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Dear Members,
 
Catholic Union Head of Public Affairs James Somerville-Meikle writes:
 
"Joe Biden mentioned the word “soul” fives times in his inaugural Presidential address on the steps of the Capitol building on Wednesday. He spoke about his soul, the souls of others, and the soul of the American nation. By contrast, the word didn’t appear once in Donald Trump’s inauguration speech four years ago. Behind the 8-inch thick bullet proof glass, President Biden called for peace and unity after a turbulent few weeks – and some would say few years – in America’s history. This was only the second time in America’s history that this speech was delivered by a Catholic – following John F Kennedy’s address in 1961 – and it seemed to draw heavily on President Biden’s faith. There has been a great deal of commentary this week about what the election means for the Catholic Church in America and around the world. What seems clear from the inauguration speech is that faith matters deeply to the new President of the United Stated. He now has the chance to put that into practice."  
 
Please see the invocation prayer delivered by Catholic priest Leo J. O'Donovan SJ at the inauguration ceremony of President Joe Biden, and homily from the inaugural mass celebrated by Fr. Kevin O’Brien SJ.  But see also the statement of the President of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops and the statement of President Biden and Vice-President Harris on the 48th anniversary of Roe v Wade.
 
COVID
 
Universal Credit uplift debated by MPs. On Monday this week, MPs debated whether the £20 uplift to Universal Credit payments should be extended. The increase in payments to those looking for work was introduced at the beginning of the pandemic, but there is uncertainty about how long the increase in payments will last. A non-binding Labour motion calling for the universal credit top-up to be kept in place beyond 31 March passed by 278 votes to none after a Commons debate. Six Tory MPs defied party orders to abstain and voted with Labour, adding to the pressure on the PM on the issue. The Prime Minister said the Government had provided £28 billion worth of support during the pandemic, but all measures would be kept under "constant review".

FAMILY

A court has upheld the right of a guardian (and aunt) to have children baptised and confirmed as Catholics, contrary to the wishes of the children's Pentecostal mother.  See here (with thanks to Law and Religion UK blog).
 
FREEDOM OF RELIGION OR BELIEF
 
Peers debate anti-Semitism on university campuses. On Thursday, a question was tabled in the House of Lords on the findings of a recent report which found that the number of anti-Semitic incidents in universities has increased.
 
Government responds to latest Christian persecution. The Second Church Estates Commissioner, Andrew Selous MP, explained what the UK Government is doing in response to persecution of Christians in Nigeria: to see here and here. The questions followed the publication of the World Watch List from charity, Open Doors.

GENOCIDE

Genocide amendment to Trade Bill narrowly fails. The government has narrowly seen off a rebellion by 33 Tory MPs, who want to outlaw trade deals with countries judged to be committing genocide. MPs voted by 319 to 308 to remove an amendment to the Trade Bill which would have forced ministers to withdraw from deals with nations the UK High Court ruled guilty of genocide. It comes amid condemnation of China's treatment of the Uighur people. Among those to defy the government were ex-Tory leader Iain Duncan Smith, former cabinet minister Damian Green, and Tom Tugendhat, chair of the Foreign Affairs Select Committee. These three MPs are also Catholic…
 
HUMAN RIGHTS
 
Call for evidence launched on Human Rights Act. The Government has set up an independent review to examine the framework of the Human Rights Act, how it is operating in practice and whether any change is required. Specifically, the review will look at two key themes, which are outlined in the Terms of Reference. These are the relationship between domestic courts and the European Court of Human Rights, and the impact of the Human Rights Act on the relationship between the judiciary, the executive and the legislature. More information on the review and call for evidence can be found here.
 
Catholic Union warns against undermining freedom of expression. In response to a Law Commission consultation on potential changes to hate crime laws, the Catholic Union said that “any reform of the law on hate crimes should not inhibit the legitimate expression of views based on or inspired by the teachings of the Catholic faith” and said that other groups in society should be equally free to express conflicting views. The Law Commission is carrying out a review of hate crime laws in England and Wales, including reformulating the offences of stirring up hatred. The submission can be found here.
 
Racial Justice Sunday. Catholic Bishops have published resources ahead of Racial Justice Sunday on 31 January.
 
INTERNATIONAL DEVELOPMENT
 
Pressure grows to reverse aid budget cut. Theresa May made headlines on the morning of Joe Biden’s inauguration with an article in the Daily Mail, claiming that Boris Johnson had put Britain’s moral leadership at risk. Her comments were in part based on Mr Johnson’s intention to cut foreign aid spending next financial year. Writing for ConHome, Conservative MP and former Trade Minister, Mark Garnier, also argues against the decision. It looks like the Prime Minister has another rebellion on his hands…
 
LIFE
 
"RS": Bishops write to Health Secretary after food and water withdrawn from Catholic patient. Bishop John Sherrington (the Bishop for Life) and Bishop Mark O’Toole (the local bishop) have written to Matt Hancock after a Court ruling to withdraw food and water from a Catholic patient in a coma in a hospital within the Plymouth Diocese. Mr “RS” who is originally from Poland and has lived in Britain for many years fell into a coma after suffering a heart attack in November. The text of the letter is here.  The Anscombe Bioethics Centre has issued a briefing paper in connection with the case.

For a proper understanding of this case, including the medical evidence, the evidence of RS's beliefs and the differing views of RS's family members, it is necessary to read the judgment of the Court of Appeal of 13 January 2021. Paragraph 3 of the judgment contains links to the earlier judgments. Further legal proceedings took place last week.

Consultations on home abortions in England and in Wales.  These consultations are now underway. With regard to the consultation for England, SPUC and other groups have organised an online briefing session on Wednesday 27 January from 8-9pm to help supporters complete the consultation form.  For details see here.

Next steps on home abortions campaign in Scotland. Right to Life are asking Scottish supporters write to MSPs to ask them to write to the First Minister and other relevant ministers laying out the serious dangers with ‘DIY’ home abortions, and ask them to ensure that the temporary order allowing ‘DIY’ home abortion is revoked as soon as possible and not made permanent.
 
MIGRATION
 
Lockdown of asylum-seekers amid fears of Covid-spread. Kent Napier army barracks used to house 400 asylum-seekers has been locked down after an outbreak of coronavirus.

VACANCY

The St Vincent de Paul Society in collaboration with the Centre for the Art of Dying Well - St Mary's University is looking for an End of Life Companionship Project Co-ordinator (deadline midnight on 25 January).  See here for details.
If you’re a Catholic charity, or if you work in parliamentary/public affairs, and you would like us to flag specific items in this newsletter, please send the information to: info@catholicunion.org.uk
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