National Officers' Reports November 2015
Reports Include: - Justice and Peace, Public Service, National Council of Women, National Secretary and International.
Justice and Peace
Archbishop Romero Lecture - 2015- From Romero to Francis-The Joy and the Tensions of becoming a poor Church with the Poor
On 1st October 2015, I attended, with approximately 200 other people, the 2015 Archbishop Romero Lecture, at St. George's Cathedral, Southwark, London. The lecture was given by Cardinal Oscar Rodriguez Maradiaga SDB, who is the Archbishop of Tegucigalpa in Honduras and coordinator of the Council of Cardinals, whom Pope Francis established to advise him on reforming workings of the Vatican.
Cardinal Rodriguez started his lecture, by saying that in this special year, of Beatification of Archbishop Romero, which has been prayed for some time. We now have to pray again to achieve Archbishop Romero's Trust goal, that we need the second step, which is the joy of becoming a poor church with the poor.
He went on to say, showing similarities between Pope Francis and Archbishop Romero's views on poverty to the poor in the Church. The election of Pope Francis in March 2013, was a surprise, no one had any idea, that the Archbishop of Buenos Aires would be elected. When he was asked what name he would take, he said "I will take Francis because St Francis of Assisi, who made the option for the poor, and I want a poor church for the poor". Archbishop Romero followed these beliefs, and following his death, although there remained at that time a violent movement and persecution of the Church in El Salvador. Peace finally arrived, but the option for the poor didn't arrive. Options for the poor is very old going back to prophets in Old Testament. Even in time of Jesus Christ, there were different options for the poor. Here Cardinal Rodriguez mentioned the woman, in the Gospel, as an example of poor not been looked after by the poor. This woman cleansed the feet of Jesus with costly perfume, the apostles said it was too expensive and said it should have been sold and money received given to the poor. The answer from provider of perfume was that he didn't care for the poor; he was a treasurer and only looking for money himself. Which has carried on through the ages, in that the poor are ignored.
Cardinal Rodriguez, then went on to history of those terrible years of repression, killing and social injustice in Central America. In which both Medellin and Pueblo Conferences of the episcopate of Latin America, which were started in order to put Vatican II into the context of Latin America, and in Vatican II, you find this clear option for the poor. Cardinal Rodriguez went on to say, that the only thing that can win out, are not just words since Romero was a man of God always, and not only when circumstances required it. And his humility and confidence, his sense of God in Gods will us to conversion, but also action.
Cardinal Rodriguez went on to mention Laudato Si, saying it was one of best options for the poor, in making our world a better place for all of us, through climate change and eradicating misuse of our common home
He concluded that Archbishop Romero and Pope Francis seem to follow parallel spiritual and pastoral tracks. Both men share an understanding of the practical implications of seeking God in all things. A sense of openness to the presence of God in history and the world, including struggle and discourse. Romero's favourite subject coming from the Gospel was the incarnation of Our Lord, Christ is the word that becomes flesh in history, and continues doing that, and if we truly believe in the incarnation of the word of God, we have to make ours the real true option for the poor
This was a very thought provoking and interesting lecture, giving us history and way forward in some aspects of becoming a poor church with the poor.
Cardinal Rodriguez was very moved by the Romero Cross, which stands in Southwark Cathedral as a memorial to Blessed Oscar Romero, which was presented with a copy of the cross by Archbishop Romero Trust.
Mary Piper National Vice President
PUBLIC SERVICE REPORT
Family Education Trust
Following legislation in Scotland for same sex education the Family Education Trust argues that Parents should have the right to withdraw their children from classes where same sex marriage is discussed.
They say there needs to be a statutory obligation to inform parents of any teaching about marriage which conflicts with their views and which is raised in the classroom and it should be a positive obligation of the state to actually provide education that does conform to their understanding of the vital, pre-political nature and purpose of marriage.
FET's views were heard by MSPs on Holyrood's Equal Opportunities Committee, which was also attended by representatives from teachers unions, the Education Institute of Scotland, gay rights group Stonewall, the Police, the NHS and the Scottish Catholic Education Service. It was pointed out that growing numbers of immigrants with strong views on traditional marriage and family cultures could pose problems for society should this legislation become law. Provision must be made to protect parents who want and need their children to have an understanding of marriage which is constant with their views, failing which there could be a lot of problems in classrooms, particularly with if those parents take their local education authorities to court.
