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Life defends practice of non-directive counselling


THE CHARITY Life has robustly defended the ethics underpinning its services following criticism of its non-directive counselling from leading Catholic figure, Dr. Joseph Shaw.

The ethical scrutiny, which has prompted widespread controversy among Catholics, began following a debate on the BBC Radio 4 Sunday programme, during which Ann Scanlan of Life described the charity’s counselling services as “non-directive”, prompting questions about Life’s avowed pro-life ethos.

In a blog post Dr Shaw wrote: “The hope of the organisation that using non-directive counselling will win the organisation acceptance by, and influence in, government, and even funding, is not entirely without foundation. But non-directive counselling is very controversial in Catholic ethics, and I have seen no serious defence of Life’s stance.”

The practice of non-directive counselling means that women are not directed towards a specific action, prompting concern from some Catholics about the financial donations to Life from the Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales.

Joanne Hill, Life spokeswoman, said: “Life speaks out constantly about the moral wrongs of abortion. Hundreds of thousands of schoolchildren have heard our pro-life message, as well as the millions who listen to us on the radio and television.

“With 40 years’ experience of crisis pregnancy counselling, Life knows the vulnerability, distress and pressures women experience when faced with a crisis pregnancy. As such, Life has adopted a person-centred, non-directive approach to crisis pregnancy counselling. The role of the counsellor is to help a woman explore her personal circumstances and feelings, the options open to her, and her feelings toward those different options. Life enables women to do this.”

She added: “Some women, however, do choose to have abortions following counselling. We do not and could not refer for abortions. In such situations, Life directs the woman back to her GP.”

The bishops’ conference defended its financial support for Life in a statement. It said: “Life upholds the utmost respect for human life from fertilisation until natural death and is opposed to abortion in all circumstances. Life has also established Zoe’s Place hospices for babies and young children which fulfil a profound human need in society.”

Life is a non-denominational charity founded in 1970. It has recently been invited to advise the Government on sexual health, an invitation regarded as a significant political coup for the pro-life movement.

Jim Dobbin, the Labour MP and chairman of the All Party Parliamentary Pro-Life Group, has appealed to every “genuine pro-life person” to “unequivocally” support Life’s services.

Phyllis Bowman of Right to Life said: “Those of us involved in the day-to-day battle for the unborn child cannot afford to be moralistically self-indulgent. Pro-life workers prefer to be instructed by Our Lord who told us to be ‘as subtle as serpents and as gentle as doves’. This could well be the working motto for Life.”

Leading Catholic academic Dr David Jones of the Anscombe Bioethics Centre said that non-directive counselling could be morally defensible under Catholic ethics.

He said: “Thomas Aquinas teaches that while correcting someone can be an act of charity it is not always an act of charity if it is not likely to help in practice. Sometimes it is more helpful not to say anything but to help people come to see something for themselves.

“It is also an important piece of Catholic doctrine that all human beings have access within themselves to the ethical principles of the Natural Law. This may be obscured by sin, ignorance and bad habits, but even a stubborn heart can be touched by the Holy Spirit.”

He said that non-directive counselling should be distinguished from “value-free” information-giving.

He continued: “There is a certainly a role for directive parents, teachers, preachers, and judges. Nevertheless, from a Catholic perspective, there could also be a role for a non-directive counsellor, if this means someone who aims to help people to come to see these things for themselves. Catholic counselling should always be value-driven but may express these values also by giving someone space to reflect on what their heart tells them.”

Lay Catholics who comprise a significant proportion of Life’s clientele have also emphasised the unique range of services Life provides, including fertility treatment in line with Catholic teaching.

The Jesuits are selling the St Cuthbert Gospel, which was found in the saint’s grave AP Photo

Jesuits sell ancient Gospel to British Library for £9 million


THE BRITISH Province of the Society of Jesus is selling the St Cuthbert Gospel to the British Library to raise money for its educational work and the restoration of an historic church.

Produced in northern England in the late seventh century, the Gospel was found in the coffin of St Cuthbert in Durham Cathedral in 1104. It is thought that it was left there 10 years after the saint’s death in 687. The pocket-size Latin translation of St John’s Gospel may be the oldest intact book produced in Europe.

