Head of Public Affairs, James Somerville-Meikle, writes:

While US pro-life campaigners celebrate a dramatic victory in the Supreme Court yesterday, it’s been a challenging week for those seeking to uphold the dignity of human life on this side of the Atlantic. Earlier this week, statistics released by the Department for Health and Social Care showed that a record number of abortions were carried out in England and Wales last year - 214,869 in total, an increase of 4,009 from 2020. On Tuesday, MPs debated an amendment to the Public Order Bill which would have criminalised those who offer help and support to women outside abortion clinics. The amendment was not pushed to a vote but is likely to resurface during the Bill’s passage through Parliament. While on Wednesday, MPs voted to approve new regulations relating to abortion provision in Northern Ireland – which include giving the Secretary of State power to introduce at-home abortions. All of this is taking place in the same week as the decision by the US Supreme Court to overturn the Roe v. Wade judgment of 1973 (see "Life" below). The decision will almost certainly lead to a backlash from pro-abortion campaigners - not just in the US but in this country as well - and the temptation for virtual signalling politicians to "do something" in response. The pro-life voice will be needed more than ever in Parliament in the months ahead. 

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Catholic Union Drinks, Tuesday 12 July from 6.00 pm. A social evening for Catholic Union members, guests and friends to meet each other and our staff and Council.  We have hired the upstairs bar of the Windsor Castle pub (formerly known as the Cardinal). There will be a cash bar and food available to buy from the pub menu.  There is no need to register – you can just turn up!  This is primarily a social event so feel free to invite friends, especially any who might be interested in joining the Catholic Union.  Venue: The Windsor Castle (upstairs bar), 23 Francis Street, London SW1P 1DN (behind Westminster Cathedral).  Please come and join us!
The Work of the Equality and Human Rights Commission Webinar, Monday 18 July at 19.30. A Catholic Union Webinar with Alasdair Harrison, a barrister and member of the EHRC, who will talk about its work and give an insider’s insight into the difficult and controversial issues with which it deals. No need to register. A zoom link will be circulated nearer the time.

Catholic Union Summer Gathering. Some places are still available for the Catholic Union Summer Gathering on Saturday 23 July at St Mary’s College, Oscott, near Birmingham.  Please join us to hear more about the Catholic Union’s work and to see the beautiful Pugin chapel and other treasures of Oscott. Tickets are only £28 per person, which includes lunch, refreshments and a tour.  Full details on how to book are here.

Demonstrations. On 18 June thousands, including representatives of Westminster Justice and Peace and Caritas Westminster, took to the streets in London to demand Government action on the cost of living.  The Tablet has a report.

Catholic Student Network. On 18 June the Catholic Union attended the Catholic Student Network’s conference. We are very grateful to Aaron Humphriss for his sterling support in providing a younger face of the Catholic Union where approximately 13 new student or associate members joined.  Another thank you to Daisy Vanderputt for her help on the day and inserting our advertisement in the conference programme.  View more information on Twitter

Lecture Postponed. Professor John Lydon’s Inaugural Professional Lecture on the topic of the Perennial Influence of the Salesian Style of Accompaniment in Catholic Education Settings – The Legacy of St John Bosco due to take place on Thursday 30 June at St Mary’s University has been postponed due to the death of Professor Anthony Towey who died on Friday.  May he rest in peace.
Remembrance in Birmingham. On Sunday 26 June from 2.30pm there will be a public event of remembrance and thanksgiving: a commemoration of our shared Covid Experience in the Peace Gardens on Bath Row, Birmingham B15 1LZ. The event is free and those wishing to attend can bring their own seating if they would like to.

Catholic History Talks.  Talks organised by the English Catholic History Association are taking place at 7.30pm on Tuesday 28 June (Fr Mark Vickers on Cardinal Bourne) and on Tuesday 5 July (Dr Helen Kilburn on Catholic Kinship and Colonialism).  Free to attend and all welcome. Zoom links available on the ECHA website.


Archbishop Bishop Mark O’Toole.  On 20 June a ceremony of Installation of Bishop Mark O’Toole as the new Catholic Archbishop of Cardiff took place at St David’s Cathedral, Cardiff. You can read the Archbishop’s homily.