The Trust has researched the causes and consequences of family breakdown for more than 40 years and describes the term marriage as the "purposeful sexual union of a man and a woman." The proposed new idea of marriage, as set out in this Bill, is a conflicting and radical invention by a small political class, it was argued. Stonewall argued that there is a fundamental misnomer at the heart of the debate which is the assumption that the law is based on people's individual beliefs and faith and that is not the case. They say that good teachers are clear that they can present their views to children in a respectful way while still teaching the "truth" and that children need to know that different couples love each other and that love and different relationships are very important.
The debate continues.
Assisted Dying Bill
Legalising assisted dying could cast the future of the UK's world-leading hospice movement into serious trouble a hospice chief has said.
MPs are considering plans which could open "a can of worms" for organisations caring for the terminally ill. The Bill contains a conscience clause ensuring doctors and nurses would not be forced to be involved, but it would still leave organisations such as hospices in a potentially impossible situation. Any change in the law requiring the NHS to offer assisted dying to those who request it could have a serious knock-on effect on public funding for hospices if they refused to participate forcing some to close or cut back services. Demand from the public once assisted dying was legalised could also place hospices under pressure to offer it, something which goes against their founding ethos of providing the best palliative care before natural death. Hospices which refused to help patients end their lives may have to send the terminally ill elsewhere.
Under the Bill terminally ill patients judged to have no more than six months to live would be allowed to be given a lethal dose of drugs to end their life on the authority of two doctors. The High Court would also have to be satisfied that the patient had demonstrated a "voluntary, clear, settled and informed wish, was of sound mind and over 18". It was pointed out that the NHS funds only one-third of costs to hospices, the remaining two thirds comes public fundraising support. The NHS requires hospices in their contracts to comply with its requirements and if NHS is going to be required to offer assisted dying there is the possibility that it would be a requirement that an organisation contracting with the NHS must offer this service. Some hospices might feel they had to allow assisted suicide on their premises in order to safeguard vital funding. The Bill could also create chaos within hospices because they tend to attract staff with a strong belief in the ideals of preserving life. The potential frictions within the staffing teams could be enormous.
Not Dead Yet - Association for Disabled
Not Dead Yet UK supported by ALERT, Nurses Against Euthanasia and many other organisations for the disabled held a protest against the Bill outside the House of Commons on 11th September. The Bill was defeated by 330 against and 118 for. There are some excellent pictures of the protest on www.alertuk. org
24 hour Childcare
Brent Council's intended new initiative is an attempt to help parents forced into unsocial working hours but is symptomatic of our inability to value family over economic activity.
Brent is set to offer 24-hour childcare places, but the Leader emphasises this will not involve municipal halls full of travel cots but registered childminder places, inexpensive (£5.33 per hour) and in a home environment. His wife has been a childminder for many years and says people come to her and tell her what they need - some parents are now working two jobs at part-time hours and they need somewhere safe and reliable to leave their children. The Borough's Early Years Team says it is not encouraging people to put their "kids" into care for 24 hours day but that "there is a register of 40 or more childminders who have been CRB checked and who say that they can be flexible or do overnight, or lates, it varies" She pointed out, rather chasteningly, that it's not all about work, there are other circumstances, e.g. where mothers discharge themselves from hospital early because of a lack of childcare and the need for children to be looked after if the parents have to attend court.
A Mothers at Home Matter spokeswoman said that what they did not want is for a mother at home looking after a pre-school child to be viewed as spare employment capacity. They are doing a valuable job for their family and society and the choice is theirs. Politicians are constantly asking - How can we make childcare affordable for you? How can we give you better wraparound care? Meaning how can we get you back into work?
A psychotherapist and policy adviser to Brent says there a lot of casualties in this problem particularly affecting children including the amount of attention that has to be paid to mental health problems, and crime and low-attainment problems for children is enormous. Whilst everyone does their best it is important that children remain first priority to us all. She said "there is one secret to a child growing up successfully - that child has to be the apple of one person's or family's eye".
Marriages on the Increase
The Marriage Foundation reported that marriage is coming back into fashion. After 40 years of decline, the number of weddings has risen by 3.7%
Analysts at the Office of National Statistics believe the recession has caused a return to family values and a desire for the stability marriage offers. Figures recently published showed that married people are the happiest, their sense of well-being higher than that of cohabitees and fair higher than that of the single, divorced or separated. If this thinking is right, it means that many people instinctively put marriage at the heart of family life - a view not shared by many politicians. Last December Nick Clegg said that marriage was outmoded and "we need to get away from the idea that there is something on a piece of paper that says if you are married, that's good, if you're not married, that's not"
Church of England weddings went up by 4%. However, other Christian denominations saw a fall of 1.1% and there were even bigger dips in religious weddings staged by other faiths. Together, the number of Sikh, Muslim and Jewish weddings went down by 3.4%. Two out of three of all civil weddings are now celebrated in stately homes, hotels, golf clubs and football ground hospitality suites which have been allowed to stage ceremonies since 1995. The rise may be attributable to the fact that around 500,000 migrants come to live in Britain each year and most of them have a high regard for marriage.