The volume passed into the hands of a private collector after 1540 when the cathedral priory was dissolved. By the 18th century it was in the possession of the 3rd Earl of Lichfield, who gave the book to Canon Thomas Phillips. He in turn gave the book to the Society of Jesus in 1769 and it has owned it ever since, originally keeping it at Stonyhurst, the Jesuit school in Lancashire. When asked about the decision to sell the manuscript Jesuit Fr Kevin Fox said: “It has been our privilege to possess this book for nearly 250 years. Now, in order to answer more of the many demands on our resources, the province trustees have decided to sell.”

He added that the British Library would ensure that the manuscript is available for people from around the world to view, either directly or online. He said:

“People will be able to see the Gospel set among the Library’s other treasures of the Christian faith and of Anglo-Saxon and Celtic art,” he said.

Although the manuscript has been on loan to the British Library since 1979, where it is regularly on public display in the Sir John Ritblat Treasures Gallery, a sale price of £9 million has now been agreed between the Jesuits and the British Museum on the advice of Christie’s.

The money will be put towards Jesuit schools in London and Glasgow and will help to establish a new school in Africa. The new funds will also go towards the restoration of St Peter’s parish church at Stonyhurst.

The St Cuthbert Gospel was written at the twin Anglo-Saxon monastery of Wearmouth-Jarrow. It is cased in its original decorated binding.

BY MADELEINE TEAHAN Blessing for justice and peace event

THE ANNUAL National Justice and Peace Network conference has won the praise of a senior Vatican cardinal who congratulated the network for considering justice as an “indispensable condition for peace, fulfilment and growth”.

Cardinal Peter Turkson, the chairman of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, said: “Our world is witnessing the breaking waves of violence in North Africa and parts of the Middle East and the cry that is heard in the lull, when the explosions cease, and in the smouldering ashes of destruction is a cry for justice. The last African Synod made all the participants, not only servants of justice, reconciliation and peace, but also the fashioners of the same. It is the yearning of the continent, where politically motivated conflicts trample it underfoot. It is the fading dream of the population of the Great Lakes region of East-Central Africa; and it is the hope that the newborn state of Southern Sudan will embrace it as both a theological and a social virtue. With prayerful wishes for a successful meeting.”

The conference theme was “justice at work”. Letters: Page 13

July-August issue

Science and Religion: Is Synthesis Possible?

Also discussions with:

● Professor John M. McDermott SJ on the universe

● Fr Robert Grabner on Christ’s suffering

● Miles Leeson and Roy Peechey on Catholicising the Curriculum

Also facing up to uncomfortable facts:

● Mgr Cormac Burke on Marriage

● Fiorella Nash on maternal mortality

● William Oddie on the scandal of abuse And a review of spiritual advice from the new Bishop of Aberdeen And much more

FAITH Magazine Answering the questions the relativists can’t

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Trust rejects call to return Murdoch gift Passage pioneers scheme to help homeless to read


THE ENGLISH and Welsh bishops will not return money they received from the Murdoch family for last year’s papal visit following the hacking scandal at News International.

In a letter this week Ben Andradi of the Catholic Trust of England and Wales, which deals with the financial affairs of the Church, said that the Church would not return money received “in good faith” last year, including at least £100,000 from James Murdoch, chairman of News Corporation.

Last weekend the Tablet magazine questioned why Mr Murdoch, as a non-executive director of pharmaceuticals Glaxo Smith Kline, which is involved in using embryonic stem cells, should have been given access to the Pope during the trip, and suggested that the Church hand back any money it received.

Bishop Kieran Conry of Arundel and Brighton also voiced concern, telling the BBC Radio 4’s Sunday programme that “a conversation needs to take place, discussion needs to take place”.

“It is a public scandal and everyone knows Murdoch’s empire is tainted by these revelations,” he said.

Francis Davis, director of the Catholic Las Casas Institute, said: “Given the importance that the English bishops have attached to ethics in business since the banking crisis, it would now be extraordinary if the bishops were not to review the ethical provenance of this donation.”

Mr Andradi said: “The donation was given and received in good faith at the time and within the rules we operate. Furthermore, the charity established to fund the papal visit has spent all the money which it was given on the visit and it has no more funds.

“From the outset of the bishops’ general fundraising work we have had some strict guidelines. One is that donations are only accepted for specific costed projects that the bishops have identified as priorities for their work. The direction and control of the work done remains at all times that of the bishops. Secondly, there is no ‘non-cash’ benefit promised to donors in return for their donations.

