Dear Members,
Catholic Union Head of Public Affairs James Somerville-Meikle writes:
Summer well and truly feels like it has come to an end. The Government is battening down the hatches for the winter months with new ‘Winter Plans’ for the economy and social care. Given the tone of the statements from the Prime Minister and Chancellor this week, it could be a long winter ahead… As we learn to live with the virus, there are important questions about how to support people during this difficult time. Ending the furlough has been criticised by some, yet keeping people on furlough indefinitely with little hope of returning to those jobs, seems equally harsh. Suspending visits to care homes is immensely frustrating for family and friends, yet nobody wants to increase the risk of people in homes getting the virus. There are no easy answers to these dilemmas. Caring in an age of a global pandemic is something we must learn how to do.
The winners of the 2020 Catholic Young Writer Award are… Elizabeth McAllister of Mayfield School, East Sussex, and Vyvyan Ogenna Okoro of Our Lady and St Chad Academy, Wolverhampton. They share a joint cash prize of £50 (£25 each) plus book prizes and commemorative cups. The Award was launched over twenty years ago by the Catholic Writers’ Guild of England and Wales and as the numbers of schools involved expanded, it was taken over by the Catholic Union Charitable Trust.  This year, participants were invited to write about the importance of attending Sunday Mass and were expected to show evidence of having studied the relevant Scriptures and sections of the Catechism of the Catholic Church.

Vaccines and ethics
.  The Bishops have issued a statement containing new guidance on future Covid vaccines, some of which may have been developed in cell-lines which have their origin in human foetal tissue. The statement sets out the relevant principles and says that Catholics should educate their consciences in the light of those principles before deciding whether or not they should accept such a vaccine.  As a first step towards educating our consciences, it is well worth reading this two-page statement in full.
New rules on use of church buildings. The Government has reduced the maximum number of people who can attend a wedding ceremony in England from 30 to 15 as part of new measures to reduce the spread of coronavirus. Under the new measures, which came into force on 24 September, churches can continue to open for private prayer and worship, with no specified limit on the number of people who can attend.
House of Lords debate on housing. The House of Lords has discussed the End of Eviction Moratorium, and the impact of Covid-19 on people in difficult situations.
Government condemns violence in Nigeria. Commonwealth Minister Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon has condemned the incidents in Nigeria, and urged the Nigerian Government “to do more to protect victims and hold perpetrators to account.” He was questioned by Baroness Cox, who also highlighted the report Nigeria: Unfolding Genocide?, by the All-Party Parliamentary Group for International Freedom of Religion or Belief, which she chairs.
Scottish Government to soften Hate Crime Bill. The Scottish Government will remove the lower threshold in the proposed Hate Crime Bill, so that people can only be convicted of “stirring up” hatred if they intend to incite bigotry through their actions or behaviour. The Scottish Government agreed to the changes after Scotland’s Justice Secretary, Humza Yousaf MSP, said the proposed law could lead to self-censorship.
Future for students’ unions. Centre-right news website CapX has argued that students’ unions should be reformed. The article reports that “Christians feel particularly unwelcome” at some activities organised by student societies.
Antisemitism in the Labour party. Sir David Garrard, one of the Labour’s main private supporters who quit during Corbyn’s leadership, said he was “encouraged by what I have perceived to be Sir Keir Starmer’s position with regard to the elimination of antisemitism in the party”.
Government to soften gender reform. Responding to the Gender Recognition Act consultation, the Government has said it will not allow gender change on birth certificates without diagnosis.
Review to assess gender issues trends and treatments. The Gender Identity Development Service for Children and Adolescents has launched a review to understand better why the number of children with gender issues have rocketed over the last decade; and how to improve care. The number of under-aged patients referred for treatment grew from 77 in 2009 to 2,590 in 2018-19.


Home Abortions
.  The legal challenge brought by Christian Concern to the decision to allow women to have abortions at home following a phone or video consultation was rejected by the Court of Appeal on 25 September.  In its judgment the Court held that "the purpose of the 2020 approval was to address a specific and acute medical need, in the context of a public health emergency, so as to ensure the continuance of the protection of the health of women in the context of the 1967 Act".  Christian Concern have announced that they will appeal to the Supreme Court.
Evictions from England to resume. The Director General of Visas and Immigration has announced that asylum seekers with negative decisions would be served eviction notices “with immediate effect” in England. Consultation will take place with officials in the Devolved Administrations before evictions.
Plea for action to relieve pressure in Calais. The charity, Seeking Sanctuary is urging the UK Government to introduce more legal routes for migrants to relieve pressure in the migrant camps in Calais.
Greater support for former allies in Afghanistan. The Government has extended the scheme that allows Afghan interpreters who worked with British forces in Afghanistan to be eligible to settle in the UK. Some of the former workers excluded from the scheme and their family staying in Afghanistan had faced life threats after the removal of the British troops from the country.
Bishops promoting World Day of Migrants and Refugees. The Catholic Bishops of England and Wales have launched a video for the World Day of Migrants and Refugees on Sunday 27 September. It is hosted by Bishop Paul McAleenan, and it includes Archbishop Nizar from Iraq, Jesuit Refugee Service, Refugees Call for Change (part of JRS) and Brother Johannes who worked in the Jungle camp.
We reported last week that Boris Johnson's son Wilfred had been baptised but we did not know where.  Rebutting false allegations that the Prime Minister had made a visit to Italy on the day in question, Downing Street and the media reported that the baptism took place at Westminster Cathedral.  According to this report, Boris Johnson was baptised a Catholic but confirmed in the Church of England while his fiancee, Carrie Symonds's Catholicism was not widely known until now.  

The Catholic Union News is compiled by Lisa Fraser with additional contributions from James Somerville-Meikle and Nigel Parker.

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