The Office of National Statistics said "It is not possible to determine at this stage whether the rise in the provisional number of marriages in 2010 signifies an end to the long-term decline of marriages or whether such increases will continue."
Maureen Hurst Public Service Officer
National Council of Women: key points from the Annual Conference
As indicated in my last report, I attended the NCW Annual Conference on 9th-11th October. There were 70 delegates, most of whom were branch or individual NCW members. As well as direct members the NCW has 36 affiliated organisations* and UCM was one of just 4 affiliates represented, the others being the National Board of Catholic Women, The Prison Reform Trust and Methodist Women in Britain.
* see http://www.ncwgb.org/affiliates/ for the full list
Women past & present
The conference opened with tributes to 33 notable women from diverse walks of life, e.g.:
Marie Curie - the first woman to win a Nobel Prize and the only woman to win it twice;
Rosa Parks - American Congress called her "the first lady of civil rights." She publicly challenged the legality of racial segregation on public transport in Alabama in 1955;
Benazir Bhutto - the first female leader of a Muslim country, who championed IT, making hardware and software more affordable and accessible to poorer people;
Mary Quant ? who freed young women from restrictive clothes and made fashion fun and personal.
Engaging young people: The National Council of Young Women
In a series of short presentations young girls from local schools and colleges spoke on the objectification of women and how this affects their daily lives, e.g.:
? the pressure exerted by advertising materials depicting the ?perfect? body;
? the difficulty of getting the right balance in how they dress, between being labelled ?slut? or bullied for being ?boring? or ?unfashionable? (I?m sure there are stronger labels than these but perhaps the girls were sparing our feelings);
? the ?received wisdom? that it is girl?s responsibility to avoid sexual assault (dress appropriately, make sure you?re not alone late at night, be careful what you drink etc.) while no one seems to be telling the boys that sexual assault is fundamentally wrong.
The girls spoke articulately and passionately and the session presented an excellent example of how a predominantly ?aged? organisation such as the NCW is succeeding in engaging the younger generation, by establishing a National Council of Young Women. This has been achieved by NCW members targeting local schools, colleges and universities and developing working relationships with staff, eventually leading to the formation of NCYW groups. Perhaps UCM can learn something from this?
Resolutions to present to HM Government
The main business of day 2 was the discussion of the Resolutions proposed by members and affiliates. UCM National Committee had debated these in advance and I presented information on some in my last report. Here is a brief summary of the final agreed list which the NCW President will take forward to Parliament:
? Improved treatment of women asylum seekers in Yarl?s Wood Immigration Removal Centre;
? Robust recruitment, training, skills acquisition and an ongoing assessment strategy of those engaged in providing Adult Social Care;
? Addressing the needs of children in care and keeping them out of trouble;
? (Removal of) VAT on Sanitary Products;
Re-affirmations from previous years:
? The recruitment, training and retention of midwives (2007)
? Water ? Planning for the Future (2006)
? Reform of Women?s Justice (2011)
? Poverty and Child Welfare (2013)
? Personal, Social, Health and Economic Education (PSHE) should be a Foundation Subject within the National Curriculum (2013)
As the UCM nominated representative I am an elected member of the NCW Council, with full voting rights and after contributing to the debate I voted ?For? all of the above except for the last (PSHE), on which I abstained. My reason for this is that although the underlying principles in PSHE may be sound, there is (a) no common curriculum, (b) a lack of teachers trained to deliver the widely diverse aspects of the subject and (c) the National Curriculum is already crowded and if this subject is made compulsory something will have to be removed/reduced. Also, there appears to be minimal recognition of the role of parents, rather than teachers in the formation of children into responsible human beings (or is this too simplistic - I am not a parent). I believe that much more discussion on this subject is needed and welcome input from UCM members.
Update on 2014 resolution on the use of thorium as a nuclear fuel, rather than uranium
This resolution was reported on by Sheila Godley at our National Council in May. Thorium is much more widely available than uranium and is not suitable for making nuclear weapons, hence it is regarded as a safer option. To date there has been very poor response from government and the matter is still being pursued.