“As regards donations for the papal visit, a large number of people gave generously to support the visit last year, including the Murdoch family. Their gift was given and received in good faith, and fell within our guidelines when it was made. At the time the personal propriety of James or Rupert Murdoch was not in question.

Mr Andradi added: “The papal visit involved significant costs for the Catholic Church as the Government only partially funded it.”


A LONDON Catholic charity is helping rough sleepers in central London to read and write under a new programme introduced by Westminster City Council.

In the first scheme of its kind the Passage, a leading charity for the homeless, is bringing together mentors to develop personalised programmes to improve reading and writing skills.

iT it has been such an initial success that the council says it will expand the project to all its hostels. When rough sleepers are admitted to hostels, workers will offer them the opportunity to be linked with a reading coach if they have reading problems.

The coach is either another hostel resident who reads and writes fluently, a hostel worker or a volunteer.

Through the “Yes We Can Read” phonics programme, which will be rolled out to 15 hostels across the borough, anyone who can read fluently can teach an illiterate or poor reader to read in less than six months.

Mick Clarke, chief executive of the Passage, said: “The Passage is all about giving homeless people the help, support and tools they need to help them transform their own lives. This project fits perfectly with that approach and I’m so proud that we have been able to play our part in such a great initiative.”

Under an earlier pilot scheme, which ran in five hostels, 19 people started learning to read through regular sessions running five times a week for around 20 minutes.

The council now wants more people who have come off the street to take advantage of the appointments and is calling for more volunteers to join the programme.

Robert Frier, education, training and employment worker at the Passage, said: “We are delighted to have been involved in this literacy scheme from the outset. The scheme allows learners to engage with literacy improvement at their own pace and in their own environment.”

One former homeless person, who gave his name only as Dave said: “I’m really enjoying my lessons. It makes me feel more confident and one day I would like to teach someone else how to read. This was something that I wanted to do for a long time and it is wonderful to have this opportunity.”

The council says literacy problems act a major barrier for former rough sleepers trying to rebuild their lives, with its own research showing that 40 per cent of rough sleepers have literacy problems which make it difficult for them to access housing and employment.

NEWSBULLETIN Court finds Ealing priest and teacher not guilty A PRIEST and a maths teacher have been cleared of a sexual abuse claim at a west London school.

cleared at Isleworth Crown Court.

Fr David Pearce, 69, and John Maestri, 72, were found not guilty of assaulting a boy at St Benedict’s junior school in Ealing.

The two men denied the charges relating to assaults alleged to have taken place between September 1977 and July 1978, and were

Fr Pearce is still serving a five-year sentence for a series of indecent assault and sex abuse crimes committed between 1972 and 2008.

Maestri was jailed for 30 months in 2003 after admitting three counts of indecently assaulting schoolboys under 16 in the early 1980s.

Bishop defends church closure CATHOLIC parishioners in Berkshire are planning to mount a legal challenge against their diocese’s decision to demolish their church.

Portsmouth diocese has decided to bulldoze St Margaret Clitherow church in Bracknell because of expensive repair costs following repeated copper thefts.

Nearly 200 people have joined a Facebook group campaign against the closure and 70 people attended the latest parish meeting to co-ordinate a response to the closure.

But Bishop Crispian Hollis of Portsmouth said in a letter to the parishioners: “The scale of the work necessary would leave the parish with a sizeable debt, exacerbating the financial burden on the parish.

“For these reasons, the bishop and the diocesan trustees have decided to permanently close the church and demolish it.”

Court to rule on life of patient AN UNPRECEDENTED application to end the life of a woman who is braindamaged but in a “minimally conscious” state has opened in the Court of Protection.

The previous 43 patients who were starved and dehydrated to death since a court approved a decision to end the life of Hillsborough victim Tony Bland were all diagnosed as being in a vegetative state.

Michael Voris to visit London THE controversial Catholic apologist Michael Voris will visit London on August 24 to deliver a talk on “Living the Catholic faith radically”.

Mr Voris’s visit has ignited discussion across the Catholic blogosphere ahead of his talk at Regent Hall Oxford Street next month.

He is the president and founder of St Michael’s Media, a television station.

Judge says divorce is too easy OBTAINING a divorce is easier than a driving licence, a senior judge has said. Sir Paul Coleridge, a Family Division judge, suggested that couples need to “re-educate” themselves about the value of stable relationships.














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