No right to abortion. The United States Supreme Court yesterday issued its judgment in the case of Dobbs v Jackson Women's Health Organization in which it overruled the 1973 case of Roe v Wade and another case named Casey.  The judgment runs to 213 pages but is well summarised in the first 8 pages (under the heading "Syllabus"). In essence, the Court found that the US Constitution does not confer a right to abortion and that the Court was justified in departing from its previous precedents.  The regulation or prohibition of abortion is now once again a matter for the people of each US state and their legislatures.  Here are some initial reactions to the decision from the US bishops and the Vatican.

Assisted Suicide. The Times reports that William Nye, Secretary-General of the General Synod of the Church of England, says that the Church is adamant in its rejection of calls to legalise assisted dying stating that ‘change in the law would undermine the intrinsic value of every human life’.  Former Archbishop of Canterbury George Carey has argued that assisted dying should be legalised.

Freedom of Religion or Belief Conference. On 17 June the Prime Minister’s Special Envoy, Fiona Bruce MP, delivered a speech about the importance of the international freedom of religion or belief conference in London on 5-6 July. Read the speech here. There was also a Parliamentary Question on the Conference tabled by Bob Blackman MP (Con) Harrow East. The Catholic Union will be attending the event and pressing for tangible outcomes.

Aid to the Church in Need have organised two talks at an event in Parliament from 2-4pm on 5 July in connection with the conference.  You need to register if you wish to attend.

Nigeria. On Sunday 19 June three people were killed and 36 abducted in the latest attacks by Fulani gunmen on two churches in Kaduna, Nigeria. These attacks come soon after the tragic attack only two weeks before, also during Sunday services, in Southern Nigeria. Full report can be found at Independent Catholic News.


Bill of Rights. On 22 June the Government introduced legislation to adjust the relationship between UK courts and the European Court of Human Rights, making clear that the UK Supreme Court is the ultimate judicial decision-maker and need not always follow the case law of the Strasbourg Court (nor interim measures such as that those which prevented deportations to Rwanda last week).  The UK will however remain bound to implement Court judgments against the UK under international law.  Read more about the Bill from the Ministry of Justice.
Northern Ireland – Abortion.  This week both Houses of Parliament debated Abortion (Northern Ireland) Regulations 2022. You can read the transcript from the House of Lords here where Lord Alton of Liverpool (CB) said there was no such thing as a safe abortion.  The regulations were approved by MPs, 215:70. This coincides with the publication of the latest UK abortion statistics showing a rise in the number per annum.  Read SPUC’s coverage of the statistics.
Persecution of Christians. On 23 June Jim Shannon MP (Strangford) DUP asked what steps the Church was taking to support the implementation of recommendations in the final report of the Bishop of Truro’s review on persecution of Christians overseas. In response Andrew Selous MP, Second Church Estates Commissioner, said that the murder of 50 Catholics in church this month in Ondo and the ongoing murders for alleged blasphemy were a stark reminder of why the Church of England stood foursquare behind the implementation of the Bishop of Truro’s review, see the rest of the debate in Hansard.
Public Order Bill.  Dr Rupa Huq MP (Lab) Ealing Central & Acton has withdrawn her buffer zone amendment to the Public Order Bill, but SPUC remains concerned about the rhetoric Dr Huq used, comparing the presence of pro-life vigils to the brutal murder of Sarah Everard. The amendment may be re-introduced at a later stage as the Bill makes its way through both Houses of Parliament.

Carbon Free. The Sisters of St Joseph of Peace, founded in Nottingham in 1884, announced that their investment portfolio is 100% fossil free.  In 2008 the Sisters made a commitment to reduce their carbon footprint and pray, study and act to promote a sustainable lifestyle.  Whilst in 2021 the congregation made a commitment to a seven year plan to achieve ecological sustainability and participate in the Laudato Si Action Platform organised by the Dicastery for the Promotion of Integral Development in the Vatican. Meanwhile the Times reports that Christians will be asked during their baptism or confirmation ceremonies to make an eco-friendly pledge after the Anglican Bishop of Oxford altered the liturgy in his area. 

Weekly Briefings are compiled by Louisa Collyer-Hamlin featuring an editorial from James Somerville-Meikle. Edited by Nigel Parker. You can find out more about our team here.
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