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Love your patients, cardinal tells medics

In a powerful address Cardinal Nichols asks Catholic medical students to bear ‘strong and courageous witness’ to the sanctity of life


CARDINAL Vincent Nichols has told Catholic medical students that they must bear a “strong and courageous witness” to the sanctity of human life.

In a forthright address to the inaugural Catholic Medical Association conference for healthcare students on Saturday, the Archbishop of Westminster said: “As evangelists in the world of healthcare you confront incredibly complex ethical questions. You need to give strong and courageous witness to the inviolable and intrinsic worth of every human life from conception to natural end. You will, and already do, face determined and sometimes aggressive opposition.

“Never let this deter you from engaging in debates about euthanasia, abortion, fertility, the just provision of care for all irrespective of financial means, age, or illness.”

Speaking days before the case of two Glasgow midwives who were disciplined for refusing to help with abortions, the cardinal acknowledged the difficulties that Catholics and other Christians face in the workplace. But, he said: “Never let this deter you from engaging in debates about euthanasia, abortion, fertility, the just provision of care for all irrespective of financial means, age, or illness.”

Many Catholics working in the medical profession worry that they are being asked to compromise their faith, whether it is helping to distribute the morning-after pill or abiding by various equality acts aimed at protecting the rights of gay people, which sometimes clash with religious rights. The next frontier in the dispute may well be euthanasia.

Cardinal Nichols said: “As Christians in healthcare, be the healing touch of Jesus. Release from captivity the sick who can suffer an acute sense of loneli

Cardinal Nichols, in an address at the Catholic Medical Association conference, urged students to engage in debates about euthanasia and abortion Photo: Mazur ness, even when surrounded by hospital staff and fellow patients. The way you relate to those in your care is extremely important – it has immense therapeutic value. So love your patients. It’s never just some body before you with whom you tinker as if a crashed computer. Rather, always before you is someone, a person, body and soul, made in God’s image. Let this person meet in you – Jesus – whether or not you mention his name. Watch Pope Francis. He’ll teach you! Being this joyful and joy inspiring presence to seriously or terminally ill people enables them to be nonetheless healthy. Isn’t this what hospice care achieves?”

Cardinal Nichols also advised the students to maintain their Catholicity in a number of other of ways, including prayer. “Find a way of prayer,” he said, “a time and place, suited to your circumstances. (I knew of one student, a mother of 10, who locked herself in the loo to pray!) As healthcare students, you can certainly be contemplatives, your gaze fixed adoringly on the face of Jesus; yet that doesn’t mean your contemplation follows the pattern of a Carthusian monk or Carmelite nun. Just one suggestion: when you wake up, sign yourself with the Cross, or make a morning offering to the Lord of all you’ll do that day so that in everything you’ll truly seek his face.”

The Catholic Medical Association is a charity serving all Catholic healthcare professionals, including hospital managers and chaplains, helping them to practise their faith and profession. Saturday’s event was held in Westminster Cathedral Hall. It also featured a lecture on the dignity of the human person by university chaplain Fr Stephen Wang, and talks on human sexuality by Dr Charlie O’Donnell and Dr Mike Delaney.

The cardinal also asked students to attend Mass daily, “especially if celebrated at your place of study or practice. You don’t need to advertise loudly you’re off to Mass; but others will notice you are – and it will have an evangelising effect, believe me,” he said.

He also advised them to pray to the saints and say the Rosary – “a sure grip on the Gospel in testing times”. The cardinal added: “Pope Francis is extremely keen on the evangelising power of popular piety. He describes it as ‘bringing with it the grace of being a missionary, of coming out of oneself and setting out on pilgrimage’.

“Talking of pilgrimages: go to Lourdes. There Mary gathers you to her Son. You’ll come away renewed in a joy you’re eager to share. Go with a group that includes sick pilgrims. Westminster’s and other diocese’s pilgrimages need you. At Lourdes clear witness is given to the Good News for sick and disabled people. Their dignity and worth shines brightly. The deeper meaning of healing is proclaimed. Mention now a healing we all need – the healing of the wounds of sin. In the sacrament of Penance we encounter Jesus, accept his offer of salvation, experience the joy of being set free from sin, and go forth strengthened in our desire to spread that joy.”

The cardinal also reminded the audience that many saints were “healthcare practitioners” and that included patrons St Luke, by tradition a physician, St Cosmas and Damian, and St Hildegard of Bingen.

Methodists to install sculpture blessed by Pope


A STATUE of a homeless Jesus created by a Catholic artist is to be permanently installed outside Methodist Central Hall in Westminster.

