydmann said that, far from suggesting permanent decline: “when we look at the figures for diocesan priests we’re looking at the effects of changes in the 1960s, a number of factors such as the Second Vatican Council and the baby boom. Overall, the decrease in the number of priests is an adjustment from an anomaly in the mid 20th century.

“If you look at the ratio of priests per people there are more priests during the 1960s. The Church had a recruitment model – now there is a lot more discernment up front. We have fewer men leaving once they find a formation.”

She said that despite declining numbers of priests the number of vocations had doubled in 10 years, and “the number of ordinations in the 2000s is comparable with those in the 1960s and 1970s”.

She said: “The age at which men are being recruited is now higher, so they would have started between 18 and 21. Now if you start at 22 you’re considered young. We also have older clergy who have joined from the Anglican church.”

She added that the decline in priests in the north of England was down to “a trend in migration of people towards the south-east and London”.

Miss Eydmann said: “The number of ordinations during the 1990s and 2000s was the same as in the 1960s and 1970s. There are between 60 and 70 men starting training every year, more than double what it was 10 years ago. There are more ordinations than in the 50s and far more than in the 1930s. So it’s not terrible.”

YOUR CHRISTMAS GIFT

COULD SAVE A CHILD’S LIFE

Tens of thousands of children die each day of hunger and disease. Yet simple measures including a proper diet could reduce these tragic deaths by more than half. Countless infants are so illnourished that if they survive they are disabled or blind for life. Street children throughout the world are driven by hunger and homelessness to crime: stealing, peddling drugs or prostitution, and millions of famished street children, totally abandoned, scavenge on rubbish tips for anything edible, or labour for long hours for a pittance.

“The thing that pleases Jesus when He beholds my soul is that I love my lit-

tleness and have a bllind hope in His mercy.”

- St Therese

HUNGER IS PAINFUL AND IT CANNOT WAIT For a helpless child, prolonged hunger is a devastating, bewildering, intensely painful experience. And if food comes too late he cannot absorb it and becomes too weak to cry. His body swells and he dies - slowly and painfully. Each minute about 30 children die of malnutrition. Could you prevent the death of one child? Shocking as the figures for child deaths are, they would be even worse were it not for the generosity of people like yourself. Your Christmas gift will assuredly help a missionary to relieve a child’s suffering. It could save a life.

A CHRISTMAS NOVENA of

MASSES

£20 would keep a child alive for month, or £240 for a whole year. PLEASE WILL YOU HELP THE LITTLE WAY TO

FEED AND SAVE THE LIFE OF

for YOUR INTENTIONS is being offered from 16 - 24 December as a mark of gratitude for your kindness

A SUFFERING CHILD.

Crossed POs and cheques should be sent and made payable to: THE LITTLE WAY ASSOCIATION, CH/12/16 119 Cedars Rd, Clapham Common, London SW4 0PR (Registered Charity No. 235703) Tel. 020-7622 0466 I enclose £ ...............to be allocated for: £........ FOOD FOR A HUNGRY CHILD £....... WELLS AND WATER £........ MASS STIPENDS (please state no. ) £........ LITTLE WAY ADMIN. EXPENSES

DONATIONS FOR THE MISSIONS ARE SENT WITHOUT

DEDUCTION FOR ANY EXPENSES.

Name (Rev. Mr. Mrs. Miss) (Block letters please) Address and support throughout the year. WELLS NEEDED Missionaries constantly appeal to The Little Way for funds to sink wells in order to provide clean water, the lack of which causes much illness and many medical needs. The sum of £1,500 would enable a missionary to supply a whole village with water for drinking, washing and irrigation.

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