Debate: ?Gender equality ? modelling the future?
There was a panel of 4 speakers and whilst they all made some interesting (and some less interesting) points, in my view the one who delivered the most relevant and constructive material was Melissa Benn, author and journalist. She concentrated on the role of women in Parliament and why there are so few, citing 4 main reasons:
? Women lack confidence in public speaking;
? Women are more tentative about putting across their views, especially if this is likely to lead to argument;
? The responsibilities of caring for children and elderly relatives usually fall to women, taking up a significant amount of time and energy;
? Sexual harassment in a predominantly male environment.
Remedial actions she proposed include:
? Actively teaching oral skills in the classroom and at home, encouraging children to stand up and speak;
? Celebrating imperfection rather than worrying about it ? it?s normal to be nervous;
? Enlisting the help of others ? getting someone to share the ?podium? when presenting, especially if the subject is controversial;
? Improving government funding for childcare and eldercare;
? Changing the timetable of Parliament to more family-friendly hours;
? Introducing ?job share? roles in Parliament
Melissa also accused the media of contributing to women?s reticence in standing up in public, for example by placing more emphasis on reporting what the woman is wearing than on what she says.
This was a relatively short session with elections/re-elections to office and adoption of reports, plus ratification of the Resolutions already listed.
This was the final session of the conference and included discussion of the CEDAW (Convention on the elimination of all forms of discrimination against women) report and an overview of the recently formulated United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, and the extent to which NCW can contribute to their achievement.
UCM can play its part here, by learning more about these goals and what they mean for all of us. See the summary at https://sustainabledevelopment.un.org/?menu=1300. Not surprisingly there are strong links to Catholic social teaching and many of the goals could provide ?food for thought? or ? better still ? topics for discussion at Foundation and Diocesan meetings. If you have difficulty accessing the document, just let me know.
This was a good opportunity to meet with others of different, or no particular Faith, but with the common goal of addressing discrimination and inequality at all levels of society.
I was proud to be there representing UCM.
Anne Emblem National Vice President
The XIV Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops held in the Vatican from 5 - 25 October 2015 titled: 'The Vocation and Mission of the Family in the Church and in the Contemporary World'.
Firstly thank you to all members who discussed The Call, The Journey and The Mission; all responses were forwarded to Elizabeth Davies, Marriage and Family Life Project Officer. The full responses may be found on the Bishops Website:
Hard on the heels of the Family Synod Press Conference in Rome, Cardinal Vincent Nichols and Bishop Peter Doyle called a Press Conference in London on 27 October to recall their experiences at the Bishops Synod; I was fortunate to be present at the meeting. Our thanks go to Ann Jones, Catholic Mothers Features Editor for alerting us to this meeting.
?Immensely rich, encouraging, exhilarating, very tiring?; three weeks of intense discussion by the Bishops from around the world, led and guided by Pope Francis, came together and discussed, some with strong feelings or disagreement, ?The Vocation and Mission of the Family in the Church and in the Contemporary World?. Cardinal Nichols commented that the Bishops were not engaged in competition nor power play; there was an openness and freedom that has not always been enjoyed. Pope Francis went to great trouble to make sure that all were at home and relaxed; his presence was crucial as he guided the Bishops in their Synod journey. It is felt that the Synod will help us to develop and have freshness as to how we view the family. Phrases quoted by Cardinal Nichols were ?The family is the mystery of love of the Trinity; the family is a light in the darkness?. Many said that ?the family is the most important thing in my life and that I would do anything for my family?. John Paul II said that ?the family is the way of the Church?. ?The family is the Icon of God?s relationship with its people, a blessing for the Church and the family is the flesh of the Church?. Bishop Doyle spoke of meeting the Bishops from around the world and how the different cultures have different insights into marriage and family life but the common theme is that family is very important.
Cardinal Nichols reminded us that Peter stood up at the Council of Jerusalem and said ?With Peter and under Peter?. The Pope also said at the 50th Anniversary Mass of the Synod that he saw the pattern of the Synods as being central to his understanding of the life of the Church and he also emphasised ?with Peter and under Peter?.
There is a real and strong support of marriage and family life as key institutions in our world. The emphasis has shifted from the problems to the esteem of families throughout the world. Cardinal Nichols? favourite phrase is ?The family is the flesh of the Church?. He commented that when he was in St Peter?s Square at the closing Mass of the Synod waiting for Pope Francis? Blessing and surrounded by every pattern of family life, he looked at them with fresh eyes. Lorraine Richards, NHRHS Administrator, together with Plymouth Diocesan Officers Diana Norman and Teresa Hearn and Mimi Barton also attended this Mass and said that it was something very special.