The statue, a replica of another that was blessed by Pope Francis a year ago, is the brainchild of Canadian sculptor Tim Schmalz, who first thought of the idea after seeing a homeless man in his native Toronto who was “so invisible it was haunting”.

He said: “I just saw Jesus. I couldn’t get it out of my mind.”

A copy of the statue is also due to be installed in Washington DC at the behest of Cardinal Donald Wuerl.

There are plans to unveil replica in Dublin and in Rome, where the Vatican has lobbied the city to situate one on Via delia Conciliazione new St Peter’s Square. Mr Schmalz was in London last week and Methodist Central Hall, opposite Westminster Abbey, was one of five locations that he considered. The church has now started the process of approaching Westminster Council for permission.

He said the national headquarters of the English Methodist Church was fitting, as the sculpture was about “bringing Christianity to the people of London in a way that interwined is with secular cultures and ideas. It’s blurring the lines of Christianity and secular cultures. This one is meant to be mistaken for a city park bench.”

“The intention of the sculpture is to be a visual message of the most powerful idea of Christianity – that is, all human life is sacred,” he said. “To constantly remind us that the least of our brothers is sacred.”

“I’ve been doing Catholic sculpture for 25 years and I’ve never had such excitement from Protestants. It has been embraced by people who do not usually embrace Catholicism.

“The treasure of Catholicism is its association with art and history and it’s great to be able to share that,” he said. Timothy Schmalz: Page 8

A mock-up of the sculpture by Methodist Central Hall

Women sue NHS after their babies survive abortion BY SIMON CALDWELL BY MADELEINE TEAHAN

Glasgow midwives case goes to top court

WOMEN whose babies have survived abortions are receiving huge compensation payments after suing the NHS for “wrongful births”.

Six babies have grown into healthy children after surviving attempts to abort them, government f igures have shown, while one other child survived the procedure but with brain damage.

Their parents, however, have been heavily compensated for the wrongful births of their children after they sued the NHS for negligence.

The seven cases were among 104 settled claims for wrongful birth between 2003 and 2013, and represent 6.73 per cent of the total.

Although Department of Health figures did not specify how much each of the successful complainants has received, they showed that the average damages payment for a wrongful birth was £473,000.

Sixty successful claims have yet to be fully concluded but the total paid by the NHS in all the cases has already reached more than £95 million.

Of this, nearly £78 million has been paid in damages and more than £18 million has been spent on legal costs, including those incurred by the NHS in defending some 83 claims that were unsuccessful.

Of the 104 cases that have been fully settled, the majority – 51.9 per cent – involved parents who sued after giving birth to babies with disabilities or illnesses.

They took action on the basis that they would have aborted their children if their conditions had been picked up by pre-natal tests.

The cases include eight babies born with Down’s syndrome, three with cerebral palsy, one with HIV, four with cystic fibrosis and three with spina bifida. A quarter of wrongful birth claims arose from failed contraceptive implants and sterilisations.

The figures were disclosed by Dr Daniel Poulter, the Conservative Health Minister, in answer to a question by Mary Glindon, the Labour MP for North Tyneside.

This week politicians and campaigners reacted in horror at the scale of the payments, saying they reinforced prejudices against the disabled and rewarded people who had sought to abort their children.

Professor Jack Scarisbrick, national chairman of Life, the pro-life counselling charity, said: “If we ever doubted our society is a sick society surely this is the f inal evidence.

“That people should be seeking damages for having been granted the great gift of life is simply shocking. It is the ultimate selfishness. They should not be asking for compensation but for forgiveness.”

THE SUPREME COURT will consider this week whether to uphold midwives’ right to refuse to assist with abortions.

Last year, Concepta Wood and Mary Doogan won the right not to be involved with abortion procedures at the Court of Session. But NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde appealed the case. The Supreme Court must now decide whether midwives should be allowed to refuse to assists with abortions on conscientious grounds at any point in the procedure. Mrs Wood, from Clarkston in East Renfrewshire and Ms Doogan, from Garrowhill in Glasgow, were employed as labour ward coordinators at the Southern General Hospital in Glasgow.

The midwives’ case first surfaced in 2007 when Glasgow’s Southern General Hospital asked them to delegate, supervise and support staff in carrying out abortions.

A formal grievance process was then launched which ran between 2009 and 2011, culminating in the Health Board rejecting the midwives’ case.

Mrs Wood and Ms Doogan then sought judicial review which resulted in the Outer House of the Court of Session ruling against them in 2012 but this decision was reversed by the Inner House in 2013.

The case has gone on to the Supreme Court because the Health Board appealed the ruling.


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