London: bishops issue 'audit' of British society

 The Catholic bishops of England and Wales are encouraging voters to back candidates who support Catholic Church teaching - particularly "where innocent lives are at risk" - in a strongly-worded teaching document launched this morning - ahead of the European and Local Elections on June 10. In the 100-page booklet, entitled Cherishing Life, which follows on from the bishops' 1996 document The Common Good, the bishops highlight their concern to place the gift of life at the heart of all moral reflection and action. In order to "educate the conscience" of Catholics "and those who share our values", the bishops seek to present Church teaching in positive terms, but do not shy away from criticising opposing views or identifying other positions they judge to be morally unacceptable. The bishops state that: "while some Catholics have difficulty with certain Church teachings, they have a "right to receive the fullness of [that] teaching anda corresponding duty to adhere to it". Bishop Christopher Budd, of the Bishops' Department of Christian Responsibility & Citizenship and Bishop of Plymouth, said: "The Bishops' Conference of England and Wales has addressed a wide range of issues in this document. "The multiplicity of issues underlines the complexity of living in our present world; the clear articulation of principles and values seeks to show the importance of a principled approach to moral questions. "We have not sought to develop new teaching, but to present old teaching in a new context. It is, we believe, an example of drawing old and new from the treasure house of revelation and human wisdom." Issues include: Criticism of UN initiatives that "consistently underminehuman dignity by imposing population control programmes upon developing nations including the promotion of abortion and sterilisation". Same-sex 'marriage': "Only a relationship between a man and a woman can be a marriageAttempting to create a legal category of 'same-sex marriage' threatens to undermine the meaning and status of marriage. Nonetheless, it may be necessary to remedy by law unjust situations in which the bonds of friendship are improperly disregarded (for instance, consultation regarding medical care or funeral arrangements)." Sex education: Government-sponsored sex education "has been both morally corrosive and practically ineffective Sex education should stress the importance of the virtue of chastity, and should promote the value of virginity before marriage and of constancy within marriage. To give instruction on the biology of human reproduction without a principled moral context ignores and obscures what is most specifically human in human sexuality." Abortion: "Medical malpractice and acts of malice are clearly harmful, but a more sinister form of injustice occurs when the very ethos of the healthcare professions starts to be corruptedThis happened with the eugenics movement and in the era of the Nazis and more recently in Britain with the introduction of the 1967 Abortion Act. "The fact that the child is totally dependent on his or her mother, and that the termination is done with the consent of the child's mother, makes it more dreadful, not less." IVF: "raises issues about procreation and parenthood, butalso raises concerns about society's attitudes to the lives of those embryonic human beings it creates In practice many are frozen, to be transferred, discarded or experimented onEven worse is the practice of conceiving human embryos for the sole purpose of scientific experimentation." Cloning: The success of Dolly the Sheep came after the cloning of hundreds of embryos, many pregnancies, many miscarriages and lambs born with abnormalities. A similar attempt on humans would likely result in "miscarriage, stillbirth and children born with severe disabilities. Most chilling of all are the possibilities of cloning a child to be a genetic copy of an existing person, or of conceiving a child whose mother would be a foetus who had been aborted." A cloned child would be an object of "manipulationand not received as the gift children deserve to be. This would be invidious and unjust." Stem cells: So-called therapeutic cloning or 'cell nuclear transfer' disguises the fact that human embryos will be cloned only to be destroyed so that their cells could be 'harvested'. "Medical research which involves the destruction of human embryos is a 'crime against their dignity as human beings'." Euthanasia: A right to 'die with dignity', is simply "a right to be killed on requestEuthanasia is worse than suicide, for it involves the intentional killing of someone else, albeit someone who may have asked to be killed." Infertility: "Adoption is not without its problems, but it is the response to a situation that has not been brought about deliberately." Importance of marriage: Marriage and family life need support, particularly today. "A cohabiting couple's unwillingness to declare their commitment publicly must raise some doubt about the level of that commitment"and "it therefore seems unwise to grant them the privileges and benefits given to married couples." Breaks for lone parents: "The diverse forms of family that are becoming more widespread should not be ignored... Employers should be flexible so as to attract and keep workers who are lone parents, but governments should not coerce parents with sole responsibility for small children to take up further paid work." Divorce: "Those Catholics, who remain faithful to marriage vows, even after a painful separation and divorce from their husband or wife, uphold an important value. In their case, the single life is a witness to the sanctity of marriage." Homosexuality: "The Church does not share the assumption common in some circles that every adult person needs to be sexually active So far as the homosexual orientation can lead to sexual activity which excludes openness to the generation of new human life and the essential sexual complementarity of man and woman, it isobjectively disordered." Sexually transmitted disease and married love: "The desire to have a child and the expression of love are important values in marriage, but it is important to recognise that the only assured way to prevent passing on a serious illness such as HIV is to express love in ways other than through sexual intercourse." Abuse: "The fact that a number of clergy and religious have been perpetrators of child sexual abuse has caused the Catholic Church profound shame, as well as leading it to review its policies and procedures concerning the protection of children." Source: CCS

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