Throughout the Synod there were reminders and appeals to help those families from The Middle East, especially those who are seeking refuge in Europe. As reported in the Media, there were discussions on those who are divorced or are homosexual but discussion on the latter was limited; it was not the major focus of the Synod. Cardinal Nichols and Bishop Doyle also reported that there was discussion on those living together or in a civil marriage and it is hoped that with the right encouragement, these couples will move forward toward marriage. The Synod focused on the family and on the situations facing the family including those who are divorced or remarried but did not directly address the question of access to the Eucharist. Its purpose is to help those who are divorced or remarried and walk with them to find the best ways forward for their participation to in the life of the Church.
Cardinal Nichols and Bishop Doyle invited questions; one of which related to our multi-cultural society. Immigrants are bringing much joy to our parishes and supporting each other especially when things go wrong. However we were reminded that there is also a need to remember the needs of those with family members in prison and those families of military personnel.
Cardinal Nichols said that some had wanted to limit the work of the Synod to doctrinal issues but others knew that it was a pastoral matter. There has been a long tradition of pastoral practice within the Church; this Synod is inviting us to recover some of these treasures.
The Council of the Synod?s Secretariat, of which Cardinal Nichols is a member, will follow up on this Synod and begin to gather in suggestions for the next Synod; Cardinal Nichols hopes that the title will be ?The Joy of the Family? and that the Pope will issue an Apostolic Exhortation.
I was able say that The Union of Catholic Mothers had forwarded responses regarding The Call, The Journey and The Mission. I am happy to forward any initial thoughts that you may have after reading and discussing the Synod material on the Family to Bishop Doyle. I imagine that there will be follow up material issued for us to discuss.
After 54 hours in plenary discussions and 36 hours in discussion groups, Pope Francis will now decide on the way forward as he now has the Synod Report in his hands. Cardinal Nichols has just issued a pastoral letter on the Synod of the Family and he ends the letter by saying, ?I hope, in a while, I will be able to put before you ways in which your prayer and reflection on these themes can be a contribution to this ongoing work of renewal in the life of the Church, in response to the unfailing love of Jesus, under the leadership of Pope Francis and always in union with him.?
The full Press Conference may be found on the Bishops Website:
Irene Mitchell National Secretary
As we near the time when world leaders meet to discuss the important topic of ?Climate Change? I am reminded of the International Conference in Rome entitled ?Women and the post 2015 development agenda, the challenges of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)? to which I was invited as the UCM WUCWO representative. You may ask what has this to do with us. Perhaps Pope Francis? message to the attendees will explain.
?I encourage you who are engaged in the dignity of women and promoting their rights, to allow yourselves to be constantly guided by the spirit of humanity and compassion in the service of your neighbour. May your work be marked first and foremost by professional competence, without self-interest or superficial activism, but with generous dedication. In this way you will manifest the countless God-given gifts which women have to offer, encouraging others to promote sensitivity, understanding and dialogue in settling conflicts, big and small, in healing wounds, in sustaining life at every level of society and in embodying the mercy and tenderness which bring reconciliation and unity to our world. All this is part of that ?feminine genius? of which our society stands in such great need?.
Over 100 women participated in the 3 day event which was organised by the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace. Although progress has been made in certain areas the world has not been successful in attaining the 8 Millennium Development Goals (MDGS0 which were set at the beginning of this century to be achieved by 2030. In September the United Nations elaborated a new post 2015 development agenda which now has 17 goals, 169 targets with more than 400 indicators. All of them have relevant implications for women. The women who gathered in Rome shared their views on the SDGs and targets and at the end of the very fruitful discussions a document containing our comments and suggestions was produced and presented to the Holy See ?for its activity in the international fora?. The text of the final reflections was delivered into the hands of the Holy Father on 10th June 2015. For more information go to www.iustitaetpax.va
The document should be very helpful to the Holy See, not only because of the excellence of the analysis itself, but also because it came from the combined wisdom of a broad range of powerful and respected international women leaders. There are those who say that the Holy See is not ?qualified? to speak on women?s issues because they are male. But we can testify to the fact that the contents of this document was produced by 100 key international women leaders. I was there to represent the voice of ?ordinary? mothers concerned about their families and was heartened to see some of my comments included in the final documents. Visit www.wucwo.org
Maureen Meatcher International Officer
Intentions that Pope Francis wants us to pray for this month